Your Basic Soccer Lingo

The 2019 World Cup started last week. You’ve seen the hype. You’ve heard about some of the key players. But maybe you didn’t play soccer, and are a little fuzzy on some of the rules and terms you hear thrown around during any given match.

Well don’t worry, this quick guide to basic soccer lingo will make sure you know what those commentators are talking about during this World Cup and beyond.


  • FOOTBALL = what most of the world (outside the US) calls the sport we (in the US) call soccer.

  • MATCH = a game of soccer/football

  • PITCH = the field

  • BOOTS = cleats

  • KIT = the uniform

  • CAPS = the number of appearances a player has made in international matches


From kicks to fouls to tackling (usually different than the tackling in the other football), here are some basic lingo about the rules of the game.

The Kicks That Stop Play

  • CORNER KICK = A direct free kick awarded if the defending team was the last to touch the ball before it passed over its own goal line.

  • GOAL KICK = A free kick awarded to the goalie if the offense was the last to contact the ball before passing over the goal line.

  • DIRECT KICK = A free kick resulting from a foul that can be shot into the goal without having to be touched by another player. Often comes as the result of a hand ball inside the 18 (yard line) or a serious penalty.

  • INDIRECT KICK = A free kick resulting from a foul that cannot be shot directly into the goal. If the ball enters the goal from an indirect kick without touching another player, it doesn’t count.

  • PENALTY KICK = A type of direct kick, a penalty kick is a free kick at the goal from the penalty line, with only the goalkeeper allowed to defend it.

Other Kicks & Ball Movements

  • VOLLEY = A kick out of mid-air (think: a player has probably done their stretching in order to reach it) .

  • CROSS =  A long pass into the center from the wing.

  • DRIBBLE = Controlling the ball on the ground with the feet.

  • TACKLE = To take the ball away from a dribbler using the feet.

  • TRAP = To control the ball with a part of your body (feet included) when it comes via pass, kick, or any other way.

  • HEADER = Controlling the ball using the head to pass, shoot, or clear.

Cards & Other Fouls or Infractions

  • OFFSIDE = An infraction in which an offensive player does not have at least two defensemen (including the goalie) between them and the goal line when the ball is played forward by a member of the offensive team. Read: a player can’t sit next to the opposing goal waiting for a pass. They’d be called for offsides.

  • YELLOW CARD = A card given to a player who commits a moderate foul; seen as a caution. If a player gets two yellow cards in one game, they automatically get a red card.

  • RED CARD = A card given to a player who commits a serious foul, which ejects that player from the remainder of the game.

  • HANDBALL = When a player other than the goalkeeper touches the ball with his/her arm or hand.

Other Rule-Related Lingo

  • INJURY TIME = Additional time added to the end of each half to make up for the stoppage of (when the clock stops during a match) play due to injuries, wasted time, or the scoring of a goal.

  • HAT TRICK = When a player scores three goals in the same game.

  • VAR SYSTEM = Video Assistant Referee – a match official who reviews decisions made by the head referee with the use of video footage

  • SUBSTITUTION = each team is allowed three (3) substitutions per game. Once a player is subbed out, they cannot re-enter the game. Once all three substitutions are used, no more players can be brought on, even in the event of injury or penalty. A team with no more substitutions who has a player get injured/removed for penalty and leave the game would have to play with 10 people. (This happened in the 1995 World Cup when Mia Hamm – a striker – had to replace the goalkeeper in the 88th minute)


The who’s who of the field, each position is uniquely challenging and rewarding. Next time you watch a game, see if you can identify players in their positions!

  • STRIKER = Forward, the ones most likely to score goals since they’re positioned as the first line of offense.

  • MIDFIELDER = The players positioned between the strikers and defenders, they have to be able to cover the whole field, and have judgment about how to move the ball up and down the field.

  • DEFENDER (includes Center-back, Sweeper, Full-back, Wing-back) = The last line of defense before an opposing player makes it to the goalkeeper. Their job is to make sure the ball does not make it past them.

  • GOALKEEPER = The last line of defense, the goalkeeper is the only player allowed to use their hands on the ball during open player. The goalkeeper’s main job is to stop the ball from going into the net, and can use any part of his/her body to do so.

Follow the World Cup with She Plays

Whether you’re just getting into soccer or have followed the game for years, join us at She Plays to get updates on matches, players, and learn more about the amazing female players in this tournament, even after it’s over.  Sign up for our weekly bulletin for all the latest, and follow us @sheplayspro on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.