Soccer Terms Decoded: Master the Language of The Game

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

Are you looking for a list of the most important soccer terms to know about? Mastering the language of the beautiful game can help you improve your game as a player or help you better understand the game as a fan.

In this guide we will cover the most important soccer terms to know about in various categories to help you increase your soccer knowledge.

Soccer Terms

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Basic Soccer Terms

I will start this list off by explaining the simple basics of the game that everyone should be familiar with.

Goal: A goal is a score and it is equivalent to one point

Shot: A forceful attempt to propel the ball into the goal, with the intent of scoring a goal

Assist: A pass that directly leads to a goal

Pass: When a player kicks a ball towards a teammate

Juggle: Juggling refers to keeping the ball in the air using feet, thighs, or head without it touching the ground

Dribble: Dribbling refers to controlled ball movement while moving past opponents.

Bending Ball: A shot or pass with intentional curve on the ball

Chest Trap: Using the chest to control and redirect the ball

Cross: A pass from the side of the field into the penalty area.

Save: Goalkeeper’s act of preventing a shot from entering the goal.

Header: Striking the ball with your own head, often during aerial challenges.

Volley: Kicking the ball while it is in the air and before it hits the ground.

Trap: Controlling the ball and keeping it close to you.

Slide Tackle: A defensive move used to win the ball back from the opponents.

Bicycle Kick: An overhead kick performed in mid-air.

Own Goal: Scoring a goal in your own goal

Parking the Bus: A defensive tactic that focuses on sitting back with a low block, defending most of the game, and trying to score with counter attacks.

Man to Man Marking: Assigning players to mark specific opponents closely.

Counter Attack: An offensive strategy to quickly transition from the defensive phase to the offensive phase and catch the opponent off guard

Tiki Taka: A playing style that focuses on quick, short passes to maintain possession. This term was popularized by Spanish speaking countries

Hat trick: A hat trick is when a player scores three goals in one game

Brace: A brace is when a player score two goals in one game

Attacking team: Team that has the ball and is trying to score on the opposing team

Defending Team: The team that does not have the ball and is protecting their goal from the opposing team

Barefoot training: One of the best ways to enjoy and train for the beautiful game

Soccer Terms

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Soccer Terms: The Field

Next, it is important to know the soccer terms related to the markings on the field, which is where you will spend most of your time training and playing.

Sidelines: The long boundaries of the rectangular field.

Goal Line or End Line: The short boundaries behind the goal box that run from one sideline to the other.

Center Spot: The midpoint where kickoffs begin

Center Circle: The white circle surrounding the center sport of the field.

Halfway Line: The line that divides the soccer field into two

Goal: the physical structure, consisting of two upright posts joined by a horizontal crossbar that sits at each goal line

Penalty Area: A designated rectangular area around each goal with special rules.

Penalty Spot: A spot inside the penalty area where players take penalty kicks

6-Yard Box: The smaller rectangular area within the penalty area, where goalkeepers take goal kicks.

Corner Arcs: Markings indicating where corner kicks are taken.

Corner Flag: Flags marking the corners of the field.

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Soccer Terms: Positions

Now that you have a better understanding of the soccer field, we have to discuss the different positions that people can play once they step onto the pitch.

Goalie: Goalies are the only players who can use their hands if they are inside the penalty area and their job is to prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net.

Defender: Players whose primary job is to stop the opposing team from scoring. Defenders are made up of center backs and fullbacks.

Midfielder: Player who bridges the offense and defense, controlling possession, and the tempo of the game. The midfield is made up of center midfielders and wide midfielders.

Forwards: Players whose primary job is to score goals, create scoring opportunities, and be an attacking threat. The forwards are made up of strikers and wingers.

Center Backs: Central defenders providing defensive stability.

Full Backs: Wide defenders who play next to the center backs

Wing Backs: Wide defenders who play next to the center backs and have more offensive responsibilities than full backs

Center Midfielder: Players who play in the center of the field. Typically referred to as box to box midfielders or the number 8s

Center Attacking Midfielder: Players who play in the center of the field and have more offensive responsibilities than the other central midfielders. They are typically referred to as the number 10s.

Center Defensive Midfielder: Players who play in the center of the field and have more defensive responsibilities than the other central midfielders. They are typically referred to as the number 6s

Wide Midfielders: Players who play in the wide areas of the midfield.

Wingers: Forwards who play the wings of the field, either left or right, and in the attacking third next to the strikers.

Strikers: Players primarily responsible for scoring goals.

Center Forwards: Similar to the striker, center forwards have a job of scoring goals, but also to drop deeper into the midfield and help out there.

Soccer Terms

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Soccer Terms: Rules

Next on our list of soccer terms are the soccer rules, or the laws of the game.

Roster: List of players eligible to participate in a game.

Starting 11: The lineup of players at the beginning of a match.

Kickoff: The way of starting or restarting play at the center spot.

Fouls: Offenses that break the laws of the game which can lead to consequences.

Yellow Card: A card issued by the ref to a player that acts as a caution to unsportsmanlike behavior.

Red Card: A card issued by the ref to a player for more serious fouls that results in the player having to sit out the rest of the match and leave their team down a player.

Indirect Free Kick: A free kick requiring a touch from another player before a goal can be scored.

Direct Free Kick: A free kick that allows the player to try to score directly at goal

Goal Kick: Method of restarting play from the goal area once the ball goes out of bounds past the sideline.

Penalty Kicks: A consequence for certain fouls, taken from the penalty spot.

Penalty Shootout: A tiebreaker for if a game ends in a tie after extra time involving alternating penalty kicks. Each team gets five penalty kicks and whoever scores the most wins and if there is a tie after the five kicks it goes to sudden death, which means whoever misses first loses.

Corner Kick: A restart from the corner arc after the ball crosses the goal line.

Throw In: Method of restarting play after the ball crosses the sideline. For a proper throw-in the player must throw the ball over their head in a specific manner.

Aggregate Score: A combined score across multiple matches.

Regulation time: The normal amount of time in an entire game, which is 90 minutes plus stoppage time, or injury time.

Injury Time: Additional time added to regulation time to compensate for stoppages.

Extra Time: Additional playing time, after regulation time, in knockout stages if the match ends in a draw.

Handball: Intentional or unintentional use of hands or arms to control the ball.

Offsides: Positional violation where a player is closer to the opponent’s goal than the ball.

Drop Ball: A method of restarting play after a temporary stoppage.

The Advantage Rule: Allowing play to continue after a foul if it benefits the offended team.

Soccer Terms

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Soccer Terms: Soccer Equipment

So by now you are familiar with common terms, the field markings, and different positions of the game which means we have to discuss what equipment you need to start playing soccer.

Soccer Ball: The round physical object that you need to play the game

Soccer Cleats: Cleats designed to wear while playing association football that come with studs to provide traction on grass and artificial surfaces.

Shin Guards: Protective gear worn on your shins to help protect you and limit the risk of injuries.

Shin Guard Sleeves: Sleeves to help hold your shin guards in place

Soccer Socks: Long socks designed to go over your shin guards.

Grip Socks: Specialized socks with grip pads to provide more traction than regular soccer socks

Soccer Bag: A bag used to help transfer the rest of your training equipment to and from places

Rebounder: A training tool that acts as a partner that can help you train your skills individually

Soccer Terms Image by Colin Loyd

Soccer Terms: Other Important Terms

If you have made it this far, we have already discusses some of the most important soccer terms, but there are still a few more terms that did not fit in any of the previous categories.

IFAB (International Football Association Board): The governing body responsible for determining the rules, or Laws of the Game.

National Teams: Teams representing their respective countries in international competitions.

International Match: A match between national teams from different countries.

International Caps: The amount of appearances a player makes for their national team.

Champions League: Premier European club competition organized by UEFA. Considered the best league in the world.

World Cup: The most prestigious soccer tournament ever which happens every four years.

Domestic League: Top-level soccer competition within a specific country. For example, the Premier League is the best domestic league in England and La Liga is the best domestic league in Spain. The best teams in their domestic league, in the top leagues in Europe, qualify for the Champions League.

Main Referee: The primary official responsible for enforcing the rules during a match.

Assistant Referee: Official assisting the main referee, focusing on specific areas and signaling key decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Soccer a Slang term?

No, “soccer” is not considered slang although it is uncommon in many parts of the world where “football” is the preferred name for the sport.

Why do Americans call it soccer?

Americans use the term “soccer” as an abbreviation of “association football” to distinguish it from American football, which they refer to as just “Football.” What Americans know as “American football”, or just “football”, British people know it as “Gridiron” and what Americans know as “soccer,” British people know it as “Football”


In conclusion, mastering soccer terms is key for players and fans of the beautiful game. In this blog we explained the most common soccer terms to know in various categories, basic terms, field marking, player positions, rules, equipment, and other important terms.

If you are new to soccer and want to learn more about how to become a better soccer player, make sure to check out the blogs in the enhance performance section of this blog site.

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