The Basics of High School Soccer

Whether you have gone out to support the Cougars or have been roped into going to a game with your family, you might not know how soccer is actually played despite its overwhelming popularity. In fact, soccer is the fourth most popular sport in the U.S. and is estimated to surpass baseball in popularity within the next few years. Because of its popularity, it is important to know how it’s played so that, even if you are forced to go out to a game, you can at least understand what is happening.

For starters, soccer’s objective is to get the soccer ball into the opposing team’s goal. This will always result in one point. No more and no less than one point can ever be scored. High school teams have eleven players on the field at a time including, the forwards, midfielders, defenders, and the goalie. Games last around eighty minutes and are divided into two forty minute halves with a ten-minute break between them.



Goalie. The goalie’s job is to use any single part of their body to stop the ball from getting into the goal. They—unlike all other players—can use their hands to grab and pick up the ball but only within their eighteen-yard goalie box.

Backs (center, left, right). The back’s job is to stay closer to their goal while the rest of their team pushes forward. The backs are there to defend the goalie because the goalie is the last line of defense and is reserved as such. Backs usually push up to the middle of the field while their teammates are at the enemy goal. Left and right backs patrol the left and right sides and often rotate to the middle if the enemy team pushes up to either side.


Offensive midfield, defensive midfield, and wingers. The job of the midfield is to be a support for the defense and to help maintain field control during a push towards the enemy team’s goal. The offensive midfielder is more in line with attackers because they have the defensive mid which falls back more with the defenders. Wingers often are forced to push up and down the field constantly, and although they are somewhat constrained to their sides (left and right), they still have to run up and down the field.


Forwards and strikers. Offense players, although not the only ones, are the goal scorers. Forwards play up front leading the action and it’s their job to keep pressuring the defense. Strikers are dedicated to shooting at the goal and are usually considered the stars of the team.

 Soccer also has protocols when the ball goes out of bounds (off the field). A ball is considered out when it wholly crosses one of the outer lines on the field. Once the ball goes out, the play is stopped by the referee and one of two things happens 1. A throw-in which happens when the ball goes out on the left or right side of the field. When this happens, the ball is picked up in the hands of a player on the opposing team and tossed in, over the head with both hands releasing the ball at the same times. 2. A corner kick which happens when the ball goes out on the same line as the goal. When this happens the goalie, or any other appointed player, sets the ball up on the line closest to the goal and kicks it up the field.


Fouls in soccer are pretty much common sense (i.e no fighting or excessive force) and when they happen the team who was fouled against gets a free kick from the spot the foul happened. The kicker also has the option to ask for “ten” which forces the referee to measure out ten yards (with their feet) which is the closest enemy players can stand. People defending from a kick usually form a “wall” where they line up with about four players to aid the goalie by blocking off a section of the goal from the kicker (if the ball is within shooting range). However, if the foul happens in the goalie’s box, they are a called a penalty kick and are set at fifteen yards from the goal. Penalty kicks mostly result in a point for the kicking team because of how close the kick is to the goal.

Mr. Todd is the coach of the Apex high school varsity men and women’s team. The men’s team performed well in the state playoffs this season. The team usually plays with four defenders, four mid-field, two strikers, and of course the goalie. Now you should be well versed enough in soccer to be able to go to a game and understand what is happening! Make sure to support our women’s soccer team in the spring and the men’s team next fall. Go Cougars!

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