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Positions in Soccer and Their Roles

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I am a mother of 2, EMT, Paramedic student, freelance writer, veteran, and so much more.

The Basics of Soccer

The positions in soccer are one of the basic fundamentals to know, whether you are a seasoned player or just starting out. The general positions are forward, midfielder, defender, and goalkeeper.

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 split into more specific positions based on their coverage of 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 Positions

  • Goalkeeper
  • Defender (Centre-back, Sweeper, Full-back, Wing-back)
  • Midfielder (Centre midfield, Defensive midfield, Attacking midfield, Wide midfield)
  • Forward (Centre forward, Second striker, Winger)

How Many Soccer Players Are There on a Team?

Each team has 11 players on a field. This includes 10 outfielders and a goalkeeper. The most common setup is known as the 4-4-2. This has four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards.

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.

Forwards

Forwards, also known as strikers, 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 opponent's 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.

Centre forward

These types of forwards, also known as the main striker, specifically have scoring goals as their main objective. They are typically the main focus of offensive plays. If a team opts for a more defensive formation, a centre forward may find themselves attacking a goal alone or holding onto a ball while their team comes in for a play.

Second Striker

This position, also known as a support striker, lies somewhere between a traditional forward and a midfielder. Their main duty is to make passes through openings to create shots for centre forwards as well as score goals themselves.

Winger

These types of forwards can play on either the right or left side of the field near the touchlines. Their objective is to quickly dribble past their opposing full-backs and pass the ball to a striker. If a team plays a more narrow formation in the midfield, they may not even use wingers.

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 surprising 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.

Centre midfield

This position offers dual support in offensive plays as well as attempting to get the ball back when on defense. Since they are placed in the center of the field, they have the most control over the flow of a match and have the best view of the action on both ends of the field.

Defensive midfield

These midfielders are placed in front of defenders for extra protection. They typically lay back when their team goes on the attack. Their main objective is to tackle opposing players and potentially drive them out to the sides. They can also cover other defenders and midfielders if they are up supporting the offense.

Attacking midfield

This is a primarily offensive role that is placed between the central midfield and the forwards. This role can be divided into the left, right, or central midfield. Their main duty is to create opportunities for strikers by finding passes that can cut through the defense of the opposition.

Wide midfield

This position plays in the left or right midfield. They are very similar to wingers. Their main role is to offer protection out on the flanks of the field and as well as support offensive plays.

A look at the placement of various positions in a 5-3-2 formation.

A look at the placement of various positions in a 5-3-2 formation.

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 encounter 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.

Centre-back

The job of this position, also known as a central defender, is to stop players such as the opposing striker from shooting on the goal. It is common to see two centre-backs play on the pitch. They can either cover a specific portion of the field or cover a specific player.

Sweeper

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.

Full-back

This position can be divided into a left or right-back. They are positioned on either side of the centre-back. They defend against opposing wingers in the flanks who try to drive the ball past them or pass to other attackers. They do not traditionally support attacking plays.

Wing-back

These are defenders who are more involved in offensive plays. They typically cover more width on the field, especially if the team lacks traditional wingers. They usually support the midfield when on the attack. This position usually covers the opposing wing-backs when on defense.

A goalkeeper jumping up to block an attempt at scoring.

A goalkeeper jumping up to block an attempt at scoring.

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 dropkick 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 responsible 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.

© 2013 Megan Dodd

Comments

Malvis Mading Gai on September 21, 2020:

I like it because it make the learners to change and know their positions

Suleimanajeebo on September 17, 2020:

Thanks!

Patty on September 16, 2020:

Thank you. Very helpful and easy to understand

Bonnie on August 25, 2020:

Am glad i now know that one should know their positions

Andrea TeWinkel on July 15, 2020:

Thank u!

Mr Man on June 19, 2020:

dud who plays soccer and doesnt know positions.

also mbappe is best

Josh on June 12, 2020:

Best website ever

Bruce_Wayne on May 29, 2020:

Well, some people make mistakes Ssundee

Ssundee on May 10, 2020:

Why do they need more protection if they are professionals

Celeste on May 08, 2020:

what are the important roles of soccer?

Jr on May 08, 2020:

Evan, strikers can take corners. The game has many variations. A striker could be very short in height and therefore not very useful in the box during a corner kick. They could then take the corner themselves. Food for thought.

evan on May 08, 2020:

strikers don't take corner kicks. I play OPDL and i'm also a striker.

catherine on May 07, 2020:

you are not good

John Ludwig on May 06, 2020:

1 v 1 me you bots

Malika on April 20, 2020:

I understood the positions and their impotance

This is the best day in my lifetime mate! What the heck are you doing. Posting comments! on April 11, 2020:

Making their way to the opposing team's goal to score on the other team.

Sindy Romero Perdomo on March 30, 2020:

Y love soccer so much

Lama Morsy-5k on March 29, 2020:

I understood the rules.I understood how much players are in a team.It is a good sport for health.I understood their positions in the game.

Ana on March 24, 2020:

it is a good sport for health

kerene Elia on March 24, 2020:

i love soccer

Bill Swift on March 23, 2020:

Soccer is okay

mike oxmall on March 23, 2020:

YES I LOVE SOCCER SO MUCH

cool cat on March 19, 2020:

thank you for the help

Sarah Alrowita 5L on March 19, 2020:

I understood the rules of soccer and the positions of the players and how many players are in a game

Sarah AlRowita on March 19, 2020:

I understood that how many players are in the game and the rules and players positions .

5m Celine on March 18, 2020:

I understood how every player has their positions and what each one has their on job and how ti actually play

6th Grader on March 11, 2020:

Thank you,now I know what I'am on the field,I'am a second striker.

Unknown on March 03, 2020:

Thanks needed this for my essay

person on February 23, 2020:

its kinda different from when I played soccer a while ago

Coach Hillcrest on February 19, 2020:

Great info, little rusty but info helpful! Thanks⚽️

Stephen on January 28, 2020:

Very Helpful

michelle on January 24, 2020:

im a sweeper good one to

James on January 20, 2020:

Good job

solomon abebe on January 18, 2020:

it gives for us great knowldge,thanks a lot.

jacob on December 15, 2019:

thanks for the info

Mate on December 12, 2019:

little sket m8

jonathan larkin on November 14, 2019:

played for 8 years on school soccer teams -60`s - i stopped following and playing the sport after high school [ i`ve never followed any sport since then as well ] saw an old team pic. recently and got me wondering how many guys did we actually have on the field since there were only 8 in the pic. so i`m on here seeing strange positioning and names for the positions - when i played there were 3 lines plus goalie - 5 forwards - 2 wings , center , L / R centers [ who mainly stayed just a little behind the rest of forward line ] 3 center backs , and 2 full backs .

Miles montego on November 04, 2019:

I love this,i learnt a lot right now,am a lover of football and also an u 17 player,my regards.always loyal

jo mama on November 03, 2019:

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john on October 25, 2019:

add which position is the best

Wi on October 17, 2019:

Your website help alot to no more about position in football thanks

hillory on October 17, 2019:

yur mom

Poop on October 15, 2019:

This makes no sense

bludclart69 on September 26, 2019:

abby u cant play football u sket make me a sandwich

a on September 26, 2019:

sym 100x

abby on September 26, 2019:

women are not allowed to play football

Abby on September 24, 2019:

Well, logan this info is not trash. I have been playing soccer for my whole life and it will be very helpful for myself and my teammates. Thank you to this website.

Anthony on September 20, 2019:

same

Trailboss273 on September 15, 2019:

Cool

jj on September 10, 2019:

thanks so much I'm new to soccer so this was a lot of help but can you add on about how to do good in these positions and can the defenders cross the center circle?

abdikadir00 on August 30, 2019:

1v1 me you bots

John on August 28, 2019:

1 v 1 me you bots

Lhoric on August 28, 2019:

Thanks forthis i can finally teach my mates

logan on August 27, 2019:

your info was trash

Sandy on August 25, 2019:

your website has taught me so much about the positions in soccer

Anni on August 25, 2019:

your website is sooooo useful I am coaching an U-9 and your website has really helped me understand the game

jahelp w .o.eboh on August 07, 2019:

it's a wonderfull mind blowing, u hve done a very good delivery on coaching job, u too much

brashon on August 02, 2019:

this decription is very help full but how do you get faster

da silva on August 01, 2019:

tanks for your support

john on July 24, 2019:

I guess this helps...

laceyy.aa.13 on July 19, 2019:

Isn't how I play on the field but it helped me get the basics down at t lease

Aswanth.a.k on July 05, 2019:

To helpfull to reconise position in football

angelica on June 30, 2019:

super helpful except sometimes

Cal on June 25, 2019:

Great article

Christine chibwe on June 18, 2019:

wonderful

relson9 Roblox gamer on June 12, 2019:

great for my grade 5 homework!

chordlinkempire on June 06, 2019:

Perfect piece to complete my research. thanks

Tim Frechette on June 04, 2019:

Thank you for this article. This is a big help!

naruto on May 29, 2019:

this helps alot

Kakashi on May 29, 2019:

thank u this is real helpful

lels on May 23, 2019:

This helped my research. Thank You!

shyla comington on May 13, 2019:

i'm about to go to soccer tryouts and this really helped to refresh my memory

gio on May 06, 2019:

why don't you play sports in the jungle

because of the cheetas

Nidhi Agarwal Sarawagi on April 20, 2019:

Thanks for the tips of Goalie

Jarelis Balcaceres on April 15, 2019:

whoa man

??????? on April 09, 2019:

this is dome

vanessa on April 08, 2019:

It is really awesome for students

mata wilf asiku on April 05, 2019:

what are the basis of soccer

Arnaldo on March 13, 2019:

Scruwptious

Kamso Obi on February 21, 2019:

Does any one knows where they stand

Bob on February 11, 2019:

Amazing! You really helped with my research!

Nelson on February 08, 2019:

Twas really useful

Sarah on February 02, 2019:

You did not spell some words correctly,

However this was quite usefull information.

Thankyou.

Tom on February 01, 2019:

Thank you so much for helping my students learn. Thx

cheeto cat on December 03, 2018:

u are a cheater cheeto

XD

Tim Frechette on October 24, 2018:

This is a good article on the basics of soccer. Keep it up!

Nathan on October 10, 2018:

I like how you have writing

Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on September 17, 2018:

Honestly, you really could use a lot of the same conditioning in soccer as you do in football. Soccer doesn't need the mass like football though. Agility is a big area you could improve on, and the quick power for short sprints.

levi herman on September 02, 2018:

you did not spell many of the words right, it saddened me deeply

Chad Binkley on August 26, 2018:

What’s the best way to build strength and power in a soccer player?

I train high school football players.. but have never trained a soccer player. Well I was asked to and after watching him play this weekend , it’s clear he needs to build strength and power. He’s good but fights way to hard because of his lack of size and it wears him out fast. Is weight training and flipping tires, dragging tires something soccer players do?

my name is jeff on June 21, 2018:

i needed six more

Makayla Dometilie on March 17, 2018:

This helped a lot, but I need some more advice. Should I practice all positions or the position I'll most likely be put in?

miguel on March 16, 2018:

thank you for all the help

hi on March 07, 2018:

hi thanks for all the information. It was really helpful.

Mystery on February 24, 2018:

This was very helpful because I’m on team CESA and this is the first time I’ve played for real. And o didn’t really remember what all the positions are.

Halle on February 01, 2018:

This was extremely helpful. I'm trying to go after soccer for my middle school team and it has been awhile sense I've played. It helps to review when trying to try out. Now I know what and what not to do when trying out. Thanks!

Gunnar on September 05, 2017:

can you please add a paragraph about stoppers? Thanks

Lena Mantler on September 03, 2017:

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.

Megan Dodd (author) from Florida on February 08, 2013:

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.

Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on February 08, 2013:

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.