The history of soccer can be traced back to 2,000 years ago, from China, Rome, Central America, and Greece. The game has evolved over the years from animal hide serving as a ball to generating billions of dollars in annual revenue.
During the Han Dynasty in ancient China, people engaged in a competitive ball game called Cuju. It involves two teams of 12-16 players per team contending to kick a ball through an opening into a net.
Modern soccer or football was transitioned into the game we enjoy today by England, which created its first uniform set of rules. The number of players allowed per team in a soccer match was first specified in 1897.
According to the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA), more than 240 million people globally play soccer. Soccer like every other popular sport has variant types developed to satisfy different kinds of people.
In this article, we will be looking at some popular soccer types; How Many Soccer Players Are On a Team? and the positions they play, and their roles.
- How Many Soccer Players Are On a Team?
- 1. Association Football
- 2. Futsal
- 3. Indoor Soccer
- 4. Beach Soccer
- 5. Street Soccer
How Many Soccer Players Are On a Team?
Soccer, like every other team sport, involves individuals of similar goals and objectives organized in a limited number led by a coach and competing against an opposing team for supremacy.
Examples of some popular types of soccer include Association football, Five-a-side football, Futsal, Indoor Soccer, Beach soccer, Street soccer, Paralympic association football, Freestyle football, Swamp football, etc.
1. Association Football
The world knows it as football but Americans prefer to call it soccer. It is the most enjoyed kind of soccer in existence with over 3.5 billion fans globally. It has produced some of the richest and most famous sportspeople in history.
It is played on a rectangular field or pitch with two goal posts for each team involved. It involves two teams of 11 players each (including the goalkeeper). Thus, the total number of players on the pitch at every match is 22.
Prior to COVID-19, each team was allowed to make a maximum of three substitutions per game. That brings the total number of possible players per game to fourteen per game.
However, in May 2020, a temporary rule was made that allowed each team to make up to five substitutions so that teams could cope with the congested fixtures.
Let’s take a look at players’ positions and the roles they play.
The goalkeeper is the last line of defense. They play the most defensive role in soccer. The most important task of a goalkeeper is stopping opponents from scoring a goal by catching, punching, heading, or kicking the ball when it approaches the net.
Goalkeepers wear gloves to increase grip and prevent injuries. They also wear different jerseys from the rest of the team.
They organize play from the back and are the only players permitted to use their hands in their 18-yard box.
Defenders are stationed behind the midfielders and their main role is stopping the opposition from scoring and providing support to the team.
Defenders need to have strength, stamina, speed, and good coordination. Defenders are expected to be physical—which often explains their intimidating physique.
Taller defenders often make attempts to score a goal during a corner kick and free kicks. A good example is Virgil Van Dijk of Liverpool.
He has scored 14 goals and most of them have been with his head during corner kicks. Some defensive roles include Center-back, Sweeper, Full-back, and Wing-back.
The center-back stays in the center half of his/ her side of the court to stop opponents, especially the striker, from advancing into the penalty area. The two major defensive techniques used by the center-backs are man-to-man marking and zonal defense.
The Sweeper as its name implies sweeps up the ball from opponents who manage to cross the defensive line. Their position is less rigid and they can read the game better than the center-back.
The full-back is a combination of the right-back and left-back and they station on either side of the center-back to stop wide players and wingers.
The Wing-back are defenders who are more concerned with the attack. You can find them in a 3-5-2 formation where they work with the midfield when their team is attacking. Their role is more physically demanding so it requires stamina.
A good example here is Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold—who is also rated the best in the world for this role.
Midfielders or Half-backs are players who play midway between defenders and attacking forward. They take passes from defenders and feed balls to strikers and also dispose of opponents in the center area.
Midfielders cover many areas of the pitch and can even defend if need calls. In modern soccer tactics, the midfielders are the engine of the game. The team that controls the midfield dictates the game.
Some midfield positions include Center midfield, Defensive midfield, Attacking midfield, and Wide midfield.
Center midfielders are the link between defense and attack. They station around the middle third of the pitch to support attacking play.
With their position, they have a better observation of the game thereby controlling gameplay.
Defensive midfielders are stationed in front of defenders as an added barrier or hurdle that the opponent must scale to score a goal.
They also seize opportunities to launch a swift attack—counterattacks. A defensive midfielder role requires a good work rate, good positioning sense, stamina, anticipation, and tackling ability.
Attacking midfielders are located in an advanced midfield position between center midfield and forwards. They serve as the offensive pivot of the team by creating goal-scoring opportunities using superior vision and technical skills.
Wide midfielders are stationed to the left or right of center midfield, so they are often called wingers. 4-3-3 is a popular formation where you can easily spot wide midfielders.
They provide defense along the flanks and compress play in the opponent’s half.
Forwards are players nearest to the opponent’s goal post. They score goals and create scoring chances for team members.
Modern formations include 1-3 forwards for example 4-3-3, 4-4-2, and 4-2-3-1. The role of the Forward requires striking accuracy, speed, stamina, and dribbling skills.
Some forwards can play the role of a target man and striker perfectly. Some sub-roles of the forward include Striker, Center forward, and Winger.
Strikers have the key role of scoring goals and act as the focal point of all attacks. Strikers are graded by how often they score and not how well they play.
Center forwards are often referred to as the second striker because they are skillful and help in creating goals and scoring opportunities.
They can play in the wings or as attacking midfielders and often wear the number 10 jersey.
Wingers are normally stationed in a wide position near the touchline. They use their speed to attack and dribble past the opponent’s full-back in search of shooting opportunities.
Wingers provide the perfect breaks to catch the opponent off-guard during an intense and cagey contest.
Wingers are also useful in defense. When the opponent launches a counterattack, wingers retreat to provide support for the defense line.
Futsal can be called a minified version of association football because they share some similarities with minor differences.
Futsal is more accessible to soccer lovers because it requires a smaller field and a smaller number of players—making it a treasure in the developing world.
Futsal is not trivial. It has leagues and competitions hosted all over the world.
FIFA states the game’s rules and hosts global tournaments in support of the sport. Futsal involves two teams of 5 on-field players per side (including the goalkeeper) and unlimited substitutes.
The positions of players during a game determine the role they play.
The Goalkeeper plays a very active role in this sport. Their major task is stopping opponents from scoring goals.
They are the only players that can lay hands on balls in their penalty area without committing a foul.
In Futsal, the wearing of gloves by goalkeepers is optional. Thus, most goalkeepers prefer not to wear gloves for higher precision when throwing the ball. The goalkeepers also wear jerseys that are different in color from that of other players and the referee.
Defenders also called Fixo (The Portuguese word for fixed) are found in front of the goalkeeper and their role is to deal with the threats coming from the Pivot.
They don’t only defend, they move forward from time to time. A good Fixo should have strength, good communication skills, and defensive discipline.
Position: Winger, Flank, Ala
A Winger, Ala, or Flank is responsible for knitting together the entire team’s strategy. They constantly move on the left and right sides of the pitch between attack and defense.
For wingers to be very effective, they need to have excellent stamina, discipline, and tactical awareness. Some notable wingers are Vinicius and Ricardinho.
The pivot also called Topman is always on the lookout for scoring opportunities. They spearhead dangerous attacks on opponents and create scoring chances for teammates.
Some teams use two pivots while others prefer solo pivots. A good pivot needs to have speed, reflex, strength, and accurate shots.
3. Indoor Soccer
Indoor soccer or Six-a-side football was derived from association football but played indoors. It was designed to help soccer lovers enjoy soccer during winter periods.
Gymnasiums are converted to indoor soccer fields. Unroofed walled arenas can also be used for this form of football.
This sport is popular in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The World Minifootball Federation (WMF) oversees the affairs of indoor soccer. This game is played by two teams with six active players per team (including the goalkeeper) and unlimited substitutes.
Each team has a goalkeeper responsible for shielding the goal post.
Attackers are responsible for charging the ball towards the opponent’s side.
Strikers are responsible for scoring goals and creating scoring chances.
Some popular indoor competitions include American Indoor Soccer League, Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League, and Xtreme Soccer League.
4. Beach Soccer
Beach soccer, often called sand football, is also a modification of association football played on sandy fields. It tests a player’s agility and accuracy.
The term Beach Soccer was introduced by Beach Soccer Worldwide which is still in charge of it today.
Beach soccer consists of two teams and each team has five players (including the goalkeeper) and has an unlimited number of substitutes from a selection of five reserved players.
The goalkeeper wears a goalie sweater, hand gloves, and his major role is stopping opponents from scoring.
Position: Defender and Striker
Other teammates can freely play either the roles of strikers or defenders depending on which is more urgent at any given time.
Some major beach soccer tournaments include FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Persian Beach Soccer Cup, Mundialito de Clube, and BSWW Mundialito.
5. Street Soccer
Street Soccer or Street football is a more basic variant of association football. It has two teams but it doesn’t require a large field, boots, jerseys, real balls, corner flags, goal posts, nets, or even the standard rule of eleven players per team like association football.
Street soccer is actually where many famous soccer stars started their career because it is cheap and easily accessible.
Street soccer consists of two teams with a maximum of 4 players per side (including the goalkeeper). Teams can be single-gender or mixed gender.
The goalkeeper is responsible for stopping opponents from scoring. Goalkeepers aren’t allowed to score goals and must not leave the penalty area. An unnecessary delay by goalkeepers is a foul. Unlike association football, goalkeepers in street soccer cannot use their hands.
Position: Defense and Attack
The rest of the team can either play defensive roles or attack, based on urgency. Only goalkeepers have a specific role. Others simply have to use their initiative.
Some other fun, weird and surprising types of soccer can be found here. The number of players on a team in different variants of soccer is determined by many factors, some of which include the size of the field, funding, nature of the game, location, etc.
Since soccer is still an evolving sport like every other sport, rules might still be changed and player’s roles and positions adjusted to suit the desires of fans and soccer lovers.
But will a day come when the number of players on a team will change—just like the number of allowed substitutes changed after the COVID-19 pandemic break? We have to wait to find out.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!