Because soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, you can find hundreds of thousands of soccer fields worldwide. But you may ask if all these soccer fields are the same size or if the dimensions vary from one field to the next. So, after playing on hundreds of different soccer fields, let me share with you what I know about the size of the fields.
Soccer fields are not all the same size. Except for U.S. Youth soccer league games and professional soccer adult competitions, there is no official requirement for the size of the playing field. The size of a soccer field is determined by the number of players, the space the team can afford, and the preferred playing style of the home team.
Soccer fields vary in size for several good reasons. And even at a professional level, the size of the field can be different from one field to the next.
In this article, I’ll explain the three most important factors for deciding on the measurements of the field. I’ll show you why this matters, and we’ll look at the requirements for both adult competition and youth soccer.
Why are Soccer Fields Different Sizes?
The popularity of soccer means that soccer fields have been consistently constructed throughout the history of the sport.
This level of development required some restrictions and rules to be developed around the size of the playing area to bring a level of similarity throughout the fields.
However, despite the required similarities, the rules of soccer actually allow a reasonable amount of flexibility when it comes to the length and width of the field.
Now, if you’ve ever been involved in basketball or football, you’ll know that the playing area for both these sports must comply with specific requirements.
The relevant governing bodies for these sports don’t allow any flexibility in the dimensions of the field.
For example, the measurements for a football field must be 100 yards (120 counting the end zones), or 360 feet long, and 53 ⅓ yards, or 160 feet wide.
This doesn’t change, and every football field you find with an official NFL team or college football team will be the same size.
But if the field dimensions stay the same in other sports, why do they vary in soccer?
There are three reasons why the size of soccer fields varies:
- the home team’s playing style,
- what the club can afford,
- and the players’ physical ability.
1. The Playing Style of the Home Team
Stadiums and clubs will often choose the size of the field by determining the playing style of their home team in order to give them an edge.
If the stadium’s home team’s strength lies in defensive tactics such as “closing down,” it might be more effective to accomplish this strategy with a smaller playing zone.
Closing down is a defensive strategy where once an opposing team member has the ball, the whole home team starts closing in on that player in order to fluster the opposition with the ball and give them little time to choose a path to pass the ball.
On the other hand, maybe the home team shines at possessing the ball.
Possession is an offensive tactic where the team short passes the ball to one another to keep the opposing team from taking the ball from any single home team player.
This requires good awareness from the whole team over the entire field.
A larger playing area would be helpful when trying to play a possession-based game.
2. The Budget of the Club
The budget of a soccer team is another factor.
Not all clubs in soccer leagues can afford to purchase large areas that give them the space to include large fields.
Even if they can find the space, regular maintenance of the field or creating frequent changes to the size gets expensive.
It’s in the best interest of the smaller leagues and clubs who don’t have nationwide or worldwide renown to purchase cheaper lots, which are typically smaller.
3. The Ability of the Players
The third reason is to do with the ability of the players that are using the field.
Soccer clubs with younger players and/or inexperienced players won’t begin playing on fields with the maximum standard measurements reserved for the pros.
A regulation soccer game lasts for 90 minutes, but in order to compensate for children and inexperienced players who might not be in top shape yet, and therefore not have the stamina for the larger fields, the area is made smaller.
Clubs can’t logically expect these kinds of players to play a consistent game for so long and on such a large playing field without exhausting themselves before the end of the game.
But despite this permitted flexibility, there are two scenarios where the length of a soccer field does have to fit within specified dimensions:
- At a professional level
- and for U.S. Youth Soccer games.
What is the Official Size of a Professional Soccer Field?
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has set the rule for the size of the soccer field for 11 vs 11 player professional competitions.
These soccer fields must be between 100 – 130 yards (300 – 390ft) long and between 50 – 100 yards (150 – 300ft) wide. For international matches, the soccer fields range from 110 – 120 yards long and 70 – 80 yards wide.
FIFA, the non-profit international governing body for soccer, enforces these rules.
They can set an official size for professional games because these professional games always have the same number of players who are always adults.
These professional adult matches have two teams with 11 players, all of which have similar skill levels.
As an example, take a look at the image below that lists the width of several MLS soccer fields.
You can see the differences as sometimes small but are still significant.
It’s the same if you look at the length of a variety of fields.
You can see in the image above that the length will vary depending on the specific soccer field being used.
It’s not hard to see why professional national and international matches require at least approximately the same sized fields.
These stadiums won’t know the playing styles of each team that visits, so these measurements will put the visiting teams on a more-or-less even playing field with one another without requiring many changes from the stadium.
It also benefits the stadium crew, who are better able to produce a consistent and enjoyable watching experience for the fans who watch the games from home.
What Size is a Youth Soccer Field?
Youth soccer field dimensions will vary in size depending on the number of players they have and the age of the players involved.
The U.S. Youth Soccer Association provides regulations for the size of the field for games with teams of 6-13 players each.
If each team only has six players, the field will be 15-25 yards wide and 25-35 yards long.
If teams are playing in a 9v9 game, the area is enlarged to 45-55 yards wide and 70-80 yards long.
For really young players, you may want to modify the size of the playing field according to what drills you’re practicing and for when you introduce a new game.
If you’re trying to practice with the kids at keeping the ball away from opposing players as they race down the area, go for a larger playing field to give everyone plenty of opportunity and space.
Are you practicing short passes? Start with a smaller size.
Of course, you don’t have to repaint the boundaries every time you want to change the size of the field.
Cones work well enough, and so long as you have a larger starting field, you should be able to decrease the field to several potential sizes.
In conclusion, there are some fascinating reasons why the size of a soccer field never seems consistent except for professional and international matches. And even then, there are variations.
For more articles about soccer fields, check out one of my previous articles: