How to Play Center Mid in Soccer

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Normally regarded as one of the most skillful, intelligent, and in-shape players on the pitch, the center mid position has pretty big shoes to fill—especially when looking at the history of superstar players who have laced their cleats on and played in that position.

Whether you are just starting soccer now or are looking into switching positions, learning all you can about how to play center mid can definitely translate well when you’re on the field.

What Does a Center Mid Do in Soccer?

Before diving into how to play the central midfield position in soccer, its important to identify what this position does on the field.

Group of women wearing the same jerse running away in the field
  • Field General: The center halfback keeps the entire team working as one unit. During a game, this position must adapt to how the game is being played out. At times, this means dropping back to provide defensive support or double teaming an opposing player. It can mean coming back to receive the ball, and moving it forward to attacking players. It can mean providing an outlet on the attack, and even joining the attack as a goal scoring threat. Through it all, the center halfback must see the entire field and now how to adapt to every situation.
  • Main Passer: More often than not, the center midfielder ends up making the most passes during a game. This is because so much of a team’s play works through its center. Even the best defenders will look to the halfbacks to play the ball forward, and strikers will routinely play the ball back to midfielders to reset. While the ball is often brought up on the wings, it typically makes its way back through the center of the field. As such, the center mid position ends making a lot of passes during the game.
  • High Possession: Defenders and Strikers don’t tend have nearly as much possession of the ball as a midfielder. And, out of all the midfield positions, the center mid has the most possession. The game is often won and lost in the center of the field, and holding high percentages of possession separates an average midfielder from a good one.
  • Transition the Ball : A center midfielder must have good pace in order to transition play from defense to offense. While sometimes defenders will rely on long balls to Strikers, more often than not they will play the ball up through the midfield. A center mid that can take the ball with their optimal soccer cleats for midfielders and quickly transition is a vital asset to a team.
  • Vision and Movement: In order to bring all of these components together, a center midfielder must be aware of the surroundings, and have fantastic vision to see (and know) where to play the ball. Good vision will help the center mid to play the ball to the best teammates and into the best space, to give the team the best chance of scoring possible.
  • Flexibility in Position: As mentioned before, the center mid possession has to be a jack of all trades. In certain games, they will be playing more defense than offense. And, in other games, it will be the opposite. A center mid must be good with their head, be able to retain ball possession, and have fantastic passing abilities – all at the same time.

Now that we’ve identified what role a central midfielder plays, let’s go through the requirements and characteristics that a player must have for the position.

Center Midfield Requirements and Characteristics

A center midfielder has to complete awareness at all times on the field. Not only should they be personally aware of where they are, they should also know where all of their teammates are (at least those in the best playing position), where their opponent is, and where the goal is.

They have to be physically fit to be able to participate both offensively and defensively. They can make a humongous difference in games, on both ends of the spectrum. Not only can they help their teammates score and defend goals, they can also score them themselves.

When looking to become a good center midfielder, you should work on these 5 skills:

Being Able to Pass Accurately

Dishing out an accurate pass means playing the ball with the right amount of power, pace, and direction—even when your teammate is only 5 yards away. You have to be able to play an effective long pass, an efficient through pass, in-the-air pass, and even a give-and-go.

Should Have Incredible Ball Control

Some are born with natural ability, however, ball control is definitely something that you can always work on. Especially since a center midfielder is situated in the spotlight of it all, they have to be able to work early through the chaos and crowded area without losing the ball from a bad touch.

Ongoing soccer match with one defensive player

Everyone knows that good ball control is essential . On your own, you can practice with some drills to improve.

Take Players On Effectively

Even though a center midfielder is no strikes, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to take an opponent on 1v1. In the middle of the field, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to get past players.

Ability to Shoot Well

Just because a center midfielder is normally known for their unselfishness, that doesn’t meant that they can’t take shots. At the middle of the field, especially as an attacking center mid, you will probably find yourself in great positions to score or at least take a shot on goal.

You have to really be able to do it all—especially under pressure. If your shot goes wrong, you are not the last line of defense—but you’re not the first either. There is risk in everything you do so a center midfielder has to be an all-around kind of player.

Being Able to Shield the Ball

Since it is essential that you keep the ball away from the other team and as a center mid you are constantly under pressure—or just about to be—it is extremely important that you also know how to shield the ball away from the other team and oncoming opponents. Using your body to protect the ball is an extremely important skill to learn.

Now that you know the basics behind the technical skills it requires to play center mid, you should also be familiar with the mental capacity and soccer intelligence it takes to do so effectively.

How to Play Center Mid in Soccer

When you’re in the middle of most situations, your teammates are often relying on you to be able to do certain responsibilities on the field effectively.

Especially if you are new to the position, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Never Stop Moving

Especially since you are playing in such a crowded area, it’s important that you don’t make yourself an easy target to mark for the opposite midfielders. If you are moving around constantly and finding the open space, you’ll not only wrench yourself from the congested areas, you’ll also give you team an optimal opportunity to find you on the field.

2. Handle the Pressure

You’re going to have to get used to playing one or two-touch passes. The other midfielder on the other team will be on your back quickly and aggressively. Since you are in such a closed off space, you will more often than not only have the opportunity to get a couple touches on the ball before you have to dish it off again. This also means that you should be aware of what—or who—is around you at all times.

Man in white tries to attack against two men in red soccer

3. Always Look for the Shot

Your opponent won’t be expecting it—and sometimes neither will you. If you find yourself in an optimal position in front of the goal (even if it is a few yards out), chances are the goalkeeper is expecting you to play the ball on and won’t even be ready for the shot. You should always take a look at where the goal is, and more importantly, where the goalie is when you get the ball near the goal.

4. Work on Your Vision

Whether that means keeping your head on a swivel, always being aware of your surroundings or seeing runs that other players don’t, it’s important that you pride yourself on the vision of the game. When you’re watching other soccer games, try to imagine yourself in the place of the center midfielders who are playing. Try and read the game in that particular situation they’re in. Take note of the decisions they take and which pass they believe is the best.

5. Take Control of the Game

As a natural playmaker, you have the influence, the opportunity, and the talent to be able to really control how your team plays. Your hectic or calm nature can dictate how the rest of your team will also react. You can switch the ball to the other side of the field much easier than other positions and thus control which side of the field has the ball. An effective center mid will always look for the opportunity to control the game—whether it’s through their actions or through their communication and leadership role.

Man standing with purple cleats and a ball

Think You Have What it Takes?

Being a center mid requires much more than a desire. You have to have vision, quality ball control, and the ability to play both defensively and offensively efficiently.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.