Soccer Positions Explained – A Guide to All the Positions in Soccer

Soccer (or Football) is the most popular sport in the world. It’s not even debatable. To those that that don’t understand the game, Soccer can come off as a bit confusing. Some who are fans of other sports say that there is no real strategy to soccer. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, soccer doesn’t have rigid guidelines like American Football, or a lot of starting and stopping like baseball. There is a lot of freedom in how each team decides to approach their strategy. There are still many different positions that each has their own expectations. Here is a guideline to each position on the soccer field and what that position’s role is during the game.

The Defensive Positions

The role of the defensive players on the soccer team is to defend the goal. They usually do this by either defending a certain zone on the field or by marking a certain player on the other team’s attack. The defensive positions on the field are comprised of the goalkeeper, the backs, and the sweeper. Each team may have a different number of these depending on the formation that they employ in their strategy. Here is a basic overview of each position on defense and what their primary job is.

The Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper has a unique position on the field. The goalie may use their hands as long as they are in the penalty box. They are the only position on the field that is allowed to do this. The goalie is the final line of defense against the other team’s attack. The goalie may be pulled up onto offense from time to time if the team they play for is desperate to drum up some offense at the end of the match – this will typically involve the goalkeeper going up the field  for a corner kick, it is very rare for a goalkeeper to leave his penalty box in open play.

Other than that, the goalkeeper almost never leaves the penalty box. The goalie is usually in constant dialogue with their defense and will call out to the other defensive players where to position themselves.

The Right back

The right back is assigned to guard the right part of the backfield. They have a lot of area to cover. This means that they are usually among the fastest players on the team. They are certainly the fastest players on the defensive end. They will typically cover the entire back right corner of the field and may even move up to cover the midfield portion as well.

They are usually assigned to guard the other teams Left Wing when they are on the attack. This is another reason why the Right Back must be so fast. They are usually guarding one of the other team’s fastest players. When soccer teams attack from the outside, their strategy is usually to cross the ball to the middle of the field to attack the goal.

Right Back’s must be good at defending crossing passes to help prevent these crossing passes from being effective. They must be fearless with their entire bodies and do whatever it takes to keep the ball in front of them. Backs are generally very good with their heads as well as their feet.

Strong legs will also help the Right Back as they may need to clear the ball many times during the game or make long passes up the field to the attacking players on their team for a quick counter attack. The outside is usually one of the easiest ways for the offense to attack the goal. This is why the Right Back position is so important.

The Left Back

The left back’s job is obviously very similar to that of the right back’s job. The obvious difference is that are assigned to guarding the opposite half of the field. The Left Back must prevent crossing passes from the outside part of the left side of the field. They need strong legs, a lot of jumping ability, and a good head to do whatever they can to stop the ball from entering the penalty box.

Once the ball is in the penalty box the attacking team has a much higher chance of scoring. This position might also start the ball out on the attack if they have just gotten the ball back from the other team.

In some instances, a team may use right and left wing backs rather that the more traditional right and left fullbacks. This will typically occur when a team is playing a sweeper or  a very deep lying midfielder that allows the two backs to get further forward up the field.

The wing backs have a very similar role to the backs except for the fact they are allowed to run to the other team’s goal end within their teams strategy. They are usually some of the most in-shape and fast players on the field. They must also be skilled in both defense and offense in order to perform their job correctly. They are also often some of the best passers on the teams as well.

The Right and Left Backs on a soccer team are the most important players when it comes to defending the outside portion of the field on their goal side.

The Center Back

The center back has a hugely important role when it comes to defending their goal. They are responsible for guarding the middle part of their end of the pitch. If they fail to do their job the other team could have a very easy path to the goal. Some teams will have multiple defenders in the center-back position in order to bolster their defensive stance in the middle of the field.

In a lot of different strategies, the center back is the last defender before the goalie. The center backs in a soccer team  are much more likely to remain in defensive positions  than the right and left backs who may be given more licence to go forward.

Center backs are usually some of the tallest people on the field. Height is an advantage for them because the ball is often in the air when it comes into their area. Being tall gives them an advantage when defending against arcing crossing passes and corner kicks. The fact that they are often trying to win balls in the air means that they must fearless in their quest to keep the ball out of the goal.

They will often start the ball on offense as well. All great soccer teams have a great center back. Their fearless nature, size, and strength make them one of the most important aspects of a teams’ defense.

Because the center back is located in the middle of the field, they often have a good view of what is going on in the game. This fact, combined with their fearless nature, is why so many teams choose their center back as the captain of their team.

They are also great leaders because they often lay their body on the line to do their job. This helps them earn the respect of the rest of the team. They are usually the best tacklers on the team as well.

The Sweeper

The sweeper is a position that isn’t used in every defensive formation in soccer. They are usually set up behind two center backs. Their role is normally completely defensive and they normally play in a depper more central position compared to the two center backs that will play in front of them.

Sweepers must be very intelligent and calculating as any mistake that they make could almost certainly lead to a goal for the other side. Teams usually only use a sweeper if they have the personnel to have a good one. A below average sweeper is more of a liability than an asset.

If a team does have a sweeper they usually have to subtract from some other position on the field. This is often done by pushing forward the right and left back and making them wing backs.  Whilst teams can employ a sweeper if the other team’s attack is much stronger their defense, it would be wrong to think that teams using a sweeper will always be playing defensively.

The use of a sweeper can mean that a team is able to use more players in midfield and gain an advantage. The use of a sweeper can also allow a team to play two forwards.

Sweepers must have a high soccer IQ and also be fearless. They will often have to make split decisions and reactions in order to save their goalie from being scored on. Sweepers have a more fluid area to cover than other more traditional defensive positions. They also are asked to start the attack a lot. This is why many sweepers are the best defender on their team when it comes to ball control and passing skills.

The sweeper is a fairly new position in soccer and not every teams employs the use of a sweeper in their strategy. Sweepers are often some of the most skilled players on the pitch. Some sweepers may even have different roles depending on the strategy of their defense and what their coach requires them to do.

The Midfield Positions

The midfielder position’s role is the job that depends the most on the specific strategy of that team. The number of midfielders is also dependent on that. They are obviously located in the middle of the field between the backs and the strikers. They usually have both defensive and offensive jobs. Some of them will be dedicated to just attacking and defending, though. They usually have to cover the most distance on their team so it is required that they be extremely fit. Some of them run over 15 miles just in one game in an effort to both set up the attack and aide the defense on their team.

The Right Winger

The right winger plays on the outside edge of the midfield. They are often located along the sideline of the soccer pitch. Wingers are extremely skilled players and perform a lot of functions. One of their most important roles is to move the ball down the field and cross it into the middle to set up the final phase of their team’s attack on the goal. They may sometimes come into the middle of the field depending on their team’s strategy. It is also normal for wingers to enter the oppositions penalty box when an attack is taking place on the opposite side of the field.

Wingers have maybe the most area to cover of any player on the field. This means they must possess great speed in order to set up that attack and then get back on defense when the other team takes possession. Sometimes it even seems that the best wingers are so fast that they can be in two places at once. Because of the fact that they must cover so much ground, they must also be some of the fittest players on the field.

Wingers are usually the first person on the attack to start advancing the ball into enemy territory. This is why they often are found to have such good skills when it comes to beating their man one on one with the ball. Once they do this, they will get into the soft part of the opponent’s defense and then can draw the defense out to set the cross to finish the attack. Right wingers are almost always right-footed.

The Left Winger

The left winger’s job is almost identical to the job of the right winger except for the obvious fact that they are located on the left side of the field. The aforementioned skills of the right winger are all assets to the left wing as well. While the outside midfielder is extremely important when it comes to advancing the ball into enemy territory, they are also very useful when it comes to defending. Wingers must have excellent defensive skills to help be the first line of defense.
Because wingers are out in space, they are often set up in one on one situations out in space. This means they must have great one on one skills when it comes to both defending and attacking as well. They are usually the first line of defense when the other team takes back possession and begins their attack.
On top of flat out running speed. Quick movement is also a huge asset for wingers. This helps them make the quick cuts and stop-start moves that  are necessary for them to beat their defender on the attack. A good winger is essential to any successful soccer team.

The Center Midfielder

The Center midfielder obviously takes up the center part of the midfield for a soccer team. They may be any number of center midfielders depending on the strategy of their specific team. The center mids role can also change from team to team depending on strategy.

The center mid is sort of the quarterback of a soccer team. They are the brains of the operation and are a direct line from the coach to the team when it comes to how the team plays on the field. They are responsible for setting the rhythm of a team’s attack so they don’t get ahead of themselves. They are often very dangerous players when it comes to attack. Some teams also use center midfielders that are very adept at defense.

Many positions have a certain body type that is associated with that role. This isn’t true when it comes to center midfielders. Center mids come in all body types because their brain is often the most important part of their skill set. They also must have extremely good ball skills in order to control the ball in the middle of the field where the most traffic and congestion lies.

If your center midfielder has problems controlling the ball, it is going to spell a long day for your team. Center mids often touch the ball more than any other player on the field during the course of a match. The ideal central midfielder also needs to have quick thinking and creative abilities in order to set the rhythm and tone for their team.

Striker

The striker is the most important player on the team in the final phase of the attack. A good striker will score most of their team’s goals during the game. They are the best at shooting the ball and usually have great shooting skills when it comes to using both their left and right feet. They often play in the heavily congested penalty area of the pitch so they must be fearless. They face off against the other team’s backs so they are often being pushed around by some of the other team’s strongest and most aggressive players.

The “number 9” Striker or Center Forward

Strikers are the most important part of a teams attack. Most teams employ two, but this changes from team to team. The most advanced striker (often referred to as a “number nine” or center forward) must be able to lose their defender when they don’t have the ball and make cuts towards the goal to finish off of passes into the penalty area.

This striker is often found to wear the number 9 jersey on the field. They usually receive the ball in a good goal scoring position. Their role is definitely designed to do this, at the very least. They are the most dangerous person the pitch when it comes to shooting.

The number nine striker must have great shooting skills both when coming on to the ball and also when they have made space for themselves via a cunning dribble or cunning feint. They are usually great at shooting with both feet.

Great speed and ball skills are a requirement for any striker in the #9 position. This is the position on every soccer team that usually gets the most glory because they score most of the goals. No striker can do their job effectively without a great defense and midfield behind them, though.

The “number 10” Striker or Deep Lying Center Forward

The number 10 or deep lying striker usually has all of the skills of the number 9 striker discussed above. They may also play as a midfielder as well. They are sometimes referred to as attacking midfielders. They have great speed to help them supplement the role of both the midfielders and the strikers on their side. They are usually the second best player on the team when it comes to shooting the ball after only the #9 striker.

Each team uses this position differently and some don’t use it all. Some teams also have a third striker as well if they have a particularly aggressive attack as their strategy. This second striker is very important when it comes to scoring on crosses and on set pieces. They can often be just as adept at scoring  as the other striker but their overall game is likely to be a little more developed, a number 10 striker is likely to be better at tacking and defending than their number nine counterpart.

Striker #10 is also often called on to make the final pass in the penalty area before the other striker takes their shot. They must have great ball skills in order to maintain possession of the ball and great passing skills to help set their teammate up with a good look at the goal on their shot. Strikers are certainly the most important position on the field when it comes to actually scoring and getting the ball past the goalie.

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