How to Play Soccer

Before you lace up your cleats and step on the pitch, learn the basics of how to play soccer.

Cleats. Formations. Drills. Positions. Rules.

Learning a new sport can be an exciting experience. However, all the rules, equipment and regulations can be a bit overwhelming at first. Pro Tips is here to break down how to play soccer, including the positions, what equipment you’ll need and everything else you need to know on the pitch.


Before you start learning the actual game of soccer, you need to equip yourself with the right tools. Soccer gear for field players includes items like shin guards, soccer cleats and soccer-specific socks.

Not sure where to start? Pro Tips has your guide to buying the right pair of soccer cleats. There are different options when buying shin guards, too. Learn which shin guard can best fit your style.

If you decide that goalkeeper is your desired position, you will need to stock up on a few more pieces of soccer equipment. Goalkeepers usually wear long goalkeeper pants instead of shorts. Also, remember to find the perfect pair of goalkeeper gloves. There’s more to gloves than just the design and brand. Learn how to find the right size and fit with these tips on choosing goalkeeper gloves.

When on a team, coaches, schools and clubs will usually bring balls to practice or play in a match. However, practicing on your own, or with a group of teammates, can be beneficial. To do so, you’ll need your own soccer ball to help improve your footwork and passing. Learn what size soccer ball is right for your age group with these Pro Tips.


Soccer field or soccer pitch. What’s the difference?

Well, there isn’t one. The soccer field is also known as a “pitch.” The soccer pitch is a large area where the game is played. Some fields have different sizes, depending on leagues and age groups. Pro Tips has your manual to the pitch with this guide to the field, dimensions and markings.


You may be wondering, “How many players are on a soccer field at one time?”

Each team is allowed to have 11 players on the pitch, which includes one goalkeeper and 10 field players. Soccer players are sorted into four main positions: goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward. All players must use their feet, but goalkeepers can use their hands as well.

Players in these positions all have different roles and responsibilities. Whether you’re strictly a defender or rotate between an attacking midfielder and forward, it’s important to learn the ins and outs of each position. This can help give you a greater understanding of your teammates’ responsibilities, as well as your own.

For a more in-depth look at positions and numbering on the pitch, Pro Tips has your guide to player roles and formations.


Soccer isn’t solely about scoring game-winning goals or making a big save on a penalty kick. There are plays and actions that lead up to those defining moments in a match.

Learning the basics of soccer can help you become a solid technical player. Pro Tips has advice from experts, coaches and professionals on basic movements in soccer. Practice these skills to help enhance your soccer skills.


Soccer has plenty of rules regarding all positions.

For example, there are certain times when a goalkeeper can only use their feet and not their hands. Goalkeepers may not touch the ball with his or her hands if it is outside the penalty area. However, once inside, goalkeepers can pick up the ball, unless it’s passed to them by a teammate.

There are two types of outcomes when a foul occurs: an indirect free kick or a direct free kick. For example, if one player kicks another, the opposing team will take a direct free kick. Meanwhile, if a player handles the ball deliberately, then the opposite team will take an indirect free kick.

Players can receive yellow or red cards, too, depending on how serious the foul is. If an offensive player has a goal-scoring opportunity denied by a rough tackle, the referee can hand out a red card.

Learn the difference between each card and what happens after a foul with these Pro Tips.

Always be sure to check with your coaches about team and league rules. Some rules of the game may vary between different age groups and skill levels.


Watching professional soccer can be a great way to study the sport and learn technical moves. Pro Tips spoke with world champion soccer players Emily Sonnett, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn about different aspects of the game.

Sonnett talked to Pro Tips about the true role of a defender. You can also prepare for a match or practice like a professional with Sonnett’s warm-up tips.

Soccer is a fast-paced game and mistakes are bound to happen. Horan reminds athletes to keep their composure during the full match with these tips. Also, Horan, a midfielder, describes what to expect during play in the middle of the pitch and the different jobs a midfielder must perform.

Meanwhile, Sauerbrunn teaches athletes how to defend in a one-on-one situation. And remember, you don’t have to be the team’s star player to be a leader. Sauerbrunn breaks down the qualities of a good leader and recounts opportunities from her own career where she was able to step up.

Now that you know how to play soccer, find a few friends or teammates and start practicing your skills. Pickup games are a great way to test your technical abilities and get a few touches on the ball. Training with others can simulate game-like situations.

Getting ready for your first soccer season? Pro Tips has advice for you on what to expect during your first soccer tryout.