Are you ready to brush up on your soccer vocabulary in English? World Cup fans and soccer newbies alike will enjoy this awesome vocabulary list!

One of the most exciting sports championships is almost upon us, and we want to make sure your World Cup lingo is as ready as the 32 teams that will be competing this summer! Whether you’re a fan, or you’re new to the game, you’ll feel so much more involved if you’re well-versed in soccer terminology, no matter what team you’re rooting for!

(Oh! And, personally, I have just one other thing to say about that: ¡VIVA LA FURIA ROJA! 😜⚽🏆🇪🇸❤)


We know, we know. We’re the only ones who don’t call it football! In the U.S., football 🏈 is an entirely different sport. So, what the rest of the world calls football, we call soccer. ⚽

The World Cup, which only graces us with it’s amazingness every four years, is a perfect time for you to watch soccer and talk with people all over the world who also enjoy this sport. Use these words and phrases to get the conversation started with other English-speaking soccer fans!


In a soccer game, there are 11 players on the field, including the goalie, but excluding any substitutes that might be benched on the sidelines. The positions they play are:

DEFENSE: The defense, also known as the full-back, is the player that protects (or defends) their team from the opposing team. They usually play in the back, right in front of the goalie.

GOALIE: Also known more formally as the goalkeeper, the goalie is the player that makes sure the opposing team does not score a goal, by physically stopping soccer balls from entering the goal net. Goalies are also the only players allowed to use their hands and arms during a game.

MIDFIELD: This position is in the middle of the field, as the name suggests, and they defend as well as help the forwards score a goal. It’s also known as the half-back.

FORWARD: Also known as the striker, this position’s main job is to score a goal.


DRIBBLING: This term is also used in basketball. It means to run up the field with the ball, moving it little by little with different parts of your foot.

OFFSIDES: This is a violation that happens when an offensive player (from the other team) passes a ball when there aren’t defensive players between the person passing the ball, the offensive player, and the goal. If a player is determined to be offsides, the opposing team will be awarded an indirect kick.

OUT OF BOUNDS: When the ball goes outside the marked lines on the game field.

CORNER KICK: A kick from the corner of the field when the ball goes out of bounds, last touched by a defensive player. The ball is kicked by an offensive player.

GOAL KICK: This happens when a ball is out of bounds, and it was last touched by an offensive player. The goalie grabs the ball and kicks it back into the field of play.

THROW-IN: This is when a play is restarted after a ball goes out of bounds, and the team that throws it in is the opposite team that made the ball go out of bounds in the first place.

SHIN GUARDS: These are a required part of a player’s uniform. It’s the padding that is strapped to the front of a player’s leg, below the knee (a.k.a. the shin).

KICK-OFF: This is the way a game is started or restarted, whether at the beginning of the match or at half-time, after a goal has been scored, or if extra time is implemented after the standard 90 minutes a game lasts.

DIRECT/INDIRECT KICK: If a team commits a violation, the other team is awarded either a direct or indirect kick. A direct kick would be directly kicked into the goal, whereas an indirect kick would be kicked into the field, and the ball would have to be touched by other players before scoring a goal.

YELLOW/RED CARDS: Yellow cards are for unsportsmanlike behavior and minor violations. Red cards are given for serious violations, or even violent behavior.

PENALTY KICK: This is awarded to the opposing team, inside the penalty area, 12 yards in front of the goal. So, if the other team commits an offense, the opposing team will likely be awarded a penalty kick.

HEADER: This is when a player uses his or her head to hit the ball, whether it be to advance or deflect it. Players are only allowed to use their feet or head to move the ball, never their hands or arms.

TACKLING: An attempt, successful or not, to take the ball away from another player, only using your feet.

PASS: To pass the ball, one of the most basic elements of the game, is to use your feet to send the ball toward another teammate.

FIFA: The official international governing body of soccer, and they established the World Cup back in 1930.

FAKE: A fake is to deceive another player, or try to deceive them, by moving one way and then passing the ball another way.

FOUL: A foul is a violation of the rules, and the opposition is rewarded with a free kick.

FREE KICK: A kick awarded to a player who received a foul from the other team.

SHOT: An attempt to get a goal. You can only take a shot with your foot or your head.

WORLD CUP: An international event held every four years since 1930 (with the exception of 1942 and 1946, because of World War II). The championship is held by FIFA, and the qualifying 32 countries get to compete for the title of world champions. It is the most-watched sporting event in the world!


Here are some great ways to start a conversation when talking about the World Cup, or watching the games with your English-speaking friends!

  • Are you rooting for/cheering for/betting on a certain team? — OR — Which country or team are you for?
  • Do you have a favorite player?
  • Have you ever been to a World Cup?
  • Are you going to this World Cup?
  • Where are you watching the World Cup from?

Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed this lesson and what your answers are to the questions right above! We can’t wait to watch the World Cup this year, and we know that you’ll be game-ready with this helpful vocabulary list. 😉

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