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Positions in Soccer and Their Roles

Updated on August 11, 2017
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I am an Emergency Medical Technician in my normal life and a Medic in the Army Reserve when the need arises.

The Basics

The positions in soccer are one of the basic fundamentals to know, whether you are a seasoned player or just starting out. Each team has 11 players on the field at a time. They will typically play one of the following positions; forward, midfielder, defender, sweeper, or goalkeeper. The most common setup is to have three forwards, three midfielders, three defenders, one sweeper, and one goalie.

Each position has a specific area of the field that they cover. This includes how far back or forward and how far left or right their territory spans. Forwards, midfielders, and defenders are further split into covering the left, center, or right sides of the field. The difference on how far forward or back each position covers is determined by the specific position, which we will cover next.

Soccer Field

This is a soccer field showing the following lines; goal box, goal line, midfiled line, center circle, and sidelines.
This is a soccer field showing the following lines; goal box, goal line, midfiled line, center circle, and sidelines. | Source

Forwards

Forwards have the main objective of scoring goals. They are often the players who get the most attention since their role is designed to be in a scoring position.

They start the game on the midfield line (the line that divides the field in half). During the game, these players typically go as far forward as the opponents goal line (the end of the field). They do not usually get much closer to their own goal than the midfield line. When the ball is in play near their own goal, forwards are expected to stay around the midfield line so that the defensive players can do their job. They need to be ready to attempt to score when the ball comes back their way.

Forwards are often the players that take penalty kicks and corner kicks when the opposing team kicks the ball out of bounds. They are usually the players responsible for kicking off at the beginning of the game and at halftime.

The offensive player has the ball.
The offensive player has the ball. | Source

Midfielders

Midfielders spend a lot of time playing different roles in a game. This is a very important position because they typically need to be good at defense and offense.

Some of their main duties include:

  • Assisting the defense in making sure the opposing team doesn't get anywhere near their goal.
  • Getting the ball passed up to the forwards for them to score a goal.
  • Making their way to the opposing team's goal and scoring if the opportunity arises.

The territory for this position can vary quite a bit depending on who you ask. It is not suprising to see a midfielder in almost any area of the field. But for the most part, they should stick to the central area. At the beginning of the game, they are positioned behind the forwards. During the game, they often cover the halfway point between their own goal line and the midfield line. They can also cover between the midfield line and their opponent's goal line.

Midfielders will sometimes take penalty kicks, throw-ins, kick-offs, and corner kicks. It depends on who is the strongest at these.

Defenders

Defenders do everything they can to make sure that the ball does not get past them. If there is not a sweeper in play, defenders are the last position the opposing team will enconter on their way to scoring a goal, besides the goalkeeper.

This position typically starts the game close to their own goal box. During the game, they can typically be found anywhere on their teams half of the field. This is between their goal line and the midfield line.

Defenders are often expected to perform throw-ins, goal kicks, and corner kicks on their own side of the field.

Sweepers

Sweepers are not always a position that is utilized. Sometimes, a coach will use four defenders instead of including a sweeper. However, when one is used on the field, they can be an essential player to assist the goalkeeper. Sweepers can be the last defensive measure before a ball reaches a goalkeeper.

The position usually starts behind the defenders and in front of the goalie. They don't typically go past the midfield line and can go as far back as their own goal line. They will often cover the entire field from left to right, wherever extra assistance is needed.

A sweeper will often take goal kicks or corner kicks. They can also be expected to perform throw-ins when the opposing team kicks the ball out of bounds. This is the only time a player other than the goalie can touch the ball with their hands.

A goalkeeper jumping up to block an attempt at scoring.
A goalkeeper jumping up to block an attempt at scoring. | Source

Goalkeeper

The goalie is typically the only player that is allowed to touch the ball with their hands while on the field and during the game. Their sole purpose is to keep the ball from making it into the net.

The always stay close to the goal to prevent the opposing team from scoring. They will typically not leave the area of the goal box (the lines that form a box closest to their own goal). This is because they may not touch the ball if they are outside of their goal box.

Goalkeepers are responsible for blocking the ball during penalty kicks and getting the ball out of the area of the goal and to a player on their team further down the field. They often use a drop kick to get the ball as far away from their own goal as possible.

The Importance of the Positions

It is very important to know what each position does and what they are responibile for. If players do not follow the guidelines of their positions, their team will not function properly. When each player plays their position correctly and covers the correct areas of the field, the team will perform much better and give each player a chance to use their skills at the necessary time. Positions are typically decided by what kind of skills a player has, making it important for an individual to focus on their specific position.

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    • profile image

      Gunnar 2 weeks ago

      can you please add a paragraph about stoppers? Thanks

    • profile image

      Lena Mantler 2 weeks ago

      This is great! It is my first year playing soccer and this helped a lot. Any tips on being a half back or a mid-field? Please answer by September 9th if possible.

    • Learning in Life profile image
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      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      That is one reason why it is so important for the young ones to understand the positions. If they don't, they can't resist the urge to go straight to where the ball is. It is cute though to watch them run around like crazy.

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      This is such a great hub!!! Especially for those self proclaimed 'soccer moms' who do not know much about soccer. Now I can talk about soccer intelligently on the YMCA field. Although 7 years olds do not usually stay in their positions, they all kind of herd around the ball. It is fun to watch nonetheless.

    • kansasyarn profile image

      Teresa Sanderson 4 years ago from Rural Midwest

      Great hub!

    • Learning in Life profile image
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      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Thank you Barbara. I appreciate it. I forgot how much I miss playing until I started writing this hub. I played from the time I was 6 until I played varsity for my high school.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 4 years ago from USA

      I'm not a big soccer fan, but you've done an excellent job on the hub. I voted it up.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      I'm glad this hub can be so useful to y'all. Thanks for reading.

    • slappywalker profile image

      Kieron Walker 4 years ago from Saratoga Springs, NY

      I remember playing soccer in gym class in high school. Our teacher would give us positions and we would all just stare at each other not knowing where to go. Needless to say by the end of the game, everyone ended up on one end of the field trying to score. Total chaos.

      The next time I watch the World Cup, I'm going to keep this hub handy so I have a better idea of what everyone's role is. Great job!

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 4 years ago

      Football's such a minefield for me. I don't play, but I end up watching games with my soccer-fan friends and struggle a bit to understand what's going on. I've learned a bit more over the years, but this is handy information to have so I can learn the basics of it.