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What Soccer Jersey Numbers Mean (A Complete Guide)

Whenever you have sat down to watch a Soccer match, at home or in the stadium you may have noticed that the players all have different numbers on the back of their jerseys. You may have wondered what all these numbers actually mean?

Today we will be explaining what each of the traditional Soccer jersey numbers represents and what legends have worn this number in the past.

The numbers 1-11 are considered the ‘traditional’ jersey numbers in Soccer, although any number up to 99 can be used (all numbers above 11 are considered squad numbers that any player can take). 

Jersey NumberPosition
Number 1Goalkeeper
Number 2Right Back
Number 3Left Back
Number 4Centre-Back
Number 5Centre-Back
Number 6Defensive Midfielder
Number 7Winger
Number 8Central Midfielder
Number 9Striker
Number 10Attacking Midfielder
Number 11Winger

Number 1 – Goalkeeper

We start, of course, at the bottom of the field and the first number on a Soccer team. The Number 1 shirt is typically reserved for the team’s first-choice goalkeeper and is considered a great honor to wear for any shot-stopper. 

The role of the goalkeeper is simply to act as the last line of defense when the opposition is attacking, using any means necessary to stop the striker from putting the ball in the back of the net.

A goalkeeper is often considered the most important player in a successful team because as simple as it sounds, if you don’t concede goals, then you don’t lose matches. 

Some of the most notable wearers of the number 1 jersey throughout history are Gianluigi Buffon, Edwin Van der Sar, Iker Casillas, and Petr Cech. The current wearer of the number 1 jersey in the USMNT is Matt Turner, who is not the first-choice goalkeeper for the country (Ethan Horvath prefers to wear number 18). 

Number 2 – Right Back

Second on our list is the number 2 jersey, which is traditionally worn by a team’s right back. Some teams read the squad from right to left and as such the first player other than the goalkeeper to appear on a team sheet is indeed the right back, though this isn’t always the case. 

The role of a right-back is to act as a wide defender and to provide cover to the central defenders that are often susceptible to attacks from the wings due to their relative lack of pace.

In the modern era right back’s have had to adapt to a more versatile role though, with many managers preferring to deploy them as wing-backs that have to attack far more than regular full-backs. 

Whilst being a right-back is rarely what many kids grow up wanting to be, there are some true legends of the game that have played in the position and therefore worn the number 2 jersey.

Most notably, Gary Neville, Cafu, and Kyle Walker. The USMNT first choice right back, Deandre Yedlin is the current holder of the number 2 jersey. 

Number 3 – Left Back

Up next is the number 3 jersey and as you would expect, this number is handed to the other fullback on the field (the left back). The role of a left back is very similar to that of a right back, however it is of course performed on the other side of the field.

This switch makes it more appealing to have a left-footed player in this position as it makes it easier for them to cover their side of the pitch effectively and be able to provide crosses into the box for their striker to latch onto.

For right-footed left-backs, their role is often to act as a wide playmaker and cut the ball inside whenever possible. 

The number 3 jersey has been donned by players such as Roberto Carlos, Paulo Maldini, and Patrice Evra over the years. For the USMNT, the current number 3 jersey is Walker Zimmermann. 

Number 4 – Centre-Back

The number 4 jersey is usually worn by one of a team’s central defenders, though can also be worn by some defensive-minded midfielders.

This shirt is nowadays worn by a player that has technical ability on the ball as opposed to a brutish centre-back that may have worn it in the past. 

With this in mind, the role of a number 4 is often to build play out from the back and start a team’s attacks as well as to act as one of the main defensive components of a team.

Centre back’s used to be one of the most underappreciated players in a Soccer team, however, these days they are valued as they should be. 

Famous wearers of the number 4 jersey include Sergio Ramos, Virgil Van Dijk, and Pep Guardiola. The current number 4 for the USMNT is Tyler Adams. 

Number 5 – Centre-Back

Just like the number 4 jersey, number 5 is traditionally worn by the other central defender and their role is almost identical to that of a number 4.

There is an advantage to this player being stronger on the opposite foot to their defensive partner, as this can provide balance and therefore a stronger defensive partnership.

The number 5 jersey has been pulled on by legends such as Franz Beckenbauer, Fabio Cannavaro, and Rio Ferdinand. For the USMNT, the number 5 jersey is held by Antonee Robinson. 

Number 6 – Defensive Midfielder

For many years, the number 6 jersey was also worn by central defenders (usually in teams that used the number 4 as a midfield number). In more recent seasons though, number 6 has become synonymous with the defensive midfielder role. 

The job of a defensive midfielder is to act as a team’s ‘anchor’, this means that they will sit in front of the defensive line and attempt to break up attacks before they can reach the defenders or goalkeeper.

Number 6 jersey wearers are often tough tacklers that can spread the ball across the field in order to start attacks of their own. This can make them incredibly valuable players. 

Famous wearers of the number 6 jersey include Bobby Moore, Franco Baresi, and Xavi. Midfielder Yunus Musah currently wears number 6 for the USMNT. 

Number 7 – Winger

Arguably the most famous jersey of all time, the number 7 is often worn by a team’s star man or winger. There is no real preference as to which side of the field that a number 7 plays on, though if I were to choose a position then I would say a left-sided winger would suit this jersey best. 

The role of a winger is to provide width to a team’s attack, they are usually the fastest and most technically gifted players on the field and have the ability to beat a defender with ease. These players also contribute many goals and assists for their team. 

The number 7 has become intertwined with the legend of Cristiano Ronaldo in recent years but is has also been worn by legends such as David Beckham, Figo, and Eric Cantona. This jersey is currently worn by Paul Arriola for the USMNT. 

Number 8 – Attacking Midfielder

Staying in the midfield, the number 8 jersey is traditionally worn by the attacking midfielder of a team. This is one of the most dynamic and changeable roles within a Soccer team as it can involve a lot of running and the need for an immense tactical brain. 

The number 8 is often the most creative player in a team and has the ability to pick a pass and thread the ball through to almost anywhere on the field.

They also need to have the ability to score goals from long-range and are often the designated set-piece taker within a team. This means that they take the corners, free-kicks, and sometimes penalties. 

This is a coveted jersey for creative players and as such some stars have donned it over the years, these include; Steven Gerrard, Iniesta, and Juan Mata. The current USMNT number 8 is Weston McKennie. 

Number 9  – Striker

This is another jersey that could be considered the most famous to wear as it is usually reseeded for a team’s resident goal scorer, the striker. This is particularly true when a team utilizes a formation that has just one striker in the team, this can mean there is often a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a number 9. 

The role of a number 9 is to score goals, however, they can, and as such, this makes them some of the most discussed and most expensive players in the world. The attributes of a number 9 can range massively, though all must have an eye for goal and a lethal shot. 

Famous number 9 jerseys include Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, and Johan Cruyff. For the USMNT, the number 9 is held by Jesús Ferreira. 

Number 10 – Attacking Midfielder

For me, the number 10 jersey is the most iconic in the game and has been worn by some of the greatest players to have stepped foot on a Soccer field. Number 10 is often worn by attacking midfielders or a secondary striker if a formation allows for it. 

These players are not usually meant to be the most prolific in a team but must have perfect balance between almost every other role on the field (excluding the goalkeeper). This makes a team’s number 10 the core to almost everything they do, and this is why they are often considered the best players on a team. 

Notable number 10’s include the great Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, and Pele. The current wearer of the number 10 jersey for the USMNT is Christian Pulisic, arguably the best player in the squad. 

Number 11 – Winger

The final number in a Soccer team is 11, with wingers usually donning this jersey. The role of a number 11 is almost identical to that of a number 7, though sometimes these players are more about crossing and passing than raw pace and speed. 

Some famous number 11’s are Gareth Bale, Marco Reus, and Romario. For the USMNT, Brenden Aaronson wears the number 11 jersey. 

If you have ever wondered what Soccer jersey numbers mean, then you need no longer wonder!