In the game of soccer, teams are made up of 11 players, each player with a specific role, which comes with a certain area of responsibility within the field.
However, although it is tactically advantageous for each player to stay within its area, more or less, players also need to be comfortable with going further when needed. After all, it’s a team effort!
All eleven roles within soccer can be pretty much divided into three main groups: the defenders, the midfielders, and the forwards.
Some of the roles could be put into more than one of those groups, as they might move in between depending on how the game is going, where the ball is, and what the strategy is.
But as a general rule, it’s easier to picture them within those three groups, so you can picture them on the field a lot better.
As you might imagine, defender roles mainly defend their own goal post, midfielders are kind of like the strategists of the game, and they are the ones that can get the ball from one side of the field to the other, and the forwards are mainly occupied with scoring goals.
But as we said, although the roles are pretty well defined, players have to be able to adapt when needed and take on new responsibilities or tactics on the go, depending on how the game is going.
Soccer isn’t just chasing after a ball, it requires a lot of team effort, some strategy, and making decisions on the go!
But what exactly are the responsibilities of each role? What does each player do? Do they all really play a part in a game’s victory? Let’s look at all of the soccer positions in more detail!
If you divided the soccer field into three horizontal sections, the Defenders would inhabit the section closest to their own goal post.
And as the name very much suggests, all of the Defender roles are in charge of defending that goal post and the area surrounding it, to avoid the opposite team from scoring any goals. They need to block, and send the ball back over to the other side as soon as possible!
Within the Defenders, we can place 5 different soccer roles:
Goalkeepers are a very notable role within soccer, and they are the last line of defense. Their job? Defending the goal post. As a general rule, they stay within the goal post, to stop and block any ball from scoring, although they can also leave their post if needed.
There have been many times in which a goalkeeper has left the goal post to play further up the field. The problem with this is that it’s a huge risk because it leaves the goal post unprotected!
Goalkeepers are also the only players in the entire time that are allowed to use their hands. So they can block the ball with their hands, and then throw it back out into the field. (That is, as long as they are within the penalty box. If they leave their post then they cannot use their hands!)
Amongst other things, Goalkeepers need to have incredible instincts and very fast reflexes, so that they can guess where the ball is heading, react in time, and block it.
They often end up on the floor after having to quickly jump in the way of the ball to stop it. Anything to prevent it from crossing that line and scoring!
Goalkeepers also have to be able to communicate pretty well. They have to coordinate the entire defense while mainly remaining within the goal post, and work with the rest of the Defenders to keep the other team from scoring.
Plus, they have to be able to remain focused, even when the ball seems super far away.
It might not seem like the hardest of roles, but it takes a lot to be a Goalkeeper, and they are under a lot of pressure. Especially when the other team gets to have a penalty shoot, then it’s all up to the Goalkeeper to stop the goals!
Some famous Goalkeepers that you might know are:
Manuel Neuer, David De Gea, Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, and Brad Friedel.
Fullbacks (Right and Left)
There are two Fullbacks per soccer team, a Right Fullback, and a Left Fullback. Their role is to defend either side of the field, close to their goal post, and they’re mainly in charge of blocking the opposing team’s wingers.
Fullback players can crossover to the other side when needed, but they will mainly stay on their side, and they will base their strategy and technique based on that.
Traditionally, Fullbacks had a fairly simple responsibility: to defend. However, in more modern soccer playing, Fullbacks now also work in tandem with the Midfielders, so they not only defend but help get the ball to the other side of the field.
And sometimes, they can even help with attacking maneuvers!
They also work very closely with the Goalkeeper, to coordinate the defense and ensure that the ball doesn’t get through to score a goal against them.
Both the Right and the Left Fullback need to be very quick on their feet so that they can easily react and go further up in the field, or closer to home to block an advance.
Fullbacks also need to be very good at communicating, as they are coordinating their strategy with both the Defense team and with the Midfielders. Plus, they have to be very aware of their positioning within the field.
It is very easy to go after the ball and to end up shifting out of your designated area. But as they are in charge of their side, they need to make sure they never leave it unprotected!
Some famous Fullbacks that you might have heard of are:
Philipp Lahm, Cafu, Javier Zanetti, and Dani Alves.
The Center Back is the soccer role in charge of defending the goal post, and the entire home area of the field, from the center.
They are positioned in the middle, in between the two Fallbacks, and they’re pretty much the core of the entire Defense, so it can be a pretty intense role with many responsibilities!
Basically, Center Backs lead the Defense efforts, and the Fallbacks will often follow their lead or will pick up the slack on either side of the field. The Center Back also has to heavily communicate with both the Goalkeeper and with the Midfielders.
The Center Back is often in charge of getting the ball back to the Midfielders, and it has to prevent the ball from ever reaching the goal post in the first place.
This is why Center Back players have to be very good communicators, and they have to be able to coordinate moves on the go so that the defense is effective as a team effort. They need to be fast on their feet, and if needed they will move further up in the field.
However, they have to remain aware of their designated area, as they cannot leave it fully unprotected, or else it might be vulnerable to a sneaky attack from the opposing team!
A lot of technique is also involved with the way in which Center Backs play, as they have to be able to get the ball from under the opposing player’s feet, to quickly return it to the Midfielders, so they can then pass it on to the Attackers.
Some famous Center Back players you might have heard of are:
Sergio Ramos, Milan Skriniar, Marquinhos, and Giorgio Chiellini.
The Sweeper is a very interesting role within the Defense team in soccer, as it doesn’t really have a specifically designated area within the home area of the soccer field. Instead, the Sweeper kind of just sweeps in to cover all of the spots that are left vulnerable.
The thing with soccer is that attacking is always very notable, but defense is often a lot more important. It is vital to have a tight defense so that the opposing players cannot get in, and the ball doesn’t get past to score.
That is why there are so many Defense roles, covering every bit of home area in the field, blocking the line to the Goalkeeper.
But even then, there are always gaps left unprotected, and there are ways in which the opposing players might get through and score, and this needs to be avoided as much as possible.
So that is where the Sweeper comes in! Their role is to be within the Defense group and to cover any area left unprotected. So they essentially run from side to side, to wherever they are needed. They are the ultimate failsafe.
They can be initially positioned either in front of the other Defense players or behind them. Usually, they will be behind them, and from there they can better see which areas need reinforcements so that they can quickly move towards them and fill in the gap.
This is why Sweepers need to be extra fast on their feet, and they have to be able to make decisions on the go so that they can quickly decide which gap needs the most cover.
They need to be able to quickly identify vulnerable gaps so that they can sweep in as a reinforcement, and they are constantly switching between one area and another.
On top of this, Sweepers have to be able to communicate really well, and they have to be hyper-aware of the other Defense players around them so that they are instantly there when needed!
Some famous Sweepers you might have heard of are:
Ronald Koeman, Daniel Passarella, Armando Picchi, and David Luiz.
If we go back to the image of the soccer field divided into three horizontal sections, then the Midfielders are the soccer players positioned in the middle of the field.
They, therefore, cover the most amount of area, as they are constantly running from one side to the other, constantly trying to get the ball away from their home area, and towards the opposing team’s goal post for the attackers to score goals.
Midfielders drive the entire game, and they are often known as the engine of the team. They are the ones that get the ball away from the Defenders, and they then help the Attackers to accomplish as many goals as possible.
Most of the gameplay happens in the Midfield, and they dictate the strategy and the overall outcome of how the game is played.
The thing with Midfielders is that although they mainly stick to the middle of the field, they essentially go everywhere. They help with the Defense, and they also majorly help with the attacking efforts.
It’s why many of the Midfielder positions could also be considered to be Forward positions.
But here are the main 4 Midfielder positions, explained:
The Defending Midfielder is the Midfielder position most in sync with the Defense team. The primary responsibility for this role is to get the ball from the Defense players and to get it across the field to the attacking players, with the help of all the other Midfielder players.
So while the other Midfielders are running around the entire field, mainly trying to push forward and get the attackers to score, the Defending Midfielder takes a bit of a step back and ensures that the defense is strong and that the ball is staying away from the home side of the field.
The Defending Midfielder has to be able to intercept the ball when needed, to keep the entire team in attack mode rather than in defense mode, and it is, in many ways, the first line of defense for the team as a whole.
On top of this, the Defending Midfielder is in charge of ensuring safe passage for the ball, from the Defense group to the rest of the Midfielders.
This is why a Defending Midfielder has to have a very good sense of what is going on, and what kind of strategy is needed.
They have to be very aware of where the other players are, and they have to come up with safe routes for the ball to be passed on so that the team can push forward instead of having to defend.
Good anticipation skills, good tackling techniques, and excellent coordination with the rest of teammates are all essential traits of a good Defending Midfielder!
Some Defending Midfielders that you might have heard of are:
Sergio Busquets, Marco Tardelli, Claude Makelele, and Nemanja Matic.
The Center Midfielder is one of the most important and essential roles and positions within a soccer team. And although there are many positions that the 11 players can settle into, it is practically guaranteed that every single team will always have a Center Midfielder in play.
Depending on where the ball is, and what the playing strategy is at the time, the Center Midfielder is the one in charge of either pushing the team back to defend or pushing the team forward to attack.
So the Center Midfielder has to have excellent decision-making skills because their call can make or break the victory, and they completely determine the stance the team as a whole takes in certain situations throughout the game.
They could be defined as the brain of the team, and they have to be able to link all of the players together so that they truly play as a team.
Center Midfielders, therefore, have to be all-rounder players. They need to be fast, coordinated, and they have to have amazing technique and control over the ball. Or in other words, they have to be able to do it all, because they really do throughout the game.
They defend, attack, and coordinate the entire game strategy, plus they make those important decisions. They are most often, together with the Goalkeeper, leaders of the team as a whole.
Another super important thing that Center Midfielders need to have is stamina. It is no secret that Center Midfielders will almost guarantee to be the ones running the most, going from one side of the field to the other, putting in the work for absolutely everything.
So they have to be able to remain at their top skills, without tiring, during the entire game!
Some famous Center Midfielders that you might have heard of are:
Michael Platini, Xavi Hernandez, Toni Kroos, and Luka Modric.
Wingers (Right and Left)
There are two Wingers in a soccer team, one for the left side of the field, and one for the right. They are also sometimes known as the Left and Right Midfielders, respectively.
And as the name suggests, they are the Midfielders that guard and attack on either side of the field, flanking the Center Midfielder as it directs the gameplay.
The Wingers were traditionally in charge of solely attacking, and pushing the team forward. However, in more modern soccer playing, wingers will also help out with defense if needed. As Midfielders, they can move around the entire field as needed, so they don’t solely attack!
However, the Wingers are essentially the direct rivals to the Fullbacks of the opposite team. So they will often have one on one confrontations with the Fullback of their side, as they try and clear a path to push the attack forward to score.
One of the most important traits of a Winger is to have excellent footwork and technique, as they should be able to dribble and get the ball past the Fallbacks, in order to get into position for the attack to be successful and result in a scored goal.
They also need to be very fast, so that they can dash past as soon as they see an opening, and so that they’re not blocked or stopped in their tracks by the Fallbacks and the rest of the Defense from the opposing team.
They have to be very perceptive, with great reaction times, so that they’re in the gaps as soon as possible, working in tandem on either side of the field, and supporting the Center and Attacking Midfielders.
They can also get very creative with their strategies, as they have to be able to surprise the opposing team, to get past them as many times as possible. Plus, the Wingers will often score many of the goals throughout the game, if they manage to get into those vulnerable gaps.
Some of the most famous players in the world primarily play within the role of a Winger, so they are definitely one of the best soccer positions to keep an eye on when watching a game!
Some famous Wingers that you might have heard of are:
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, and Megan Rapinoe.
In the same way, the Defending Midfielder has more of a focus on the Defense, the Attacking Midfielder is in charge of aiding the attack and pushing it forward again and again.
The Attacking Midfielder will often be positioned a little in front of the Center Midfielder, and this role works hand in hand with the Forwards positions, to help score as many goals as possible.
Although Center Midfielders control the game and team as a whole, the Attacking Midfielder will also take the lead on offensive plays, coordinating the wingers, and getting the ball to the Forwards.
They are also often referred to as the assists, as the Attacking Midfielder will usually have the most assists when it comes to scoring goals.
Just like the Center Midfielder, an Attacking Midfielder needs to be fast, with great stamina. They also have to have excellent footwork and dribbling skills, so that they can get the ball through the line of defense, on to the Striker.
If they play well, an Attacking Midfielder should be hard to pin down, as they will keep popping up as soon as a gap opens up, causing some havoc alongside the Wingers to keep the opposing team on the defense as much as possible.
Some famous Attacking Midfielders that you might have heard of are:
Roberto Baggio, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, and Zico.
When we divide a soccer field into three horizontal sections, the one closest to the opposing team’s goal post is the one where the Forwards will be positioned at. Their aim is to be the tip of the arrow, the head of the attack.
They are essentially the goal scorers of the team, thanks to their positioning, so they wait for the ball to be passed to them, and then they score.
Arguably, the Forward players are the most important on the team, as the entire aim of the game is to score goals, and that is what their role and responsibility are!
There are many different positions that can be classed as Forwards, and many of the roles that we placed within the Midfielders could also be placed here, but we didn’t want to include them twice as that would be pointless!
But for information’s sake, apart from the Strikers, which we have explained below, you can count the Wingers and the Attacking Midfielder within this group.
The Striker is positioned at the very front of the field, as close to the opposing goal post as possible. From there, they wait to receive the ball from their teammates, and as soon as they do, their aim and primary role is to score a goal.
Of course, they are not the only ones that score goals. In fact, the Wingers will often score goals, along with the Attacking Midfielder.
But having a designated Striker is an excellent way to ensure that there is someone there, waiting for an assist, to get the ball in and score.
They are right in the middle of the opposing defense, and they have to be excellent at getting through the gaps and slipping by unnoticed, so they are behind them by the time they receive the ball to score.
One of the main traits of a Striker is the aim. They need to take whatever chance they get at a score, and they have to be able to optimize it so that it is successful.
After all, in a well-matched game, the players don’t get that many chances to actually score! They also have to be incredibly fast, and quick on their feet, making decisions on the go and finding the right spots for the best possible chance of a victory.
Like most of the attacking and Midfielder players, they have to have excellent footwork and ball control, and you’ll often see Strikers have all of the fancy foot moves with advanced technique, to get the ball past the defense, and into the goal post.
They also work in coordination with the Wingers and the Attacking Midfielder, assisting each other and working as a team to win.
Some famous Strikers that you might have heard of are:
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Harry Kane.
Other soccer positions
We have now gone through the main eleven soccer positions within a soccer team, which would be distributed amongst the eleven soccer players in play. However, although a soccer team is made out of eleven players, there aren’t just eleven positions.
So although we covered eleven typical positions in a normal soccer match, there are plenty of other positions for the players to choose from.
Many of them will have very similar roles and responsibilities to the ones we already covered, but they will have a different name and slight variations in the way that they are played and the area of the field that they cover.
As a general rule, soccer players will not stick to a single position. Throughout their soccer career, they will switch and play in different positions, although they will often stick to the same type of position, whether that is defense, midfielder, or forward.
For example, players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the two best soccer players in the world right now, switch between being strikers, wingers, and attacking midfielders.
So a player isn’t trapped into a single position forever, changes can be made, and all soccer players should be able to cover different styles of soccer-playing so that they are better-rounded and more capable on a general level.
Especially as soccer is ultimately a team effort, and players might have to improvise and leave their position to act quickly and prevent a loss or ensure a victory.
Other common soccer positions are, for example, the Deep-Lying Playmaker. This is a position very similar to the Defending Midfielder, and the player in this role is essentially in charge of the long passes that get the ball from the Defense group, all the way to the Attacking players.
Other typical positions to use in soccer are the Wingbacks. These are essentially Fullback players, but they combine their defending duties with the chances of attack, laid out through strategy, formation, and gameplay.
The soccer positions and roles used in a match can vary from team to team, and from match to match.
Often, the soccer coach or captain will come up with a strategy, based on how the opposing team is known for playing, and they will decide on the exact positions there, along with the strategy and formation that they will initially set out to use.
During the match things will then adapt and change in the spur of the moment, depending on how it all goes!
What is the most important soccer position?
Now that we’ve explained all of the main soccer positions, you might be asking yourself which one out of them all is the most important. Truth is, there are many possible answers to this, and they can always be debated.
Because ultimately, all of the positions are important and have a role to play, as soccer is a team effort in which all the players contribute and coordinate in order to obtain a victory.
Nevertheless, the most common answer to this question would be the Striker. The striker is the player whose role is solely to score goals. And as that is the primary aim of the game, it can be said that the Striker is the most vital and important.
However, this isn’t entirely true, especially because Strikers aren’t the only players to score goals. Many other positions end up scoring goals, as it ultimately depends on who has the opening and the chance to score.
It also needs to be said that a good defense is vital for a soccer team, and the goalkeeper is the one preventing the other team from scoring and winning on many occasions!
So although it might sound super cheesy, soccer is one of the sports in which it is okay to say that everybody is equally important and vital, with all the roles playing a part in the grand scheme of it all!
There are eleven players in a soccer team and many different positions that these players can play in. However, regardless of the eleven positions that are ultimately chosen for the match, all players can usually be divided into Defenders, Midfielders, and Forwards.
While Defenders defend their home goal post and Forwards push forward leading the attack to score goals, Midfielders will control the entire game by pushing the team one way or another and taking charge of where the ball is and where it is going.
But even with the positions, the players aren’t tied to a single responsibility, as they have to constantly adapt and make decisions on the go, to ensure they are doing the best they can for the team as a whole.