Pickup Soccer: Meaning, Rules & How To Play

Getting an opportunity to play soccer is sometimes easier said than done. For example, some people don’t necessarily have 21 other friends to play 11-on-11, but they still enjoy the game and want to stay active. That’s where something like pickup soccer can come into play.

What exactly is pickup soccer? Is it a way to get better as a player? Some people believe that pickup soccer is one of the best ways for them to stay engaged in the game. As long as a person knows where to look and how to play in a pickup soccer setting, they can have a ton of success.

Here’s everything you need to know about pickup soccer.

What Is Pickup Soccer?

Pickup soccer is whenever there is a game played without any set rules, or in a particular league. People are looking to play or practice all over the world, but instead of getting on a team, they want to play locally at a field in their spare time.

Maybe there is a location where a lot of people will show up, and organized games take place once everyone is there. Pickup technically can occur anywhere indoors or outdoors with enough space.

Unwritten Rules

Pickup soccer is never going to be officiated just like a regular soccer match. It’s impossible, considering that pickup soccer will not have a referee to overlook the game. That means players must call their own fouls, and staying onsides is largely left up to people doing the honorable thing. There will always be some cheating involved with pickup soccer, but that’s part of the game.

Pickup soccer is usually much more physical than official matches, since people can get away with a bit more. This works on both sides of the ball, and will be more and more competitive depending on where a person plays.

Don’t expect to have the best of the best when it comes to a soccer ball, as it usually comes down to whoever brings the best one. The ball might be underinflated or overinflated, and the quality might not be quite up to par.

With that said, most people still enjoy playing with whatever is available and go from there. If someone wishes to play with a high-quality ball, they can invest in one to bring along with them.

Finally, goals might be a bit different compared to what people are used to. In some cases, the goals might be smaller because that is all that is available. In other cases, teams might bypass having a goalie altogether. Instead, they use smaller goals, and defense is stressed collectively to get the job done.

Not everyone enjoys standing around in goal for half of the match, so playing in goal is usually one of the toughest spots to fill in pickup soccer. They play an important role, but someone needs to bring the proper equipment to make it all work as well.

Where Is Pickup Soccer Usually Played?

Players take part in pickup soccer just about anywhere with enough space. Some people are lucky enough to play pickup soccer on a regulation field, but that usually means having to pay at least a little bit of a fee to have access.

Public parks are also very popular, as most places have at least a few parks with soccer fields that are solid enough.

Unconventional opportunities include playing soccer at open fields with someone bringing goals, or playing indoors if there are opportunities.

There are a lot of people who actually prefer playing indoors if the weather is cold and they have the right equipment for it.

How Easy Is It To Join Pickup Soccer?

Some people have a lot of luck jumping into games and getting their exercise in with some competition as well. Others will find it more challenging, and a lot of it depends on where a person is located.

If soccer is pretty popular in the area, there is a good chance that there are plenty of people out there who play the game. If soccer is not particularly popular, it might be harder to find.

Take a look around and see if any parks seem popular with soccer players. Another way to figure things out is to ask online in social media groups or on message boards. Chances are, someone will have some type of information to pass along that can be helpful.

It’s always hard for players who are on either extreme to find pickup soccer fun. People just starting out are going to have a hard time feeling comfortable joining a pickup atmosphere.

Maybe the other players will judge, or the basic rules are hard to keep in mind while keeping up with everyone else. The same goes for ex-college or ex-pro players, but for different reasons.

Some casual players might not be happy that they are sharing the field with players who are way too good. It also could be a waste of time for players to go up against inferior talent.

Are There Any Negatives To Pickup Soccer?

While there’s a lot of fun that comes with playing pickup soccer, there are a few negatives for people to be on the lookout for. Understanding the negatives will make it easier to identify before they get out of hand.

Bad habits

It’s very easy to pick up on bad habits when playing pickup soccer. Since the matches aren’t officiated properly, players will be a little more physical and not be onsides like they should. Not having the timing down can throw players off when they have to jump into an actual match.

Most who play at a high level will try to keep pickup soccer as close to the real thing as possible. This is to help minimize the number of bad habits picked up during play.


Injuries occur whenever someone is playing a sport, but it can feel pretty silly when someone gets hurt while playing pickup soccer. Coaches will try to discourage players from playing pickup soccer during the season. It’s all fun and games until someone gets seriously injured.

If the game seems a bit too reckless, it’s probably best to step away and look for another setup. Most who are playing pickup soccer just want to have some fun, and there’s no time for getting injured for no reason.


With no one really overseeing the match, a lot of arguments stem from bad calls or controversial moves. In some heated instances, this leads to fighting, which no one wants to deal with. Fights break out much more frequently in pickup soccer, and it is hard to predict what an unknown person might do when mad.

Is Pickup Soccer Here To Stay?

As long as there are people who really enjoy the sport, pickup soccer is without question going to be around for a long time.

People love the fact that they can get a game in just about any time they want, and they don’t have to rely on having a steady group of friends.

Understanding what pickup soccer will look like when jumping in is a crucial step for anyone.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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