What is a Pick Up Soccer Game?

What is a Pick Up Soccer Game?

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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) and simply have fun.

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, 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 in 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.

Pickup Soccer Game Defined

pickup soccer game near meA pick up soccer game is great for all ages and encourages players to just play the game they are excited about without the pressure of coaches and parents. The beauty of a pick up game is that there are no skill-level limits, age restrictions and gender biases.

Pick up games in soccer usually happen when enough people can go to a public soccer field, sometimes on a whim and other times, planned. For instance, a group of friends who want to play soccer would agree to meet up at their local pitch, and if there are other people there who want to play, then they would have a pickup game.

Sometimes, there won’t even be enough people to make a full, 11-sided team. Playing with a smaller group even if it’s 5v5 match can be fun!

How to Find a Pickup Soccer Game Near Me

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 or emails 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.

Another option would be to join a local arena where they have set open gym times or pick up 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 much the same as that of regular soccer matches but there are no officials on the field.

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 the 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?

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 of 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 the careless defending.

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. 


I think youth soccer players should be playing more pickup soccer games especially in the offseason. The U.S. soccer scene would be better off for it.

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

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

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

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      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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