A Guide to Determining What Soccer Position To Play

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Soccer is a team sport, so it’s important to know the different positions to be able to play with your teammates and have the best chance of winning. Soccer players are usually classified by their playing position, which determines their role on the team.

If you’re wondering, “what soccer position should I play?” learning about the different soccer positions available and what they do can help you choose which soccer position is best for you.

​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. Choosing which soccer position is best for you starts by learning the different types of traits to look for in every position.

​The Goalkeeper (Keeper/Goalie)

​If you have a history of playing sports with your hands, like basketball or volleyball, then probably playing goalie is for you.

Soccer goalie standing in front of a net

Goalies need to be good at different skills such as good hand-eye coordination, communication, and courage. Because this position can be risky, it’s best to come prepared with high-quality goalkeeper gloves.

  • Coordination: As a goalkeeper, you need to be able to move around quickly and react to shots targeted at you.
  • 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 you’re assigned this position, your main objective should be defending the goal.

Some characteristics that make a good outside defense are speed, concentration, aggressiveness, decisiveness, and the ability 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 quickly get into the other team’s box for the attack.
  • Concentration: Even though you won’t see too much action in the back, you also have to be attentive to what’s happening in the game.
  • Aggressiveness: You cannot fear going in for 50-50 balls. Your job, first and foremost, is defending your goal.
  • Decisiveness: You should be able to decide 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 need 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 can see everything 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 formation of your team.
  • Leadership: Since center-backs are often organizing their defense as well as receiving information from the goalkeeper, you’ll need good leadership and communication skills to pass down information to the rest of your team and organize them better.
  • Confidence: You’ll need to be confident in your abilities to be the last line of defense for your team.
  • Defensive Skills: Attributes such as aggressiveness and tackling are crucial in this position to have the ability to take the ball away from your opponent before they reach the goal.

​Center Midfielder

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

Most importantly, 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 a 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 a difference in a game. You’ll need to think before you get the ball and anticipate where you have to move to receive the ball.
  • Unselfishness: To play in the midfield, you will not always be the one that scores. You won’t have a lot of running space either.
  • Balanced Skills: In the midfield, it is important that you are good in offense and 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. You’ll have a lot of room to run with the ball, so it’s beneficial to have good ball control.

Some characteristics of a good winger are ball control, speed, and the ability to transition easily.

  • 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 a lot of field 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 since you’ll find yourself playing both roles often.

​Forward (Striker)

​If you are a natural-minded goal scorer that can handle the pressure of scoring goals for your team, you can be a forward. Even though, as a forward you would want to score a hat trick in every game, 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 of 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 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 must get headers consistently, whether to defend the goal or score goals.
  • Natural Leader: Natural leaders are good goalies, center defenses, and center midfields. These positions are the field marshals, keeping the team working together and not taking any plays off.

Best Combined Characteristics

Strong/Natural LeaderDefender
Fast/Good Ball ControlWinger
Endurance/Good CrossingMidfielder

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.

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about soccer positions.

What Is the Easiest Position to Play in Soccer?

Although all positions in soccer are important, fullbacks are thought to be the easiest. This is rooted in the fact that they don’t have to run as much as the other players (excluding the goalkeeper).

What Is the Hardest Position to Play in Soccer?

The CDM (Center Defensive Midfielder) is considered to be one of the most difficult positions in soccer. This role has to constantly run and try to recover possession of the ball at all times.

On top of that, they have to deliver good passes to their teammates and distribute the ball efficiently. Because of this, it can be a very exhausting position to play.

What Is the Most Popular Position in Soccer?

The most popular position among soccer players is winger or striker. These roles are in charge of scoring goals, which is why they become highly acclaimed players, and mostly the players who have earned the most caps.

They are the players who often get most of the credit after winning a match.

Choosing 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 quiz. You’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 role​.

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.

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