A Guide to Determining What Soccer Position To Play

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It’s a big decision when you’re deciding which position you should play—especially when you’re new at soccer.

The position you’re playing can highly affect your experience of playing soccer as a whole. If you end up playing one unsuitable for you or your personality, it might stagger your love for the game.

​What Soccer Position to Play

We help you answer the question “what soccer position should I play?”

​Soccer is a diverse game, with pretty much every position requiring athleticism, agility, and strength. Outside of the goalie, all positions on the field run a lot, with the average professional soccer player running 7 miles per game.

Even though everyone needs to be able to run a lot, each position does have some unique characteristics about them. To help you choose, here ​are the type of traits to look for according to various positions:

​The Goalkeeper (Keeper/Goalie)

​If you have a history of playing sports with your hands, like basketball or even the game of volleyball, you might come to find that playing goalie is your strong suit.

Soccer goalie standing in front of a net

Some athletic skills that will help you in this position are coordination, athleticism, good hand-eye coordination, and courage. Because this position can be risky, it’s best to come prepared with good quality goalkeeper gloves.

  • Coordination: As a goalkeeper, you need to be able to move around quickly and react to shots on goal.
  • Athleticism: Your ability to jump higher and dive for balls will help you defend your goal.
  • Good Hand-Eye Coordination: You should be able to react quickly, snatch or punch balls out of the air.
  • Courage: You also have to be willing to come out and defend your goal one-on-one against an opponent.

O​utside Defense (Fullback, Wingback)

​If you are strong at defending and taking the ball away from your opponent, you might be a great defender. Playing outside defense doesn’t just limit you to playing at the back. In this position, you’re encouraged to win the ball back and then move quickly into the attack.

However, if assigned this position, your main objective should be defending their goal.

Some characteristics that make a good outside-d are speed, concentration, aggressiveness, decisiveness, and able to deliver a good cross.

  • Speed: As an outside defender, you’ll need to have the speed to catch up with forwards. You’ll also need to be quick to make your way into the other team’s box for the attack.
  • Concentration: Even though you might not have much action in the back, you also have to be attentive to what’s going on in the game.
  • Aggressiveness: You cannot be afraid of going in for 50-50 balls. Your job first and foremost is defending your goal.
  • Decisiveness: You should be able to make a decision quickly when you have the ball. You will be under pressure from the opposing team.
  • Deliver a Good Cross: Especially when you go up in the attack, you will be in the perfect position to send a quality cross ​into the box.

​Center Defense (Center Back/Fullback)

​If you enjoy sweeping around in the back and handling the opposing forwards, you’ll want to take a shot at center defense. You have to have the confidence to be the last opportunity to stop your opponent’s attack—aside from the goalie.

Some characteristics that make a good center back are awareness, decisiveness, confidence and defensive skills.

  • Awareness: Since you will be able to everything going on in front of you on the field, you’ll need to have great awareness. With awareness, you have to be able to communicate with your teammates and help control the shape of your team.
  • Decisiveness: Making an adequate decision under such pressure is also extremely crucial in this position.
  • Confidence: You’ll need to be confident in your abilities to be the last line of defense for your team.
  • Defensive Skills: To have the ability to take the ball away from your opponent is a must at this position.

​Center Midfielder

​If you are comfortable being in the middle of all the action and have a good balance between playing defensively and offensively, center midfield can suit you. This position also requires a great deal of fitness because there is a lot of running.

You’ll need to be a confident player who is willing to allow others to take the glory.

Some characteristics that make a good center midfielder are fitness, pass accuracy, unselfishness, and balanced skills.

  • Fitness:  Although all positions in soccer require you to be fit, those running around in the middle need to be the fittest of all. You will be required to cover a lot of space on the field.
  • Pass Accuracy: As a center midfielder, you need to be able to deliver accurate passes or have your team suffer the consequences. Your passes forward can also make the difference in a game.
  • Unselfishness: To play in the midfield, you’re not going to always be the one that scores. You also won’t have a lot of running space. You should be able to play 2-touch soccer.
  • Balanced Skills: In the midfield, it is important that you are good in offense and in defense.
Two men one in red, one in white are going after the white soccer ball

​Outside Midfielder (Winger)

​To play this position, you should be able to play both offensively and defensively. As an essential player in both roles, you’ll also need to be fast. Since you’ll have a lot of room to run with the ball, so it’s a benefit to have good ball control.

Some characteristics that make a good winger are ball control, speed, and being able to easily transition.

  • Ball Control: You’ll need to be comfortable with taking people down the line one-on-one. You also need to be able to maintain control of the ball, even when running at high speed.
  • Speed: Since you will have all that space in front of you, you’ll need to be able to fly down those sides with speed.
  • Easily Transitioning: It is crucial to be able to make that transition between being on defense and offense as a winger.

​Forward (Striker)

​If you are a natural-minded goal scorer that can handle the pressure of scoring the goals for their team, you can be a forward. Even though as forward you should go for the glory, you cannot be too selfish. A forward should feed balls to others to score too.

The man in yellow kicks the ball further to the goal with two defenders beside him

Some characteristics that make a good forward are speed, hunger for scoring, and high-quality finishing abilities.

  • Speed: To beat the defender to a run-on ball, a forward needs to be fast.
  • Hunger for Scoring: There’s a time to be selfish and try and get the ball at the back of the net. A forward needs to be able to handle that sort of pressure.
  • High-Quality Finishing Abilities: At the end of the day, a forward needs to be able to put the ball in the back of the net when it counts.

​Personal Positional Characteristics

​Depending on your unique qualities and skill sets, you might have a perfect position already waiting for you. Look through this list of characteristics and the corresponding soccer positions that work well for them:

  • Fast: Consider playing the midfield, especially on the outside. Outside midfielders, especially Wingers, must be fast to work their way around defenses and penetrate the ball through.
  • Strong: Look at defense or center forward. Defenders must be able to stand opposing players up, especially in front the goal. Center forwards have to gain position over several defenders at a time.
  • Quick: If you’re quick, you’d be great for the outside defender position, along with an outside forward. Quickness, as opposed to speed, is the ability to adjust, pivot, and react rapidly, and this is necessary when defending high flying wingers as they try to penetrate through the defense. The other alternative is to play goalie, which is a position built on quickness.
  • Endurance: If you can run for miles and miles, park yourself in the midfield. Over and above all other positions, midfielders run the most, as they are required to support on both offense and defense.
  • Good Ball Control: Play midfield. Midfielders hold the ball more than any other position on the field, and must move the ball around the field at will.
  • Good Crossing: If you have a stellar cross, play outside midfield or outside forward. You’ll be sending crosses consistently into the box.
  • Good in the Air: If you excel at jumping high and getting your head on the ball, go for center forward or center defender. Both are required to get headers consistently, whether to defend the goal or score goals.
  • Natural Leader: Natural leaders are required at goalie, center defense, and center midfield. These positions are the marshals of the field, keeping the team working together and not taking any plays off.

Left Footed vs Right Footed

​What foot you prefer to kick with can and should play a large role in where you play on the field.

Generally speaking, whether you are left footed or right footed shouldn’t change what position you play. However, it usually does dictate what side of the pitch you play on.

For example, a left footed player would prefer to play on the left side of the field, and a right footed player on the right side.

Man playing with the soccer ball

For those players whose positions are in the center of the field, it is important that you are strong with both your left and right foot.

Your goal as a soccer player should be to practice and work your drills with both feet, so that you are equally as strong with each. However, that is rarely the case. Even if you get really good with both feet, you’ll probably always have a preferential foot.

C​hoosing the Best Position

​Picking out a soccer position can make or break your personal experience with the sport. However, it might not be as easy as just taking a quizYou’ll need to be aware of the traits in each position and then make a decision. However, if you haven’t picked one yet, don’t worry. You can always simply be a versatile player and be aware of every position’s r​​​​ole​.

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.