How to Choose My Soccer Position? [Explained Roles Guide]

New players always wonder “How do I choose my soccer position?”. Choosing a position in soccer is unlike any other sport. In basketball, positions go by height, where the tallest player is the center, and the shortest is the point guard. In most other sports the positions go by physical attributes. American football or European handball is the same where you can guess the positions only by their looks.

In soccer, the way to choose a position is to figure out what is in the players’ heads. Their level of aggression, bravery, focus, and communication, play a much bigger role than their physical attributes. The question of how to choose my soccer position can be hard because it is where the introspection needs to happen and it is really hard to have that at a very young age of the soccer journey. Let’s guide you through how the mindset of the player determines where the particular player should play.

I don’t need to choose my soccer position – I want to be a striker! 

This is the statement that we get every time a new player comes for practice and we start playing a scrimmage. They usually say that they want to be a striker because they want to score goals. My response is that scoring goal is just a job of a striker, so I will not cheer that much for them. However, I will applaud them more if they score goals from other positions. Also, especially in our youth soccer formations created for development, we want to give experience in multiple positions.

There is a great story by Casemiro, the legendary defensive midfielder for Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Brazil. In his youth, he went for tryouts with several hundred other players on a team with 25 spots. He wanted to be a striker but also saw that half of the other players wanted to be strikers, too. So when they asked him, he saw that the holding mid has the least amount of competition at those tryouts and went for it. What happened is a fantastic career for one of the best defensive midfielders ever.

Soccer is versatile and soccer players need to be versatile, too. Everybody can and should play soccer, but their role on the team might change. In fact, if you want to increase your chances of playing soccer and have a soccer career worth writing about, you better be ready to play in any position on the field. I’ve seen players on the bench as wing-back in their freshmen year and then on the wing in their sophomore year. The same player transitioned to the creative midfield role for the remaining two years of high school, which is the role they wanted to play from the beginning.


The goalkeeper, often referred to as the “last line of defense,” is the team’s shield against the opponent’s attacks. I often remind them that the attack also starts with the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper should be the master of the 18-yard box and for that, it has an advantage over other players to use their hands. Their primary objective is to protect the net from the opposing team’s shots. However, we have seen that in modern soccer a goalkeeper can have the advantage of being good with their feet. A goalkeeper’s skills include diving to make spectacular saves, quick decision-making, and effective communication with the defense. The key qualities of the keeper are concentration, aggressiveness, and communication. They are the backbone of the team, providing confidence and security to their comrades.

Famous active players: Manuel Neuer, Aaron Ramsdale, Gianluigi Donnarumma.


Modern soccer is played with 3 or 4 defenders. In a 4 defender shape, we have two central defenders and two wing-backs. In the 3 defender formation, we have one central defender and two defenders that have a hybrid role between the defender and a full-back. We will use the full-back and wing-back terms interchangeably for simplicity. The traditional terminology acknowledges the fullback as having more attacking responsibilities than a fullback. Let’s profile these roles and the natural predispositions to play them.

Central defender

The defenders form a crucial wall in front of the goalkeeper, aiming to disrupt the opponent’s offensive maneuvers. These players are responsible for stopping the opposing team’s attackers from getting close to the goal. Their role involves clearances, interceptions, and well-timed tackles to regain possession and start counter-attacks. Center-backs are the anchors of the defense, focusing on marking the opposing team’s strikers – that’s their main job. To achieve this, they need to have focus, bravery, and teamwork.

As there are usually two defenders, it is important to understand that they should ideally have a partnership and characteristics that complement each other. The ideal partnership is when one of the defenders is the natural aggressor, while the other one is more cautious, often called the anchor. When playing against one striker, one center-back will mark them tightly, while the other one provides cover. When defending against two attackers, they will likely get support from the full-backs or the defensive midfielders, but the principles will remain the same. Being able to be both the aggressor and the anchor, will increase the chances of being selected on a team and a lineup.

Famous active players/players: Dias and Stones (Man City), Arujo and Christensen (Barcelona), Rudinger and Militao (Real Madrid)

Fullback or wingback

The fullbacks today are expected to be incredibly versatile players. There is the traditional fullback that helps the attack when attacking through their side, or shifting as a third defender in the middle. The wingback role expects to do overlapping runs and deliver crosses. The inverted wingback is expected to play as a defender but slide into the central midfield area when attacking. Today, it feels like all of these things are expected at the same time, which of course is not possible. However, coaches expect the players to have high levels of adaptability, tactical awareness, and technical skills, both offensively and defensively.

Easier said than done – coaches acknowledge the difficulty and the tacticians that put some thought into it usually experiment with the roles of the fullbacks. My favorite personal story was when my right defender was injured for a game. So, I had to put another player that usually played as central midfielder. For a week, I kept reminding the player to be disciplined and focus on the basics, which is defending. I was so anxious, knowing that this would backfire. Amazingly, we found out that the weak point of the opponents was really their left flank. The winger was slow and scared to attack, so stayed basically as a second right back, even when they were attacking. Our “forced” right wingback ended up looking like a genius, sometimes coming in the middle to help, otherwise pushing all the way up the wing.

Famous active players: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luke Shaw, Achraf Hakimi


Games are won or lost in the midfield. It has always been true and it is true today.Iif one team is dominating the middle of the pitch, they will win the game. Therefore, we will focus on the central midfielders and in particular the 6, 8, and 10. The wide midfielders, in a 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2, are essentially variations of the wingers or the wingbacks, so the profiles are similar to them. When I needed to choose my soccer position, I wanted to become a midfielder and that’s where I play in my pickup games. 

Holding mid (#6)

I usually refer to this role as the infrastructure. When we go to a restaurant, we always focus on the food, the service, and the atmosphere. We are never amazed by the infrastructure. However, if the infrastructure doesn’t function, then we can have a horrible time and it affects other aspects, too. For example, the lack of water or electricity will both ruin our time while dining or using the restrooms, but also the chef’s ability to cook. The holding midfielder is the same for the team – they need to be consistent, aggressive, and tactically aware. They need to be really disciplined to do the “dirty” work of delaying opponents, covering on defense and transitioning the ball to the attackers, and switching the wings. 

Famous active players: Casemiro, Declan Rice, Enzo Fernandez

Central midfielder (#8) or the Box-to-Box

Central midfielders are the dynamic engine room of the team. They are connecting the defense and attack and create advantages on both sides of the pitch. There are three basic types of advantages – numerical, positional, and qualitative. The simple one that the box-to-box midfielders can bring is to cover lots of ground and be positioned well to bring numerical advantage to the team. If they join the attackers when attacking and help the defense when defending, they can bring almost permanent numerical advantage to the team. To achieve that, they need to be consistent, positioned well, and disciplined. It is very unlikely that a player can successfully play this role without much stamina. The players don’t have to be particularly fast or strong, but if the opponents have high-stamina players, then the team with low-stamina midfielders will be at a disadvantage. 

Famous active players: Frenkie de Jong, Thiago Alcantara, Kevin De Bruyne

Attacking mid (#10) or the Playmaker

For decades this has been considered the most important role in soccer. The creative maestros are supposed to exploit the weaknesses of the opponents with their vision, ball control and creativity. They provide the key passes, so technical superiority over the average player is a must. Because the role is so hard and it is almost impossible to find a player that can perform the role at the highest level, many coaches and teams have found ways to adapt to it by not having a classic playmakers. Furthermore, if the key passes come only from one player, the opponents would often mark them tightly or even double team them. Instead, they play with two central midfielders and distribute the roles across them, and the rest of the team. So, often players all around the field are required to pitch in when it comes to seeing good passes and bring creativity.

Famous active players: Pedri, Martin Odegaard, Bruno Fernandes


The attackers, or forwards, are the players responsible for scoring goals and wreaking havoc in the opponent’s defense. Their primary objective is to find openings in the opposing team’s defense and convert opportunities into goals. In modern soccer, the attackers are fluid and have more tasks, such as helping on defense and putting pressure. We can classify the attack in two groups – wingers and strikers. Of course, there are subcategories, such as poachers, target men, false 9, shadow strikers, and so on. However, a good striker can have multiple tools in their pocket to use depending on the opponent. so it’s up to them to adapt in the situation. 


Wingers or wide forwards operate on the flanks, delivering accurate crosses and providing support to the strikers. They need to have an oxymoronic characteristic (great opportunity to teach some SAT words to the young players) to be patiently aggressive. That is extremely hard trait to spot by coaches or even scouts that specialize in spotting soccer talent. They need to be patient because the ball might not get to them for 5 or 10 minutes in a game, but they need to make runs into space or stay wide or put high press in that time. However, when the ball gets to them they need to get in a full sprint. Similarly, if they see a cross coming, they might need to sprint in the box or second post. The art of soccer coaching is to develop both sides of the personality.  

Famous active players: Vinicius Jr, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Cristiano Ronaldo


Strikers are often the primary scorers, utilizing their speed, agility, and shooting prowess to beat the goalkeeper. While physical dominance can help, the true advantage is in the mindset. The truth is that if you ask yourself “how to choose my soccer position”, you probably are not a striker. In the core simplicity, the strikers are obsessed with scoring. The coaches these days want the strikers to help with defense and buildup. However, there is no coach that will complain if the striker fails to deliver in defense but scores a hat-trick. The opponents often double team the strikers, so they have to do something incredible to score goals. The striker becomes and stays a striker by scoring goals. If a player can score goals regularly, then sooner or later they will become a striker.

Famous active players: Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, Leo Messi


Understanding soccer positions allows us to appreciate the intricate teamwork and individual brilliance displayed on the field. Each position contributes to the overall strategy, with players specializing in their respective roles. When thinking about how to choose your soccer position, remember that every player has a vital role to play in the beautiful game of soccer. So, the next time you watch a match, keep an eye on the different positions and marvel at the magic unfolding before you.