Modern soccer began in 1863 in England, according to FIFA. Over the past 160 years, the positions on the soccer field have shifted. There are many elements to understanding player positions. This includes knowing where each position is on the field and how to train for a specific position.
Here at Blayze, we compiled as much information as possible to help break down soccer positions. We hope you enjoy this guide!
Part 1: Soccer Position Numbers
Have you ever heard anyone say, “I play 6” or “I’m a 9”? What do these numbers mean?
There are traditionally 11 positions in soccer. (Of course, this is different if you are playing 9v9). The eleven field positions include one goalkeeper and ten outfield (or field) players.
The 11 positions on the soccer field are:
- Right Full-back or Wingback
- Left Full-back or Wingback
- Center Back
- Center Back or Sweeper
- Defensive Midfielder or Holding Mid
- Right Midfielder or Winger
- Center Midfielder
- Center Forward or Striker
- Attacking Midfielder or Center Forward
- Left Midfielder or Winger
Part 2: What Are the Roles of the Positions on the Field?
These eleven positions fall into one of three categories: Defenders, Midfielders, and Forwards. Anyone who plays soccer knows that some of these positions can float from a defender to a midfielder or midfielder to a forward. It all depends on your team’s formation.
First, let us cover the defenders. Defender positions are:
- Center Backs
Goalkeepers: The main job of all goalkeepers is to stop shots on goal. Their secondary jobs are to direct and communicate with the defense in front of them. To help their team start the possession from the back.
Goalies are the only player on the field allowed to use their hands or arms to stop the ball. To do so, the ball needs to be inside the 18-yard box (the penalty box). If the goalkeeper goes outside the penalty box, then they cannot use their hands. Also, if their teammate passes the ball back to them with their feet or thigh, the goalie cannot pick the ball up.
Center Backs: Also referred to as central defenders, they cover the center of the field, in front of the goal. Their role is to prevent the opponent from getting near the goal. Key responsibilities of center backs are making tackles, blocking shots, clearing the ball, and winning aerial balls.
Their secondary role is to communicate with midfielders and the goalkeeper. They are also necessary to help the goalie with possession out of the back. Center backs also need to be confident with pushing up and supporting a high press.
Fullbacks: The right and left fullbacks defend the side of the field in the back. They aim to block the opposing wingers or midfielders. They need to play light on their feet and quickly move up and down the field. Knowing when to move up the field, when to support the center backs, or when to play out wide is the main role of playing fullback.
Fullbacks need speed, stamina, 1v1 defending skills, positional awareness, technical ability, and strong communication skills.
Sweeper: Sweepers are defenders that sit behind the defensive line. It is a position that is not frequently used. They are responsible for cleaning up any balls that successfully make it past their team. They mark the opponent’s forwards and help teammates that need assistance defensively.
Want to improve your ability to defend when 1 on 1 with an attacker? Click here!
Typical midfielders include the following four positions:
Defending/Holding Midfielder: his position is also known as a halfback. They run the middle of the field between defenders and forwards. This position runs A LOT as they move the ball to various areas of the field. Their responsibilities include focusing on retrieving the ball from the back of the field and moving it to the forwards for an attack.
Center Midfielder: Central midfielders cover the most ground on the field. They need to circulate the ball to different sides of the field as well as communicate with the other midfielders and attackers. Center midfielders need to provide service into dangerous attacking areas and provide defensive assistance to the central defenders
This position needs excellent ball skills and the ability to make long shots on goal or assist others in doing so. Check out these three drills to improve your ball skills today.
Wingers: Wingers need to be able to help move the ball forward into dangerous wide attacking areas. They also need to be able to provide attacking service into the box and communicate with the defenders behind them and the attackers in front of them. Lastly, they need to be able to provide defensive assistance to the wide defender that is positioned behind them on the field.
Wingers play on the outside of the field with the purpose to draw the opponent’s defense away from the midfield. This position needs to dribble fast, assist in shots, pass the ball effectively, and score on goal.
Attacking Midfielders: These midfielders spend the majority of the game focused on shooting and passing to the forwards. This player needs to have high passing accuracy and great technique with the ball. Attacking midfielders help with the attack and take control of offensive plays.
They need to look for the ball, control and pass the ball with confidence, and their main goal is to move the ball up the field to help create chances for their team.
A crucial technique for midfielders is to master the ability to use passing to break through the lines. This is the number one way to create more goal scoring opportunities and you can learn more about how to master that by clicking here.
The forwards on the team are the main goal scorers. These positions include:
- Center Forward
Striker: A striker’s responsibility is to score goals. They lurk at the top of the field and need to look for passes from their team. Strikers need to be quick to outrun the defenders on the other team. Strikers are one of the most important positions on the field. They need to be able to shoot from anywhere on the field and even score off of passes.
Center Forward: The main role of this position is also to score goals. Center forwards should have strong aerial ball skills. They also need solid dribbling skills and assist strikers in goal-scoring opportunities.
Want to improve your shooting accuracy? Check out these 5 drills designed to help you do just that!
Part 3: Where Does Each Position Play on the Field?
Now that we understand each position, let’s discuss where these positions play on the field. Your positions on the field can vary based on the formation or setup that your team plays in.
Many coaches break the field up into thirds. The attacking third, the middle third, and the defensive third. Your attacking third is the area closest to the opponent’s goal. Your defensive third is the area in front of your goal that you are trying to defend.
Players can play in multiple spots on the field. This depends on the coach’s decisions, the formations used, and if you are playing a more offensive or defensive game.
Goalkeepers spend the majority of their time by the goal at the end of the field. This is the penalty box area or the 18-yard box.
A sweeper is positioned at the edge of the 18-yard box in front of the soccer goal.
The fullbacks and center back position themselves outside the penalty box. The attackers on the other team try to get into the penalty box for shots on goal.
Midfielders typically play in the middle third of the field. They are positioned between their attackers and their defenders.
The forwards and strikers spend the majority of their time on the opposite side of the field, in the attacking third. In the opposing team’s goal/penalty box area.
Part 4: Player Formations
Formations are how the players line up on the field – except the goalkeeper. Goalies are not included in formations because they always play in the same position.
Formation numbers start with the defenders or the players in the back of the field. Then the midfielders, followed by the forwards. Sometimes a formation is broken into four sections to identify where an extra player is positioned between standard lines. Maybe between midfield and defense or the forwards and midfield.
In 11v11, these players can line up in multiple formations. The term 4-4-2 refers to four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. Another common formation is a 4-3-3. Four players in defense, three in the midfield, and three more as forwards.
In 9v9 soccer, one of the most common formations is a 3-3-2. Three defenders in the back, three midfielders, and two forwards. These mimic the 4-4-2 formation in 11v11. It is a neutral formation as it does not overload any one line.
Let us break down a typical 4-3-3 formation.
The goalkeeper is always in the same position.
The four would be the two center backs and two full backs.
Next, you have your three midfielders. This could be a holding midfielder and two wingers. Or an attacking midfielder and two wingers. Again, this will depend on if your team is playing in a more offensive or defensive formation.
The last three are your center forward and two strikers.
Part 5: Positional Fundamentals
There are certain skill sets that each position needs. These skills help a player excel in their role on the team and ultimately helps the team dominate the opponent.
Goalkeeper: A goalkeeper needs to master their body positioning within the goal. They need strong kicking and punting skills, as well as jumping, catching, and ball-handling skills. This position requires strong hand and eye coordination matched with quick reflexes. A goalie needs strong communication skills.
Center backs: A center back needs to be good at long and short passes, as well as heading the ball, jumping, dribbling, concentration, strength, tackling, and anticipation.
Full backs: These players need to stay light on their feet as they need to move quickly. Other skills include mastering dribbling, passing, endurance, agility, tackling, composure, and confidence.
Sweepers: Sweepers need speed and fitness. They are expected to have excellent timing with tackles, use quick decision-making, be able to anticipate an opponent’s move, and have superior dribbling and passing skills.
Defending/Holding Midfielders: These players need to have good endurance, strength, anticipation, and discipline. They need to perfect their short and long passes. Other skills needed are jumping and heading the ball, as well as tackling.
Center Midfielders: The center midfielders need excellent ball skills. Also, they should be in good shape as their position requires excessive running.
Wingers: Both the left and right wingers need to master ball control, dribbling, speed, long passing, creativity, shooting, and confidence.
Attacking Midfielders: These midfielders need to have accuracy and technique with their ball control. The players need short passing skills and shooting skills. Other skills required of attacking midfielders include confidence, speed, and creativity.
Center Forward: This position requires focus on technique when it comes to dribbling, shooting, and passing. They need to be calm on the ball and quick thinkers. Good vision, strong decision-making skills, confidence, and patience are all attributes of a quality center forward.
Striker: Shooting skills are critical in this position. Players need to be quick, creative, have strong dribbling skills, excellent first touch on the ball, and confidence.
Looking to learn more about the fundamentals for every position? Click here!
Part 6: Soccer Positions Summary
That is what each position on the field needs to have in their skill set to be successful as a team.
We hope you all found this guide informative and helpful!
If there is one thing you should take away is there is a lot of variety to where you can play on the field and a lot of how you play, the skills needed, and the position depends on your coach and the formation of the team.
It is also helpful to know how to play multiple positions and not just one. This way you can help your team out if you are down a player or if someone is injured you can jump into their role quickly.
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