Soccer / Football Glossary


12th man – A term used to refer to the effect the crowd has on a match.


Advantage – See “Advantage Rule”

Advantage Rule – The ability of the referee to let play continue if it is advantageous to the team that has been fouled.

Assist – The pass that precedes a shot that scores a goal.

Attacker – Any player who is moving forward with the ball.

Attacking midfielder – A midfield player who has an attacking mindset, routinely distributes the ball to the forwards, and takes shots.

Attacking team – The team that is moving towards the opponent’s goal.

AYSO – American Youth Soccer Organization.


Back – A defender.

Back header – A header that’s trajectory is towards one’s own goal as opposed to the opponent’s goal.

Ball carrier – The player with possession of the ball.

Behind the defender – When an attacking player has slipped past the last line of defense and has a clear path to goal.

Bicycle kick – When a player jumps in the air and brings his feet over his head in order to strike the ball.

Boots – Soccer cleats.

Break – A swift counterattack.

Breakaway – When a player is alone with only the opposing goalkeeper between him and the goal.

Bundesliga – The top-flight professional division in Germany.


Cap – A cap is a tally given when a player plays in a game either in a league or for their international team.

Carrying the ball – The act of moving the ball forward.

Caution – A warning from the referee. A caution can also be used to refer to a yellow card.

Center – The act of sending the ball to the middle of the field from the wings.

Center circle – The circle, 10 meters in radius, that surrounds the center spot.

Center line – The line that divides the two halves of the field.

Center spot – The spot at the very center of the field where kick-offs take place.

Central defender – The defender who plays along the back line between the right and left defenders.

Charge – To obstruct someone and draw a foul.

Chest trap – To receive the ball on one’s chest and absorb its force to gain control.

Chip pass – A pass that is lofted in the air by getting under the ball, as opposed to striking it with greater force, in order to get it to a teammate.

Chip shot – A shot that is lofted in the air in order to play it over the keeper.

Clear – The act of sending the ball out of one’s defensive zone.

Cleats – The boots or shoes worn by soccer players. They are traditionally made out of leather or synthetic materials and have studs underneath for traction.

Club – An organization built around a soccer team.

CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.

Consolation match – The match that is traditionally played in a tournament in order to determine third place.

Corner arc – The 90-degree quarter circle that is marked in each of the four corners of the field. This is used to determine where the player taking the corner kick is allowed to place the ball on the ground.

Corner flag – A flag that is used as a tool for the players and referees to determine where the four corners of the field are.

Corner kick – A free kick that is given to the attacking team when the defensive team plays the ball over its goal line. Corner kicks are taken from the four corners of the field and may be placed only in the confines of the corner arc.

Counterattack – A brisk attack that typically occurs directly after the opposing team is out of position and has committed its players forward.

Creating space – The act of opening up the field to spread players out and make passes flow more efficiently.

Cross – A pass that comes from the wings into the center of the field.

Crossbar – The horizontal bar running across the top of the face of the goals.

Crossing pass – A pass that comes from the wings into the center of the field.

Cut down the angle – The defensive act of putting oneself between the attacking player and one’s goal.

Cut off – To intercept a pass before it reaches its designated target.


Dangerous play – When a player needlessly puts himself or his opponent in imminent danger.

Defenders – The last line of players before the goalkeeper.

Defending team – The team that is being attacked.

Defense – The act of trying to stop one’s opponent from scoring goals.

Defensemen – A player on the back line who tries to stop the opponent from scoring.

Defensive midfielder – A midfielder who tends to hang back and try to stop opposing players from scoring.

Defensive pressure – The act of swarming or befuddling the opposition’s attacking players so that they are unable to score.

Deflection – When a shot or pass is inadvertently struck by a player along its designated path.

Direct free kick – A free kick that may be shot directly at the goal by the player taking it.

Diving header – A header that requires a player to dive in order to strike it.

Draw – A game that ends in a tie.

Dribbling – The act of maintaining possession while playing the ball with one’s feet.

Drop ball – An act performed by the referee to restart play after an injury stoppage.

Drop kick – A kick taken by the goalkeeper after he has successfully secured the ball with his hands.


Endline – The goal line.

English Premier League – The top flight of professional play in England.

European Cup – The tournament held every four years to determine the International champions of Europe.


F.A. – Football Association of England.

Fake – A feint or juke with the ball in order to advance past an opposing player.

Far post – The goal post that is furthest from the attacking player.

Field – The pitch or turf on which a game is played.

FIFA – International Football Federation Association.

FIFA World Cup – The International tournament held every four years by FIFA. The World Cup is the world’s most popular sporting event.

Flick – A subtle pass or shot that is effectively played without the use of tremendous force or striking power.

Foot trap – Securing the ball with one’s foot in order to maintain possession.

Football – The spherical object used to play soccer.

Formation – The organization of players on the field.

Forward line – The front line of attacking players in the formation.

Forward pass – A pass that is sent in the direction of the opponent’s goal.

Forwards – The attacking players at the top of the formation.

Foul – An infraction determined by the referee.

Free kick – A kick that is awarded by the referee when the opposing team commits a foul or a hand ball.

Front header – A header that moves in the direction of the opponent’s goal.

Fullbacks – Defenders.


Goal – The metal frame and net that each team must defend. It is also used to refer to the act of scoring the ball in the opponent’s net.

Goal area – The six-yard box that determines the area in which the ball may be placed in order to take a goal kick.

Goal kick – If the attacking team plays the ball over the defending team’s goal line, the defending team is awarded a goal kick.

Goal line – The line that extends along the back of each end of the field, and where the mouth of the goal rests.

Goalkeeper – The defender of the goal. He is the only player on the field who is allowed to use his hands. He is also routinely the orchestrator of the defense.

Goalmouth – The side of the goal that faces the field.

Goalposts – The two vertical posts on either side of the goal.


Hacking – To deliberately swipe at your opponent’s feet in order to injure him or force him to lose control of the ball.

Halfback – A midfielder.

Halftime – The 15-minute intermission between halves. Its start and stop are determined by the referee.

Hand ball – Illegally touching the ball with one’s hands.

Hat trick – The act of scoring three goals in one game.

Header – The act of striking the ball with one’s head.


IFAB – International Football Association Board.

In bounds – Anything that is within the confines (or boundaries) of the field.

In play – A ball that is within the confines of the field. It can also mean a ball that is “live,” as opposed to during a stoppage in play when the ball is “dead.”

Indirect free kick – A free kick that must be touched by an attacking player – other than the one taking the kick – before it enters the opponent’s goal.

Injury time – A period of time, beyond the regulation 90 minutes, that is added on at the determination of the referee.

Intermission – See “Halftime”


Juggling – The act of playing the ball in the air with one’s feet without letting it touch the ground.


Kickoff – This signals the beginning of the match and is determined by a coin toss. Kickoffs are also used to restart the match after a goal is scored.


La Liga – The top flight of professional play in Spain.

Laws of the Game – The Laws of the game were established in 1863 and are maintained by IFAB.

Lead pass – A pass that is sent to open space in anticipation of where the receiving player is moving.

League – An organization of teams that compete against each other.

Linesman – The referee’s assistant who is responsible for calling fouls, offside, and out-of-bounds plays.

Lob – A lofted pass.


Man-to-Man – A defensive scheme that matches each defender against an opposing player, as opposed to covering zones.

Marking – The act of defending an opposing player.

Match – A game pitting two teams against each other.

Midfield – The central area of the field.

Midfield anchor – The central midfielder who is responsible for dictating the pace and distribution of the ball.

Midfield line – The chalked line separating the two halves of the field.

Midfielders – The line of players who dictate play at the center of the field.

Mismatch – When the strengths of one team or player outweighs that of the opponent’s.

MLS – Major League Soccer.


National team – The team that represents a country in international competition.

NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Near post – The post that is closest to the attacking player in possession of the ball.

Net – The woven mesh at the back of the goal.


Obstruction – To prevent the movement of an opposing player.

Offense – The attacking element of the team whose duty it is to score goals.

Offensive player – A player who is charged with scoring goals.

Offensive team – A team that plays an aggressive style.

Officials – The referees.

Offside – When an offensive player receives the ball and is behind the second to last opposing defender.

Offside position – When an offensive player is in a position on the field behind the second to last opposing defender.

On defense – When a team is forced to surrender its offensive attack in order to repel its opponent’s attack.

On offense – When a team presses forward and commits to attacking the opponent’s goal.

Onside – When an offensive player receives the ball and is parallel or in front of the second to last opposing defender.

Open – When a player is unmarked.

Out of bounds – When a ball is out of the field of play.

Out of play – See “Out of Bounds”

Outlet pass – A pass that moves the ball out of a central zone to the wings.

Overlap – When a player makes a forward pass and then advances down the field beyond the receiving player.

Overtime – When a game’s outcome cannot be determined during a full 90-minute game, an overtime period is added so that a winner can be determined.


Passing – The act of sending the ball to a teammate.

Penalty – A foul or infraction that merits either a free kick, yellow card, or red card, at the referee’s discretion.

Penalty arc – The half circle at the top of the penalty area which players are not allowed to enter while a penalty kick is being taken. Once the shot has been taken, players may immediately advance into the penalty arc.

Penalty area – The 18-yard box that determines where the goalkeeper is allowed to make a play on the ball with his hands. It is also used to determine a penalty shot/kick if a foul is committed by the defending team.

Penalty kick – A penalty kick is awarded when an attacking player is fouled on a scoring opportunity inside the penalty area, or if a defensive player commits a handball in the penalty area.

Penalty shot – See “Penalty Kick”

Penalty spot – A mark made on the field 12 yards from the center of the goal posts. This spot is used if a penalty shot is awarded.

Penetrate – To advance into the opposing team’s defensive zone.

Periods – Another name for the 45-minute halves that make up a game or match.

Pitch – The field of play.

Play – Any sequence of actions happening on the field.

Play on – The referee will make this call if he determines that it is advantageous to the team in possession of the ball that has been fouled.

Playoff – A playoff is used to determine a winner when there is a tie in points in a league table or international tournament.

Points – Numbers used to determine a team’s standing in their league. Generally speaking, a team is awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss. Teams are also penalized points for rare instances like match fixing.

Possession – The act of maintaining the ball amongst one’s team.

Post – The two vertical bars that run along the sides of the goal.

Professional foul – A foul that is committed intentionally, in order to slow the advance of the opposing team.


Qualifying draw – The matching of teams preceding entrance into a large tournament. Teams that go on to the World Cup finals must first go through qualifying draws in their respective regions.

Qualifying match – A match played to determine what team(s) will advance to a tournament.


Receiver – The player who is passed to.

Red card – A penalty given out by the referee for dirty fouls, dissent, or varying other offenses. A player who receives a red card must leave the field for the remainder of the game, and his team must also play a man down.

Referee – The overseer of the match who is responsible for all officiating duties.

Regular season – The regular match fixtures of a league.

Regulation game – A standard 90-minute game.

Round – A series of games that take place in a tournament. Generally, winners or point leaders advance, while losers are eliminated.

Rugby – A sport which was originally played under the name football, but later split with soccer to become its own sport. The primary reason for the split was a disagreement over the use of the hands to advance the ball.


Save – When a player prevents the ball from going into his own net.

Score – A goal; or the final result of a match.

Scorers – The players who put the ball in the net.

Scoring opportunity – A chance to score a goal.

Screening – Obstructing an opposing player from the ball.

Serie A – The top flight of professional play in Italy.

Set play – A play that is scripted or designed in advance of it playing out on the field.

Shielding – Obstructing an opposing player from the ball.

Shinguards – Protective devices worn under the socks on the shins.

Shooting – The act of striking the ball with one’s foot.

Shorthanded – Playing a match with fewer players than one’s opponent.

Shot – An attempt to get the ball in the net with one’s foot.

Shoulder charge – Ramming into an opposing player with one’s shoulder.

Shutout – A match in which a team does not concede any goals.

Sideline – The area outside the field along the touchlines.

Single elimination – A tournament in which a single loss will see a team ousted.

Sliding tackle – An attempt to secure the ball from an opponent by sliding.

Small-sided game – A match played with fewer than the typical 11 players to a side.

Square pass – A pass that is sent to a teammate who is parallel to the ball carrier.

Starter – A player who begins the match on the field.

Steal – Securing the ball away from an opposing player.

Stopper – The central defender who usually matches up with the opposing team’s best attacker.

Striker – A forward.

Substitution – The removal of one player for another. Substitutions can be made at the referee’s discretion.

Sudden death – A type of overtime in which the first team to score wins the match.

Sweeper – The defender who plays closest to his goal, and is responsible for marking any opposing player who slips past the line of defenders.


Tackling – Attempting to dispossess one’s opponent with the feet.

The draw – The seeding or matching of teams that is routinely done before big tournaments.

Thigh trap – Controlling the ball with one’s thigh.

Through pass – A pass that splits a pair of opposing players and advances the receiving player towards the opponent’s goal.

Throw-in – A restart of the match where the possessing team is allowed to throw the ball in from the touchline.

Tie Game – A match that ends in a draw or even score.

Tiebreaker – When a match or league cannot end in a draw, a tiebreaker is used to determine the winner.

Timekeeper – The official responsible for keeping track of the time of the match.

Timeout – A stop in match play.

Touchline – The long sidelines of the field that are perpendicular to the goal line.

Trailing – Supporting a teammate from behind.

Trap – Securing possession of the ball.

Turnover – Losing possession of the ball.

Two-way midfielder – A midfielder whose presence on the offensive and defensive side is equally efficient.


Unsportsmanlike conduct – Actions that are not condoned by the Laws of the Game.

USSF – United States Soccer Federation.

USYSA – United States Youth Soccer Association


Venue – The place where a match is held.

Volley – When the ball is struck before it hits the ground.


Wall – A defensive line of players used to obstruct an opposing player’s shot on goal during a free kick.

Wall Pass – When a player passes to a teammate to avoid an opposing defender, and then advances up the field to have the ball returned to him.

Wingers – Offensive players who roam on the sides of the field as opposed to the center.

World Cup – The International tournament held every four years by FIFA.


Yellow card – A warning or caution from the referee. If a player receives two yellow cards in the same match, the referee is obligated to also give him a red card ejection.


Zone – A figurative area on the field.

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