Soccer Terms: A Glossary of 66 Words and Phrases

, Freelance Writer
Updated April 19, 2023
List of 5 soccer terms from the article.
    Soccer terms
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In most parts of the world, soccer is called football, and its avid fan base regularly fills up stadiums. But whether you call it football or soccer, the following terms will help you understand what the players are called, parts of the field on which they play, the rules they follow, and some of the different kicks and equipment involved with a match.

Terms for Soccer Fields and Equipment

A soccer field, like many other sport fields, is composed of different sections that indicate boundaries, scoring areas, and penalty areas. Special equipment is also used in traditional play, such as cleats and padding.


The goal is the net in which the players attempt to kick or head a ball into to score points.

  • This is the second time the forwards have approached the goal.

end line

An end line is a line marking an end or boundary especially of a playing area.

  • The ball rolled just over the end line, triggering an “out of bounds” call.


A touchline is either of the lines that bound the long sides of the field of play.

  • She has such a hard time keeping the ball within the touchlines.


A sideline is a line at right angles to the goal line that marks a side of the field.

  • Do your warm up along the sidelines for now.

penalty area

A penalty area is an area 44 yards wide and 18 yards deep in front of each goal on a soccer field. If a defending player breaks one of the given rules within this area, it causes a penalty kick to be awarded to the opposing team.

  • He walked toward the penalty area with dread because he was an awful shot.


Cleats are a sneaker with rubber or metal spikes on the bottom that allows players to have a stronger grip on the grass surface of the soccer field.

  • She just got new cleats and can’t wait to see how much better they grip the field.

shin guards

Shin guards are protective coverings for the shin that are usually made of stiffened canvas or leather. They protect the players legs from getting hit with the ball or with other players’ feet.

  • I forgot my shin guards at home the other day and now I have the worst bruise on my leg from soccer practice.

Terms for Soccer Player Positions

There are six player positions in soccer and two parts of the field the players are assigned to. A team may shift positions around based on team size, playing level, and strategy.


A goalie or keeper is a player who stands outside the goal to block the ball from going in. The goalie is the only player who is allowed to use their hands on the field. 

  • The goalie’s amazing save kept the opposing team from scoring any goals.


A defender is a player assigned to a defensive position near the goal.

  • The defenders were ready at the other end of the field when the opposing team took possession.


A sweeper is a lone back defender who plays between the line of the defenders and the goal.

  • The sweeper is the last line of defense before the ball reaches the goalie.


A midfielder (or mid) is a player stationed in the middle of the field.

  • She likes playing midfielder because she has the perfect view of both sides of the field.

half back

A half back is a player positioned immediately behind the forward line.

  • Watch how the half back toes the forward line when she runs.


A forward (also called a striker) is a player who plays at the front of the team's formation near the opponent's goal.

  • The forwards advanced confidently toward the opponent's goal.


A 3-5-2 is a player formation that includes 3 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 2 forwards.

  • We play the 3-5-2 formation because we like a strong midfield.


A 4-4-2 is a player formation that includes 4 defenders, 4 midfielders, and 2 forwards.

  • He prefers a 4-4-2 formation, so there’s more protection around the goal.

Need to Know

A player’s position can be either left or right, depending on where they’re placed. (Left mid, right forward, etc.)

Terms for Soccer Moves

Soccer players who aren't the goalie can't use their hands in gameplay — but they’re not limited to their feet, either. While the action in soccer primarily comes from kicking the ball with one's feet, there are a variety of moves (and body parts) that players can use to score a goal.


In soccer moves, a goal is the act or action of causing the ball to go into the opponent's goal, scoring one point. 

  • He kicked the ball past the goalie and scored a goal.


A shot is an attempt at scoring by kicking the ball toward the goal.

  • She took a shot at the net but missed the goal by inches. 


A pass is when the player with the ball sends it to another player.

  • He raced down the field, passing the ball to the forward to his left.


An assist is a pass that is immediately followed by a goal. 

  • She made an assist to her teammate, who ran around the opponents’ defense and scored the winning goal.


Players can chest a ball by knocking the ball with their chest to another player.

  • The mid chested the ball to the forward, who quickly scored.


A header is a shot or pass made by hitting the ball with your head from out of the air.

  • The goalie used a header to block a shot that went high into the air.


A save prevents an opponent player from scoring on the goal, often done by the goalie.

  • The goalie made a wild save, diving to the other side of the net to catch the ball.


A volley is a kick of the ball when it is still in the air.

  • He timed it perfectly and was able to volley the ball as it flew past him. 


A trap is a movement where the player uses their body to stop the ball and control it. It includes chest trap, thigh trap, foot trap, or step trap (when the player steps on the ball).

  • She trapped the ball with her shoulder, dropping it down to her feet and passing it to a nearby forward. 

slide tackle

A slide tackle occurs when a player falls feet first when approaching an opponent player with the ball and kicks the ball out of their control.

  • She dropped into a slide tackle, sliding her feet along the grass and kicking the ball away from the opponent. 


A cross is a kick from the side of the field into the middle.

  • The defender crossed the ball to the nearest forward, kicking it away from the sides. 


A punt is a drop-kick of the ball, usually done by the goalie.

  • The goalie’s punt went so high and so far that it almost went into the opposing goal.


Dribbling is a series of quick kicks that allow a player to move the ball down the field.

  • He dribbled the ball with ease, moving through his opponents with precise, controlled kicks. 

throw in

A throw in is an overhead throw of the ball from the sidelines after it has gone out of bounds.

  • She was perched along the sidelines, ready to throw in her ball and dive back into the game.

free kick

A free kick is a kick given to the team that was fouled after a foul is called.

  • As another foul is called, she gets ready for the third free kick of the game.

corner kick

A corner kick is a free kick from a corner of a soccer field awarded to an attacker when a defender plays the ball out-of-bounds over the end line.

  • The ball shot out so fast from the corner kick that people thought it came from midfield.

goal kick

A goal kick is a free kick awarded to a defensive player when the ball is driven out of bounds over the end line by an opposing player.

  • He took a deep breath and lined up the shot of his goal kick.


A wall is when several members of the defense stand between the goal and the ball during a free kick in order to try and deflect the kick.

  • You’re lucky to get a header block as a member of the wall.

Soccer Rules and Regulations

The rules of soccer are relatively straightforward and focus on sportsmanship as well as skill. The focus is on the ball and moving it up or down the field — and various soccer penalties keep the game as fair as possible.


A match is a regulation game of soccer in which there is a contest between two teams.

  • My next soccer match is tomorrow and I need to practice more.


A referee is a sports official who has final authority in administering a game.

  • I can’t believe the referee made that call, can he even see?


A league is a group of sports teams that regularly play one another.

  • She joined the local league recently and plays soccer with all the neighbors. 


A division is a competitive class or category within a league.

  • He reckons he’ll rise quickly in the division due to his strong kick.


A draw is a game that ends in a tied score.

  • They had another draw, furthering the question of who was the better team.


A leg is one of several events or games necessary to be won to decide a competition.

  • This is the final leg of the competition, so don’t give up on me now. 


A handball is a violation where a player that isn’t the goalie touches the ball with their hands.

  • How many times can you get fouled for a handball violation before you stop trying to grab the soccer ball?

penalty kick/PK

A penalty kick or PK is a free kick at the goal made from a point that is 12 yards in front of the goal and allows for certain violations within a designated area around the goal.

  • The penalty kick sailed past the goalie and into the goal, winning the game.

penalty shootout

A penalty shootout is a tie-based shootout in which both teams take five penalty kicks to determine the winner.

  • The game ended in a penalty shootout to determine the winner of the tie.

yellow card

A yellow card is the card shown to a player on their first caution, warning them not to do that action again.

  • He better clean up his sportsmanship before the ref gives him a yellow card.

red card

A red card is the card shown to a player on their second caution, which takes the player out of the game.

  • I can’t believe that the ref pulled the red card that fast and ejected that player from the game.


A caution is when the referee shows either a yellow card or a red card to warn a player that they are not within the spirit of play.

  • One more caution and that player is out of the game.


A dismissal is an ejection from the game that happens after a player has been shown a red card.

  • The ref pulled out the red card and she was immediately given a dismissal.


An offside is a passing violation that occurs when a forward player is closer to the opponent's goal than either the ball or the second-to-last opposing player. 

  • Don’t get too far past the defenders or you risk an offsides violation.
Basketball street player making slam dunk

Sports Phrases You've Been Using Without Knowing It

Soccer Slang Terms

As a sport that is most popular in other countries, soccer doesn’t have as much sports jargon as other American sports. However, here are a few words that may come up when you are down at your local soccer field. 


Backs is a term that usually refers to the defenders. 

  • She pushed past the backs and scored a goal.


A mark is the opponent player that a player is assigned to guard.

  • Her mark was tricky and impossible to keep up with. 

hat trick

A hat trick is when a player scores three consecutive points in one game. 

  • Only one more goal and he’ll pull off a hat trick.


An equalizer is a score that ties the game.

  • Her goal was an equalizer in the game.


A pitch refers to the soccer field.

  • Let’s go down to the pitch and watch the kids play soccer.

clean sheet

A clean sheet is when a team doesn’t allow any scores on their goal for a whole game.

  • It feels good to have a clean sheet and send the other team home defeated.

own goal

An own goal is when a player accidentally scores a goal into their own net. 

  • He wasn’t paying attention and shot an own goal right into his net.


A flop (or dive) is when a player pretends to be injured to receive a free kick.

  • He took a dive, using crocodile tears to trick the refs into giving his team a free kick.

sent off

Sent off refers to a dismissal. 

  • That unruly player was sent off after the red card.


A friendly is an unregulated, relaxed game of soccer.

  • Hey, do you want to go play a friendly down at the park tomorrow?

Soccer Confederation Names

The sport of soccer is separated out by Confederations. Each region of play has its own governing body that sets leagues and divisions. It also organizes official matches for the players and the teams. 


The Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF) is the confederation in charge of African soccer.

CONCACAF/The Football Confederation

The Confederation of North, Central American, and the Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) or The Football Confederation is the governing body of the North American, Central American, and Caribbean soccer teams.


La Confederación Sudamericana de Futbol (CSF) is the confederation in charge of soccer in South America. 


The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is the confederation in charge of soccer within Asia. 


Union des Association Européennes de Football or the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the confederation in charge of soccer for Europe. 


Major League Soccer (MLS) and the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) is the governing body of soccer in the United States.


The United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA) is the official governing body of all youth soccer programs in the United States.


Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) is the confederation in charge of soccer in Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific island nations.


The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the governing body of all of soccer across the world and is responsible for staging the World Cup.

Soccer football players

FIFA Country Abbreviations