Soccer GlossarySoccer Glossary
Glossary of Soccer Terms
Note: some definitions assume full size fields, goals, and teams (11 v 11). Most NYSL games are played with fewer players, on smaller fields. Some items included, are not part of NYSL games (like Golden Goal overtime), but are included here for your reference.
Advantage rule: A choice the referee makes to allow the teams to keep playing when a foul is committed because the team that was fouled is better off.
Attacking midfielder: Midfielders play between the forwards and defenders. The attacking midfielder plays right behind the forwards. He helps with the offense by providing passes to forwards to set up goals.
Back: A defender. Most teams play with three or four defenders.
Bicycle kick (scissors kick): When a player jumps in the air and kicks the ball back over his own head.
Cap: Recognition given to a player for each appearance in an international game for his country.
Caution: See Yellow card.
Central Defender: When teams use four defenders, the two central defenders guard the other teams most forward attacking players.
Challenge: An attempt to take the ball away from another player; 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: A pass lofted into the air from a player to a teammate or as a shot on goal.
Clear: To kick the ball away from one's goal.
Club: A team that plays in a league.
Corner Flag: The flag located at each of the 4 corners of the field.
Corner kick: Corner kicks are awarded when a defending player makes contact with the ball last before it crosses the end line. The attacking team then kicks the ball back into play from the corner of the field.
Counterattack: A quick attack by a defending team after it regains possession of the ball.
Creating space: When a player from the attacking team passes the ball, he runs into an open area, causing the defenders to follow him. This creates open space for the player with the ball.
Cross or serve: 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 or to relieve defensive pressure.
Dangerous play: When a player attempts a play that the referee considers dangerous to that player or others, such as kicking the ball when another player is already playing it with his head.
Defenders: The 3 or 4 players on a team whose primary task is to stop the opposition from scoring.
Defensive midfielder: The defending midfielder plays right in front of the defenders. He helps guard the most dangerous attacking player on the other team.
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 feet of him. A goal can be scored 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 American term "Tie" refers to a scheduled match.
Dribbling: The basic skill of advancing the ball with the feet while controlling it.
Drop kick: When a goalie drops the ball from his hands and kicks it after it hits the ground.
European Cup: The championship tournament played between Europe's top national teams.
Football Association (F.A.): The English Football Association, the governing body of English soccer.
Far post: The goal post furthest from the ball.
FIFA: Federation Internationale de Football Association - the official governing body of international soccer since 1904.
FIFA World Cup: A solid gold statue given to the champion of each World Cup tournament every four years.
Football: Name for soccer everywhere except in the U.S.
Formation: The arrangement into positions of players on the field; for example, a 4-3-2 formation places 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 forwards on the field.
Forwards: The 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...
Foul: A violation of the rules for which an official assesses a free kick. Fouls can either be direct, meaning the ball doesn't have to touch anyone before it goes into the net, or indirect, meaning it has to touch at least one other player before going into the net.
4-4-2: A formation that consists of 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 forwards. Also the name of a popular British soccer magazine.
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 feet of him.
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.
Goalkeeper(goalie): 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.
Golden Goal (also called Sudden Death): A type of overtime where the first goal scored by a team ends the game and gives that team the victory.
Hacking: Kicking an opponent's legs.
Halfback: See Midfielder.
Hand ball: A foul where a player touches the ball with his hand or arm; the opposing team is awarded a direct free kick.
Header: The striking of a ball in the air by a player's head.
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 feet of him; a goal can only be scored on this kick after the ball has touched another player.
Injury time or stoppage 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. The referee is the sole keeper of time in a soccer match.
Juggling: Keeping a ball in the air with any part of the body besides the hands or arms; used for practice and developing coordination.
Laws of the Game: The 17 main rules for soccer established by FIFA.
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.
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.
Midfielders: The 3 or 4 players who link together the offensive and defensive of a team.
MLS: Major League Soccer - the U.S. outdoor league that began play in the Spring of 1995.
NASL: North American Soccer League - 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. It 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.
Near post: The goalpost closest to the ball.
Obstruction: When a defensive player, instead of going after the ball, uses his body to prevent an offensive player from playing it.
Officials: Consists of a referee and 2 linesmen. The referee is the only one that carries a whistle and keeps the official time of the match.
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-side: The opposite of offside.
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 international tournament matches to determine a winner.
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.
Pitch: A British term for soccer field.
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.
Possession: Control of the ball.
Professional foul: A foul committed intentionally; used to prevent a scoring opportunity without incurring a penalty shot.
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.
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.
Set piece: A planned play 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.
Sideline or touchline: A line that runs along the length of the field on each side.
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.
Square pass: A pass made by a player to a teammate running alongside him.
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.
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 (also called Golden Goal): A type of overtime where the first goal scored by a team ends the game and gives that team the victory.
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.
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.
Trap: When a player uses his body to slow down and control a moving ball, most often using his chest, thighs or feet.
USSF: United States Soccer Federation - 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.
Volley: Any ball kicked by a player when it is off the ground.
Wall: A line of 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. The wall must stand 10 yards away from where the free kick is taken from.
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.
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.