Passing in Soccer (15 Types + 7 Ways)

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Growing up playing soccer, I could never understand why my coaches would force us to spend so much of our valuable practice time doing passing drills.

I started to understand the importance of what my coaches had us doing all those years.

In a game, one pass can make all the difference. One great pass can slice through your opponent and lead to a goal. One poor pass can put your team in a dangerous situation and immediately put your team under pressure.

When the margins are small, there is no room for mistakes. For youth players, world-class professionals, and everyone in between, passing is the difference between winning and losing.

Short Pass Example in Soccer.
Short Pass Example in Soccer.

7 Ways to pass a Soccer ball;

  1. Inside foot: Using the area above and inside of the big toe.
  2. Outside foot: This creates a spin on the ball to swerve the ball around players
  3. The Laces: A powerful volley can be performed with a straight leg swing.
  4. Spin: If the toes get underneath the ball with some force, you create a backspin
  5. Back heel: Connect the heel with the ball to reverse play.
  6. Header: Often used for clearing and shooting, but can be a creative passing move.
  7. Body: Use any body part to deflect the ball into your desired path.
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26, 2020 David Alaba of Bayern pictured during the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game between Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge.
London, England – February 26, 2020 David Alaba of Bayern Pictured During the 201920 Uefa Champions League Round of 16 Game Between Chelsea Fc and Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge.

What does passing mean in soccer?

Passing is a way for players to move the ball around the field by keeping it away from the other team. Passing successfully means keeping the ball amongst your teammates and creating goal-scoring opportunities.

Passing and advancing the ball into the attacking third requires more than just movement of the ball. Players must be thinking ahead to find the right space to be in.

Great players will think multiple moves ahead to where the ball should go long after it’s left their foot.

Passing the ball allows teams to move around defending players in a way that dribbling does not. It’s a faster, more efficient way to move the ball and often more difficult to defend than dribbling.

Properly weighted and crisp passes make seamless movements around the field and can wear down your opponent.

Back Post Pass Example in Soccer.
Back Post Pass Example in Soccer.

Why soccer players pass so much

In soccer, one of the best ways to have control is to have the ball as much as possible. If you have the ball, the other team does not. If you have the ball, you can score, and the opposition cannot. When you pass, you retain possession and dictate the play.

Controlling the variables is one of the surest ways to reach a favorable outcome. When two teams are competing, anyone can win on a given day. Ultimately, the team that makes the least mistakes will most likely come away victorious.

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Simple Pass

A simple pass might look less than spectacular for someone who does not quite understand the game. Not every spell of possession leads to a goal or even a scoring opportunity.

Sometimes a player will pass the ball backward, away from the goal they’re trying to score on, in a seemingly counterproductive fashion.

Alternatively, for a soccer fan, watching a team with the ability to pass well is like watching art happen right in front of your eyes.

A soccer expert can see that the team keeping the ball is looking for ways to break down the defense.

Down The Line Pass - Example in Soccer.
Down The Line Pass – Example in Soccer.

Why’s passing so important in soccer?

It’s important to stretch teams out, and finding even the smallest gaps to score takes patience and skill. Once they find the opening they’re looking for, the build-up is completed with a final ball finished into the back of the net.

Does every team play this style if you can control the game by keeping the ball?

For fans and coaches, one of the most exciting parts of the game is determining how to match up against your opponent’s style of play. Teams with a more possession-based system might see much of the ball during a game.

Their tactics can be nullified by a strong defending side that uses long balls over the top to get behind the backline and apply pressure to the opposing defense.

One-Two Give and Go Example in Soccer.
One-Two Give and Go Example in Soccer.

Passing vs. counterattack

Manchester City (an extremely strong passing side) met this fate against Leeds United in April 2021. If you were to look at the stat line without the score simply, you would likely assume that Manchester City won the game.

However, despite having 72% of the possession and outpassing Leeds 621 passes to 252 passes, Manchester City lost the match 2-1.

Most would not describe Leeds as a passing side – at least not in the same way as City. On the day, they could find the right passes to get behind the Manchester City defenders and score enough goals to win the game.

Leeds knew they would likely only have a few opportunities on the ball, and they had to take advantage.

Their passing was more direct as they looked down the field to find their forward players in dangerous areas.

Transition - Attack to Defense Example in Soccer.
Transition – Attack to Defense Example in Soccer.

15 Types of passing in soccer

Passing is the art of soccer; one sublime pass can cut a defense into two, but so can a simple 5-yard pass. A variation in creative passing will make your side unpredictable and hard to best.

Here are some types of passing in soccer;

  • To feet: Ready for your teammate to play quickly.
  • Back pass: A pass to the goalkeeper and the GK cannot pick up the ball.
  • One-touch: When the ball is played to you, you only have one touch to pass it on.
  • Two-touch: You take one touch to control the ball and another to pass it on.
  • Cross: A ball passed high or low in the goal area.
  • Square pass: You play the ball from the left to right or vice versa across the field.
  • Short pass: A short pass would be less than 10 yards.
  • Long balls: From 30 plus yards to cut out several players or advance quickly.
  • Across field: From winger to wide back to wide back, the width of the field.
  • Down the line: This is a pass along the wing, on the same line as the byline.
  • Through ball: A pass between the opposition defense for an attacker.
  • Tiki-taka: Quick and short simple passes between teammates.
  • Back post: A ball played towards the far goal post from the sides.
  • Near post: The ball is passed from the sides to the closest goalpost.
  • Pass shot: A softly placed shot at goal, with accuracy key.
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Everyone in the game has their own philosophy on the best style of play. It might depend on your opponent that day or the personnel you have at your disposal.

Square Pass Example in Soccer -
Square Pass Example in Soccer –

Some coaches may love to be very direct and take a “smash and grab” approach to the game. Their players may not have the speed, or physical strength to play long balls over the top or crosses into the box.

In this case, short, quick passes might be the best option.

Through Ball Pass Example in Soccer.
Through Ball Pass Example in Soccer.

Tiki Taka – Short Passes

Teams who break down the opposition using the “death by a thousand passes” approach have found great success in recent times.

Legendary player and coach Johann Cruyff is often credited with the invention of the ” tiki-taka style.”

Tiki-taka involves many short (roughly 5-10 yard) passes on the ground. Players are in a constant state of motion where traditional positioning is secondary to finding space that supports the player on the ball.

Johann Cruyff

Working in tight spaces and being creative on and off the ball are pillars of this style.

Tiki-Taka Passing Example in Soccer.
Tiki-Taka Passing Example in Soccer.

Keeping the ball in tight spaces and switching the point of attack, especially in the attacking third, stretches teams from end line to end line and opens holes in the defense.

The current Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola, is seen by many as the best implements this style in his teams.

Although many refer to his playing style in this manner, Guardiola is not a fan of the terminology.

“I hate tiki-taka. I always will. I want nothing more to do with tiki-taka. Tiki-taka is a load of s–t, a made-up term.

It means passing the ball for the sake of passing, with no real aim and no aggression – nothing, nothing.

I will not allow my brilliant players to fall for all that rubbish,”

Pep Guardiola

he said in the Marti Perarnau book Pep Confidential.

Pass and Move

Whatever you want to call it, this style of play is difficult to nail down. The constant movement is draining and requires players to be laser-focused for 90 minutes.

Switching off even for one moment can see the other team going the other way and have you scrambling to stop the counter-attack.

Pass and Move Example in Soccer.
Pass and Move Example in Soccer.

If a team elects not to play a possession-based system, this does not mean that passing is unimportant.

In fact, for a team that plays a direct or long-ball style, it could be argued that passing is even more important.

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Seeing less of the ball means taking advantage of each pass is crucial. The weight and accuracy of every ball must be spot on.

Long Balls

Long-ball teams may not break down teams with short passes, creativity, and quick movements. Rather, their off-the-ball runs and accurate passes stretch opposing defenders.

Long Ball Pass In Soccer - Example in Soccer.
Long Ball Pass In Soccer – Example in Soccer.

Often to wide field areas, which opens up clear lanes to the goal via a cross or a ball back through the middle.

For teams like this, crosses, long balls in the air, and set pieces need to be effective because you are essentially conceding possession to the opponent.

Managers like Jose Mourinho have found incredible success playing this way. It requires players to be extremely disciplined and organized.

They must know the exact right moments to spring forward. When they do, it’s quick and precise. From a fan’s perspective, playing this way can look very unattractive.

Tactically, it’s equally difficult to perfect and should not be undermined. If the game’s objective is to win, how you get it is irrelevant.

Across Field Pass Example in Soccer.
Across Field Pass Example in Soccer.

Passing note

Passing is the most important soccer skill. There are many ways to use passing to your advantage, and players at all levels must continue to improve their passing ability.

Players who can perfectly place passes to teammates make teams very dangerous.

Passing will be the most important aspect regardless of your philosophy on the style of play. To the untrained eye, it may not always look spectacular.

When you see the tactics all come together, a perfectly placed pass completes the build-up to a goal, and it all makes sense.

The joy of the beautiful game is found in one fundamental skill – the pass.

Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade | + posts

Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.

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Playing Soccer FAQ

Is soccer a contact sport?

While tackling with excessive force, charging, and striking opponents are illegal in soccer, players often overstep the boundaries. Although this generally results in appropriate sanctions being awarded, it doesn’t prevent significant contact from occurring.

What do soccer teams do at halftime?

At halftime, soccer teams exit the field. They return to their bench area. For youth teams, they may not have a locker room. However, many college and professional teams do head back to the locker room. 
The break is an opportunity for teams to collect themselves. They may talk about what is going well in the game, and what they need to resolve.

How do I join a soccer team?

Attend trials for schools, teams in your local area. If no trials are due, then contact the coach to see if you can join a practice. Search for local soccer teams and try a few to see if it suits your ability and it also needs to be a place that you would enjoy. Scholarships are also available depending on your age, ability, and location. 

Why does a soccer ball curve?

The angle and speed with which the soccer player’s boot strikes the ball determine how far the ball travels. The ball won’t curve or spin if the player hits it right in the middle with their foot following through in a completely straight line.

What are some injuries players get when playing soccer? 

The most common knee and ankle injuries are mild to severe sprains, strains, and tears. Other less common knee and ankle injuries include dislocations and fractures.

What are some ways to pass a soccer ball?

+ Inside foot: Using the area above and inside of the big toe.
+ Outside foot: This creates a spin on the ball to swerve the ball around players
+ The Laces: A powerful volley can be performed with a straight leg swing.
+ Spin: If the toes get underneath the ball with some force you create a backspin.
+ Back heel: Connect the heel with the ball to reverse play.
+ Header: Often used for clearing and shooting, but can be a creative passing move.
+ Body: Use any part of the body to deflect the ball into the path you desire.

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