Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

Soccer Positions Explained: A Complete Guide

Sport is constantly evolving, and soccer is no exception. Coaches, tacticians, and players are always looking for new ways to gain an edge over their rivals. One way teams seek to gain advantages is by experimenting with different formations and tactical systems. From the popular 4-4-2 to the more attacking 3-4-3, soccer formations require players to have a strong understanding of the various positions on the pitch.

How Many Soccer Positions Are There?

In a soccer game, each team has 11 positions, occupying four main areas: Goalkeeper, Defense, Midfield, and Attack. The specific positions may vary depending on the formation, but in a traditional 4-4-2, they typically include:

  1. Goalkeeper
  2. Right Fullback
  3. Left Fullback
  4. Center back
  5. Center back
  6. Center Midfielder
  7. Center Midfielder
  8. Right Midfield/Wing
  9. Forward
  10. Forward
  11. Left Midfield/Wing

These positions are generally broken down into three main areas: Defense, Midfield, and Attack.

What Are The Positions In Soccer?

In this article, we will guide you through the most important soccer positions and their roles. Get ready to learn about the vital role each position plays, the key duties and responsibilities associated with each position, and a few examples of well-known players who embody these positions.


Let’s start with the last line of defense, the goalkeeper. Goalkeepers have a unique role and specific set of skills that separate them from outfield players. Their main job is to stop the opposition from scoring and keep a clean sheet. Key skills of a goalkeeper include catching, shot-stopping, organization, kicking, footwork, and reflexes.

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Center-backs are central defenders primarily tasked with stopping opponents from scoring and winning the ball in defensive areas. Their key skills include positional discipline, aerial ability, tackling, passing, and leadership. Center-backs can also be referred to as central defenders, center-halves, or stoppers.


Full-backs come in two types: left-back and right-back. They are wider defenders who sit on either side of the central defenders. Full-backs perform defensive roles but are also expected to provide offensive support. Their key skills include speed, stamina, positional awareness, and 1v1 defending. Depending on the formation, full-backs may be referred to as wing-backs.


Center-midfielders play a vital role in connecting defense with attack. There are several types of center-midfielders such as defensive midfielders (CDMs), center attacking midfielders (CAMs), and box-to-box midfielders. Their key skills include passing ability, ball control, dribbling, tackling, shielding, and energy & fitness.

Wide Midfielder

Wide midfielders, also known as left or right midfielders, play attacking roles and focus on linking up with forwards, creating chances, and scoring goals. Their key skills include technical ability, speed, positional awareness, and shooting ability. Depending on the formation, wide midfielders may be referred to as wingers.


The forwards are responsible for scoring goals. They come in various positions, such as tall target men, false nines, or inverted wide forwards. Key skills include shooting ability, composure, technical skill, intelligent movement, and hold-up play. Forwards can also be referred to as strikers, second strikers, or center forwards.

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Now that you understand the various soccer positions and their roles, you can better identify the specific roles each player is occupying when watching live soccer matches. If you’re interested in learning more about soccer tactics, check out our articles on popular formations and concepts like the double pivot, 4-2-4, or gegenpressing.

Soccer Position Abbreviations

Formation diagrams and games often use abbreviations for soccer positions. Here are some of the most common abbreviations:

  • GK: Goalkeeper
  • D: Defender
  • SW: Sweeper
  • CB: Center Back
  • RCB: Right Center Back
  • LCB: Left Center Back
  • RB: Right Back
  • LB: Left Back
  • WB: Wing Back
  • RWB: Right Wing Back
  • LWB: Left Wing Back
  • M: Midfielder
  • DM: Defensive Midfielder
  • CDM: Center Defensive Midfielder
  • CM: Center Midfielder
  • RM: Right Midfielder
  • LM: Left Midfielder
  • AM: Attacking Midfielder
  • CAM/AMC: Center Attacking Midfielder
  • AMR: Attacking Midfielder Right
  • AML: Attacking Midfielder Left
  • RW: Right Winger
  • LW: Left Winger
  • SS: Second Striker
  • CF: Center Forward
  • ST: Striker

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the 4 main positions in soccer?

The four main positional units in soccer are goalkeeper, defense, midfield, and attack. Each unit has different individual roles assigned to players.

What is a double pivot in soccer?

A double pivot is a central midfield pairing that emphasizes defensive play and building possession. They sit relatively deep, protecting the back four and occupying a central area inside the full-backs or wing-backs.

What is the most popular soccer formation?

There are several popular soccer formations, including the 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, and 3-5-2. Each formation has its own strengths and weaknesses.

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