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Soccer 101: Everything You Need to Know

Soccer 101: Everything You Need to Know

How does soccer work? What are the basics of the game? Get ready to learn about all of the basics of soccer. You don’t need any prior knowledge to start learning.

The Basics

Soccer is a team sport in which the object of the game is to score more points than the opposing team. Points are awarded each time the ball is successfully kicked into the goal. There are two goals, one on each side of the field. They are protected by each team’s goalie, who tries to stop any shot attempt from rolling past the goal line that extends from one post to the other.

Throughout a soccer game, teams alternate between playing offense (attacking) and playing defense (defending), depending on which team possesses control of the ball at any given time. Competitions generally dictate that each team must have eleven players on the field at one time. That makes one goalie and ten other players made from a unique mix of forwards, midfielders, and defensive backs. Teams will shift how many of each type of player they have to make certain offensive or defensive formations.

Soccer games last for 90 minutes, and are split into two equal 45-minute halves. The clock does not stop in soccer except at halftime. However, time is added to the end of each half by the referee to compensate for stoppages. If necessary, overtime periods are played.


In terms of on-field equipment, any soccer game requires a ball and two goals. The soccer ball must be properly inflated and identical backups should be prepared if the ball is kicked out of play or damaged. The two goals must be lined with netting on the inside and follow league-standard dimensions to ensure fairness of play.

Players are required to wear jerseys and shorts to be properly identified as members of a certain team. Both garments must be made out of durable, lightweight, and sweat-wicking material for maximum comfort and flexibility. In addition to the uniform, players also wear matching socks that rest just below the knees. It is commonplace for shin guards to be worn under the socks, as they protect athletes from sustaining serious shin ailments caused by kicks and other forms of hard contact.

While many different types of cleats can be used to play soccer, it is recommended that devout players wear a pair that is specifically designed for the sport. Most soccer cleats are extremely light so that athletes do not feel inhibited while running, as well as engineered to withstand the constant beating that results from frequently striking the ball.

Soccer Penalties and Rules

There are a few different categories of penalties in soccer. The first pertains to equipment violations. Players will be penalized for attempting to start a match without proper uniforms, footwear, or padding/shin guards in most leagues.

The second category revolves around misconduct. Similar to other sports, soccer players are not permitted to use foul language, or initiate aggressive or unnecessary levels of physical contact. These rules apply to opponent players as well as referees. If a player is found to be disrespecting an opponent or game official, they will likely be given a yellow card. If it is an especially inappropriate act or is repeated, the player may receive a red card and be ejected from the game.

Last and most importantly, there are violations related to illegal contact and improper positioning. Among the most important contact penalties, players are not allowed to sweep the legs of an opponent without obvious intent to compete for possession of the ball (slide tackling), touch the ball with their hands (handball) or forcibly shove an opposing player to the ground. First-time offenders are usually subject to receiving a yellow card, which is equivalent to a written and verbal warning, while second-time or egregious offenders are issued a red card and disqualified from the competition.

The most common example of positioning foul is offsides. Offside is when a member of the team on offense is caught standing past the ball and there are not at least two opponents between that player and the defending team’s goal line. Another location that non-goalies are banned from occupying is the goal box, which rests in between the goal line and the netting attached to the back of the goal. Any team member that enters this restricted area to prevent the ball from being scored is called for a penalty and the opposing team is awarded with an uncontested penalty shot.

Soccer Positions

There are 11 players on the field for each team in a soccer game. While some positions are constant throughout all formations, such as the goalkeeper, many positions are specific to only a few formations. Some of the most common positions are:

  • Goalkeeper (GK)
  • Center Back (CB)
  • Left Back (LB)
  • Right Back (RB)
  • Center Midfielder (CM)
  • Center Attacking Midfielder (CAM)
  • Center Defending Midfielder (CDM)
  • Right Midfielder (RM)
  • Left Midfielder (LM)
  • Right Wing (RW)
  • Left Wing (LW)
  • Striker (ST)
  • Center Fielder (CF)

Each position involves a different set of responsibilities. The center backs, for example, are tasked with preventing the other team from scoring when they get close to the goal. Conversely, the wings and strikers are heavily relied upon to generate offense by advancing the ball down the field and creating scoring opportunities.


Soccer is similar to other ball and net games, where scoring is based on how many times the ball has gone into the net. Every time a team can get the ball over their opponent’s goal line, a goal is counted. The team with the most goals scored at the end of the game wins.

Kick Types

Two main types of kicks restart play after the ball has gone out of play: corner kicks and goal kicks.

Corner Kicks

Corner kicks take place when the ball has gone out of bounds over the end line and was last touched by the defending team. The ball will be placed in the corner arc closest to where the ball went out of bounds. Teams will usually try to cross the ball into the box on a corner kick to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Goal Kicks

Goal kicks take place when the ball has gone out of bounds over the end line and was last touched by the attacking team. The ball will be placed within the goal area for either the goalkeeper or another defending player to kick off.


A formation in soccer is the set positioning of players on the pitch on the same team. Formations are named by the amount of players defending, in the midfield, and attacking. For example, the 4-3-3 formation features four defenders, three midfielders, and three attacking players. The goalkeeper always plays in the same position, so they are not a part of the formation name.

Soccer 101 Terms

Here are several of the basic soccer terms you need to know.

  • Bicycle Kick: kicking the ball by jumping into the air and rotating backward
  • Corner Kick: restarting play by kicking the ball toward the goal line from the far corner of the field
  • Header: passing or shooting by bouncing the ball off one’s head
  • Throw-in: a two-handed, overhand pass made from the sidelines following an out-of-bounds call.
  • Slide tackle: knocking an opposing player down by sliding into their legs to prevent them from scoring or advancing the ball downfield
  • Clear: kicking the ball towards the opposite end of the field to gain breathing room on defense
  • Cross: a pass initiated from close to the sidelines that is placed near the goal for a scoring opportunity
  • Bender: shooting or passing the ball such that it travels through the air with an arching path.