Which Soccer Position Runs the Most?

soccer player running behind post title

Since I started playing soccer, I’ve often noticed how some soccer positions run more than others. I enjoy running and competing for the ball and prefer to be in a position that runs a lot. So, I decided to find out, once and for all, what soccer positions run the most. I’ve written what I found in this article.

So, which soccer position runs the most? The soccer position that runs the most is the midfielder. Midfielders play in the middle of the field. During a game of soccer, midfielders have to run back to help defend as well as run forwards to support the forwards. 

Below I will explain why midfielders run the most, what they are trying to do, and more detail about the other positions and how much running they do.

Why Midfielders Run the Most

There are many aspects to the role of a midfielder. But there are two primary responsibilities that require a midfielder to spend a lot of time running during a soccer game: defending and attacking.

Whereas, the players in other positions are generally trying only to stay in a position to attack or stay in a position to defend. Midfielders are responsible for both attacking and getting in a position to attack AND defending and getting into a position to defend.

To find more out about a midfielder’s responsibilities, check out my article – 11 roles of a midfielder in soccer.

Midfielders spend a lot of time making small and frequent sprints to get into position.

For example, the defenders (sometimes called backs) on the opposition team often try to feed the ball to their midfielders or clear the ball down the pitch. (Find out why it’s called a “pitch” here)

When they do that, the midfielders will quickly run to get in position to deflect the clearance or steal the ball away from the other team’s midfielders.

While all of this is happening, the strikers, sometimes called forwards (find out why here), will be standing in place or only doing light jogs within their area of the field. Forwards only do short bursts of running once the midfielders steal the ball away, or the ball gets cleared downfield towards them.

The same is true but in reverse when the midfielder is attacking.

A midfielder has to sprint to get into position to:

  • Pass a through ball to a forward on their team
  • Try to distract the opposition players from allowing a striker to get into a favorable position.

While all of this is happening, their defenders won’t be moving that much. Only lightly jogging to be available for a play or staying stationary in place.

This means that midfielders have to cover a more extensive total distance and run more than any other position over an entire game.

Competitive Games Require a Player to Run More

Midfielders have to do the most running in competitive games.

When both teams are good at defending, the ball will mostly hang out in the middle of the field, where the midfield players will compete to get the ball to their strikers. This will involve a lot of running backward and forward as well as from side to side of the field.

In games where the skill level is very different between the teams, the midfielders often won’t have to run as much as usual.

This is because they will be defending a lot and share a large amount of the game time with the defenders positioned in the field’s defensive area. Or they will be attacking a lot and sharing a lot of the game time with the strikers in the attacking area of the soccer field.

Amount of Running a Player Does by Position

I’ve summarized all information in a helpful table below:

PositionAmount of runningReason
GoalieVery littleThe area of the field they cover is small
DefenderLess than averageThe ball spends a relatively small amount of time in this part of the field
MidfielderThe mostThey attack and defend, and the ball spends most of the time in the middle of the field
StrikerLess than averageThe ball spends a relatively small amount of time in this part of the field
Comparison of soccer positions and how much running they do

As you can see above, the goalie runs less than any other soccer position. This is because their physical area of responsibility is far smaller than the other players meaning they don’t have to run as far to be in the best position.

The forward and defensive soccer positions remain on their side of the field for most of a game. There are times when they will cross onto the opposite side of the field, but not too often.

The midfielders, however, need to cover all areas of the field, from top to bottom. They are versatile, multi-talented players that can influence all areas of the field. But to cover this much ground, they need to run a lot.

Different Types of Midfielders

Although all midfielders can be versatile, they fall into a few major types. And different types of midfielders do a different amount of running.

When you play in midfield, you will either be more of a:

  • Defensive midfielders 
  • or a deep-lying midfielders. (Also called play-makers, holding midfielders, or box-to-box.)

Different teams will have different numbers of defensive midfielders and deep-lying midfielders. The specific formation a team uses and what they find works best for them will depend on the team they are playing and their available players.

For more information on this, have a look at my guide to soccer positions here, or if you’re specifically interested in positions in youth soccer, have a look at this guide I created.

What Defensive Midfielders Do

Defensive midfielders are often assigned as one by the coach because they are good at reading players and disrupting their attack.

A famous example is Rodrigo Hernández Cascante, who also gets called Rodri or Rodrigo, as you may be aware. He plays for the Spanish national team and Manchester City.

Check out this video of him playing below.

Others defensive midfielders worth having a look at are:

Defensive midfielders run a bit less than deep-lying midfielders because deep-lying midfielders are more versatile and do a bit of both attacking and defending. Whereas defensive midfielders focus more on defending, so aren’t as involved as deep-lying midfielders.

I recently wrote an article about the 17 Qualities you find in Every Great Defensive Midfielder. I cover what skills they all have, and if you think this position is right for you or are still deciding, I also covered how you can develop these skills.

What Deep-Lying Midfielders Do

Deep lying midfielders are versatile, meaning they both attack and defend. They are the most mobile players on the field and cover the most distance.

Examples of famous defensive midfielders are:

  • Sergio Busquets. Barcelona and Spain.
  • Toni Kroos. Real Madrid and Germany.
  • Thiago Alcântara. Bayern Munich and Spain

Players That Can Run the Most Make the Best Midfielders

Players that are the best midfielders have excellent ball-handling skills, some of the best on the field. But, they don’t necessarily have to be the best shooters of the ball. 

They have excellent passing, ball retention, and defensive skills. As well as having a fantastic ability to read of the game. 

One thing that all great midfielders have to be able to do is run a lot!

They are generally the fittest players on the field, spend the most time with the balls, and are the most active.


Midfielders are the most active players on a soccer field and run the most. This is because they have to both attack and defend. All the other positions only require the player to either attack or defend.

To find out more about soccer, I recommend you check out one of my other articles:

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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