Soccer 101

How does Soccer work? What are the basic fundamentals of the game? Get ready to learn about Soccer 101. 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 the course of 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.

Soccer games last for 90 minutes, which is split into two equal 45-minute halves. Although time stoppages rarely occur, a few minutes of extra time are added on at the very end to accommodate for brief injury timeouts. If necessary, overtime periods are played on a sudden-death basis, with the team that manages to score first being declared the winner.

Although the number of players assigned to each team tends to be unimportant when playing for leisure, competitions generally dictate that each team must have eleven players on the field at one time.

Equipment and Gear

In terms of on-field equipment, virtually any soccer game requires a properly inflated soccer ball (plus identical backups that can be used if the ball is kicked out of play) and two goals lined with netting on the inside.

Players are required to wear jerseys and shorts in order to be properly identified as members of a certain team. Both garments tend to 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.

The ensemble is complete with a pair of cleats. 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, with players being penalized for attempting to play without proper uniforms, footwear or padding/shin guards in some leagues.

The second category revolves around misconduct. Similar to other sports, soccer players are not permitted to use foul language, initiate aggressive or unnecessary levels of physical contact with an opponent or openly disobey the referees.

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 poor positioning is offsides, in which 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 eleven (11) player positions in soccer, one for each team member on the field at any given moment. The positions include a goalie, two fullbacks (left/right), a wing back, two center backs (defenders), a sweeper, a central midfielder, two wide midfielders (left/right wingers) and a center forward (striker).

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 line. Conversely, the wing backs and strikers are heavily relied upon to generate offense by advancing the ball down the field and creating scoring opportunities.

Important Soccer Concepts

Listed below are the five most important concepts in soccer:

  • Scoring/defending
  • Kick types
  • Offensive/defensive formations
  • Attack strategies
  • Continuously running game clock

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 backwards
  • Corner Kick: restarting play by kicking the ball towards the goal line from the far corner of the field
  • Header: passing or shooting by bouncing the ball off one’s own 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 down field
  • 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.