What is a Pick Up Soccer Game?

What is a Pick Up Soccer Game?

What is a pick up soccer game? A pick up soccer game is a casual game of soccer that is usually played with teammates, friends, and strangers in a park, school, or playground. 

A pick up soccer game is an excellent way to stay in shape, try creative moves (without repercussions from coaches), and simply have fun!

Pick up soccer game

In many cases, players who play for a soccer club don’t necessarily play with their local friends. A pick up soccer game is a great way to gather a bunch of friends in the same town to just kick the ball around.

In other cases, players can text their group soccer chats and get “competitive” games going.

Whatever the scenario may be, pick up games are very beneficial but often overlooked in the United States. In other parts of the world like Brazil, you’ll find pick up soccer games on every street corner.

As a parent, I wish for more pick up games in the neighborhoods. It gets kids off the couch and into a fun environment outdoors. It gets the kids laughing and smiling while they play a game they love.

In this article, I’ll explain exactly what a pick up game is (even though it’s pretty straightforward) and how it benefits our youth players.

What is Pick Up Soccer?

Pickup soccer games are often organized informally by groups of friends or acquaintances and can take place in a variety of settings, such as parks, beaches, or indoor facilities.

One of the defining features of pickup soccer is its inclusivity – players of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds are typically welcome to join in, and there are often no formal rules or requirements for participation.

Pickup soccer games can be a fun and low-pressure way for players to practice their skills, get exercise, and socialize with others who share their love of the sport.

While pickup soccer games are typically less structured than formal games, there are still some basic rules and guidelines that players should follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. These might include respecting other players, avoiding dangerous tackles or plays, and taking turns on the field to ensure that everyone gets a chance to play.

Sometimes, there won’t even be enough people to make a full, 11-sided team. Playing with a smaller group even if it’s a 3v3 match can be fun also!

How to Find a Pickup Soccer Game Near You

what to wear to soccer practice

Depending on where you are and who you know, finding a pick up soccer game can be challenging.

The ideal situation would be to have a network of friends and acquaintances that have each other’s phone numbers to reach out to in order to get a game scheduled. In this case, all it takes is one person to establish a time and place. If you are not sure who should be responsible for this then I encourage you to just take it on!

If you are either new to an area or don’t have a circle of friends then you may want to consider joining a meetup group or Facebook group specifically for soccer pickup games in your area. They are out there, you just need to be proactive.

Another option would be to join a local soccer arena where they sometimes have set open gym times or casual games going on. Although it’s usually not free, these games are very casual and can be a fun way to burn off calories and meet new friends.

What are the Rules of Pickup Soccer Games?

The rules of pickup soccer games are pretty relaxed but you want to avoid having no rules. Games, where anything goes, can get really sloppy and can cause injuries as a result of no structure.

Here are the unwritten rules that players are expected to abide by when playing pickup games.

The Players are Their Own Referees

Unless someone wants to be, pickup soccer games will not have anyone officiating.

This means the players themselves will be officiating each other. This is a good test of a person’s patience and honesty. But, on some occasions, it can get dicey.

More so at older ages, pickup soccer games can get quite heated and when there is no one officiating the players, arguments will usually break out.

Easier said than done but players will need to default to “just having fun”.

Players will need to work out certain calls themselves should there be a disagreement.

The Rules Should Not be Strictly Enforced

When you are playing a pickup game of soccer, you should not be too much of a stickler for the rules.

For example, if a player bumps you a little, let it go. Don’t be that guy or gal that calls a free kick.

Also, establish general rules such as offsides at the beginning of the play.

Pickup games should be fluid and not so much of a stop-and-play type of environment.

Flops are Not Appreciated

Flopping and acting hurt to get a call is sadly a common occurrence in most professional soccer matches but this sort of thing will not fly in a pickup game.

For one thing, there are no referees that you need to fool into believing that you are actually hurt.

Another thing, everyone remembers a flopper in pickup games. Avoid this so that you get the invite for the next set of games.

Are There Drawbacks to Pickup Games?

Pickup soccer in California

If you are a budding soccer player who wants to get as much actual practice as possible, joining pickup games is great for additional training.

However, even though you are getting a lot of exercise and practice, there are also some drawbacks to playing pickup games instead of officiated games.

Here are some of those issues that could arise :

You May Pick Up Bad Habits

Because of the casual environment and no referees, making the better play is sometimes an afterthought.

For example, instead of laying it off to a teammate for a 1-2, you may want to showcase your dribbling skills by trying to beat three defenders only to get it stolen. A coach wouldn’t encourage this type of play on his or her team and you might get yanked for it.

It’s best to play like you’d play in a regular season soccer game so you only accelerate your game.

You Might Get Injured

Honestly, many coaches in the U.S. will discourage players from playing pick up because of injury. Due to the casual play, players may be more prone to injury.

You’ll see more injuries if there’s a wider gap in experience and skills on the field. A soccer player who just started playing may not understand the proper way to make a tackle. The experienced soccer player may fall victim to careless defending.

My son played a lot of pickup back in the day and he would always come back with bumps and bruises. But, I think it made him tougher. He realized that the playground game can be more physical than an officiated game.

But, honestly, a player can get hurt walking up a flight of stairs so I wouldn’t worry about the risk of injury if it means you’re avoiding playing something that you love. 

Final Thoughts

I think youth soccer players should be playing more pickup soccer games, especially in the offseason. The entire U.S. soccer scene would be better off for it. It just takes that one person to organize it for the rest of the kids.

In an environment where pay-to-play is out the window, players can play without external pressures and this can be very beneficial to the young athlete.

If you are reading this and have a network of friends, try to set something up with them. Naturally, if there are others there, they will want to play too. 

Remember, don’t take these games too seriously, and HAVE FUN!

Common Questions

What are pick up games in soccer?

Pick up games in soccer are casual matches at a playground or field with friends, teammates, acquaintances, and family.

Why is it called pick up soccer?

Pick up soccer is called “pick up” because it is typically played spontaneously, with players being “picked up” to play on the spot without any prior planning or organization.

Can I play pick up soccer if I don’t have any friends?

Yes, you play pick up soccer if you don’t know anyone that plays. There are resources through school and local clubs that will offer pick up soccer. Or, you can go to a local park and ask to join in on a game.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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