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Soccer (Football)

Soccer positions and numbers: A complete guide

By Sean Wright
6 min readPublished on
By the numbers, soccer is the most popular sport in the world. There are more than 250 million players worldwide, across 200 countries, with players starting to train as young as three. That doesn’t even account for the fans, which total about 3.5 billion worldwide!
Some say the “beautiful game” attracts so many because it costs so little to play, while others say it’s because the sport is so easy to learn. But if you ask a star player like Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, the beauty is also in the teamwork.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Norway's Erling Haaland in the heat of a match.

Alexander-Arnold vs Haaland

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“As long as everyone does their part - the attackers score the goals, and the defenders keep the clean sheets - then you can't go too wrong,” Arnold says.
Each soccer team has 11 players on the field. Below we explain the positions and their responsibilities.

Soccer Numbers and Positions


1 – Goalkeeper

New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls

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The goalkeeper or “keeper” is perhaps the most important position on the field because they serve as the last line of defense for their team. They must be smart, have good reflexes, and have the ability to make good quick decisions. While a keeper’s main objective is to prevent the other team from scoring goals, they also serve as the first line of attack by distributing the ball after it has been saved.
Unlike the other players, goalkeepers are the only players on the field allowed to use their hands. Others are only allowed to use their hands on throw-ins. It’s a very physical position, meaning to prevent a goal, a keeper will use everything they have: bodies, heads, legs, feet and hands.

2 & 3 – Right / Left Backs

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The right and left backs are known as the outside defenders. They position themselves on the outer right and outer left portion of the field. These players need to possess a good amount of athleticism and stamina. Their main job is to defend the opposing team’s wide wingers. Backs must have really quick feet and play with physicality. Oftentimes they’re put in one-on-one situations where they must take the ball, force a pass or they’ll risk putting their keeper in a compromising situation.
Backs are also involved on offense sometimes. The right-back will join the offensive attack if their team is attacking the right side of the field, and the left back will join if the attack is on the left side of the field.

4 & 5 – Sweeper & Central Back

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These two positions are known as central defenders, and they are the most critical defenders on the field after the keeper. They position themselves on opposite sides of the penalty line close to the keeper. The main job of the central defenders is to protect the center of the field by preventing players from getting the ball there. They’re tasked with intercepting passes, tackling attackers, blocking shots, stealing the ball in one-on-one situations and much more.
Central defenders don’t always have huge roles offensively, but they do play a role when it comes to gaining and keeping possession. They need to be able to possess the ball, and make passes to their attackers after they steal or intercept the opposing team’s passes.

6 – Defensive Midfielder

Defensive midfielders need to be smart, physical and have good stamina. Their main role is to slow down the opposition from attacking the middle of the field, and gaining possession. They do this by tackling attackers, gaining possession of loose balls, and forcing the ball laterally as opposed to allowing attackers to attack down the center of the field.
Offensively, defensive midfielders are also solid passers. While it’s unlikely a defensive midfielder will score a goal, they play a huge role in advancing the ball into the defense’s territory. Midfielders often use a forward pass, which is a pass that goes through the opposing team's midfielders that puts the offense in good position. This type of pass requires pin point accuracy. Midfielders have to have good judgment because if there is nothing open down the field, they have to get creative and pass it backwards or sideways.

7 & 11 – Wingers

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There are also two wingers on each team. Wingers are positioned along the left and right touch lines of the field. Wingers main goals are spacing, creating scoring opportunities for others, pushing the ball up the field, and scoring themselves. Wingers position themselves on the touch lines to create space naturally. Opposing teams have to have a defensive player accountable for both wingers.
A lot of scoring in soccer comes from the middle of the field, but most of those assists come from the outside. Wingers have to be really good all around players. They’ll need to be skilled passers, have great footwork, solid shooting skills, stamina, speed and be able to handle the ball well. Wingers travel along the boundary, dribbling the ball and looking for good pass entries for others in the middle of the field.

8 – Central Midfielder

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Central midfielders are the center between defense and attacking with major responsibilities on both offense and defense. They position themselves in the center of the field. Offensively, midfielders are responsible for controlling the offense at times. They often dictate the speed and pace of the game. They also bring the ball from the back, and put it in play for their offense.
Central midfielders potentially sprint more than any other player on the field. They need to possess stamina, speed, great passing skills, tact, good dribbling, and excellent footwork. Defensively, central midfielders do a variety of things depending on the defensive formation, including dropping back to help protect the goal. Other times they have to push up and put pressure on the ball-carrier.

9 – Striker

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Strikers pose the biggest threat to the opposing team’s keeper. They position themselves deep in the opponent’s territory, right outside of the opposing team's penalty box. Strikers are often the best all-around shooters on their team with a main objective of scoring goals. Unlike other positions on their team, strikers don’t hold defensive responsibilities, meaning they aren’t asked to run back and help. Strikers need to have stamina, good dribbling ability but most of all they must be skilled and efficient shooters.

10 – Central Attacking Midfielder

Center-attacking midfielders are mainly offensive players. They’re positioned between the forwards and center midfielders. They must be skilled dribblers because they’ll often find themselves in one-on-one situations. They’ll also need good vision, awareness, decision-making, and great passing skills. Attacking midfielders are often tasked with dribbling or passing the ball deep into their territory for a goal.
The most common attacking midfielder is the advanced playmaker. The position is important because they do all of their work in the heart of their opponent's territory. They’re tasked with connecting the midfield to the attack with elite passing and dribbling.


From the keeper to the striker, every player on the field has an important job as it relates to the team's overall success. Some players need to possess great one-on-one skills, some need elite stamina, and some need the ability to play with physicality. It's the coordination of all the players that makes soccer so much fun to watch.