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Positions in Soccer and Their Roles

Updated on February 3, 2013

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

Soccer Basics

The positions in soccer are one of the basic fundamentals whether you are a seasoned player or just starting out. Each team has 11 players on the field at a time. These players will typically play one of the following positions: forward, midfield, defense, sweeper or goalkeeper. The most common set up is to have 3 forwards, 3 midfielders, 3 defenders, 1 sweeper and 1 goalie.

Each position has a specific area of the field that they cover. This include how far back or forward and left or right their territory spans. Forwards, midfielder and defenders are further split into left right and center versions of their positions. The left position covers from the center of the field to the left side line. The right position covers from the center of the field to the right side line. The center position covers from the middle of the right position to the middle of the left position. The difference in how far forward or back each position covers is determined by the specific position; which we will cover next.

What do Forwards do?

Forwards have one main objective. This objective is to get the soccer ball into the opposing team's goal to score a point. Forwards are often the players who get the most attention for being the star player since the position is designed to be the scoring position.

Forwards 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). Forwards 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 and the forwards will be ready to attempt to score when the ball comes their way.

Forwards are often the players that take penalty kicks on the opposing team and corner kicks when the opposing team kicks the ball out of bounds near their own goal. Forwards 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

What do Midfielders do?

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

Some of the main roles Midfeilders have are:

  • 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 teams goal and scoring if the opportunity arises

A midfielder's territory varies 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 midfielders should stick to the central area of the field. At the beginning of the game, midfielders are positioned behind the forwards on the field. During the game, midfielders often cover from halfway between their own goal line and the midfield lin and halfway between the other team's goal line and the midfield line.

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

What do Defenders do?

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 goal keeper.

Defenders typically start the game close to their own goal box. During the game defenders can typically be found anywhere on ther 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 ownside of the field.

What do Sweepers do?

Sweepers are not always a position that is utalized. Sometimes, a coach will use 4 defenders instead of including a sweeper. However, when a sweeper in used on the field; they can be an essential player to assist the goal keeper.A sweeper is a teams last defensive chance before it is all up to the goal keeper to keep the other team from scoring.

Sweepers are usually positioned behind the defenders and in front of the goalie. This player does not typically go further forward than the midfield line and can go as far back as their own goal line. A sweeper will often cover the entire left to right area of the field, wherever extra assistance is needed.

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

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

What Does the Goal Keeper do?

The Goalie is the only player in soccer that is allowed to touch the ball with their hands while on the field and during the game. The goal keepers sole purpose is to keep the ball from making it into the net.

The goalie needs to stay close to the goal so that they are always available in case the other team tries to score. The goalie will typically not leave the area of the goal box (the lines that form a box closest to their own goal. This is often the case because the goalie may not touch the ball if they are outside of their goal box.

Goalie 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. Goalies often use a "drop kick" to get the ball as far from their own goal as possible.

The Importance of Positions in Soccer

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, players will often all swarm around the ball and the team will not function optimally. When each player plays their position correctly and covers the correct areas of the field, the team with play much better giving 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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    • 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.

    • 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!

    • Learning in Life profile image

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

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

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Kay 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

      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.

    • kansasyarn profile image

      Teresa Sanderson 4 years ago from Rural Midwest

      Great hub!

    • 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.

    • Learning in Life profile image

      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.

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