How many players are on a soccer team?
If your child just started playing soccer, you might feel like something looks a bit off in their games. Shouldn’t there be more players out there?
Unlike other sports, there are different numbers of players on the field in a soccer game depending on the age of the players. While youth basketball is generally always 5v5, youth soccer may have leagues of 4v4, 6v6, 7v7, 9v9, or 11v11 depending on the age and skill level of the players. As such, the question “How many players are on a soccer team” has several answers.
Different player numbers at different levels
Note: Shorthand like "U8" stands for Under 8. This means your child is "Under 8" on a set date determined by that league. That's the age group they'll play in for the season.
Based on US Soccer guidelines, U6-U8 players play 4v4, U9-U10 players play 7v7, U11-U12 players play 9v9, and U13-U19 and above players play 11v11. However, local leagues often make their own rules on how many players will be on each side. They’ll also decide on rules like what size soccer ball is used, the size of the goals, and whether or not the offside rule is enforced. As such, the specific rules for your child’s league may not comply with national regulations.
That said, competitive leagues for 13-year-olds and older are all 11v11, including collegiate and professional leagues. Players may be removed from the game due to earning a red card for foul play (or two yellow cards for two lesser infractions). The minimum number of players that a team may still play with is 7. Professional teams roster 26 players.
Younger players in leagues with fewer players per side will play on smaller fields. While full 11v11 squads might play a formation with a goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders, and two strikers, coaches of 7v7 or 9v9 teams will have some decisions to make! They might prefer to have a goalkeeper, three defenders, two midfielders, and one forward; or a goalkeeper, three defenders, three midfielders, and two forwards.
Generally, soccer formations feature more defenders than forward players, while midfielders help in both the defensive and offensive thirds of the field. But we’ll leave those decisions up to the coach, so parents can focus on the individual skills training at home!
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