Soccer Glossary

Posted by Rebekkah On July - 12 - 2012

Advantage rule — a clause in the rules that directs the referee to refrain from stopping play for a foul if a stoppage would benefit the team that committed the violation.

Advantages — situations where a team has possession of the ball and outnumbers the opposition near the opposing goal.

American football — a term used by non-Americans to distinguish the popular U.S. sport of football from soccer which they also call football.

APSL — American Professional Soccer League ó the nation’s only outdoor professional soccer league since 1991, consisting of 8 teams in the U.S. and Canada (expanding to 12 by 1995).

Assist — the pass or passes which immediately precede a goal; a maximum of two assists can be credited for one goal.

Attacking midfielder — the most forward-playing midfielder, playing right behind the forwards; he supports the offense by providing passes to forwards to set up goals.

Attacker — any player on the team that has possession of the ball.

Attacking team — the team that has possession of the ball.

AYSO — American Youth Soccer Organization ó an administrative body of youth soccer which sets rules and provides information and equipment to youth league referees, coaches and players.

Back — a defender.

Back header — a player’s use of his head to direct the ball backwards.

Back tackle — an attempt by a defender to take the ball away from a ball carrier by swinging the defender’s leg in front of the ball from behind.

Ball carrier — a player that has possession of the ball.

Banana kick — a type of kick that gives the ball a curved trajectory; used to get the ball around an obstacle such as a goaltender or defender.

Beat — to get the ball through or around an opponent by dribbling or shooting.

Behind the defender — the area between a defender and his goal.

Bicycle kick — when a player kicks the ball in mid-air backwards and over his own head, usually making contact above waist level; an acrobatic shot.

Break — when a team quickly advances the ball down the field in an attempt to get its players near the opponent’s goal before the defenders have a chance to retreat; also called an advantage.

Breakaway — when an attacker with the ball approaches the goal undefended; this exciting play pits a sole attacker against the goalkeeper in a one-on-one showdown.

Bundesliga — The German professional soccer league.

Cap — a recognition earned by a player for each appearance in an international game for his country.

Carrying the ball — a foul called on a goalkeeper when he takes more than 4 steps while holding or bouncing the ball.

Caution — see Yellow card.

Center — a pass from a player located near the sideline towards the middle of the field; used to get the ball closer to the front of the goal; also called a cross.

Center circle — a circular marking with a 10-yard radius in the center of the field from which kickoffs are taken to start or restart the game.

Center line — see Midfield line.

Center spot — a small circular mark inside the center circle that denotes the center of the field from which kickoffs are taken to start or restart the game.

Central defender — a player who guards the area directly in front of his own goal in a zone defense; does not exist in a man-to-man defense.

Charge — to run into an opponent; legal if done from the front or side of the ball carrier; illegal against a player without the ball or from behind.

Chest trap — when a player uses his chest to slow down and control a ball in the air.

Chip pass — a pass lofted into the air from a player to a teammate; used primarily to evade a defender by kicking the ball over his head.

Chip shot — a kick lofted into the air to try to sail the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and still make it under the crossbar into the goal.

Clear — to kick the ball away from one’s goal.

Cleats — the metal, plastic or rubber points in the bottom of a soccer shoe used to provide a player with traction; term also used to refer to the shoes themselves.

Club — a team that plays in a league.

CONCACAF — The Confederation Norte-Centroamericana y Del Caribe de Footbal ó the regional organization of North American and Central American soccer under which World Cup qualifying matches are played; member countries include the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central American and Caribbean countries.

Consolation match — a tournament game played between the losers of the 2 semifinal matches to determine the third-place team.

Corner arc — a quarter-circle with a radius of 1 yard located at each of the 4 corners of the field; on a corner kick, the ball must be kicked from inside this arc.

Corner area — see Corner arc.

Corner flag — the flag located at each of the 4 corners of the field, inside the corner area.

Corner kick — a type of restart where the ball is kicked from the corner arc in an attempt to score; awarded to an attacking team when the ball crosses the goal line last touched by the defending team.

Counterattack — an attack launched by a defending team soon after it regains possession of the ball.

Creating space — when a player from the attacking team moves without the ball to draw defenders away from the ball carrier and give him space.

Cross or crossing pass — a pass from an attacking player near the sideline to a teammate in the middle or opposite side of the field; used to give the teammate a good scoring opportunity.

Crossbar — the horizontal beam that forms the top of a goal and sits on top of the two posts; it is 24 feet long and supported 8 feet above the ground.

Cut down the angle — when the goalie comes out of the goal several feet to make himself closer and larger to an attacker, leaving the attacker less net to shoot at.

Cut off — when a defensive player keeps his body between an attacker and the defender’s goal, forcing the attacker out towards the sidelines.

Dangerous play — when a player attempts a play that the referee considers dangerous to that player or others, such as trying to kick the ball out of the goalie’s hands, even if no contact is made.

Defenders — the players on the team that does not have possession of the ball.

Defending team — the team that does not have possession of the ball.

Defense — a team’s function of preventing the opposition from scoring.

Defensemen — the 3 or 4 players on a team whose primary task is to stop the opposition from scoring; also called fullbacks.

Defensive midfielder — the player positioned just in front of his team’s defense; he is often assigned to mark the opposition’s best offensive player; also called the midfield anchor.

Defensive pressure — when one or more defenders closely mark a ball carrier to harass him into losing the ball.

Deflection — the ricochet of a ball after it hits a player.

Direct free kick — a kick awarded to a player for a serious foul committed by the opposition; the player kicks a stationary ball with no opposing players within 10 yards of him; a goal can be scored directly from this kick without the ball touching another player.

Diving header — a ball struck near ground level by the head of a diving player.

Draw — a game that ends with a tied score.

The Draw — the selection of World Cup teams to place them into playing groups for the tournament and the event surrounding this selection.

Dribbler — a player who advances the ball while controlling it with his feet.

Dribbling — the basic skill of advancing the ball with the feet while controlling it.

Drop ball — a method of restarting a game where the referee drops the ball between 2 players facing each other.

Drop kick — when a goalie drops the ball from his hands and kicks it just after it hits the ground.

Endline — see Goal line.

English Football Association — an association of English soccer teams founded in 1863 to set soccer rules.

European Cup — the championship tournament played between Europe’s top national teams.

F.A. — Football Association; often used to refer to the English Football Association, who, along with FIFA and other football associations, helps maintain the rules of soccer.

Fake or feint — a move by a player meant to deceive an opposing player; used by a ball carrier to make a defender think the ball carrier is going to dribble, pass or shoot in a certain direction when he is not.

Far post — the goalpost furthest from the ball.

Field — the rectangular area where soccer matches are played.

FIFA — Federation Internationale de Football Association ó the official governing body of international soccer since 1904 which established the World Cup tournament; helps set and revise rules of the game, called the 17 Laws.

FIFA World Cup — a solid gold statue given to the champion of each World Cup tournament to keep for the next 4 years.

Flick header — a player’s use of his head to deflect the ball.

Foot trap — a player’s use of his foot to control a rolling or low-bouncing ball.

Football — name for soccer everywhere except in the U.S.; also, what American’s call their popular team sport which evolved from soccer and rugby.

Formation — the arrangement into positions of players on the field; for example, a 4-3-3 formation places 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 forwards on the field.

Forward line — the 3 or 4 forwards who work together to try and score goals; consists of two wingers and 1 or 2 strikers.

Forward pass — a pass made towards the opposition’s goal.

Forwards — the 3 or 4 players on a team who are responsible for most of a team’s scoring; they play in front of the rest of their team where they can take most of its shots; strikers and wingers.

Foul — a violation of the rules for which an official assesses a free kick.

4-2-4 — a formation that consists of 4 defenders, 2 midfielders and 4 forwards.

4-3-3 — a formation that consists of 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 forwards; the most common formation used by teams.

4-4-2 — a formation that consists of 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 forwards.

Free kick — a kick awarded to a player for a foul committed by the opposition; the player kicks a stationary ball without any opposing players within 10 yards of him.

Front header — the striking of a ball in the air by a player’s forehead; the most common type of header.

Front tackle — an attempt by a defender to kick the ball away from an attacker by approaching him from a head-on position.

Fullbacks — see Defensemen.

Goal — a ball that crosses the goal line between the goalposts and below the crossbar for which a point is awarded; also, the 8-foot high, 24-foot wide structure consisting of two posts, a crossbar and a net into which all goals are scored.

Goal area — the rectangular area 20 yards wide by 6 yards deep in front of each goal from which all goal kicks are taken; inside this area, it is illegal for opposing players to charge a goalie not holding the ball.

Goal kick — a type of restart where the ball is kicked from inside the goal area away from the goal; awarded to the defending team when a ball that crossed the goal line was last touched by a player on the attacking team.

Goal line — the field boundary running along its width at each end; also called the end line; runs right across the front of the goal; the line which a ball must completely cross for a goal to be scored.

Goalie — see Goalkeeper.

Goalkeeper — the player positioned directly in front of the goal who tries to prevent shots from getting into the net behind him; the only player allowed to use his hands and arms, though only within the penalty area.

Goalmouth — the front opening to each goal.

Goalposts — the two vertical beams located 24 feet apart which extend 8 feet high to form the sides of a goal and support the crossbar.

Hacking — kicking an opponent’s legs.

Halfback — see Midfielder.

Halftime — the intermission between the 2 periods or halves of a game.

Halves — see Periods.

Hand ball — a foul where a player touches the ball with his hand or arm; the opposing team is awarded a direct free kick.

Hat trick — 3 or more goals scored in a game by a single player.

Header — the striking of a ball in the air by a player’s head.

Hook — the curved trajectory of a ball due to spin imparted on it by a kicker, such as in a banana kick.

IFAB — International Football Association Board ó the organization consisting of 4 British soccer organizations and FIFA that approves all changes in the official international rules of soccer called the 17 Laws.

In bounds — when a ball is within the boundaries of the field, having not completely crossed a sideline or goal line.

In play — when a ball is within the boundaries of the field and play has not been stopped by the referee.

Indirect free kick — a kick awarded to a player for a less-serious foul committed by the opposition; the player kicks a stationary ball without any opposing players within 10 yards of him; a goal can only be scored on this kick after the ball has touched another player.

Injury time — time added to the end of any period according to the referee’s judgment of time lost due to player injuries or intentional stalling by a team.

Instep drive — a straight shot taken with the instep of a player’s foot; usually the most powerful and accurate of shots.

Intermission — the 5-minute rest period between periods of a game.

Juggling — keeping a ball in the air with any part of the body besides the hands or arms; used for practice and developing coordination.

Jules Rimet Trophy — the trophy given to the World Cup winner between 1930 and 1970, after which it was permanently retired.

Kickoff — the method of starting a game or restarting it after each goal; a player passes the ball forward to a teammate from the center spot.

Laws of the Game — the 17 main rules for soccer established by FIFA.

Lead pass — a pass sent ahead of a moving teammate to arrive at a location at the same time he does.

League — an alliance of teams that organizes sporting competition.

Linesmen — the 2 officials who assist the referee in making his decisions; they monitor the sidelines and goal lines to determine when a ball goes out of bounds and they carry a flag to signal their observations.

Linkmen — see Midfielders.

Loft or lob — a high-arcing kick.

Man-to-man — a type of defense where each defender is assigned to mark a different forward from the other team; the most common type of defense for national-level teams.

Marking — guarding a player to prevent him from advancing the ball towards the net, making an easy pass or getting the ball from a teammate.

Match — a soccer game.

Midfield — the region of the field near the midfield line; the area controlled by the midfielders.

Midfield anchor — See Defensive midfielder.

Midfield line or center line — a line that divides the field in half along its width.

Midfielders — the 2, 3 or 4 players who link together the offensive and defensive functions of a team; they play behind their forwards.

MISL — Major Indoor Soccer League ó started in the U.S. in 1977 playing games of 6 players per side in modified hockey rinks covered by artificial turf; became the MSL in 1990.

Mismatch — when a particular offensive player is far superior to the defender marking him.

MLS — Major League Soccer ó the new U.S. outdoor league scheduled to begin play in the Spring of 1995.

MSL — Major Soccer League ó a U.S. indoor league which formed in 1990 from the MISL and folded in 1992.

NASL — North American Soccer League ó an outdoor league formed in the U.S. in 1967 that attracted great international players including Pele and huge audiences to the U.S. in the 1970s; folded in 1985.

National team — a team consisting of the best players in a country chosen to represent it in international competitions such as the World Cup.

NCAA — National Collegiate Athletic Association ó governs and organizes sports at the collegiate level; has its own soccer committee.

Near post — the goalpost closest to the ball.

Net — hemp, jute or nylon cord draped over the frame of the goal and extending behind it; also used to refer to the goal itself.

NPSL — National Professional Soccer League ó a U.S. indoor league that plays its games in a modified hockey rink, much like the former MISL; plays by non-traditional rules to create a faster-paced, higher-scoring game; also, a different league by the same name that played in the 1960s, merging with another league to form the NASL.

Obstruction — when a defensive player, instead of going after the ball, uses his body to prevent an offensive player from playing it.

Offense — the function of trying to score goals.

Offensive player — see Attacker.

Offensive team — see Attacking team.

Official game clock — the clock that the referee carries with him on the field so he can signal when each half is over; does not stop during the game, even when play does.

Officials — the referee and 2 linesmen who work together to make sure the game is played according to the rules of soccer; responsible for stopping and restarting play, keeping track of the score and the time remaining and citing violations of the rules, called fouls; they wear uniforms that distinguish them from the players on both teams.

Offside — a violation called when a player in an offside position receives a pass from a teammate; an indirect free kick is awarded to the non-offending team.

Offside position — an attacking player positioned so that fewer than 2 opposing defensive players (usually the goalie and 1 other defender) are between him and the goal he is attacking; a player is not offside if he is exactly even with one or both of these defensive players.

On defense — describes a team that does not have possession of the ball.

On offense — describes a team in possession of the ball.

On-side — the opposite of offside.

Open — describes an attacking player who does not have anyone marking him.

Out of bounds — when a ball is outside the boundaries of the field, having completely crossed a sideline or goal line.

Out of play — when a ball is outside the boundaries of the field or play has been stopped by the referee.

Outlet passes — when a goaltender or defender passes the ball from close to his own goal toward the other team’s goal; used to start a counterattack.

Overlap — when a winger moves away from the sideline towards the center of the field to create space for a teammate to advance the ball undefended along the side of the field.

Overtime — the extra periods played after a regulation game ends tied; used in collegiate and championship international matches to determine a winner.

Passing — when a player kicks the ball to his teammate; used to move the ball closer to the opposing goal, to keep the ball away from an opponent or to give the ball to a player who is in a better position to score.

Penalty — short for penalty kick; also, a punishment given by the referee for a violation of the rules.

Penalty arc — a circular arc whose center is the penalty spot and extends from the top of the penalty area; designates an area that opposing players are not allowed to enter prior to a penalty kick.

Penalty area — a rectangular area 44 yards wide by 18 yards deep with its long edge on the goal line; the goalkeeper may use his hands to block or control the ball only within this area.

Penalty kick — see Penalty shot.

Penalty shot — a kick taken from the penalty spot by a player against the opposing goalie without any players closer than 10 yards away; awarded for the most severe rule violations and those committed by the defense within its own penalty area; also taken in a tiebreaker to decide a match.

Penalty spot — the small circular spot located 12 yards in front of the center of the goal line from which all penalty kicks are taken; positioned at the center of the penalty arc.

Penetrate — to advance the ball behind opposing defenders (between them and their goal).

Periods — the segments of time into which a game is divided; a regulation game played by adults consists of two 45-minutes halves.

Pitch — a British term for soccer field.

Play — to trap, dribble, kick or head the ball.

Play on — a term used by referees to indicate that no foul or stoppage is to be called; used by referees when applying the Advantage Rule.

Playoff — a tournament that takes place after a season’s schedule has been completed; used to determine a champion.

Points — a team statistic indicating its degree of success, calculated as follows: 2 points for a win (3 in the 1994 World Cup), 1 point for a tie, 0 points for a loss; also, an individual statistic for a player, calculated by totaling 2 points for each goal and 1 point for each assist.

Possession — control of the ball.

Post — goalpost or the area near it.

Professional foul — a foul committed intentionally, usually by a defender on an attacker just outside the defender’s penalty area; used to prevent a scoring opportunity without incurring a penalty shot.

Push pass — when a player pushes the ball with the inside of his foot to a teammate.

Qualifying Draw — the division of teams into groups for World Cup qualifying matches, held 2 years before The Draw.

Qualifying matches — games played in the 2 years preceding the World Cup to determine which teams participate in the tournament.

Receiver — a player who gets a pass from a teammate.

Red card — a playing card-sized card that a referee holds up to signal a player’s removal from the game; the player’s team must play the rest of the game shorthanded; presented for violent behavior or multiple rule infractions (two yellow cards = one red card).

Referee — the chief official; he makes all final decisions, acts as timekeeper, calls all fouls and starts and stops play.

Regular season — the schedule of games set before the season; consists of all games played before a playoff or tournament is held.

Regulation game — two completed periods of a game, prior to any overtime or tiebreaker.

Round — a stage of a tournament at which teams compete; the World Cup tournament has 5 main rounds.

Rugby — an offshoot from soccer started in the early 1800s; rugby players are allowed to pick up the ball with their hands and run with it, and also make full contact with each other whether going after the ball or not.

Save — the act of a goalkeeper in blocking or stopping a shot that would have gone into the goal without his intervention.

Score — to put the ball into the net for a goal; also, the tally of goals for each team playing in a game.

Scorers — players who score goals.

Scoring opportunity — a situation where a team stands a good chance of scoring a goal.

Screening — see Shielding.

Set play — a planned strategy that a team uses when a game is restarted with a free kick, penalty kick, corner kick, goal kick, throw-in or kickoff.

Shielding — a technique used by a ball carrier to protect the ball from a defender closely marking him; the ball carrier keeps his body between the ball and the defender.

Shinguards — pads that strap onto a player’s lower leg to protect the shins should he or she be kicked there.

Shooting — when a player kicks the ball at the opponent’s net in an attempt to score a goal.

Shorthanded — a team playing with less than its full complement of 11 players.

Shot — a ball kicked or headed by a player at the opponent’s net in an attempt to score a goal.

Shoulder charge — minimal shoulder-to-shoulder contact by a defender against a ball carrier; the only contact allowed by the rules unless a defender touches the ball first.

Shutout — preventing the opposition from scoring any goals in a game; for example, a score of 2-0 or 4-0; goalies are often credited with shutouts because they did not allow any goals to get past them.

Side tackle — an attempt by a defender to redirect the ball slightly with his foot away from a ball carrier running in the same direction.

Sideline or touchline — a line that runs along the length of the field on each side.

Single elimination — a type of tournament where a single loss eliminates a team from the tournament.

Sliding tackle — an attempt by a defender to take the ball away from a ball carrier by sliding on the ground feet-first into the ball.

Small-sided game — a match played with fewer than 11 players per side.

Square pass — a pass made by a player to a teammate running alongside him.

Starter — a player who is on the field to play at the start of a game; a team usually makes its best players starters.

Steal — when a player takes the ball away from an opposing player.

Stopper — the defender that marks the best scorer on the attacking team, often the opposition’s striker; exists only in a man-to-man defense.

Striker — a team’s most powerful and best-scoring forward who plays towards the center of the field; also, the name of the mascot for the 1994 World Cup.

Substitution — replacement of one player on the field with another player not on the field; FIFA rules allow only 3 substitutions per game.

Sudden death — a type of overtime where the first goal scored by a team ends the game and gives that team the victory; most overtime in soccer is not sudden death.

Sweeper — the defender that plays closest to his own goal behind the rest of the defenders; a team’s last line of defense in front of the goalkeeper.

Tackling — the act of taking the ball away from a player by kicking or stopping it with one’s feet; only a minimal amount of shoulder-to-shoulder contact, called a charge, is permitted to knock the ball carrier off balance.

Territory — the half of the field which a team defends.

Thigh trap — when a player uses his thigh to slow down and control a ball in the air.

3-on-1 break — a type of break with 3 attacking players against only 1 defensive player.

3-on-2 break — a type of break with 3 attacking players against 2 defensive players.

Through pass — a pass sent to a teammate to get him the ball behind his defender; used to penetrate a line of defenders.

Throw-in — a type of restart where a player throws the ball from behind his head with two hands while standing with both feet on the ground behind a sideline; taken by a player opposite the team that last touched the ball before it went out of bounds across a sideline.

Tie game — when two teams have scored the same number of goals in a match; if the game ends tied, it is a draw.

Tiebreaker — a way to choose the winner of a match when teams are tied after overtime; in FIFA tournament play, a series of penalty kicks are taken by players from both teams, and the team that scores on more of them is declared the winner.

Timekeeper — the job of the referee, who keeps track of the official time to notify teams and fans when each period is completed.

Timeout — an official break in the action of a sport; the rules of soccer do not allow for any timeouts; timeouts for television advertising breaks are permitted by NCAA collegiate rules.

Touchline — see Sideline.

Trailing — running behind another player.

Trap — when a player uses his body to slow down and control a moving ball, most often using his chest, thighs or feet.

Turnover — the loss of possession of the ball.

2-on-1 break — a type of break with 2 attacking players against 1 defensive player.

Two-way midfielder — the versatile midfielder most responsible for organizing play in the midfield area; often a team’s energetic leader.

Unsportsmanlike conduct — rude behavior.

USSF — United States Soccer Federation ó organization formed in 1913 to govern soccer in America; America’s link to FIFA, providing soccer rules and guidelines to players, referees and spectators nationwide.

USYSA — United States Youth Soccer Association ó the official Youth Division of the organizes and administers youth league competitions, establishes rules and guidelines, and holds clinics and workshops to support players, coaches and referees. USSF and the largest youth soccer organization in the U.S.

Venue — location where a sporting competition is held.

Volley — any ball kicked by a player when it is off the ground.

Wall — a line of 2 to 6 defending players pressed together shoulder-to-shoulder to protect their goal against a close free kick; creates a more difficult shot by reducing the amount of open goal area the kicker has to shoot at.

Wall pass — a pass by a ball carrier who sends the ball to a teammate, then runs behind his own defender and quickly receives a pass back; used to get a player past his defender without having to dribble by him; same as the “give-and-go” in basketball.

Win-draw-loss record — a summary of the outcomes of a team’s matches; for example, a team with a 3-1-2 record has played 6 games and won 3, tied 1 and lost 2.

Wings or wingers — the outside forwards who play to the sides of the strikers and whose primary task is to provide them with accurate crossing passes so they can shoot at the goal; often the fastest players and best dribblers on a team.

World Cup — the international soccer competition held by FIFA every 4 years between the top professional teams in the world, pitting nation against nation; the most watched event in the world, attracting a television audience of over 3 billion viewers.

Yellow card — a playing card-sized card that a referee holds up to warn a player for dangerous or unsportsmanlike behavior; also called a caution; 2 yellow cards in one game earns a player an automatic red card, signaling his removal from the game.

Zone — a type of defense that assigns each defender to a particular area in front of or around his team’s goal in which he is responsible for marking any attacker that enters; often used in youth league games but rarely in professional competition.