When you’re new to the game of soccer, there are several facts that you need to get straight to really appreciate the game for all it’s worth. Knowing how many players are on a soccer team is key to understanding the basics of soccer. Having been involved in soccer for many years, I can tell you exactly how many players are on a soccer team.
There are eleven players on a soccer team. A soccer game consists of two teams of eleven players competing on the field at one time. The players on a team include one goalkeeper and ten outfield players. The outfield players are a mix of defensive and offensive players.
There are specific reasons why professional soccer teams field a maximum of eleven players for a game and why youth soccer teams consist of less than eleven players.
In this article, I show you:
- How many defensive players are on a team
- How many offensive players are on a team
- How many substitutes there are on a team
- How many players are on a youth soccer team
- How many players are on a high school soccer team
- and how many players are on a college soccer team
Number of Players on a Soccer Team
Over the years, I have watched and participated in thousands of soccer games. One thing that never changes is the number of players that start a game.
The rules of soccer permit a team to start a game with a maximum of eleven players on the soccer field.
A maximum of eleven players is allowed due to the size of the soccer pitch or field. Throughout all levels of soccer, the number of players on a team is based on the size of the field the players will compete on.
We’ll look at this in more depth in a moment when we look at player numbers for youth and high school soccer. But, essentially, on a small field, fewer players are on a team compared to when a team competes on a larger field.
A soccer coach will carefully choose every one of these players to fulfill a specific role for their team. Where a coach positions their players on a soccer field is incredibly important in soccer, and the positions and formations are dictated by how many players they can use.
Let’s look at how many players play in defense and how many are in the offense.
Number of Defensive Players on a Team
Every soccer team designates some of their players to focus on defending their team’s goal.
There are six defensive players on a soccer team. The defensive players include the goalkeeper, two fullbacks, two center backs, and a defensive midfielder.
Although it is up to the team’s coach how many players are used in defense during a game, for the majority of soccer games, there are usually six players.
The goalkeeper is positioned directly in front of the team’s goal. It is their responsibility to keep the ball out of the goal. The goalie is the only player on a soccer team that I permitted to use their hands.
The center backs play in front of the goalkeeper in the center of the field. The center back’s role is to protect the goalkeeper and prevent the ball from getting past them and close to the goal.
The defensive midfielder plays in front of the center backs in the middle of the soccer field. The defensive midfielder’s role is to protect the center-backs and prevent the ball from reaching their team’s goal.
Now let’s look at the number of offensive players on a soccer team.
Number of Offensive Players on a Team
As well as having defensive players on a team, each team will designate some of their players to be offensive players.
There are five offensive players on a soccer team. The offensive players include an attacking midfielder, two midfield wingers, and two forwards.
As with the defensive players, the number of offensive players on a team can vary depending on the strategy and tactics of the team’s coach for each game.
But it is common to see five offensive players used on a team.
The attacking midfielder, often known as the number 10 in soccer, plays the furthest forward of all the midfielders. They are responsible for creating goal-scoring opportunities for the forwards.
The two wingers play on the edge or “wings” of the field. They are often the fastest players on a team and cover the flanks of the field during a game.
Check out my article – Offensive Soccer Positions – to discover more about these soccer positions.
How Many Players on a Team, Including Substitutes?
Although there is only ever a maximum of 11 players on the field for a soccer team at one time, there are a number of substitutes a team can have waiting alongside the field, ready to come on when needed.
Including substitutes, there is a maximum of 23 players and a minimum of 14 players on a soccer team. The rules of soccer permit teams to name any number of substitutes as long as the amount falls between the minimum and maximum number allowed.
The rules of soccer don’t specify a certain amount of substitutions a team may have on the bench during a game. The rules simply give a minimum and maximum amount. It’s up to the individual team how many substitutes they wish to have available.
However, it is important to note that a team must name all their substitutes before a game. Once the game is underway, they cannot add any more players to the list of potential substitutes.
In most circumstances, a team can make three substitutions during a game, so it makes sense to have a minimum of three substitutions available.
Number of Players on a Youth Soccer Team
So far, we’ve been looking at the number of players in a professional soccer team. But what about how many players are on the field at other levels of soccer, such as youth soccer?
There are between six and nine players on a youth soccer team. The number of players on a youth soccer team depends on the age of the players involved. The youngest youth soccer players will compete in teams of 6, and the eldest youth soccer players will compete in teams of up to 9 players.
The size of a youth soccer team is dependent on the physical capabilities of the young children involved.
Because younger kids cannot cover large distances of a soccer field in the same way that older children are, the rules for youth soccer require players to compete on smaller fields. And smaller fields mean less room for players.
- There are six players on a team at u5, u6, u7, and u9 level of youth soccer.
- At u9 and u10 levels of youth soccer, there are seven players on a team.
- At the u11 and u12 levels of youth soccer, there are nine players on a team.
As a general rule, the younger the team, the fewer players will be involved in the game.
Find out the best age for kids to start playing soccer in my article – How Old Do You Have to Be to Play Soccer? 3, 5, 10?
Number of Players on a High School Soccer Team
When players reach high school soccer age, the number of players on a team increases.
There are eleven players on a high school soccer team. The number of players on a high school soccer team is equal to the number of players on a professional soccer team. Each high school soccer player fulfills a unique role for the team.
By the time players reach the age to play high school soccer, the size of the soccer field is getting close to the size of a pro soccer field. High school students are fit enough and mature enough to cover the space provided on a field this size.
Compared to a youth soccer field, this extra space provides enough room for a team to field 11 players.
Find out if a soccer field is bigger than a football field in my article – Soccer Vs Football Field: Size and Dimensions.
Being able to play with eleven players on a team also creates an opportunity for the players to get used to a game this size before progressing to the next level, which is often college soccer.
Number of Players on a College Soccer Team
Every high school soccer player considers the option of playing soccer at college. Thankfully high school soccer is a great opportunity to prepare for the demands of college soccer as the number of players on a team is the same at both levels.
There are eleven players on a college soccer team. The size of a college soccer team is comparable to a professional soccer team. The eleven players on the team take up specific positions on the soccer field, with one player in the position of goalkeeper and ten outfield players.
College soccer is very similar to professional soccer. The rules of the game are the same, the length of a game is the same, and the player formations are the same.
One area that is different is the number of substitutions permitted.
Including substitutions, there can be more than 30 players on a college soccer team. Unlike other levels of soccer, college soccer allows unlimited substitutions. This encourages college soccer teams to include many players on their roster.
This excessively large college soccer roster is unusual for most levels of soccer. Although it provides more players with an opportunity to play for the team, many players spend the majority of a college soccer season sitting on the bench instead of playing.
Multiple substitutions also create numerous breaks in a game and are one of the reasons that most soccer games limit substitutions.
Find out more about a soccer game in my article – How Soccer Works: A Beginners Guide to the Game.