A Glossary of Soccer Terms, Definitions, and Terminology

Like every sport, soccer has its own unique vocabulary, derived from years of history and tradition. Some soccer terms are familiar, others are a bit more obscure.

Added Time: Playing time added to the end of a half to compensate for playing time lost to injuries, substitutions, time-wasting, or other any other cause for which the referee deems appropriate. Also called “stoppage time”or “injury time.”

Advantage: A decision by the referee to allow play to continue, despite witnessing an act of foul play, when doing so would benefit the fouled team.

AR: An assistant referee

Assistant Referee: An official positioned along the touch line, who communicates with the referee by means of a flag signal; formerly called a “linesman.”

Attacker: A player who is in the opposing half of the field; or any player whose team is in possession of the ball.

Backpass: The common name for the technical offense of a keeper handling the ball following a deliberate kick or throw-in to him by a teammate, punishable by an indirect free kick.

Caution: A formal warning by the referee to a player or substitute whose behavior or play has become unacceptable, signified by the display of a yellow card.

Center Circle: A circle in the middle of the field marking the ten-yard radius from spot of a kick-off.

Charging: Bodily contact undertaken against an opponent in order to win or obtain possession of the ball. If done unfairly, it is a penal foul.

Club Linesman: A non-neutral official, pressed into service on one of the touchlines due to the absence of a qualified assistant referee, and asked to signal when the ball goes out of play.

Coach: The team official allowed along the sidelines, who is entitled to pass tactical advice and instruction during the match; sometimes called the manager.

Competition Authority: The organizing league or agency which is organizing a soccer competition.

Corner Arc: A one-yard quarter circle from the corner of the field, marking the spot for a corner kick.

Corner Kick: The restart of play occurring when the ball passes over the end line after last being touched by a defender.

CR: The referee (or “center referee”).

Dangerous Play: A technical foul, consisting of any act considered by the referee to be dangerous to an opposing player.

Defender: A player on his own half of the field; or a player whose team is not in possession of the ball.

Direct Free Kick: A free kick from which a goal may be scored, awarded as a result of a penal foul.

Dissent: A form of misconduct consisting of protesting a call by any of the officials, punishable by a yellow card.

Dropped Ball: A means of restarting play after a stoppage caused by something other than an offense by a player. Also called a “drop ball.”

End Line: The boundary line at each end of the field, upon which each set of goals rests. Also called a “goal line” or “bi-line.”

Extra Time: The additional period or periods of play to obtain a result at the end of a match that ends in a draw, usually during the later stages of tournament play where the match requires a winner.

Free Kick: A kick awarded to a team due to an infraction committed by the opposing team, free from interference by the opponents.

Fourth Official: An extra official appointed by the competition authorities to assist at the match and serve as a substitute official for the referee or assistant referee.

Game Report: The official account of a match, including the score and any misconducts issued, prepared by the referee.

Goal: (1) The targets of both teams, consisting of two uprights and a crossbar, placed at the end line on opposite ends of the field and defended by each respective team. (2) A score, occurring when the ball passes entirely over the end line and into the goal.

Goalkeeper: The player on each team designated as the one entitled to handle the ball inside its own penalty area and required to wear a distinct jersey, different from the rest of the team.

Goal Line: The end line; usually, the end line between the goal posts.

Goal Posts: The physical boundaries of the goal, usually made of metal or wood; often described by their components, consisting of a cross bar, and two upright posts.

Half-time: The interval of time between the end of the first half, and the beginning of the second half of a soccer game.

Half-way Line: The physical line marking the center of the field extending from one touchline to the other.

Handball: Another name for “handling.”

Handling: A penal foul, consisting of the deliberate use of the arm or body to control the ball. A goalkeeper cannot be guilty of handling the ball inside his own penalty area.

Holding: A penal foul, consisting of unfairly hindering or restraining the progress of an opponent, usually by means of the arms or hands.

Impeding: The act of physically obstructing or impeding the progress of an opponent. Also known as “Obstructing.”

Indirect Free Kick: A free kick which requires a touch on the ball by a second player before a goal may be scored, awarded as a result of a technical or non-penal infraction.

Jumping: The act of leaving the ground under one’s own power by leaping. If directed at an opposing player in an unfair manner to prevent the opponent from making a play on the ball, it is a penal foul.

Keeper: A goalkeeper.

Kicking: A penal foul consisting of unfair contact against an opponent by means of the foot or leg.

Kick-off: The means of starting a half, or restarting the game following a goal, taking place from the middle of the center circle.

Kicks from the Mark: A method of obtaining a result following a draw, where the rules of the competition require a winner, consisting of a series of penalty kicks.

Misconduct: An act deemed by the referee to be unsporting, reckless, violent, or flagrantly in violation of the laws and spirit of the game, and punishable by a caution (and yellow card) or a send-off (and red card).

Offside Line: An imaginary line signifying the furthest point down field that an attacker may be without risk of being penalized for being offside.

Offside Offense: The act of participating in play from an offside position. Also called “offside infraction.”

Offside Position: A position in the attacking half of the field in which a player is closer to the opposing goal than (a) the ball, as well as (b) the next-to-last defender.

Obstructing: The act of physically obstructing or impeding the progress of an opponent. Also known as “impeding.”

Outside Agency: Any force acting on or influencing a match which is not part of game, or part of the physical field.

Penal Foul: An infraction resulting in a direct free kick; often called simply a “foul.”

Penalty Arc: The marked arc extending outside the boundary of each penalty area, marking 10 yards from the penalty spot.

Penalty Area: The marked area around each goal, measuring 18×44 yards, within which the defending keeper has the privilege of handling the ball, and inside which a penal foul by the defensive team will result in a penalty kick.

Penalty Kick: A direct free kick from the penalty spot, pitting the attacker taking the kick directly against the defending keeper; sometimes called a “spot kick.”

Penalty Spot: The marked spot 12 yards from the middle of each goal, from which penalty kicks are taken.

Persistent Infringement: The misconduct of continuous or repeated foul play, punishable by a yellow card.

Pitch: Another name for the soccer field.

Player: A competitor at a soccer game.

Pushing: A penal foul resulting from the unfair use of the arms or body to push, shove, or otherwise force an opponent into changing position or direction.

Red Card: The misconduct card shown to a player who is being sent off either for a serious act of misconduct, or for receiving a second caution.

Referee: The match official responsible for supervising and controlling a soccer match; also called a “Center Referee” or “CR.” Often called other names, as well.

Restart: Any method of resuming the game after a stoppage of play.

Result: The final outcome of a soccer match, whether a draw, or a victory by the team scoring the greater number of goals.

Send-off: The dismissal of a player following the display of a red card, either for a serious act of misconduct or for receiving a second caution in the same match.

Serious Foul Play: A misconduct, often violent, which consists of the clearly disproportionate use of physical force against an opponent during a contest for the ball on the field, and while the ball is in play.

Spitting: A penal foul, consisting of the deliberate attempt to direct bodily fluid from the mouth onto the person of someone else. It is also an act of misconduct, punishable by a red card.

Striking: A penal foul, most often resulting from the unfair use of the hands or body to hit an opposing player, or to hurl an object that strikes an opposing player. If done intentionally, it is usually a misconduct, often a form of violent conduct.

Stoppage Time: Playing time added to the end of each half at the discretion of the referee to compensate for lost playing time; see “Added Time.”

Substitute: A non-participating player along the sidelines, who is eligible to replace a player on the field.

Tackle: An attempt to obtain possession of the ball by using the feet. If a tackle results in contact with an opposing player before contact is made with the ball, it is a penal foul.

Throw-in: The method of restarting play after the ball has gone out of bounds over a touch line.

Touch Line: The boundary lines marking each sideline of the field.

Tripping: The penal foul of tripping an opponent.

Unsporting Behavior: The most common form of misconduct, consisting of conduct or play which the referee deems to be unacceptable. Consisting of a wide range of misbehavior, it is punishable by a yellow card.

Violent Conduct: A misconduct consisting of a violent act against any person at a soccer match, punishable by a red card.

Yellow Card: The misconduct card shown to a player who is being cautioned by the referee for an act of misconduct.