The basics of soccer, aka football

Soccer, also known as football in most countries, is the most popular sport on Earth with over half of the world’s population considered as fans.

Before we get started, let’s go over some basic terminology. Soccer is called football in most of the world, but American football is called football in America, which is why football is also called soccer.

A soccer game, or “match”, is played on a field, or “pitch”. A soccer player wears a uniform, called a “kit”, with cleats, called “boots”. Bouncing the ball with any part of your body (except your hands) is called “juggling”, and controlling the ball with your feet while running is called “dribbling”. Now on to the game!


A soccer match is played in two halves of 45 minutes (90 minutes total) with a 15 minute break at half time. During the match, the clock never stops, so any play stoppages are added up by the referee and played as “added” time at the end of each half. Each team has 1 goalkeeper and 10 outfield players, who are defenders, mid-fielders, and forwards. A popular team formation is 4-4-2, or 4 defenders, 4 mid-fielders, and 2 forwards. The main way to move the ball is by “touching” or kicking it to a teammate, which is also known as passing. Players can also “head” or “chest” the ball when it’s in the air by hitting it with—you guessed it—their head or chest. If a player is caught touching the ball with any part of their hand or arm, “Handball” is called and the opposing team will be awarded possession of the ball or a free kick.

Soccer stadium


There is an 18 yard deep by 44 yard wide “penalty area” directly in front of each goal. Any penalty committed in this area is rewarded with a penalty kick. A penalty kick is also awarded if a player commits handball in their own penalty area, or brings down an attacker trying to score.


If the ball leaves the field, it is awarded to the team that did not touch it last. If it goes out from the side of the field, a “throw in” is awarded to the other team, where they simply throw the ball back into play from the sideline.

Corner kick

If a player touches the ball last and it goes out behind their own goal line, then a “corner kick” is awarded to the other team. A corner kick is when the opposing team kicks the ball into play from the corner near the goal they’re trying to score in.

Goal kick

If a player touches the ball last and it goes out behind the opponents goal line, then a “goal kick” is awarded to the other team. A goal kick is when one team kicks the ball from their goal side of the field to the other side of the field, to get the ball as far away from their goal as possible.

Free kick

In the event of a foul, the referee can award a “free kick” to the team who was fouled. A free kick is when the opposing team gets a free attempt at kicking the ball directly into the opposing teams goal.


Fouls usually lead to free kicks, but can also lead to a yellow card, which is a warning, or a red card, where the player is sent off the field. A player who receives two yellow cards during a match, which is the same as receiving one red card, will also be sent off the field. There are other types of fouls and penalties, such as “offsides”, where an attacking player steps beyond the last defender before the ball has been passed toward him—this is one of the more difficult-to-understand penalties, so we’ll just leave it at that for now.


Each time a player scores a goal, their team is awarded one point. The team with the most points when the time runs out, wins. There doesn’t have to be a winner, though, so if the score is tied when the time runs out, a draw is awarded to both teams. Winning a match will gain a team “3” points in their overall standings, while a draw will only gain them “1”.

Wrapping up

One of my favorite phone apps/websites for tracking everything soccer-related (leagues, teams, players, matches, scores, standings, news, and more) is FotMob. In the United States, my favorite apps/channels for watching soccer are ESPN (ESPN+) and FOX Sports (FOX Sports GO).

I’m still fairly new to soccer, so I’ll continue to update this post as I learn and understand more, but hopefully this gives you a basic understanding of how the most popular sport in the world works.


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