Soccer Roles, Positioning, and Responsibilities

What In the World Is A 6?

U.S. Soccer Numbers – Explained

Why has U.S. Soccer transitioned to this soccer number system?  According to Dave Chesler, Currently a performance analysis coach with the USWNT, “A standard numbering system for positions and their roles provides a concise and common method of communicating technical information about individual and team play.  These same tags can be applied to any system and adapted to all levels of play.  Effective coaches are clear, concise and accurate with their communication.

As the use of soccer numbers has begun to trickle into mainstream soccer discussions, not to mention discussions like the one that occurred the other night at the U.S. Soccer Training Center, it’s essential that our children understand the soccer numbers and their respective roles.   As parents, it’s important we have a general knowledge of the concept.

No need to get carried away and feel you have to “talk-the-talk” with college coaches and say, for instance, “My child is interested in attending your college.  He’s usually a 4, but also is comfortable in the 6 and has the speed to play a 2.” However, if the college coach is talking to your child and asks where they like to play on the field and your child answers with numbers instead of position names, I guarantee the coach will appreciate their knowledge of the game.

As coaches, we have transitioned from discussing actual positions which are more related to a specific system, to discussing soccer numbers and therefore the characteristics a player brings to the table in relation to what is generally required of that number/role within our individual team’s system of play.

Playing Characteristics of the Various Numbers

When we start to think about the general playing characteristics associated with each number, we start to see how all of this makes sense from coaching tactical perspective, from a scouting and recruiting perspective and from a player education perspective.

Coaches, with their new education, are now evaluating the tactical adjustments necessary for their system of play based on the qualities of their players.

While recruiting for a college or national team, coaches and scouts can set out to identify and organize the maze of players more easily.

For players, they can start to identify with different roles based on their skills and abilities.  Believe me, children in Holland grow up dreaming of being the next “7” for the Dutch National Team!  It’s uplifting to see that starting to happen in the United States as well.

So, what are the soccer numbers as they relate to the positions and what are some basic characteristics of each?


Technically proficient
Solid technical passing abilities
Strong distribution decisions
Gifted athlete


Outside Backs (Right & Left)
Ability to play great long service
Strong at defending 1 vs. 1
Speedy player able to cover ground on the flanks
Solid technical passing abilities


Center Backs (Left & Right)
Consistent players who are organizers and leaders
Tall and Strong
Ability to cover ground – especially laterally and vertically
Technically strong defensively
Strong tackler
Strong in the air


Defensive Midfielder
High work rate
Ability to keep the ball (vision and technical passing)
Tactically astute
Strong in air
Strong tackler


Center Midfielder
Endless work rate – speed and endurance
Good leadership and organization
Creative playmaker
Good in air
Long range finishing ability
Ability to provide defensive pressure


Winger (Right & Left)
Very fit
High Work Rate
Ability to make long runs and recover
Strong 1 vs 1 attacking ability
Flank service
Long range shooting


Attacking Center Midfielder
Finishing ability
Clinical passing in final third to create scoring opportunities
Strong 1 vs 1 in final third
Makes play predictable through putting pressure on defense


Ability to play with back to the goal
Creativity and technical finishing abilities
Strong and tough

The introduction of the numbering system to our coaching and player education is a step in the right direction.  The mainstream discussions that are happening through the media and on the sidelines are a clear indication of the continued growth of the game in the United States.  These discussions are a benchmark indicator that the United States is becoming more tactically aware. Parents gaining an understanding of the numbering system will certainly continue the momentum.

Capelli Sport

Capelli Sport







Beyond Pulse

Beyond Pulse