How Many Players on a Soccer Team

It can be difficult to understand how many player on a soccer team can take the field, as the rules often vary.

Professional soccer games, known as matches, consist of two teams with eleven players each. One of these eleven players is the goalkeeper; the rest are outfield players. Though recreational soccer rules generally allow for any number of players on the bench and unlimited substitutions, professional soccer is a bit stricter. A team can only have five, seven or nine players on the bench, and can make just three substitutions throughout the match.

Though there are just eleven spots on the field (or pitch), there are more positions than that. Teams have the option of designing their own formation, using any of these positions. Here are the positions of soccer:

The goalkeeper has perhaps the most stressful job of anybody on the team. It is up to him to defend the goal and keep shots out. The goalkeeper is the only team member who can use his hands, but this is only within a penalty area. Once outside the penalty area, the goalkeeper must abide by the same rules as the rest of the team. The goalkeeper wears a different soccer uniform from his teammates.

The defense is made up of the centre-back, sweeper, full-back and wingback. There are generally two centre-backs, and they stand in front of the goalkeeper. Teams vary in how they play the centre-backs; some have them mark a particular opponent, while others have them play zone defense.
The sweeper is the last line of defense before the goalkeeper. Should the ball get past the centre-backs, the sweeper's role is to kick it out of the goal area.

Full-backs stand wide of the centre-backs. Their job is to keep the opposing team from crossing into the penalty area. They have more freedom of movement than other defenders, being able to make runs up-field. They are expected to provide more contribution to the offense than other defenders as well.
The wingback alternates between defense and midfield. They are similar to full-backs, with more of an emphasis on offense. Wingbacks tend to do a lot of running.

Midfielders perhaps do the most running of any member of the team, as they are expected to perform as both offenders and defenders. Midfielders are responsible for moving the ball from defense to offense and to keep the opposing team from getting past them or taking shots. Midfield positions include: centre-midfielders, defensive midfielders, attacking midfielders and wingers.

The centre-midfielders are the primary link between defense and offense, while defensive midfielders tend to hang back more. Attacking midfielders play more offensively, standing just behind the strikers. Wingers play near the sidelines and make a lot of line passes.

The offense's job is to score goals. This is the only job of the centre-forward, while the strikers are also primarily responsible for this. Strikers stand closest to the opposing team's goal and besides scoring, they often set goals up for other forwards. Deep-lying forwards are similar to strikers in that they generally set up goals for other forwards.

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