For younger players sports can be confusing, especially when it comes to different soccer positions. If the parents and coaches can help by communicating by showing on a tactical pad and on the actual pitch it helps. Kids are smarter than we think, and sometimes the teaching just needs to be more detailed. Older players also need to keep learning. If you want to improve learn these different positions and see how you can improve in certain areas.
Number of players on the field
Depending on the age of the player depends on how many players play on the field.
For middle school up to the pros the numbers are 11 vs 11.
Younger age groups do 7v7 or 9v9 which is smart because this allows them more touches.
Ages 6-8 usually don’t have the skill or experience, so there’s not as many passes connected.
Soccer can be played so many ways and while certain formations are more popular at certain levels of play or preferred by certain coaches.
The varying formations require knowledge of the different soccer positions that can be played by the athletes.
That being said, I am going to start with striker simply because it’s easily one of the more recognized roles on the pitch and most kids are interested in it due to getting to score goals.
13 Different positions – depending on formation
Even though 11 players is the max number to field, there are 13+ position names to know.
- 4v4 is U6-U8
- 7v7 is U9 – U10
- 9v9 is U11 – U12
- 11v11 is U13+
1) Striker [aka Central Forward] – The term striker is most often used to describe a forward who is particularly good at goal scoring.
2) Forward [aka Central Forward or Finisher] – the player who plays up front [in the ‘attacking third’] and scores most of the goals.
3) Midfielder [aka Halfback] – the players in the center of the field [the ‘middle third’] responsible for both assisting offense and defense.
4) Attacking Midfielder – the player in midfield that assist the forwards in setting up goals.
5) Central Midfielder – the leader of the midfield, often the team’s leader, responsible for play organization and completion, including setting up forwards for finishing.
6) Defensive Midfielder – the player in midfield that operates in a defense-like role, often marking the opposing team’s strongest offensive players.
7) Wide Midfielder [aka left-half, right-half or wing-half; may also be referred to as winger] – the player supports the attacking game but may function more as a defender, depending on the formation used.
8) Defender [aka Back, Fullback] – the players in the back third of the field, primary goal is to prevent the other team from scoring or having opportunities to score.
9) Center Fullback [aka Central Defender, Jeremie Piette :-)] – the ‘last’ defender; plays directly in front of own goal and considered the strongest defender
10) Sweeper – a defender who plays behind the line [of defenders; not a commonly used position]
11) Wingback – the player who is a combination of a back and a winger; this player is a defender who focuses on supporting attackers [usually described as the most difficult position of play in terms of physical demand]
12) Winger – outside players [fastest and fit], play on the ‘wings’ [sides] of field, must be good at crossing and passing.
13) Goalkeeper [goalie] – the player responsible for stopping the other team from putting balls in the goal; the only player allowed to use hands; typically direct much of the team, especially in set pieces.
Right footed forwards playing on the left side
One thing I really like to encourage players on is playing on the opposite side of the field of their strong foot. Meaning, if a player is right footed playing on the left side of the field.
Some of the best pro players in the world play on the opposite side.
Example: Messi and Robben tend to play more on the right side of the field even though they are left footed players. Ronaldo and Benzema plays on the left side, even though he is a right footed player.
The reason is because when they cut inside they are able to shoot with their stronger foot.
If a player is better at crossing then a right footed player should play on the right side.
Players who can shoot from distance can take advantage of playing on the ‘opposite side’.
Learn these four best ways to shoot the ball
Youth players should learn to play different soccer positions
You wouldn’t believe how many youth players who grew up playing a certain soccer position, end up playing something totally different once they reach high school soccer.
There’s a player I trained from age 10 all the way through high school who played forward or center mid. He had great skills and change of speed.
By his Junior year his DA (highest level at the time) coach put him at outside back. The reason is because he grew to be over 6 feet tall.
Coaches at higher levels want all 11 players to be able to play and possess the ball with purpose.
The goalkeeper position is changing
Even goalkeepers now days are expected to play out of the back.
Meaning able to trap and pass with both feet, because then the defenders can drop the ball back to the keeper to possess the ball.
Most keepers will just kick the ball long when it comes back to them, which results in a 50/50 ball. This means anyone could end up with possession.
Instead coaches want the goalie to keep the ball and play out to a defender who can then start the attack.
Learning different soccer positions is good
The important concept to remember is that no matter what the position, the individual player determines the way the role is performed. This understanding can allow a player’s game to go to a whole new level.
So many parents and players get discouraged when they have to play a certain soccer position.
Don’t be frustrated, instead take advantage of the time to learn. It really does help the players future in the game they love.
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