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Soccer Terms And Definitions

Basic Soccer Position Terms

Defender – A player who works mainly in the defensive third of the field. They are primarily focused on stopping the opposition's attackers from scoring.

Midfielder – A player generally positioned in the middle third of the field between the forwards and defenders. Their job is to link the defense and the offense through ball control and passing. They play both an attacking role and a defensive role.

Sweeper –In some formations, a single defender that plays closest to their own goal behind the rest of the defenders; a team's last line of defense in front of the goalkeeper.

Forward – A player who is responsible for most of a team's scoring. They play in front of the rest of their team (or in the attaching third of the field) where they can take most of the shots.

Goalkeeper – I bet you know this one. The player positioned directly in front of the goal who tries to prevent shots from crossing the goalline; the only player allowed to use their hands and arms, though only within the 18-yard penalty area.

Advanced Soccer Positions

Central Defender – A player who guards the area directly in front of their own goal, often considered the strongest defender.

Central Forward – A team's best-scoring forward who plays towards the center of the field.

Attacking Midfielder – The midfielder that plays right behind the forwards; they support the offense by providing passes to forwards to set up goals.

Central Midfielder – The midfielder most responsible for organizing play in the midfield area, creating scoring opportunities for the attackers, and often a team's leader.

Defensive Midfielder – The player positioned just in front of their team's defense and often assigned to mark the opposition's best offensive player.

Stopper – The player that defends or guards the best scorer on the attacking team, often the opposition's striker.

Wingers – The outside forwards and midfielders (often the fastest players and best dribblers) who play on the sides of the field. Their primary task is to provide accurate crossing passes so teammates can shoot at the goal.

Basic Soccer Field Terms

Center Circle – a circular marking with a 10-yard radius in the “center” of the field from which kickoffs are taken to start or restart the game. Simply a reference line for the referee and defenders. Defenders must be as least 10 yards away from the ball prior to start or restart.

Center Line – See Midfield line.

Center Spot – The “center” of the center circle from which kickoffs are taken to start or restart the game. Not too complicated!

Corner Arc – an quarter-circle with a radius of 1 yard located at each of the 4 corners of the soccer field. Also a reference line, the ball must be kicked from inside this arc on a corner kick.

Corner Flag – flag located at each of the 4 corners of the soccer field, inside the corner area.

End Line – the boundary line extending from corner to corner along its width at each end.

Field – the rectangular area where soccer matches are played.

Goal Area – the rectangular area (20 x 6 yd. on a full-size soccer field) marked within the penalty area (or inside the larger rectangle) and directly in front of goal. Marks the area from which all goal kicks must be taken.

Goal Box – commoner's term for the goal area or sometimes the penalty area.

Goal Line – same as the end line.

Midfield Line – a line in the center of the soccer field that divides the field in half along its width and runs parallel to the goals. Used for start and restart as well as for calling offside. A player cannot be offside on their half of the field. Also called the center line.

Penalty area – The larger rectangle in front of the goal that includes the goal area. Marks both where the goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with his hands AND the area where harsh fouls committed by the defending team result in penalty kicks.

Penalty Arc – The arc at the top of the penalty area. Designates how far back all players must be away from the ball while a penalty kick is being taken.

Penalty Mark (or Spot) – the mark on the soccer field from which penalty kicks are taken.

Sideline – common word for the touchline.

Touchline – the line that runs along the length of each side of the field (known as sideline).

Basic Soccer Action Terms

Center or Cross – a pass from either side of the field towards the middle of the field. It is used primarily to get the ball closer to the front of the goal.

Charging – a method of running at and unbalancing the player who has possession, or is attempting to gain possession of the ball; the act of using a "shoulder" against an opponent's shoulder to gain an advantage, allowed only when the ball is playable (i.e. within 3 feet).

Clearing – the act of moving the ball out of the area of one's own goal by throwing (goalkeeper) or kicking it.

Foot Trap – the use of the foot, usually the bottom, to control a rolling or low bouncing ball.

Header – When a player passes or shoots the ball with his head.

Save – the act of a goalkeeper in stopping a shot that would have otherwise gone into the goal.

Shielding or Screening –used by the person with the ball to protect the ball from a defender; the ball carrier keeps their body between the ball and the defender.

Slide Tackle – a move where a player attempts to win the ball by sliding towards the ball. If the tackling player touches the ball first, he is allowed to make contact with the player controlling the ball. If the tackling player strikes the player before the ball, a foul is assessed. A tackle from behind is always a foul regardless of whether the tackler managed to get to the ball first.

Trap – the use of one's body to slow down and control a moving ball, most often using the chest, thighs or feet.

Advanced Soccer Action Terms

Cut Back – dribbling the ball backwards in the reverse way of the goal in an attempt to keep possession of ball.

"Man On" – the call a player makes to a teammate who is closely marked by an opposing player.

Mark – to cover opponent with or without the ball to keep from passing, receiving or shooting.

Offside Trap – a play by the defense to catch the attacking team offside. The rear defenders will quickly pull up past the attackers to put the attackers in an offside position.

One Touch Pass – when the ball is received and propelled in a single movement.

"Push Up" – a phrase used to tell the defense to move up the field in a more attacking position. Sometimes used as the command for an offside trap.

Two Touch Pass – a pass in which the ball is received by a player with one touch and then played to a teammate with the next touch.

Basic Soccer Rule Terms

Caution – a disciplinary action in which the referee shows a player the yellow card (obvious rules violation). A second caution in the same match results in the player being shown the red card (ejected from the game).

Corner Kick – a direct free kick that is awarded when the defending team puts the ball over the end line. A corner kick is taken by the offensive team from next to the corner flag.

Dangerous Play – an action by a player that the referee considers dangerous to that player or others: high kicking, playing while lying on the ground, or playing the ball while it is in the possession of the goalkeeper.

Direct Free Kick – a free kick that is awarded at the spot of the infraction for a physical contact foul such as tripping, holding, pushing, tackles from behind, jumping into an opponent, or for hand balls. A direct free kick can score by going directly into the goal. It does not have to be touched by anyone other than the kicker.

Drop Ball – a method of restarting a game where the referee drops the ball between 2 players facing each other. A drop ball restarts the game after play is stopped for no penalty situation (e.g. after an injury) and in other circumstances (more than one soccer rule about this). The ball is dropped where it was last in play or at the nearest point outside the penalty area.

Foul – when the referee judges a violation against an opposing player. The team that suffers the foul is awarded with a direct free kick unless the foul is committed by a defensive player inside his own penalty area, in which case the foul results in a penalty kick.

Goal Kick – a type of restart that is awarded when the attacking team puts the ball over the end line. The ball is kicked from anywhere inside the goal area away from the goal to restart play. After the kick is taken, the ball cannot be touched again by any player until it is outside of the penalty area.

Indirect Free Kick – a free kick that is awarded at the spot of the infraction for other fouls that are judged not to be serious such as obstruction, dangerous play or charging (non-contact fouls), as well as for offside. Indirect kicks must touch another player (either team) before the ball goes into the net in order to score.

Offside a violation that occurs when an offensive player is closer to the opponent's goal than both the ball and the second-to-last opposing player at the time that the ball is passed to the offensive player. Players cannot be called offside if they are in their own half of the field or if they receive the ball from a throw in, corner kick, or goal kick. When a player is called offside, the opposing team is awarded an indirect free kick.

Penalty Kick – A kick taken from 12 yards in front of the goal as a result of a contact foul or hand ball that takes place inside the penalty area.

Yellow Card or Caution – a disciplinary action in which the referee shows a player the yellow card (obvious rules violation). A second caution in the same match results in the player being shown the red card.

Red Card – a referee shows a player a red card to signal that the player has been banned from the rest of the match. A red card can be shown for a single serious offense or as the result of being shown a second yellow card in the same game. After a player is shown a red card, the player must leave the field of play and cannot be replaced by a substitute, meaning that his or her team must finish the match with one player fewer.


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