Saturday, 20 Apr 2024

A Beginner’s Guide to Soccer: Understanding the Beautiful Game

things to know about soccer for beginners

Hey there, eager to kick-start your soccer journey? Whether you’re new to the game or want to gain a deeper understanding, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of soccer, from the unique terminology to the field dimensions, game duration, player positions, and even the thrilling world of professional leagues and international competitions. So grab your favorite jersey, lace up your boots, and let’s dive into the exciting world of soccer!

The Basics of Soccer

Since soccer is a global sport, it has its own unique language that might be unfamiliar to some. For instance, in England, they call uniforms ‘kits’ and cleats ‘boots’. But don’t worry, we’ll break down all those terms and more, making soccer easy to understand for everyone.

Now, here’s an interesting fact: soccer, rugby, and American football all evolved from the same game. They’re essentially different codes on how to play it. In fact, even the national governing body of soccer in the US, once had ‘football’ in its official name. The term ‘soccer’ became more common in England only in the 1970s to avoid confusion.

To get started, let’s explore the rules of the game. Unlike other sports where rules change frequently, soccer is quite conservative. The rules, known as ‘The Laws’, can only be changed through a meeting of representatives from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This makes the rules straightforward and changes rare. You can find a copy of the Laws of the Game from FIFA, the international governing body for soccer.

The Soccer Field

Similar to baseball, there are no fixed field dimensions in soccer. Instead, there are minimum and maximum requirements, allowing for flexibility. The length of the field must be between 100 and 130 yards, and the width between 50 and 100 yards. However, for top-tier international games, the dimensions are more precise, ranging from 110 to 120 yards in length and 70 to 80 yards in width.

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Notably, the goal measures 8 feet in height and 8 yards in width. Additionally, the six-yard box, located immediately in front of the goal, and the 18-yard box must adhere to specific dimensions. While NFL and college football stadiums can usually accommodate a regulation soccer field, modern NFL stadiums are built with soccer in mind as hosting soccer games is highly lucrative.

The Clock

A standard soccer game lasts 90 minutes, divided into two halves of 45 minutes each. However, unlike most other sports, the referee adds stoppage time at the end of each half to compensate for pauses in play. This stoppage time is not exact and varies based on the referee’s discretion. Therefore, a typical 90-minute game often lasts around 94 minutes or longer.

The Referee

During a game, there is usually one referee on the field who controls the flow of the game. The referee holds the power to administer penalties through yellow and red cards. A yellow card serves as a warning for breaking the rules, while a red card signifies a serious offense, resulting in the player being permanently sent off the field. When a player receives two yellow cards, they also receive a red card. In such situations, the team is left with 10 players, hence the term ‘playing a man down’. If a foul occurs inside the 18-yard box, the referee may award a penalty kick to the fouled team. This allows an opportunity to shoot directly at the goalkeeper from the penalty spot, which is 12 yards away from the center of the goal line.

The Ball

Soccer balls come in various sizes. Younger players typically use a size 3 ball, which increases to size 4 as they grow older, and ultimately, the regulation adult size 5 ball. Gone are the days of leather balls with laces; modern soccer balls feature a plastic covering, making them lightweight and suitable for play, even in wet conditions.

The Positions

Soccer is broadly divided into four positions, namely goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. At the professional level, each team consists of 11 players, with three substitutes allowed. Once a player is substituted, they cannot return to the game.

  • Goalkeeper: The goalkeeper, or goalie, is the only player permitted to use their hands when the ball is in play. Their role is to prevent the opposing team from scoring by stopping the ball from crossing the goal line. However, goalkeepers can only use their hands within the 18-yard box and must rely on their entire body to make saves.

  • Defender: In a basic soccer formation, such as 4-4-2, the first number refers to the number of defenders. Defenders are responsible for protecting the goal and maintaining a strong defensive line. However, the number of defenders can vary, depending on the coach’s tactics and strategy.

  • Midfielder: Midfielders play a crucial role in linking the defenders with the forwards. They are responsible for both offensive and defensive duties, ensuring the smooth flow of play. Unlike American football, soccer positions are fluid, allowing midfielders to contribute defensively and defenders to participate in attacks.

  • Forward: The forwards are the primary goal scorers in a team. Their main objective is to put the ball into the opponent’s goal. Soccer formations are designed to provide support to forwards and create scoring opportunities for them.

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Clubs and Countries

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how the game is played, let’s explore the exciting world of professional soccer. Unlike most sports, soccer has leagues in different countries all around the world. Generally, FIFA rules require leagues to be within a single country, but there are exceptions. For example, Major League Soccer (MLS) is allowed to have teams in the USA and Canada, while English clubs can include Welsh clubs.

There isn’t a single dominant league worldwide, as top players are spread across different countries. The English Premier League is often regarded as one of the best, but Spain, Italy, and Germany also boast strong leagues. However, to determine the top club in Europe, we look to the Champions League, the highest level of club competition organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). FIFA also stages the Club World Cup, where the champions from each continent compete for the title of the world’s best club.

Besides club competitions, there are international tournaments that showcase national teams. The most prestigious of them all is the FIFA World Cup, held every four years, and featuring teams from around the globe. Each national team consists of players who hold citizenship in the country they represent. Hosting the World Cup is a highly sought-after opportunity, similar to the Olympics. In 2026, the United States, Mexico, and Canada will jointly host the World Cup, which will expand to include 48 teams.


Q: What are the dimensions of a soccer field?
A: The length of a soccer field can range from 100 to 130 yards, and the width from 50 to 100 yards. For top-tier international games, the dimensions are more precise, with a length of 110 to 120 yards and a width of 70 to 80 yards.

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Q: How long does a soccer game last?
A: A standard soccer game consists of two halves of 45 minutes each, totaling 90 minutes. However, the referee adds stoppage time at the end of each half to account for pauses in play, so the actual duration may be longer.

Q: How many players are there in a soccer team?
A: A soccer team consists of 11 players, including a goalkeeper. In addition, teams are allowed three substitutes, but once a player is substituted, they cannot return to the game.

Q: What is the role of a midfielder in soccer?
A: Midfielders play a vital role in linking the defense with the forwards. They are responsible for both defensive and offensive duties, maintaining possession, distributing passes, and contributing to the flow of play.


Soccer is a beautiful game that unites people from all walks of life, transcending borders and cultures. In this beginner’s guide, we’ve covered the basics, from understanding the unique terminology to grasping the positions and the thrill of professional leagues and international tournaments. As you embark on your soccer journey, remember to enjoy the game, appreciate the skill and passion of the players, and embrace the camaraderie that soccer fosters. So, whether you’re playing on a field, cheering from the stands, or analyzing the game from your couch, let the spirit of soccer captivate you.