Soccer Positions: Roles & Responsibilities

Soccer teams only find success if they are operating together like a well-oiled machine. For that to happen, all 11 players on the pitch must be playing their positions correctly. While formations will change the responsibilities of individual players, there are important positions for each team.

Below is a breakdown of what defenders, midfielders, and offensive players are responsible for to lead the team success. Finally, even the goalie is examined as such an important part of any team.

Defenders

Standard formations will have anywhere from three to five field players on defense, along with the goalie. Teams that might be a little more offensive-oriented will stack their lineup on that end of the field, while those trying to keep the score low and preserve a lead might load up on defenders. Not all defenders are the same, as there are some traditional names for each type.

Centre-Back

  • Main objective is to organize the defense & to constantly communicate with the team

A sweeper is looked at as one of the best defenders on any team, and the last field player to stop the offense before the goalie. They have a commanding role on the pitch with the rest of the defense, and they position themselves based on how other players react. This player must have the skill to clean up the mess of the rest of the team, because a goalie will be under constant attack if the offense breaks all the way through.

Right & Left Defenders

  • Help out on defense, but In a more offensive position that can revolutionize a teams attacking prowess

Teams utilizing a right and left defender know that they need to have a solid player capable of picking up offensive players early and pushing them towards certain parts of the pitch. They can control pace in a lot of ways, and they are sometimes used to quickly turn defense into offense.

Some teams will make sure to put a right foot dominant player at the right defender position, and a left dominant player on the left defender position. This is not a necessity, but it does provide a slight edge if done correctly.

Stopper

  • Plays between midfielders & defenders, main objective is to stop attacks

Not all teams use a stopper, as they might move up to the midfield instead. Versatility is one of the big keys to this position, as they are part of the first line of the defense. They can help with the defense or the midfield, which always comes in handy. They can take some chances here and there because they do have protection behind them, but doing too many reckless things can put a lot of stress on the rest of the defense.

Midfielders

Midfielders can vary in numbers, going as low as two or as high as five in different formats. In some cases, there is no true definition of their responsibilities other than to help out in numerous ways. Teams will throw different looks at defenses depending on several factors.

Center Midfielder

  • Equal Responsibilities Between Offense & Defense

Another very versatile player on any team is the center midfielder. They can push the ball up on offense and help with scoring, or they can drop back and help with the defense.

To excel in this position, a player must have outstanding ball control and know how to make smart plays. They are always around the ball, so they can’t take a ton of chances compared to other players. If a team can control the bar in the midfield, they have a great chance of winning the contest.

Right & Left Midfielder

  • Support attacks from the wings, but also to help out on defense when necessary

Having strong support on both sides of the pitch can make teams very difficult to keep up with. These players need to be in excellent shape, since they are running up and down the field throughout the match, but being able to be in key positions in the most important times can make a huge difference.

It helps to be extremely fast, but these players need to be smart as well. Being in the right position can be the difference between scoring a goal and giving up a counter-attack.

Offense

These are the players who get all the recognition, as they get more scoring opportunities and more chances to pull off amazing plays than anyone else. Teams obviously want a ton of talent on offense, but they are only going to get opportunities if the other positions open things up.

Center Forward

  • Score goals, but more involved in the build-up play than the strikers

The main focus of a center forward is to win possession of the ball as often as possible. They need to be strong and sound with their strategy, and they also need to help control pace quite a bit. If they can move the ball up to midfielders quickly, they are doing their job. A lot of teams will try to go with a larger athlete in this position, but it varies depending on the scheme.

Striker

  • The only goal for a striker is to score goals, not involved in defense or the build-up play

Whether it is a single striker or using a few players in this position, these players need to have a knack for finding the back of the net. Many think that a striker needs to have amazing speed and superb athleticism no one else can match, but being strategic with a strong push is huge. It also helps to have a variety of ways to score, including being ambidextrous with the feet.

Strikers have a nice blend of power and finesse, and accuracy helps quite a bit as well. It is not always about getting the perfect shot every single time, but doing whatever possible to allow the ball to go in.

Finally, strikers do need to be disciplined, because a player who can’t stay onside and attack at the right times will cause a lot of frustration for teams. It involves being on the same page as everyone else, and going from there.

Goalies

  • Prevent opposing team from scoring & to communicate with the defense

Even though goalies are technically part of the defense, they should get their own category altogether. This is a very unique player on each team, providing the last chance to stop the other team from scoring. They also help with positioning while providing overall leadership throughout the match.

Their unique perspective allows for the entire pitch to be monitored at all times. They act as another set of eyes, while also being in a position to make stops. Goalies have to be predictive to a certain degree, because the goals are too big to react to balls and cover perfectly.

Why Are Positions So Important In Soccer?

Proper positioning and spacing in soccer is always going to play a huge role in such a tactical game. The higher the level, the more critical it is to have no weak spots on the pitch to be exploited by the opposition. Teams might only have a few opportunities to score per match, so maximizing the potential each time is crucial.

Positioning also is significant for opening up any runs that might become available. Players who are offsides can’t perform these runs, and it can throw off golden opportunities. It takes a long time for teams to get positioning down just right, which is why experience as a unit always helps.

Connor Smith

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

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