Soccer Glossary

Soccer Glossary


Soccer is made up of two 45 minute halves.

Overtime (OT)

If the game is tied there is an overtime period of play. Generally, the overtime is not last goal wins, meaning even if a goal is scored, teams play until the overtime period ends. The length of overtime depends on the league/tournament. Not, not nerve-wracking.


If the game is still tied after OT, the game will go into a shootout. Each team selects five players to take “penalty shots”. These shots are taken between the six and the 18-yard box. You would think that being so close to the net would be easy but let us tell you, there is so much pressure on these players, it’s actually pretty easy to mess up.

Penalty shot

If a foul or handball (someone touches the ball with their hand, which is very not allowed in soccer) happens within the 18 yard box (that big box drawn around the goal) then a penalty kick is awarded. The team that was fouled gets to select a player to take a penalty shot when all eyes are on the player, the ball and the goalie. No pressure.

Free kick

Soccer is not a full-contact sport (i.e. no body checking), but sometimes it can get v. aggressive. When a player is fouled (think pushed with excessive force, tripped, held, punched, kicked, hair pulled — you name it), a free kick is awarded to the opposing team.

These kicks can be indirect, meaning someone else besides the original kicker needs to touch the ball before there can be a goal, or direct, meaning the kicker can score a goal directly off the free-kick (think winning goal scene in Bend it like Beckham).


Soccer has a rule that stops offensive players from hanging out near the opposing team’s net and waiting for the ball to come to them (aka cherry-picking). Unlike hockey, offside in soccer does not have a defined line. The line that creates the offside is the last player on defence. So when an offensive player on one team is BEHIND the last defender on the opposing team before their teammate with the ball passes it to them, they are offside. Watch this clip to get #thegist.

Throw in

This is the one time players other than the goalie can touch the ball with their hands. When one team kicks the ball out of bounds, the opposing team will get to throw the ball back in bounds with an overhead toss. Two hands on the ball, over the head, both feet on the ground and back into play.

Injury time

Unlike most other sports, soccer doesn’t stop the time of a game at every whistle. Sometimes it can take a bit of time for players to get off the field if they’re truly injured, OR to stop acting like they’re hurt. Such drama kings (yes kings — it’s mostly the men who fake injury as a stalling tactic). Referees will sometimes need to add time at the end of a half or game to make up for this.

Yellow card

Yellow cards are used as a warning that a player has been officially cautioned for bad behavior (a bad foul, talking back to the referee, a purposeful handball etc.). After one yellow card, the player can continue playing. After two yellow cards, it’s basically considered a red card (see below) and you’re kicked off the pitch. And your team has to play with 10 players as opposed to 11.

Red card

A red card is for the most serious foul. A red card is normally given for violent conduct or purposefully obstructing a goal-scoring opportunity (sometimes red cards are given for purposefully using your hands to stop a goal). This is very not cool in soccer and it will get you permanently evicted from the game. Bye, Felicia!


When a team has possession of the ball, they’re the one that’s actually controlling the ball, passing it around to each other, moving it up the field towards the goal, etc. and the other team is working to try and get possession back. It’s the name of the game.

Bicycle Kick

This is some real fancy footwork. Basically, while the ball is in mid-air, a player facing away from the net does this nifty lil’ move where flip upside down and kick the ball towards the net while falling back. Like they’re on an upside bicycle. Check out this jokes clip.

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