Soccer Terms

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Sometimes for players and parents (especially) the soccer terms can be confusing. For this reason, we’ve compiled the common words and paired them with simple-to-understand definitions.


Advantage: On some occasions, a referee will NOT call a foul if it hurts the non-offending team. The ref will let the teams play on.

Assist: When a player passes the soccer ball to a teammate who then subsequently scores. The player who passed it gets an assist.

Attacker: Anyone who is in possession of the soccer ball and trying to make a play down field.


Bar Down: When the soccer ball hits the underside of the crossbar but still goes in the goal.

Boom Ball: A long distance kick w/ no intent except to get the ball on the opposing team’s side of the field.

Brace: When a player scores two goals in a single soccer match.


Cap: When a soccer player plays a match for his or her country. Read more about a cap in soccer.

Clean Sheet: When the defensive side and goalie don’t let any goals in, it’s considered a clean sheet (or shoutout).

Cleats: Footwear specialized for soccer players with studs that allow for better traction on the field.

Corner Flag: The flags located at each of the four corners of the field.

Corner Kick: When the ball goes over the end line and is last touched by the defending team. Corner kicks are considered “direct kicks” and can be scored with or without another player touching it first.

Counter Attack: An offensive attack launched by a defending team after it regains possession of the soccer ball.

Cross: When a pass is kicked across from the sides of the field to another offensive player.

Crossbar: The top horizontal part of the goal that connects the two side posts.


Defender: A player in a team’s formation who is responsible for preventing the other team from scoring.

Direct Kick: Wherever placed, the ball can be scored without any other player touching the ball first.

Draw: When a game ends in a tie.

Drop Kick: Also known as a half-volley, a drop kick is when a goalie drops the ball from their hands and kicks it immediately after the ball touches the ground.

Dummy: When a player steps over the ball and lets the soccer roll pas them to a teammate.


End Line: The line that extends from the goal line to the corners of the field.


Fixture: A scheduled match.

Flop: When a player fakes being fouled in order to get awarded a free kick.

Forward: A position on a team whose primary responsibility is to move the ball down the field to score.

Formation: The position on the field that the players take in relation to each other on a pitch.

Foul: A stop in play when the referee judges a violation against an opposing player.

Free Kick: When a team is awarded a kick because a foul was committed by the opposing team.

Fullback: The defensive position that is lined up behind the midfielders.


Goal: When the entire (!) ball crosses the goal line and a point is awarded.

Goal Area: Also known as the ‘six-yard box’, and limits where the soccer ball can be placed in order to take a goal kick.

Goal Kick: A free kick that is awarded to the defending team when the offensive team touched it last before it crossed the end line.

Goalie: Also known as a goalkeeper and keeper, the main objective of this player is to keep the ball out of the net. They are the only player on the pitch that can use their hands (if the ball is inside the penalty area).

Goal Posts: The two vertical poles that support and attach to the crossbar.

Golazo: A Spanish word that means  a spectacular goal.


Hand Ball: When a player illegally touches that ball with his or her hand or arm.

Hat Trick: When a player scores three goals in a single soccer match.

Header: When a player strikes the soccer ball with their head. In most leagues, heading isn’t legal until the age of 11 to avoid possible concussions at the younger levels.


Indirect Kick: Wherever placed, the ball must be touched by a player first before it can be scored.



Kickoff: Started directly in the middle of the field, kickoffs happen at the beginning of each half.


Linesman: Also known as an assistant referee (AR), is the official who positions himself or herself on the sidelines.


Match: A competitive soccer game with two equal halves. Americans often call a ‘match’ a ‘soccer game’.

Midfielder: A position on the field between the defenders and forwards. They often have both defensive and offensive duties.


Nil: When a team fails to score a goal and they have 0 points on the scoreboard.

Nutmeg: Also known as a meg, is when a player dribbles or kicks the ball through someone else’s legs.


Offsides: When an offensive player receives the ball and is closer to the opponent’s goal than the last defender (excluding the goalkeeper).

Own Goal: When a player scores a goal in the net they are defending.


Penalty Kick (PK): A free direct kick from a spot 12 yards away from the front of the goal.

Penalty Shootout: Used to determine the winner of a match if the teams are tied after regulation and overtime. Typically, each team is allotted five penalty kicks (PKs). Each player can only shoot once and it will continue going until a winner is determined.



Red Card: A disqualification from the soccer game from the result of a dangerous play or abusive language towards a referee.


Save: When a goalkeeper prevents the ball from entering the goal.

Set Piece: A play specifically designed for when there is a free kick or corner kick.

Shot: A shot is any attempt to score by the offensive team.

Shot On Goal: A shot that results in a goalkeeper or player saving it.

Striker: Often known as a forward, their primary goal is to score or put their team in the best position to score.

Stoppage Time: Also known as ‘added time’, is when the referee adds additional time to the end of the half or game because play was stopped during the game due to injuries.

Sweeper: In some formations, a single defender that plays between the keeper and other defenders.


Throw In: An overhead throw by a player who’s opposition touched it last and went out of bounds on the sidelines.

Tackle: When a defensive player stops the opposing team from progressing down the field with the soccer ball.

Touchline: The lines along the longer side of the field. When it crosses completely over the touchline, the ball must be thrown in.


Underlap – When a player runs on the inside of a teammate who has the ball, creating space for the teammate to pass the ball.


Volley: When a player kicks the ball in the air before it hits the ground.


Wall: When a group of players line up shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the goal on a free kick.



Yellow Card: When a referee presents a card in order to caution a player for unsportsmanlike conduct, repeated infringement or something similar.


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