Youth Soccer Positions Explained: All Ages and Players

There is nothing better than watching your child play soccer. The thrill of watching your son or daughter score their first goal is even better than watching your favorite soccer team win a game.

But youth soccer is very different from professional soccer, and this can make it confusing for any parent watching on. Even one who is an avid soccer fan or player themselves. 

But knowing the positions on the field is absolutely essential if you want to be able to enjoy the game that you are watching.

What youth soccer games lack in professionalism they definitely make up for in passion which is why so many parents savor watching their child play. But understanding what each player is supposed to be doing and what their position is can definitely make the game more enjoyable. 

So if you are a parent who has spent many an hour watching your child play soccer with no idea what they are supposed to be doing, you are in the right place.

In this guide we’re giving you a complete knowledge of youth soccer positions, looking at all ages, players, and team sizes to ensure you know absolutely everything there is to know. 

Consider this your ultimate guide to youth soccer, so with no further ado let’s get going. 

An Overview

Before we take an in-depth look at the youth soccer positions, let’s have a quick overview of the sport and the different positions in which your child may play.

You will notice that the positions are similar to what you see at a professional level, but there are some clear changes made at the youth level depending on the number of players on the field. 

You might have read that sentence and thought, ‘Well don’t all soccer teams have 11 players?’ and the answer is no. While all adult soccer teams must consist of 11 players, this isn’t the case for youth soccer teams as they can play with as little as 6 players on each side.

We won’t say any more about that for now, but we’ll take a deeper look at how the positions differ depending on the number of players on the field later on. 

For now, let’s take a look at what the main positions in soccer are, and the numbers that correspond with each position.

In professional soccer, the number on the back of a player’s shirt often has no relation to the position in which they are playing, but in youth soccer it does.

We’ll also take a quick look at the abbreviations of these positions in case that is what you are used to hearing. 

The key youth soccer positions, numbers, and abbreviations are:

  1. Goalkeeper (GK)
  2. Right Back (RB)
  3. Left Back (LB)
  4. Right Side Center Back (RCB)
  5. Left Side Center Back (LCB)
  6. Defensive Midfielder (DM)
  7. Right Midfielder/Right Wing (RM/RW)
  8. Central Midfielder (CM)
  9. Striker/Center Forward (S/CF)
  10. Attacking Midfielder/Playmaker (AM)
  11. Left Midfielder/Left Wing (LM/LW)

So now that we’ve taken an overview of the different positions that you will find on a youth soccer field, let’s take a deeper look at each position to find out more about what they do and their importance on the field. 

What does each player do?

We’ve told you the name given to some of the key positions on a high school soccer field, so now let’s take a look at what each player does.

As we have already mentioned, there are a few differences between the positions on a youth soccer field and the positions on a professional soccer field, so you should bear this in mind when reading. 

The first player that we mentioned earlier is number 1, the Goal Keeper. This position is universal to every single soccer team worldwide and is probably one of the only positions that even people who hate soccer could tell you about.

The goalkeeper plays one of the most important parts on the field and is under an incredible amount of pressure as it is their responsibility to prevent the ball from entering the net.

Even though the goalkeeper isn’t the sole defender on the pitch, they are usually the ones who get blamed if the opposing team should score, even though the ball should have been stopped further up the field.

In professional soccer, the goalkeeper is often the focal point of the game, and this also applies to youth soccer. 

Next, you have the Right Back who usually plays with the number ‘2’ on their back. Just like the goalkeeper is a defensive player, so is the right-back. This position plays an essential part in defending the goal area as they must protect the right-hand side of the field from any ongoing attempts to score by the opposition.

Similarly, the number ‘3’ is usually worn by the player who is occupying the Left Back position. The Left Back essentially completes the same job as the right-back, except it is their responsibility to prevent the opposition from bringing the ball down the left-hand side of the field to the goal area.

If the goalkeeper is the final piece of defense on the pitch, the right and left backs are the penultimate defensive positions.

Just like how number ‘2’ and ‘3’ are occupied by two players who complete the same job on opposite sides of the field, so are number ‘4’ and number ‘5’. These positions are occupied by the center-backs, with the number ‘4’ on the right and the number ‘5’ on the left.

It is the job of the center-backs to stop the ball from traveling down the field which will allow the opposition to score. They are positioned in front of the right and left-backs and are the next layer of defense on the field.

They complete a very similar job to the left and right-backs, except they do it from a more central position on the field, hence the name that this position is given. 

Despite the fact that center backs are positioned fairly central on the field, they are actually part of the defensive category of positions. But their position on the field means that you will actually find the center backs fairly close to the midfield positions.

Speaking of midfield, the next position on the field is number ‘6’ which is occupied by the defensive midfielder. This is the first midfield position that we will look at, and as its name suggests this position completes a defensive position despite their central location on the field.

The midfield positions are pretty much divided into players who support the attack and players who support the defense, it’s name makes it clear which category this position is supporting. 

Following that, you have another position which is occupied by two numbers. Number ‘7’ on the field is occupied by the Right Midfielder or Right Wing, which is mirrored by the number ‘11’ which is occupied by the Left Midfielder or Left Wing.

The terms ‘midfielder’ and ‘wing’ are often used interchangeably for this position since the person playing this number will be located on either side of the field.

It is these positions that begin to move into the attacking players as it is the number ‘7’ and number ‘11’s job to protect the defense and aid the attacking players.

Due to this, these positions are very busy to play in and require players who are incredibly fit so that they can travel between the defense and the attack when needed. 

The next number is also occupied by a midfielder, as number ’8’ belongs to the central midfielder. Despite the fact that they have different names, the central midfielder completes a very similar job to both the left and right midfielder, except they do their job from the central point of the field.

Just like the left and right midfielder, the central midfielder supports both the attacking and defensive players, helping the attack score goals and the defense prevent goals from being scored. This is another incredibly busy position no matter how the game is going. 

After that, you have the attacking players. The number ‘9’ belongs to the position that is completed by the strike or center forward, while number ‘10’ refers to the player who is taking on the attacking midfielder role.

Even those who don’t follow soccer will have heard of the striker as this is one of the most important positions on the field, it is also one of the most famous as strikers tend to be the most discussed players.

The striker is the player whose main job is to score goals, and because of this, they are one of the players who get most of the glory if the team wins. It is the number ‘10’s job to support the striker in scoring goals by passing the ball upfield, and sometimes this player will even score goals themselves. 

So now that it is clear what each position is supposed to do on the field, let’s take a look at why they are given the numbers on the back of their shirt, and what these numbers mean. 

What do the numbers mean?

When you watch a soccer game on the field, one of the first things that you observe is the large numbers on the back of each shirt.

Most people just accept that these numbers are part of the game, and don’t wonder what they mean, but if you are a bit more curious then keep on reading. 

If you watch professional soccer, you will notice that there are a whole host of different numbers on the backs of shirts, completely different numbers to what you see in youth soccer. This is because the numbers on the back of youth soccer shirts are the numbers that were traditionally associated with these positions.

In professional soccer, these numbers have lost their meaning and all that is required is a unique number on the back of each shirt, rather than a specific number that corresponds to the position that is being played by that person.

However, in youth soccer, most teams have chosen to stick with the numbers that are associated with each position. In a lot of cases, the number means nothing to the player who is wearing it, it is simply how they will be referred to by the referee on the pitch.

You might have expected there to be rules surrounding the specific numbers that are worn by each player like there is in rugby, but there are actually no rules about this. 

All the rules state is that each player must be wearing a number when they are on the field. This number must be unique to the other members of their team, but it doesn’t need to be a specific number. This is why you might see your favorite professional soccer player wearing the number ‘27’ or ‘32’ even though it doesn’t correspond with any position on the field. 

Professional soccer teams have significantly more money than youth soccer teams, which is why there are a lot of unique numbers on a professional soccer field.

Whereas most youth soccer teams will simply stick to the traditional 1-11 as this is less expensive and means that the number will always match the traditional methods, even if the player wearing that shirt is playing in the wrong position. 

There are a lot of differences between youth and professional soccer, which is why the differences in numbers aren’t much of a surprise.

One of the main differences between youth and professional soccer is that professional soccer will always be played with 11 people on each team, while youth soccer can be played with fewer. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the number of players on the team affects the positions that are taken on the field. 

Different Team Sizes

Before reading this, you might have been surprised to learn that youth soccer can be played with less than 11 players, but this is actually very common for youth soccer.

In particular, younger youth soccer tends to feature a smaller number of players on a smaller field to improve skill before building up to 11 vs 11 when the players grow older. It is also sometimes difficult for youth soccer teams to field a team which is why games are often played with less than 11 players on each team. 

We mentioned earlier that youth soccer can be played with any amount of players ranging from 6 through to 11. As long as both teams are using the same amount of players then the game is sound and it will be allowed to go ahead.

Of course, this would never be allowed at a professional level, but youth soccer is a lot more relaxed. We’ve looked at the main 11 players, but which players do you remove from the team if you are playing with a smaller amount. Let’s take a look at how the teams for smaller games are chosen. 

The smallest number of players which you will find on a youth soccer team is 6. That means that there will be 12 players on the field in total.

Even though the number of players is smaller, they will still have to cover the entire field and will be required to fit into the 3 categories: defending, attacking, and midfield, and so most managers choose a 2-2-1 format.

The 6 vs 6 format tends to be used by younger players and is often used to begin teaching younger people the game. A 6 vs 6 team will consist of:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Right Defender
  • Left Defender
  • Right Midfielder
  • Left Midfielder
  • Striker

Even though 7 vs 7 only adds one extra player to each team, it does change the design of the team significantly. This is usually used for teams that consist of players aged between 7 and 9, and in most cases, a 2-3-1 format will be used in these matches. This format will consist of:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Right Defender
  • Left Defender
  • Center Midfielder
  • Left Midfielder
  • Right Midfielder
  • Striker

Add another player to each side and you find yourself playing an 8 vs 8 soccer game. In most cases these games will be played using a 3-3-1 format, utilizing the extra player to improve the team’s defensive system. These positions will be made up of a:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Right Defender
  • Left Defender
  • Center Defender
  • Left Midfielder
  • Center Midfielder
  • Right Midfielder
  • Striker 

When you add a ninth player to the team this is when the attack can begin to grow in strength.

While you need to score goals to win games, defending is just as much or even more important which is why most managers choose to play the formats we have looked at above. 

But when an extra player is added a team can begin to strengthen its attacking format. This team is usually played in a 3-3-2 format which is made up of the following players:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Right Defender
  • Left Defender 
  • Center Defender
  • Left Midfielder
  • Right Midfielder
  • Center Midfielder
  • Center Forward
  • Striker or Playmaker 

After a tenth player is added to the team, you find yourself playing with an almost full team. This is why this format is used extremely rarely, and most teams will instead use an 11 vs 11 format instead of a 10 vs 10.

It would feel slightly pointless to devise a team of just 10 players on each side, so most managers instead choose to play an 11 vs 11 format.

In most cases, if you have enough players to field 10, you will have enough players for an 11 vs 11 game. In this case, the youth soccer team will follow consist of the team that we laid out earlier consisting of a:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Right Back 
  • Left Back 
  • Right Side Center Back 
  • Left Side Center Back 
  • Defensive Midfielder 
  • Right Midfielder/Right Wing 
  • Central Midfielder
  • Striker/Center Forward
  • Attacking Midfielder/Playmaker 
  • Left Midfielder/Left Wing 


So there you have it, a complete guide to everything you need to know about youth soccer.

We’ve told you absolutely everything you need to know about the positions in youth soccer, as well as the impact that age, players and team size has on this.

After reading this you will have full knowledge of youth soccer to ensure you enjoy the next game that you have to watch. 

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