In soccer, everyone on the team must know how to properly play their position in order for a successful game or season. However, the style of soccer being played differs from team to team. Some teams prefer to play European style soccer, where the players have “their” zone on the field to play in, and they stay in that zone when playing. This will ensure that nobody gets out of position, but will limit chances for plays. In the United States, most teams play this style of soccer. On the other hand, some teams prefer to play freestyle soccer, where players are free to move around the field in order to create more plays and goal scoring opportunities.



A soccer formation is the way the defense, midfield, and forward are lined up on the field at the start of the match. The formation of the team can help determine whether the team is leaning towards a strong defense or a strong offense. When talking about formations, the defenders are listed first, then the midfielders, and finally the forwards. Goalkeepers are not counted in the formation because they are the only position that has not been changed. For example, one formation commonly used in today’s game is the 4-4-2. This formation has four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. There are many other different formations a team can use in a game. Feel free to click any of the soccer diagram images to make them bigger.


The 4-4-2:

4-4-2 flat formationThis formation is one of the most popular formations used in today’s game. In this formation, there are four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. The 4-4-2 draws one of the forwards back into the midfield to help defend. This makes it harder for the forwards to score goals, because the odds of one forward beating five or six other players is unlikely. The hope with this formation is that it traps the ball and the opponent in the midfield before they can get any farther. This is more of a defensive formation. Some teams prefer to have the formation boxed, where all players attack and defend in a straight line,4-4-2 diamond formation also known as “playing flat” (pictured above), while other coaches prefer to play in a diamond formation, which means that the four midfielders are in a diamond like shape (pictured right). Playing a diamond formation can be risky, especially if the players in the midfield can’t connect passes. Four midfielders will put lots of pressure on any attacking opponents, which can be viewed as a good thing. The problem is, the midfielders tend to get bunched up when there is an attack, and having two center midfields can create confusion on who will put pressure on the ball and who will cover for that player in case they get beat. Another problem with the 4-4-2 is that there isn’t a very strong attack. Two forwards against many more players than themselves is usually not a very reliable attack. However, if the team is very soccer-smart and knows their positions well, the 4-4-2 can be a great formation. 


The 4-2-4:

4-2-4 Soccer FormationThe 4-2-4 formation consists of four defenders, two midfielders, and four forwards. This is one of the most offensive formations used in today’s game. In 1958 with the 17 year old Pele, Brazil won the World Cup using this formation. This formation makes it easy for the forwards to put pressure on the ball when it is on the opponent’s defensive side of the field and makes it a lot easier for the team to score. To make this formation work, the team needs a strong midfield and forward that can hold the ball for longer periods of time and shoot early. When the opposing team gains possession, a strong midfield and defense is needed to help regain possession of the ball. This formation is a great formation to use when a goal is needed or to win a game.


The 4-3-3

In the 4-3-3 formation, there are four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. 4-3-3 formationThis formation is considered one of the more offensive formations because of all three forwards putting pressure on the ball up front. The three midfielders usually play close together to help protect the defense, and move from side to side as one unit. On an attack, the three forwards spread out across the attacking half of the field, which creates more space. Creating more space on the field, or “opening up” the field, will allow teammates to create more scoring opportunities, which can have many goals as a result.  This formation is a great attacking formation to use in a game and will ensure pressure on every opposing player.


The 3-5-2:

3-5-2 FormationThe 3-5-2 formation has three defenders, five midfielders, and two forwards. This formation needs a very strong midfield, seeing as today’s game is either won or lost in the midfield. A team that doesn’t have a strong midfield lacks in ball possession and scoring opportunities. For this reason, some coaches put five or even six midfielders on the field in an effort to try and close in on any opponents before they get past the midfield line. The 3-5-2 can also be played in either a flat formation or a “triangle formation.” Look at the soccer diagram pictured to the left. You will notice that any three midfielders (yellow) can form a triangle. 


The 3-6-1:

In the 3-6-1, there are three defenders, six midfielders, and one center forward.3-6-1 formation This formation is much like the 3-5-2 because it also attempts to close in on any attacks in the midfield before it gets to the defense. The only difference is that in the 3-6-1, one of the forwards is pulled back into the midfield. Many German club teams use this formation in hopes of tying or winning a game. This formation is a good strategy to use in a defensive approach, but not as an an offensive approach. One forward usually cannot beat an entire midfield and defense by themselves, so any attacks used while playing in this formation should be well thought out. 


Rules of the Game:

Type of ball:

  • The ball should be a spherical shape and is sized 1-5, size 5 being the largest. Size five balls should be used in all matches age 12 and up.
  • The ball should weigh no more than 450 grams and no less than 410 at the beginning of the match.
  • The ball should have a circumference of no more than 70 centimeters and no less than 68 centimeters.
  • The ball should have a pressure between 0.4 and 0.6 atmosphere at sea level.

Number of Players:

  • A maximum of 11 players and a minimum of 7 are allowed on each team.
  • One player on each team must be a goalkeeper; this player can use their hands inside of their penalty area. The goalkeeper must wear a different colored shirt to the rest of the team to distinguish the goalie from other players.

Equipment for Players:

  • All players must wear shin guards to prevent injury.
  • Each team must wear the same color shirts to distinguish one team from another
  • Cleats must be designed so that there is no studs on the front of the shoe, as well as no sharp edges that could injure other players. (Check out my section on Soccer Wear for more information on this)


  • The referee is to control the game by enforcing the laws of the game.


  • Two linesmen are used to assist the referee in enforcing the laws of the game.
  • Their job is to report to the referee when the ball is out of play, a corner kick, a goal, when players are offside, and when fouls take place.
  • When the linesman reports something to the referee, the referee has the final say, and he/she may or may not make the call.

Duration of the Match:

  • Standard time consists of two 45 minute halves.
  • Some leagues play 40 minute halves, and junior leagues can play 30 minute halves.

Start of the Game:

  • The game is started by taking a kickoff. The ball is placed in the center of the field and the player who has won the kickoff kicks it forward. Kickoffs are also used when a team scores a goal or to start playing again after halftime.
  • The team that has the first kickoff at the start of the game is determined with a coin toss before the game. The winner has the choice to either have first kickoff or defend the opposite side of the field.
  • Kickoffs consist of two players in the circle at the center of the field with the ball positioned close to the middle. After the whistle is blown to signify the start of the play, one player will pass the ball to the other player doing the kickoff. This is now a live ball and the play has restarted.
  • On the kickoff, the ball must travel past the midfield line onto the opponent’s side of the field. This is usually a short pass to a player close by.
  • A goal cannot be scored from the first kick after kickoff.
  • A drop ball is another method of restarting the game play and is used when the game is stopped while the ball was in play, used many times for injuries.

Ball In/Out of Play:

  • The ball is out of play when the ball is completely outside the touch line or goal line.
  • If any part of the ball is still on the line, the ball is still in play.
  • The referee will determine which team will throw the ball in, take a corner kick, or take a goal kick depending on which team kicked the ball out.
  • When throwing the ball in, you cannot lift either foot from the ground and the ball must go completely over your head before it is released.
  • During throw-ins, coaches can substitute other players into the game for other players that need a break depending on who’s throw-in it is. The team with possession of the ball during the throw-in is the team that can substitute players. In professional matches, only three substitutes are allowed per game.

Scoring a Goal:

  • In order for a goal to be scored, the ball must go into the goal below the crossbar and between the two posts.
  • All players can score goals, though not off a goal kick or kickoff.



  • When an attacking player receives the ball from another player on the opposing team’s side of the field, that attacking player must be level or in front of the last defender on the field. The last defender is the last player running on the field before the goalie. If the player receives the ball from a teammate while he is behind the last defender, that player is offsides. There is an exception to the offside rule: a player cannot be offside during a corner kick.
  • When a player is offside and the referee stops the play, the other team will be awarded a free kick
  • The purpose of this rule is to ensure that there is no advantage to the attacking team when they gain possession of the ball.


Look at the soccer field diagram pictured above. You will notice that the ball is in the red team’s possession and that they are attacking the goal. One of the players on the red team has the ball and is going to pass the ball to another teammate that is closer to the goal (shown by the red line). Notice that the player that the ball is being passed to is in front of the defensive line, or behind all of the other players on the defending team. This means that the player behind the defenders is offside. Some referees call a player offside when they are even with the line of defenders, and some only make the call when they are behind the line of defense. This depends on the game, age level, and the referee’s decisions. 


There are two types of fouls in soccer-major fouls and minor fouls. There are nine types of major fouls:

  • Holding onto another player
  • Handling the ball with your hands (aside from the goalkeeper)
  • Tripping another player
  • Pushing another player
  • Hitting or spitting at another player
  • Charging at a player from behind them
  • Charging at another player in a rough manner
  • Jumping up at a player
  • Kicking or attempting to kick another player

If any of these fouls are committed during a game, the referee will award the other team a direct free kick. A direct free kick is a restarting of play where the team to which the foul occured regains possession of the ball. A direct kick is taken from the place where the foul was committed. The ball should be stopped when the kick is taken. It should not touch that same player until the ball has reached another player; in other words, no dribbling.

There are also five minor fouls. If a minor foul is committed during a game, the referee will award the other team with an indirect free kick. An indirect free kick is also taken from where the offense occured. A player can score off of an indirect kick only when it has touched another player before going into the goal. For this reason, many teams will have two or more  people participating on the kick instead of one. Some teams have one person touching the ball with their foot and quickly moving out of the way, and another player will kick it. As soon as the foot touches the ball, the ball is in play.

  • Dangerous plays (high kicks, slide tackling)
  • Obstruction of another player while the ball is not in playing range
  • Charging at the goalkeeper
  • Intentionally wasting time
  • Violation of the rules by a  goalkeeper

If a player talks back to a referee or argues with the referee’s decisions, that player can also get in trouble with the referee.

The referee may award the player violating the laws a yellow card. This is a warning to not commit that foul again, and you can still continue playing. However, if that same player receives a second yellow card, it becomes a red card. When a player is shown a red card, they are ejected from the game and are not allowed back in. No other player on that team can replace the player that has been ejected from the game, and the team must play with 10 players instead of 11.