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Soccer Jargon 101

General Soccer Terminology

Stoppage Time / Injury Time
At the center referee’s discretion, time can be extended in the half to accommodate time lost due to injury or other occurrences such as time wasting by a player. Unlike other sports, the half ends when the referee so indicates and not by a running clock.

Soccer shoe. It’s a British thing!

Own Goal
The rather embarrassing occurrence when a player directs the ball (presumably by accident) into their own goal.

Foot Fault
During a throw-in, when both feet are not on the ground or when both feet are not on or behind the touch line. The foot fault infraction results in a throw-in for the other team from the point of the infraction.

In Touch
When the ball fully crosses a touch line, play is stopped to be re-started by a throw-in. The ball is “in touch” when it literally can be touched by the players’ hands for the throw-in.

Soccer (where did this word actually come from?)
In late 19th century Britian there were two kinds of football, Rugby football (played by “ruggers”) and AsSOCiation football (played by “soccers”). As the British popularity of soccer grew and exceeded that of rugby, the game became known simply as football, while in this country, the popularity of American football took on the name of football while soccer remained known as such.


Field of Play

Halfway Line
The line separating the soccer field into two halves.

Center Mark
Very center of the field where the ball is located for kick-offs.

Center Circle
Not surprisingly this is the circle in the center of the field. It has a radius of ten yards and serves to indicate the minimum distance the opposing team is to be from the ball at a kick-off.

Touch Lines
Boundary lines at the sides of the field (lines beyond which a player can touch the ball with their hands). Again it’s a British thing!

Goal Lines
Boundary lines at either end of the field on which the goals are centered.

Goal Area
Six yard deep lined area immediately in front of the goal. Goal kicks are taken anywhere from inside the goal area. The goal area is fully within the larger penalty area.

Penalty Area
Eighteen yard deep lined area used to designate the area in which the goalkeeper is allowed to use their hands. A direct free kick foul awarded an attacker within their opponents’ penalty area results in a penalty kick.

Penalty Mark
Twelve yard from the center of the goals (and goal line). Sights of much drama (see penalty kicks)!


Fouls and Misconducts

A foul is an infraction of the laws of the game that results in the re-start of a direct free kick, an indirect free kick, or a penalty kick. A foul can only be issued during active play.

A misconduct is a players’ infraction of the laws of the game that results in the issuance of a caution (yellow card) or send-off (red card). A misconduct can be issued either with or without a corresponding foul. A misconduct can be issued whether play is active or not.

Illegal Handling
Often misunderstood; the only time a foul has occurred is when the hand or arm makes intentional contact with the ball. Even then, when this contact is in a protective manner, there is no foul. A good rule of thumb is “Hand to ball is a foul; ball to hand is not.”

This foul, which results in an indirect free kick, occurs when a player shields an opponent from being able to play the ball. This is only a foul when the ball is out of easy reach of the impeding player.

Perhaps the most complicated ruling in all of sports! Quite simply, offside is the infraction when the offense unfairly plays the ball beyond the defense. “Offside” refers to a player being on the “off” or wrong side of the field (yet another British thing!). Please note this infraction is not “offsides”.

Yellow / Red Cards
Cards are shown to players who have committed misconduct, not fouls. Infractions that require a caution result in a yellow card; infractions that require a send-off result in a red card. A player issued a red card is disqualified for the rest of the game and that team cannot replace this player. A player issued a second yellow card in a single game is automatically issued a red card and sent off.


Soccer Officials

Center Referee (CR)
The center referee is the leader of the referee team and is the only official empowered to call fouls, issue cards, and start and stop play. The CR will look for advice from their AR’s and club linesmen but is not required to follow it.

Assistant Referee (AR)
There are two assistant referees (one on each touch line) for every regulation match. Assistant referees are fully trained members of the officiating team and not affiliated with either team. AR’s responsibilities include tending the touch lines and goal line, watching for offside violations, advising the center referee of fouls or misconduct, and generally assisting the CR with officiating the game. AR’s generally communicate to the center referee with the use of flag signals, never with a whistle.

Club Linesman
When AR’s are not available, club linesmen will assist the center referee by tending the touch lines and indicating whether the ball has left the field of play and what team is to maintain possession. Typically provided by one of the teams involved, the potential partiality of the club linesman precludes them from calling fouls or offside calls and do not hold the full authority of a center or assistant referee.


Starts and Re-starts of Play

Kick-off (KO)
A KO starts play at the beginning of a half or after a goal. The ball must move forward (even if only slightly). The KO begins with the opponents outside the center circle and commences once the referee gives the signal to proceed.

Indirect Free Kick (IFK)
An IFK is a free kick on which a goal cannot be scored directly off the kick. The ball must first touch a player other than the kicker for a goal to count. The referee will hold one arm straight up to indicate an IFK.

Direct Free Kick (DFK)
A DFK is a free kick on which a goal can be scored directly off the kick.

Penalty Kick (PK)
If a DFK foul is called against a player within their own penalty area, a penalty kick will be awarded to the opposing team. The ball is placed on the penalty mark, the goalkeeper must stay on the goal line until the ball is kicked, all other players except the kicker must stay behind the ball, out of the penalty area, and ten yards from the ball. Once the referee gives the signal and the ball is kicked forward, the other players may immediately re-enter play.

Corner Kick (CK)
A CK is awarded the attacking team when the defense last touches the ball before it fully crosses the goal line. The CK is taken on the side of the field where the ball left play.

Goal Kick (GK)
A GK is awarded the defending team when the opposition last touches the ball before it fully crosses the goal line. The GK is taken from anywhere within the goal area and must fully clear the penalty area to be back in play. The GK not clearing the penalty area will be re-taken.

Drop Ball (DB)
The referee will re-start play with a DB whenever they have stopped play for any reason other than those described above. The ball will be in play once it hits the ground after being dropped by the referee.


Player Positions

The sweeper is a defensive player positioned between the fullbacks and the goalkeeper. Intended to roam freely and “sweep up” the ball across the field, this player usually acts as the on-field coach directing the defense and allows the fullbacks to push forward to aid the offense. Usually a tough and gritty player with speed and a willingness to make contact.

The stopper is a defensive player positioned between the midfield and fullbacks (sometimes the center fullback) to stop attacks up the middle. This player is often designated to mark the opponents’ most potent scoring threat.

The striker is an offensive player, usually the center forward, known to have a strong shot. Quite often the player to take the most shots on goal.

The wingers are the left and right forwards whose main job is to center the ball to teammates in scoring position.


Soccer Maneuvers

Moving across the field of play while in possession and control of the ball. Unlike basketball, the hands are not used in this maneuver. Dribbling is also sometimes called “carrying”.

This is when a player kicks the ball cleanly between the legs of an opposing player, who usually feels the embarrassment of being caught flat-footed.

A technique by which a player attempts to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible by kicking or otherwise striking the ball with the head, knees, or chest (but never hands or arms). An excellent technique for developing touch and ball control.

Simply the act of taking possession of the ball away from an opponent. And though the term in American football means dragging someone to the ground, this is not the case in soccer. Tackles can be either clean or illegal (in which a foul is committed).

Slide Tackle
When a tackle is done while the player taking the ball is on the ground, this is known as a slide tackle. This is a fully legal soccer maneuver when executed correctly (see the Region 418 website for our Region’s special guidelines on Slide Tackling).

Making contact with an opposing player while possession of the ball is being contested. Charging is not necessarily against the rules. So long as the charge is quick, instantaneous (shoulder to shoulder, never from behind) and without carelessness, recklessness, or excessive force, this contact is acceptable. Illegal charging is one of the ten direct free kick fouls.

When a goalkeeper drops and kicks the ball before it hits the ground. This is done to send the ball as far from the penalty area as possible and is done for distance rather than precision.

Kicking the ball while it is in the air (as opposed to rolling on the ground).

Half Volley
Kicking the ball just after it has touched the ground (quite often done by the goalkeeper while punting). Also known as a “drop kick”.

When a player stops to ball to allow greater control in dribbling, passing, or shooting. Traps can be made with the feet, insides of thighs, chest, or head (rarely).


Terms that are NOT Soccer Terms

Ouch. This is the most commonly misused word in soccer. While “offside” is used in soccer, “offsides” is from American football.

Penalty Box
Penalty boxes are where unruly hockey players are sent. Soccer goalkeepers are found roaming in penalty areas. Similarly, soccer recognizes the phrase “goal area” in lieu of “goal box”.

Handball is a hard court game popular in the 1970’s in which you are encouraged to use your hands. In soccer, you are generally discouraged from using your hands. The penalty for improperly using your hands is called “illegal handling”.

No side lines in soccer, only touch lines. The phrase comes from the fact that you are allowed to touch the ball with your hands (so as to throw it in) if the ball has fully crossed these lines.

Quarters are familiar to American football players, pro basketball players, and people feeding parking meters. However, soccer players know that soccer is always played in two halves. While sometimes there is a substitution break (or rest break for the younger players) in the middle of AYSO soccer halves, these should not be considered as “quarters”. After such breaks, play is restarted at the point where play was last stopped.

Midway Line
A Midway line is a train that may cause you to miss your flight on the southwest side. However, it is not something found on a soccer field. Nor is there a 50 yard line. The line that bisects the field of play is called a “Halfway Line”.