Playing Positions on the Soccer Field

To some people soccer looks like chaos on the field. However, players are assigned positions and in those positions they are assigned specific responsibilities. A soccer team on which players play position well will nearly always win against a team whose players simply range the entire field looking for opportunities.

Positions and general areas of responsibility on a soccer field.

Goalkeeper - One of the most important positions on the soccer field is the goalie. His job is to defend the goal against all attacks. He is the only player allowed to use his hands. But he can only use his hands inside the penalty box. He can pick up the ball and within six seconds take it to the edge of the penalty box and kick it or throw it. (However, he cannot pick up the ball if another player intentionally kicks it to him.) Other players are not allowed to kick the ball if it is within his hands. He is allowed anywhere on the field. Although it is rare, he can even score a goal on the other team.

Fullbacks - Also often called defenders, fullbacks, generally stay on their own side of the field waiting for the opposition to attack with the ball. There are usually three, but sometimes two. They have responsibility for left middle or center part of the field. When play is on the opponent's side of the field, they often will push very close to the center line in order to force the forwards from the other team back. (A player who is closer to the goal than the last defender, not counting the goalie, and receives a pass or influences a play is off-sides.)

Midfielders - These players tend to range the middle of the field. There are usually four. Their job is to act as a mid-field defense or offense, stopping the opposing team from bringing the ball against their own goal, or to quickly pass the ball up to their own forwards in an effort to create break-away situations. On defense they may range all the way to the teams own goal. They may also be instrumental at the opposite team's goal especially in throw-in or corner kick situations.

Forwards - Most of the break-away plays will be executed by the forwards. These players range as close as possible to the other team's goal (without getting off-sides). Their object is to take passes from fullbacks and midfielders and execute an attack as quickly as possible against the opponent's defense. The longer they wait, the more stiff the defense will become as mid-fielders move in from the opposite side of the field. (Sometimes they are called strikers.)

Sweeper - Some teams will designate a player as sweeper. The job of this player is to play behind the fullbacks, to prevent break-aways by executing quick defensive plays, including kicking the ball out of bounds to allow the defense time to set up.

Stopper - This is usually a strong, quick player who ranges between the fullbacks and midfielders and executes midfield defense. The player may also be designated to single out the best opposing forward and prevent him from making plays.

The chart above has a general layout for a team. The blue dots are the locations of the players when the team is on offense and the ball is on the opponent's side of the field. The red lines show the approximate range within which the player should play.


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