What Are The Positions In Soccer? (A Clear & Concise Guide)

Soccer is a globally popular sport that requires players to work together strategically to win the game. One important aspect of soccer is understanding the various positions and the roles each player takes on the field.

Soccer positions are divided into three main categories: defensive, midfield, and attacking, with a total of 11 players on the field, including the goalkeeper.

Each position has specific responsibilities and requires a unique set of skills and techniques, making it crucial for players to excel in their designated roles. Furthermore, understanding the role of a player's number on the field and different formations is essential for both players and fans to fully appreciate the game.

The positions and formations employed during a match not only have an impact on the players' performance but also on the overall tactics and strategy used by the team.

Key takeaways:

  • Soccer positions can be categorized into defensive, midfield, and attacking positions, with distinctive responsibilities and skills required.
  • The player's number on the field is significant and can provide insight into their role and position.
  • Different formations play a crucial part in a team's overall tactics and strategy during a match.

Soccer Positions Overview


The goalkeeper is a vital position in soccer, responsible for preventing the opposition from scoring goals. This player stands as the last line of defense and must possess excellent reflexes, agility, and positioning skills. Making it one of the hardest positions to play in soccer.

The goalkeeper has the unique privilege of using their hands within their own penalty area, making them critical in stopping shots, collecting crosses, and distributing the ball to teammates. However, a goalkeeper may only hold the ball for a certain amount of time.

In addition to all this, the goalkeeper must also know no fear and go for all balls. This makes goalkeeper one of the most dangerous positions in soccer.


Defenders are the backbone of a soccer team, tasked with stopping opposing attackers and safeguarding their own goal.

There are three main types of defenders:

  1. Center-backs (CB): Positioned in the middle of the defense, center-backs are often the tallest and most physically imposing players on the team. They excel in aerial duels and are skilled in tackling and marking opponents.
  2. Fullbacks (FB): Located on the wings, fullbacks play on the right (RB) or left (LB) side of the defense. These players not only defend against opposing wingers but also support their team’s attacks by moving forward down the flanks.
  3. Sweepers (SW): Less commonly used, the sweeper acts as a free-roaming defender, providing additional cover behind the center-backs. They read the game and clear danger before it reaches the goalkeeper.


Midfielders occupy the central area of the field and link the team’s defense with the attack. They play crucial roles in ball possession, passing, and orchestrating team play.

Midfielders can be categorized into three types:

  1. Defensive midfielders (DM): Tasked with protecting the defense, defensive midfielders break down opponents' attacks, win back possession, and make simple passes to more creative teammates.
  2. Central midfielders (CM): Known as the 'box-to-box' players, central midfielders contribute both offensively and defensively. They have a strong work rate, decent passing ability, and often score goals from long-range shots.
  3. Attacking midfielders (AM): Positioned behind the forwards, attacking midfielders act as the team's playmakers, providing key passes, setting up goals, and scoring themselves. They require exceptional vision, passing, and creativity.


Forwards are the players responsible for scoring the majority of goals in soccer. They are positioned furthest up the field and rely on sharp instincts, clinical finishing, and good movement off the ball.

Forwards can be divided into two types:

  1. Strikers (ST): The main goal-scoring threat, strikers possess lethal finishing ability, good positioning, and strong physical attributes. They rely on service from midfielders and wingers to create goal-scoring opportunities.
  2. Wingers (WG): Operating on the wings, wingers use speed and dribbling ability to beat defenders and deliver crosses into the box for strikers. They are often involved in the build-up play and can score goals themselves as well.

Defensive Positions

Center back:

The center back is a crucial defensive position in soccer, responsible for guarding the goal and maintaining the defensive line.

Center backs are usually one of the strongest and tallest players on the team, mainly focusing on marking opposing players and intercepting passes. Central defenders play a key role in the team's defense and work together to cover a wide area on the field.

Working as a pair, center backs display exceptional communication and organization skills to steer their team toward a strong defense. The role of a center back also requires grit and determination, as they need to withstand pressure from attackers and fend off various offensive threats.


Fullbacks are essential defenders positioned on either side of the central defenders. Their primary role is to cover the left and right flanks of the field, defending against attacking wingers and midfielders. They also contribute to the offensive aspect of the game by occasionally moving forward along the wings.

Fullbacks need to possess speed, stamina, and the ability to read the game as they prevent opponents from delivering dangerous crosses into their penalty area.

In addition to their defensive tasks, fullbacks are responsible for providing wide support to their team's midfielders and attackers. They have to be versatile, as their role entails both offensive and defensive responsibilities. The fullback is often seen as the best soccer position for beginners.


The sweeper, while not universally utilized in soccer today, is an interesting defensive position. This role usually comes into play when a team uses a sweeper system.

The sweeper is tasked with playing behind the central defenders, acting as a final line of defense before the goalkeeper. They have the freedom to move across the field, covering gaps left by other defenders and clearing any dangerous situations that arise.

The sweeper's main objective is to anticipate the opponent's attacking moves and sweep up loose balls or potential threats. This requires utmost concentration, spatial awareness, and strong decision-making skills.


Wingbacks are a variation of fullbacks found in specific formations. They are positioned slightly ahead of the fullbacks, combining the role of both wingers and fullbacks. Wingbacks' responsibilities include defending against opposing wide players, supporting offensive plays, and delivering crosses into the opponent's penalty area.

Due to their dual role, wingbacks require outstanding physical fitness and adaptability during the game. With a focus on both attacking and defending, they play an essential role in maintaining the balance of the team, especially in formations with three central defenders.


The stopper is another defensive position that primarily focuses on disrupting the opponent's attacks. They are stationed in front of the central defenders, marking the opposing team's playmaker or attacking midfielder closely.

Stoppers need to be excellent tacklers, constantly applying pressure on the attacker to prevent them from creating scoring opportunities.

Playing as a stopper demands various skills, such as strong aerial ability, quick decision-making, and the capability to distribute the ball accurately. Their overarching goal is to convert defense into attack by winning possession and initiating counterattacks for their team.

Midfield Positions

Defensive midfielder:

A defensive midfielder is a type of midfielder who focuses on preventing the opposition from creating scoring opportunities. They achieve this by intercepting passes, making tackles, and providing cover for the defenders.

Defensive midfielders are essential for maintaining a solid defense and helping the team transition from defense to attack. They usually have excellent stamina and are known for their tenacity and strong marking abilities.

Holding midfielder / central defensive midfielder:

A holding midfielder, also known as a central defensive midfielder, is responsible for shielding the defense and disrupting the opposition's play. Their primary role is to maintain possession of the ball and distribute it efficiently to their teammates.

Defensive midfielders need to have excellent positioning, awareness, and passing skills. They generally play a more conservative role, staying behind the central midfielders to ensure the defense is well-supported.

Central midfielder:

Central midfielders are tasked with controlling the tempo of the game and connecting the defense with the attack. They have a wide range of responsibilities, including passing, tackling, and creating scoring opportunities for the forwards.

Central midfielders need to have great vision, technique, and decision-making skills. Their versatility allows them to contribute in both attacking and defensive situations. Central midfielders also require great stamina to cover large areas of the field effectively.

Attacking midfielder:

An attacking midfielder, sometimes referred to as a central attacking midfielder (CAM) or playmaker, operates in an advanced position behind the forwards.

Their primary responsibility is to create chances for their team by dribbling the ball, executing through balls, and providing accurate crosses. Attacking midfielders are often the main source of creativity and goal-scoring opportunities within a team. They should possess excellent ball control, vision, technique, and flair to unlock the opposition's defense.

PositionMain Responsibilities
Defensive midfielderPrevent opposition chances, support defense
Holding midfielderShield defense, maintain possession
Central midfielderControl tempo, connect defense and attack
Attacking midfielderCreate chances, support forwards

Wide midfielder:

Wide midfielders, also known as right and left midfielders, mainly operate along the sidelines of the field. They are responsible for providing width to the team's formation and stretching the opposition's defense.

Wide midfielders are typically fast, agile, and skillful at dribbling the ball. They play a crucial role in the team's attack by delivering crosses and creating space for their teammates. However, they also need to be diligent in their defensive duties and support their fullbacks in marking opposition wingers.

Attacking Positions


The striker is the forward player primarily responsible for scoring goals and is a crucial part of the team's offense. Typically having a strong physique and good shooting abilities, strikers like Robert Lewandowski are the focal points for the team's attack.

Their primary role is to be in the right position at the right time to convert chances created by teammates into goals. Their ability to read the game and find pockets of space in opposition defenses is vital, as well as their skill in holding up the ball to link up with midfielders and wingers. All this makes striker the soccer position that scores the most goals.


Wingers are attackers who generally play on the flanks, either on the left or right side of the field, and possess exceptional pace and dribbling abilities. They often work with fullbacks to create opportunities for the striker by crossing the ball from the wide areas.

Wingers engage in one-on-one situations with defenders to create space and bypass the opposition's defensive line to provide assists. Their agility and quick changes of direction are critical to impacting the attacking play.

Some wingers may also cut inside the field to take shots or play as inverted wingers, using their stronger foot closer to the goal. That's why in modern soccer, most right wingers are left-footed players, and left wingers are right-footed players.

Center forward:

A center forward, or central forward, shares similarities with a striker. However, their role expands beyond just scoring goals.

The center forward's position is central within the attacking area, often acting as a focal point for creating and linking up offensive play between teammates. They possess excellent aerial abilities, hold up the ball well, and have a strong physical presence.

Center forwards may also drop back into midfield areas to help build the attack or drift wide to create space for attacking midfielders and wingers. Their ability to combine with other attacking players, score, and create goals for their teammates makes them a formidable presence on the field and a vital component of a well-rounded offense.

Role of a Player's Number

Soccer position numbers explained

In soccer, numbers are often associated with specific positions on the field. These position numbers help identify a player's role and responsibilities within the team. The traditional soccer position numbers range from 1 to 11.

The number 1 is reserved for the goalkeeper, whose primary objective is to protect the goal and prevent the opposing team from scoring. They are the last line of defense and are expected to have quick reflexes and excellent anticipation skills.

Numbers 2 and 3 are assigned to the right and left fullbacks, respectively. These defensive players are responsible for guarding the flanks and assisting the center backs in preventing the opponents' attacks.

Their roles involve both defensive and offensive duties, as they often initiate counterattacks by pushing forward and providing crosses.

Numbers 4 and 5 represent the center backs, who form the core of the team's defense. Their main responsibility is to disrupt the opponent's attacking moves by intercepting passes, making tackles, and marking attackers. Strong aerial ability and physical presence are essential attributes for center backs.

The number 6 denotes the defending or holding midfielder. This position requires a player with excellent defensive skills, tactical awareness, and the ability to read the game.

They are responsible for protecting the defense, breaking up the opposition's attacks, and distributing the ball to initiate offensive plays.

Numbers 7 and 11 are assigned to right and left midfielders or wingers. These players primarily operate on the flanks, creating goal-scoring opportunities by providing crosses and cutting inside for shots.

They are expected to possess exceptional dribbling skills, speed, and creativity. This makes it the best soccer position for fast players.

The number 8 is designated for the central or box-to-box midfielder. This player is involved in both defense and attack, with a versatile skill set that includes tackling, passing, and shooting.

They contribute to the team's overall balance by providing support to the defense and linking up with the forwards. This is why central midfielder is the soccer position that runs the most.

In contrast, the number 9 is dedicated to the striker, whose main responsibility is to score goals. Strikers must be skillful finishers with a keen eye for opportunities and a strong positional sense. They are often the focal point of the team's attack and work closely with the attacking midfielder.

The number 10 refers to the attacking midfielder or playmaker. This position is typically filled by a skilled and creative player who excels in setting up goal-scoring opportunities for the forwards. They possess excellent vision, passing, and dribbling abilities and often dictate the team's offensive play.

Understanding the role of each soccer position number is crucial for both players and coaches. It helps develop a cohesive team, with each member aware of their specific duties and contributing effectively to the overall game plan.

Understanding Formations

In soccer, formations are the strategic arrangement of players on the field. These formations greatly impact the team's tactics and overall gameplay. By understanding different formations, coaches can plan strategies, and players can enhance their teamwork.

The most common soccer formations consist of three to five defenders, three to five midfielders, and one to three forwards. Some popular soccer formations include the 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, and 3-5-2. Each formation has its unique benefits and drawbacks, depending on the opponent and the team's strengths.

The 4-4-2 formation is a classic and well-balanced arrangement, with two center backs, two fullbacks, two central midfielders, two wingers, and two forwards. This formation provides stability in defense and offense, promoting teamwork and adaptability to various tactics.

Another prevalent formation is the 4-3-3, which features four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. The central midfielder in this formation, also known as the box-to-box midfielder, plays a crucial role in connecting defense and offense. The 4-3-3 formation emphasizes swift counterattacks and high-pressure tactics.

The 4-2-3-1 formation includes four defenders, two defensive midfielders, a central attacking midfielder (playmaker), two wingers, and a lone striker. This arrangement is highly flexible and focuses on ball possession and creating spaces. The two defensive midfielders provide a shield for the backline, while the wingers and the playmaker create scoring opportunities for the striker.

Lastly, the 3-5-2 formation employs three central defenders, two wing-backs, three central midfielders, and two forwards. This setup gives the team a numerical advantage in midfield, allowing for greater ball control and pressing tactics. However, it can leave the defensive flanks vulnerable if the wing-backs fail to track back.

As you can see, the goalkeeper is nowhere mentioned. So can a soccer team play without a goalkeeper then? Click here to find out!

In conclusion, formations play a vital role in determining a soccer team's approach to the game. Choosing the right formation depends on the players' strengths, weaknesses, and the opponent's tactics. By understanding different soccer formations, both coaches and players can improve their teamwork and adapt to various match situations.

Techniques and Skills by Position

Goalkeeping skills:

In soccer, goalkeepers have a unique role requiring specific skills. Handling is crucial, as they are the only players allowed to use their hands and arms to catch, throw, or block the ball.

Agility and quick reflexes are essential for making saves and reacting to unpredictable situations. Goalkeepers must also be proficient in technical aspects, such as positioning and communication with their teammates.

Defensive skills:

Defenders play a vital role in preventing the opposition from scoring. They require excellent tackling abilities to dispossess opponents and regain possession of the ball. Ball skills are important for defenders to maintain control and find teammates with accurate passes.

Additionally, they should be skilled in throw-ins and employing overlaps to support their team's attacking moves. Quick decision-making and precise positioning are crucial defensive attributes.

Midfield skills:

Midfielders have a versatile role, connecting defense and attack. They need strong ball skills to control the play, accurate passing, and vision to create scoring opportunities. Midfielders should also be competent in tackling and regaining possession.

Crossing is an important skill for wingers, who often provide essential service to their strikers. Overlaps and quick movements off the ball help midfielders support both offense and defense effectively.

Attacking skills:

Forwards and strikers focus on creating and finishing chances to score goals. Skilled players in attacking positions possess high technical abilities, including ball control, dribbling, and sharpshooting. Agility and speed are essential to beat defenders and exploit gaps in the opposition's defense.

Attackers should also demonstrate strong awareness, anticipation, and decision-making to enhance their effectiveness near the opponent's goal.

Famous Players by Position

In the beautiful game of soccer, various positions require a unique set of skills and abilities. Throughout history, many talented players have shone in these positions.

This section will showcase some of the most famous players by position, covering notable goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards.

Notable goalkeepers:

Goalkeepers are the last line of defense and are critical to a team's success. Some exceptional goalkeepers in soccer history include:

  • Gianluigi Buffon: An Italian legend, Buffon's shot-stopping ability and leadership have earned him numerous accolades throughout his career.
  • Manuel Neuer: Known for his outstanding reflexes and ability to play as a sweeper-keeper, the German goalkeeper has revolutionized the position.
  • Iker Casillas: The Spanish shot-stopper has won numerous titles for both country and club, displaying incredible agility and skill.
  • Alisson Becker: Brazil's number one goalkeeper, Becker, has impressive reaction times and a keen sense of positioning.
  • David de Gea: This Spanish goalkeeper has showcased excellent reflexes and ability to make breathtaking saves throughout his career.

Famous defenders:

Defenders play an essential role in preventing the opposition from scoring. Some of the most celebrated defensive players include:

  • Franz Beckenbauer: Known as the "Kaiser," Beckenbauer was a pioneer of the sweeper role and led his teams to both national and international success.
  • Sergio Ramos: The Spanish defender is known for his leadership, strong aerial ability, and penchant for scoring crucial goals.
  • David Alaba: The versatile Austrian can play as a center-back, left-back, and even in midfield, showcasing great adaptability and skill.
  • Alphonso Davies: This Canadian left-back has become known for his exceptional pace, ability to read the game, and accurate crosses.

Renowned midfielders:

Midfielders are the backbone of a team, as they dictate the tempo and create scoring opportunities. Here are some famous midfielders:

  • Lionel Messi: Often considered the greatest player of all time, the Argentinian's playmaking skills, dribbling, and goal-scoring ability place him among the elite midfielders.
  • Andrea Pirlo: The Italian maestro was known for his exceptional vision, passing range, and composure on the ball.
  • Sergio Busquets: A vital cog in the Spanish tiki-taka style, Busquets possesses excellent positioning, game awareness, and passing abilities.
  • Christopher Nkunku: This French midfielder has gained recognition for his creativity, goal-scoring prowess, and the ability to dictate play.

Prolific forwards:

Forwards are often the players who grab the headlines by scoring goals. Here are some of the most renowned forwards in soccer history:

  • Lionel Messi: The Argentine superstar is also a prolific forward, often scoring incredible goals and breaking records.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo: The Portuguese forward possesses extraordinary physical attributes, a knack for goal-scoring, and endless determination.
  • Pelé: Widely regarded as one of the best forwards of all time, the Brazilian legend scored an astounding number of goals during his illustrious career.
  • Diego Maradona: The late Argentinian forward is known for his dribbling ability, creativity, and the iconic "Hand of God" goal.


In summary, soccer positions can be divided into three main categories: defense, midfield, and attack. Each position plays a crucial role in the overall success of a team.

As the sport has evolved, these positions have become more fluid, with players taking on a variety of roles and responsibilities within their respective positions.

Goalkeepers hold the critical responsibility of preventing goals and are often seen as the last line of defense. Defenders, including center backs, and fullbacks, work to protect their goal by preventing opponents from scoring.

Midfielders, comprised of central, attacking, and defensive midfielders, play a dual role, contributing to both defense and offense. Finally, attackers, such as forwards and wingers, are responsible for scoring goals and creating scoring opportunities for their team.

Understanding the various soccer positions and their roles allows players to develop their skills and knowledge of the game. By mastering the nuances of each position, players can contribute more effectively to their team's success.

This understanding also helps teams and coaches develop game strategies and tactics tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of their players and opponents. Overall, soccer positions are a vital component of the beautiful game that continuously evolves.

August 28, 2023
Published: August 28, 2023