Mon, Oct 17, 2022
Professional soccer is organized and governed by FIFA, which stands for the French translation of the International Federation of Association Football. FIFA governs all 211 national soccer associations and, in turn, oversees all of the club teams within each nation’s soccer association. These national associations then make up the six soccer confederations, the continental governing bodies of FIFA. The six confederations are the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the Confederation of African Football (AFC), the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), and the Oceania Football Association (OFC).
Now, in terms of the number of individual club teams that FIFA actually oversees, there are truly too many to count. In other words, each one of the 211 national soccer associations has its own league system, which often includes multiple tiers that allow for fluidity between them via promotion and relegation. For example, in England, the top flight league consists of 20 teams. In the three leagues below that league, there are a total of 72 teams. Below those leagues, there are a seemingly infinite number of semi-professional and amateur leagues that a separate English soccer system governs but that still feeds teams into the higher leagues via promotion. So, although there are only 92 club teams that UEFA, and, in turn, FIFA, directly governs in England, the teams themselves are always changing due to promotion and relegation. This, however, is only England. Every national association, from Angola to Laos to Bonaire to Samoa, has its own system with multiple leagues and/or tiers and, thus, a sizable number of individual clubs.
Players on Each Team: 11 on the pitch, 5-7 on the bench
Field Dimensions: The size of the pitch is flexible but it is between 100-130 yards long and 50-100 yards wide
Length of Game: Two 45-minute halves plus stoppage time, in some formats there is extra time of two 15-minute halves
Basic Play: There are two goals on either side of the pitch in which one of the two teams is attempting to score by kicking the ball into the back of the net. Offsides rules dictate where players can stand on the field – if a player is standing beyond the last line of defenders of the opposing team and a teammate passes that player the ball, the referee will call for offsides. When a team is in possession, its players will pass the ball around for a few different purposes. The first is to move the ball upfield into an attacking position. The second is to maintain possession in midfield, a more conservative approach but still with the goal of building an eventual attack. Third, the team might pass the ball back to its defenders or goalkeeper in order to take the heat off the midfield if the opposing team is building towards an attack. The only player who can use his hands during the game is the goalkeeper – the player wearing gloves who protects his team’s goal from being scored on. The rest of the players can only use their hands in one scenario – a throw-in. A throw-in occurs when the ball goes over the white line on the sideline – this is known as the touch line. The game starts with a kickoff in the middle of the pitch and runs for 45 minutes plus stoppage with no timeouts or breaks.
As I said, in soccer, there are 11 players on the pitch for each team at all times. These players can be split into a variety of positions, but the basic layers of the team are the defenders, midfielders, and forwards (attackers).
Goalkeeper: The goalkeeper is, as their name suggests, the player who keeps the opposing team from getting the ball into the goal. They are typically very tall and lanky players with quick reflexes and the ability to cover a lot of space in the net. A great goalkeeper can easily be the difference between a win and a loss in soccer with scores typically being low.
Fullbacks: Each soccer team will play one left-back and one right-back – these are the defenders who play out wide on either side. Oftentimes these defenders will be known as “wing-backs”, which means they are responsible for participating in the attacking play as well. Fullbacks’ main responsibilities include defending against the opposing team’s wingers and contributing to moving the ball to the midfield on the flanks.
Center Backs: These are the defenders who play on the interior of the back third of the pitch. They are typically stronger and more physical players than fullbacks, although usually not as fast. The center backs are the last line of defense before the opposing team reaches the goal.
Midfielders: As their name suggests, midfielders play in the middle of the field. They can be further broken down into defensive midfielders and attacking midfielders. These players fill a variety of roles from defending to shooting. They are also the players relied upon to control possession for their team and set up passes to move play forward carefully and strategically.
Wingers: Wingers play on the outside of the pitch in the attacking third and are responsible for either making passes into the striking players or making runs into the box from the outside. Wingers are usually the fastest players on the pitch as they have to cover the most ground and usually have great footwork specifically with dribbling and passing.
Strikers: Strikers traditionally play in the middle of the attacking third, at the top of their team’s formation. The striker is the player who is most relied upon to score goals and they will receive passes from the wingers or midfield in order to do so. Aerial ability is always a plus for strikers as headers can be a very effective way to score goals. Strikers are usually some of the stronger players on the pitch but must also have above-average finesse and footwork in order to succeed.
There are a variety of offenses that may be called in soccer. Illegal actions that will illicit a foul whistle from the referee include kicking, tripping, jumping into, charging into, pushing, illegally tackling, or holding an opponent, as well as touching the ball with your hands (a handball). The following are the offenses which a ref will call based on the severity of the foul:
Free Kick: This will be called for any penalty that takes place outside of the box and results in the referee blowing his whistle to stop play. These can often be high-level scoring opportunities depending on how close to the net the attacking team is.
Penalty Kick: If the defensive team has a player called for any type of a foul inside of the box they are defending, the attacking team will be awarded a penalty. This includes a handball, as well. If a penalty kick is awarded, the attacking team will select one player to have a shot on goal in a one-on-one opportunity with the keeper from inside the box.
Yellow Card: Cards are up to the discretion of the referee, but for more serious challenges the player in question may be handed a yellow card. If a player receives two yellow cards in one game, they are automatically ejected. In some tournament competitions, if a player receives a yellow card in two consecutive games, they are unable to play in the third game. If a player receives a yellow card it usually results in their increased caution for the remainder of the contest so as to not be ejected.
Red Card: For the most serious offenses, the referee will produce a red card – this automatically results in the disqualification of the player in question from the contest. A red card can be shown for any type of serious foul, any violent action, the use of inflammatory language, or the use of a player’s hands in a direct attempt to protect their own goal.
Both teams can have at most eleven players on the field, totaling up to 22 players at any given time. There is also a referee on the field who manages fouls and misconduct during the game. Two assistant referees cover either sideline to indicate when the ball goes out of play and which team gets possession.
Coaches can make up to three substitutions per match and are only allowed to stand in a specified “technical area” to coach their players from the sideline. Bench players, the rest of the coaching staff, and medical personnel also reside on the sideline during games.
Since the clock never stops running during a soccer match, matches often go on for slightly longer than 90 minutes due to “added time,” which is the time at the end of either half that referees add on to make up for stoppages in play during the game.
Other than that, the team with more goals at the end of the game wins. League games are allowed to end in draws, while cup competitions require games to be replayed at a later date or to continue into extra time and/or a penalty shootout. Cup competitions, or ties, also often have two legs so that teams can play each other in both teams’ stadiums. The winner of the tie is then determined based on the aggregate score of the two legs. If the aggregate score is a draw, the team with more away goals often advances. If those are equal as well, the second match goes into extra time and possibly penalties.
In league play, a team gets three points for winning, one point for drawing, and no points for losing. Each team plays every other team twice, once at home and once away. The total number of points that each team has at the end of the season then determines the winner of the league or which teams will take part in an additional playoff bracket.
Larger tournaments may also have group stages. In a group stage, there will be multiple groups of teams, and teams will play the other teams in their group. Group stages use the point system, and the top teams in each group will move on to the knockout rounds that no longer use the point system and are either single elimination or a two-legged tie.
Before you start placing a bet, I would suggest that you know the teams. Below are the most popular soccer teams that you know. This list should serve as a cheat sheet to help you remember which major domestic league is in each country. It is important to remember that practically every country has multiple soccer leagues, but this is a list of the top-flight league in each of the major countries and I suggest that you bet on one or two of the leagues only.
England: English Premier League
Spain: La Liga
France: Ligue 1
Italy: Serie A
Portugal: Primeira Liga
United States: Major League Soccer