Glossary of Terms

Soccer is a jargon-heavy sport. Heck, there’s even multiple names for the sport!

This page is a living document that has a range of terms that are useful for soccer coaches, parents, players, and coaches alike.

Some of these terms will have links to other pages on this site that go into further detail. But if you just want the basics, this list should be enough.

Basic Soccer Rules & Regulations

Offside: A player is in an offside position if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent when the ball is played to them, with some exceptions like being in their own half.

Handball: A foul committed when a player deliberately touches the ball with their hand or arm. Inadvertent handballs may not be penalized depending on the circumstances.

Penalty Kick: Awarded when a foul punishable by a direct free kick occurs within the offender’s penalty area. It’s taken from the penalty spot, with only the goalkeeper defending.

Free Kick: Granted after certain fouls. Direct free kicks can result in a goal scored directly from the kick; indirect free kicks require the ball to touch another player before a goal can be scored.

Throw-in: Used to restart play after the ball has gone out of bounds on the sidelines. The player must throw the ball with both hands from behind their head while keeping both feet on the ground.

Corner Kick: Awarded to the attacking team when the ball crosses the goal line after last being touched by a defender. The ball is kicked from the corner nearest to where it went out.

Direct and Indirect Free Kicks: Direct free kicks can directly result in a goal against the offending team. Indirect free kicks require the ball to touch another player before a goal can be scored.

Goal Kick: A method of restarting play when the ball goes out of bounds over the goal line without a goal being scored, and was last touched by the attacking team.

Red Card: Issued for serious rule violations and results in the immediate ejection of the player from the game and potentially subsequent matches.

Yellow Card: Given as a caution for various offenses, like unsporting behavior. Accumulating two in one game leads to a red card.

Stoppage Time: Additional time added at the end of each half to compensate for lost playing time due to injuries, substitutions, or other delays.

VAR (Video Assistant Referee): A system that uses video technology to assist the referee in decision-making, primarily for goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents, and mistaken identity.

Foul: An unfair or illegal action during the game, such as tripping, pushing, or handball. Depending on the severity, it can result in a free kick, penalty kick, or disciplinary action.

Drop Ball: A method to restart play following a stoppage for an incident not covered by another rule. The ball is dropped by the referee between two players.

Substitution: The process of replacing one player on the field with another from the bench. Teams are typically allowed a limited number of substitutions per match.

Goal Line Technology: A system used to determine whether the whole ball has crossed the goal line, thereby assisting the referee in making a goal decision.

Advantage Rule: Allows play to continue if the team against which an offense has been committed will benefit from such an advantage and penalizes the original offense if the anticipated advantage does not ensue.

Offside Trap: A defensive strategy where defenders move upfield in a coordinated way to put attacking players in an offside position.

Back Pass Rule: Prohibits goalkeepers from handling the ball when it has been deliberately kicked to them by a teammate.

Hat-trick: Scoring three goals in a single game by the same player.

Indirect Free Kick Signal: The referee’s raised arm signal indicating an indirect free kick, where the ball must touch another player before a goal can be scored.

Advantage Clause: A rule allowing play to continue when the team against which a foul has been committed will benefit more from continued play than from stopping for a foul.

Goal Area: The small box inside the penalty area, measuring 6 yards from the goalposts, from where goal kicks are taken.

Penalty Area: A rectangular area measuring 18 yards from the goalposts and extending 18 yards into the field, where the goalkeeper can use their hands and fouls by the defending team can lead to penalty kicks.

Assistant Referees: Officials positioned along the touchlines who assist the main referee, especially with offside decisions and identifying when the ball leaves the field of play.

Soccer Tactics and Strategy Definitions

Counter-Attack: A rapid transition from defense to offense, with the attacking move often occurring while the opposition is off-balance or disorganized after their own attack.

Tiki-Taka: A style of play characterized by short passing and movement, maintaining possession, and working the ball through various channels.

High Press: A tactical approach where a team applies intense pressure on the opposition high up the pitch, aiming to regain possession quickly after losing it.

Zonal Marking: A defensive strategy where players are responsible for covering specific areas of the pitch rather than marking individual opponents.

Man-Marking: A defensive strategy where each defender is assigned a specific opposition player to track and guard throughout the match.

Park the Bus: Colloquially used to describe a team that sets up very defensively, often putting most or all players behind the ball to protect a lead.

Box-to-Box: Refers to a midfielder who covers a lot of ground during a game, contributing to both defensive and attacking plays.

False Nine: A forward who drops deep into midfield, creating confusion among the opposing defenders and disrupting their traditional marking roles.

Wing Play: A strategy focusing on using the wide areas of the pitch, typically involving wingers or wide midfielders to create scoring opportunities.

Diamond Formation: A midfield layout shaped like a diamond, providing a balance of defensive solidity and attacking options.

Total Football: A tactical theory where any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in the team, emphasizing fluid movement and positional interchange.

Gegenpress: A tactic where a team immediately tries to win back possession after losing the ball, often through a coordinated press.

Sweeper Keeper: A goalkeeper who plays an active role in the team’s defensive line, often coming out of their penalty area to clear balls and support defenders.

Overlapping Runs: When a player runs beyond a teammate in possession, creating additional attacking options and drawing defenders away.

Defensive Line: The back row of defenders in a team’s formation, responsible for marking attackers and preventing goal-scoring opportunities.

Inverted Winger: A winger playing on the opposite side of their dominant foot, allowing them to cut inside towards the goal for shooting opportunities.

Playmaker: A player who controls the flow of the team’s offensive play and is often responsible for creating scoring opportunities.

Target Man: A tall and physically strong striker who can hold up the ball, win aerial challenges, and bring other players into play.

Pressing Triggers: Specific cues or scenarios that signal a team to start pressing, such as a loose pass or an opponent receiving the ball with their back to goal.

Ball Possession: The strategy of maintaining control of the ball through continuous passing and movement, often to control the tempo of the game.

Double Pivot: A formation setup with two defensive midfielders positioned in front of the defense, offering stability and protection

Half-Spaces: The areas of the pitch between the central lane and the flanks, considered valuable for creating attacking opportunities due to less congestion.

Overload: A tactic where a team concentrates more players in a specific area of the pitch to create a numerical advantage, often to exploit space elsewhere.

Vertical Tiki-Taka: A variation of Tiki-Taka that emphasizes quicker vertical passes to advance the ball forward more rapidly while maintaining possession.

Low Block: A defensive strategy where a team sets up in a compact formation near their own goal, focusing on denying space and opportunities to the opposition.

Soccer Training and Drills Glossary Terms

Cone Drills: Exercises that involve navigating around cones set up in various patterns to improve agility, speed, and ball control. Great for younger players to work on ball control.

Plyometrics: A type of exercise designed to produce fast, powerful movements, often used to improve performance in sports that require speed, strength, and agility.

Interval Training: A form of training consisting of alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest or low-intensity activity.

Passing Circles: A training drill where players form a circle and practice passing the ball to each other, often with variations to improve accuracy and speed of play.

Dribbling Courses: Setups with obstacles where players practice dribbling skills, enhancing control, maneuverability, and close ball handling.

Small-Sided Games: Reduced-size soccer games, often played on smaller fields and with fewer players, to focus on specific tactical or technical aspects.

Agility Ladder: A piece of equipment laid on the ground consisting of a series of squares in which players perform various footwork drills to improve foot speed and coordination.

Ball Control Exercises: Drills focused on improving a player’s ability to control the ball, including receiving passes, dribbling, and maintaining possession under pressure.

Aerobic Conditioning: Training that improves endurance and cardiovascular health, enabling players to maintain performance throughout the entire match.

Sprint Drills: Exercises focusing on increasing a player’s speed and explosive power, often through short bursts of high-intensity running.

Set-Piece Training: Practice sessions focused on executing and defending set-pieces such as corners, free kicks, and penalties.

Goalkeeping Drills: Specific exercises tailored to develop a goalkeeper’s skills, including shot-stopping, distribution, and positioning.

Position-Specific Training: Drills designed to develop the skills and tactics relevant to specific playing positions, such as strikers, midfielders, or defenders.

Shooting Drills: Exercises that focus on improving a player’s ability to shoot accurately and powerfully, often under different scenarios and angles.

Tackling Drills: Practice aimed at improving a player’s ability to effectively and safely dispossess opponents.

Defensive Shape: Training focused on organizing and maintaining a team’s defensive structure and cohesiveness.

Cross and Finish: Drills that combine crossing the ball from wide areas with finishing techniques, typically involving both attackers and defenders.

Warm-Up Exercises: Physical activities performed before a training session or match to prepare the body and reduce the risk of injury.

Recovery Sessions: Practices or activities performed after games or intense training to facilitate physical recovery and reduce muscle soreness.

Tactical Walkthroughs: Training sessions that focus on the tactical aspects of the game, often involving walking through positions, movements, and scenarios to improve understanding and execution of game plans.

Rondo: A training exercise involving a group of players passing the ball in a circle with one or two players in the middle trying to intercept it, focusing on possession and quick passing.

Wall Pass (Give and Go): A basic passing technique where a player passes the ball to a teammate and immediately moves forward to receive a return pass.

Coerver Coaching: A soccer coaching method emphasizing individual skill development and ball mastery, named after Dutch coach Wiel Coerver.

Dynamic Stretching: Stretching exercises that involve movement, often used in warm-ups to prepare muscles for physical activity and reduce injury risk.

Speed Ladder Drills: Exercises using a flat, horizontal ladder to improve agility, foot speed, and coordination through various footwork patterns.

Soccer Player Positions and Roles

Striker: A forward player primarily responsible for scoring goals. They usually play close to the opponent’s goal and are known for their finishing ability.

Winger: A player positioned on the sides of the field, usually tasked with delivering crosses, beating opponents with speed and skill, and assisting or scoring goals.

Center-Back: A defensive player who plays near the center of the field in front of the goalkeeper. They are primarily responsible for stopping opposition attacks and clearing the ball from the defensive zone.

Goalkeeper: The player who guards the goal and is the only player allowed to use their hands within the penalty area. They are responsible for stopping the opposition’s shots on goal.

Midfielder: A player who plays in the middle of the field, crucial for linking defense and attack. They assist in both defensive and offensive operations, controlling the flow of the game.

Full-Back: A defender positioned on the wide areas of the defense. Their main role is to prevent opposition wingers from advancing and to provide support in attack.

Attacking Midfielder: A midfielder positioned closer to the forward line, tasked with creating scoring opportunities for strikers through key passes and shots on goal.

Defensive Midfielder: A player positioned in front of the defense, responsible for breaking up opposition attacks, shielding the defenders, and maintaining possession.

Wing-Back: A player who combines the roles of a full-back and a winger, operating predominantly down the wings with responsibilities in both defense and attack.

Central Defender: Similar to a center-back, this player is positioned in the central areas of the defense and is key in stopping opposition attacks and organizing the defense.

Deep-Lying Forward: A forward who drops deeper into midfield rather than staying near the opposition’s goal line, facilitating play by linking up with midfielders and creating space.

Regista: A type of deep-lying playmaker in midfield, known for dictating the tempo of play with exceptional passing and vision.

False Full-Back: A full-back who moves into central midfield when their team is in possession, providing an extra passing option and facilitating ball circulation.

Sweeper: A defensive position, now less common, where the player plays behind the main line of defenders, ‘sweeping up’ any balls that get through.

Anchor Man: A defensive midfielder who primarily focuses on protecting the back line and rarely ventures forward into attack.

Shadow Striker: An attacking position, often behind the main striker, using pace and movement to exploit space and create scoring opportunities.

Inside Forward: A forward who starts wide but cuts inside towards goal, often looking to shoot or combine with the central striker.

Advanced Playmaker: A player who operates primarily in the attacking third, creating scoring opportunities with their skill, vision, and passing.

Ball-Winning Midfielder: A midfielder known for their ability to regain possession through tackles and interceptions, often with high work rate and physicality.

Trequartista: An attacking midfielder or second striker known for creativity and technique, often playing in a free role with less defensive responsibility.

Libero: An older term for a sweeper or central defender with the freedom to move forward into midfield and start attacks, typically used in systems without a flat backline.

Enganche: A traditional Argentine term for a playmaking midfielder (“number 10”), known for their creativity, vision, and ability to control the flow of the game.

False Full-Back: A full-back who moves into central midfield positions when their team is in possession, providing numerical superiority in midfield.

Poacher: A type of striker known for scoring goals from close range, typically relying on quick reactions and positioning rather than dribbling or long-range shots.

Utility Player: A versatile player capable of playing effectively in multiple positions, valuable for their adaptability.

Soccer Equipment and Gear – Definitions

Shin Guards: Protective equipment worn on the lower legs to prevent injury from tackles or collisions.

Cleats (Soccer Boots): Specialized footwear designed for soccer, with studs or blades on the sole to provide grip on the pitch.

Goalkeeper Gloves: Gloves worn by goalkeepers to provide grip and protection when catching or punching the ball.

Dri-Fit Jersey: A type of jersey made from moisture-wicking fabric to keep players dry and comfortable during play.

Soccer Socks: Long socks that cover the shin guards and provide support and comfort to the feet during the game.

Training Bibs: Lightweight vests used in training to distinguish between different teams or groups of players.

Soccer Ball: The spherical ball used in soccer games, typically made of leather or a synthetic material, and conforms to specified dimensions and weight.

Goal Nets: The nets attached to the back of the soccer goals, used to catch the ball when a goal is scored.

Referee Whistle: A whistle used by referees to start or stop play, signal fouls, or indicate other game events.

Corner Flags: Flags placed at the four corners of the soccer field, marking the corner area for corner kicks.

Water Bottles: Containers used by players to hydrate during training sessions and matches.

Medical Kit: A set of medical supplies for treating minor injuries during training or matches, including items like bandages, ice packs, and antiseptic.

Tactical Board: A board used by coaches to illustrate game strategies and player positions, often magnetic or dry-erase.

Ankle Supports: Wearable supports that provide additional stability to the ankles, helping to prevent injuries.

Compression Shorts: Tight-fitting shorts that provide muscle support and can help in increasing blood flow and reducing muscle fatigue.

Soccer Scarves: Scarves often worn by fans, displaying team colors and logos, as a show of support for their team.

Team Kit Bag: A large bag used to transport a team’s equipment and gear, including balls, cones, bibs, and medical supplies.

GPS Performance Trackers: Wearable devices that track a player’s movements, speed, and distance covered during training or matches.

Headbands: Bands worn around the head to keep hair and sweat away from the eyes during play.

Arm Sleeves: Sleeves worn on the arms for various reasons, including sun protection, temperature regulation, and compression for muscle support.

Astro Turf Boots: Shoes designed with a rubber-based sole for use on artificial turf surfaces, featuring shorter studs than traditional cleats.

Training Cones: Cone-shaped markers used to delineate areas, create obstacle courses, or mark drill stations during training.

Heart Rate Monitor: A device used to measure and record a player’s heart rate in real-time, helping in assessing their fitness level and exertion during training or matches.

Studs: The protrusions on the sole of soccer cleats, providing traction on the pitch. They can be fixed or detachable and vary in shape and material.

Captain’s Armband: A band worn on the arm of the team captain, signifying their leadership role on the field.

Soccer Match Analysis Terms

Possession Percentage: A statistic that shows the amount of time each team controls the ball during a match, usually expressed as a percentage.

Passing Accuracy: A metric that measures the percentage of a player’s or team’s passes that successfully reach their intended target.

xG (Expected Goals): A statistical measure that estimates the likelihood of a shot resulting in a goal based on factors like shot location, angle, and type of assist.

Player Heatmaps: Visual representations showing where on the pitch a player has been active during a match, highlighting their movement and positioning.

Pass Maps: Diagrams that illustrate the passing patterns and connections between players in a team during a match.

Performance Metrics: Quantitative data used to evaluate a player’s or team’s performance in various aspects of the game, such as distance covered, sprints, tackles, and more.

Shot Conversion Rate: A statistic that measures the efficiency of a player or team in scoring goals, calculated as the number of goals scored divided by the number of shots taken.

Defensive Duels Won: A metric tracking the number of successful one-on-one contests a player or team wins while defending.

Aerial Duels: The number of times a player or team successfully wins the ball in the air against an opponent.

Interceptions: A count of instances where a player successfully cuts out an opposition pass, gaining possession for their team.

Key Passes: Passes that directly lead to a shot at goal, indicating a player’s ability to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Dribble Success Rate: A statistic showing the percentage of a player’s attempted dribbles that are successful in evading an opponent.

Clean Sheets: A record of how many times a team has not conceded any goals in a match, often used as a measure of defensive effectiveness.

Expected Assists (xA): A metric that estimates the number of assists a player is expected to make based on the quality of their passes.

Pressing Intensity: A measure of how aggressively a team attempts to regain possession after losing the ball, often quantified by the number of high-intensity actions like sprints and tackles.

Ball Recoveries: The number of times a player or team gains possession of the ball after it has been lost or when it is loose.

Offside Calls: A count of how many times players have been flagged offside during a game.

Fouls Committed: The total number of fouls a player or team has been penalized for during a match.

Distribution Accuracy (Goalkeepers): A statistic that measures the accuracy of a goalkeeper’s throws and kicks in distributing the ball.

Second Ball Recoveries: Tracking instances where a player or team successfully gains possession after a ball has been contested or cleared, such as from a long pass or a clearance.

Zone 14: An area on the field just outside the opponent’s penalty box, deemed crucial for creating goal-scoring opportunities due to its central position.

Ball Progression: The manner in which a team moves the ball from defense to attack, often analyzed to assess a team’s effectiveness in transitioning from one phase to another.

Expected Points (xP): A metric that estimates the number of points a team is expected to earn from a match based on various performance indicators.

Defensive Third Entries: A count of how many times a team or player enters the opposition’s defensive third, indicating offensive pressure.

Final Third Passes: Passes made into or within the final third of the pitch, indicating a team’s ability to create attacking opportunities.

Soccer Coaching Techniques Definitions

Man-to-Man Coaching: A coaching style where the coach provides individualized attention and feedback to each player, focusing on their specific needs and development.

Video Analysis: The use of video recordings of matches or training sessions to analyze tactics, player movements, and overall team performance.

Team Talks: Meetings led by the coach, either before, during, or after a game, to motivate players, discuss tactics, and provide feedback.

Match Preparation: The process of preparing a team for upcoming matches through tactical planning, studying the opposition, and setting up specific training drills.

Mental Conditioning: Training and activities focused on improving players’ mental toughness, concentration, and overall psychological readiness for competition.

Tactical Board Sessions: The use of a tactical board or similar tools by coaches to visually explain strategies, formations, and player movements to the team.

Player Rotation Strategy: The method of systematically changing player lineups between games to manage fitness levels and give all squad members game time.

Set-Piece Planning: Designing specific plays or tactics to be used during corners, free kicks, and penalties to maximize scoring opportunities or defensive strength.

Opposition Analysis: The practice of analyzing upcoming opponents to understand their tactics, strengths, weaknesses, and key players.

Squad Management: The overall management of a team’s players, including decisions about player selection, substitutions, and handling player welfare.

Communication Skills: The ability of a coach to effectively convey ideas, strategies, and feedback to players and staff, both verbally and non-verbally.

Leadership Development: Coaching techniques aimed at fostering leadership qualities within certain players, particularly team captains or senior team members.

Fitness Monitoring: The practice of tracking and analyzing players’ physical condition, including endurance, strength, and injury risks.

Nutrition Planning: Developing and implementing dietary guidelines for players to ensure optimal nutrition for training and match performance.

Talent Scouting: The process of identifying and evaluating potential players for the team, often involving attending games and reviewing player performances.

Youth Development: Strategies and practices focused on nurturing young players, emphasizing skill development, tactical understanding, and physical growth.

Game Model Development: The creation of a tactical framework and playing philosophy that defines how a team intends to play in various situations.

Coach-Player Feedback: The exchange of constructive criticism and performance evaluations between coaches and players to aid in player development.

Injury Management: Techniques and practices to prevent, diagnose, and treat player injuries, ensuring a safe and speedy recovery.

Stress Management Techniques: Methods used to help players cope with the mental and emotional stress of competitive sports, including relaxation exercises and psychological support.

Periodization: The systematic planning of athletic training, dividing the year into phases with different objectives, such as building fitness, skill development, or competition preparation.

Psychological Profiling: The assessment of a player’s mental attributes, like personality, motivation, and stress levels, to tailor coaching and development strategies.

Biomechanical Analysis: The study and analysis of players’ movements and mechanics to improve performance efficiency and reduce the risk of injury.

Group Dynamics: The study and management of the behaviors and interactions within a team, important for fostering team cohesion and a positive environment.

Match Debriefing: The process of reviewing and analyzing a team’s performance post-match, focusing on what worked well and what areas need improvement.