What Is The Most Important Position In Soccer? (Top 3)

Soccer is a team game before anything else. Therefore every position on the field plays an important role. However, some positions are definitely more important than others. But what is the most important position in soccer?

The most important position in soccer is the goalkeeper. This is because the goalkeeper is the last line of defense and can single-handedly keep their team in the game. There is also only one goalkeeper on the team, making it a unique position.

So now you know that the goalkeeper is the most important position in soccer, but what are the fully explained reasons for this? And what other positions are most important? You'll find out the answers to these questions and more in this article.

What is The Most Important Soccer Position?

It isn’t easy to choose the most important position in soccer. This is because it’s hard to confidently say what is more important, scoring goals or stopping them.

Is there more responsibility on the attacking players or the defensive players?

One way to determine this is to look at how many players are in each position. There are usually anywhere between three to five defenders, two to four midfielders, and one to three forwards.

However, there is only one goalkeeper.

The goalkeeper is the last line of defense. If the rest of the team is unable to stop an attack, then the pressure to prevent a goal rests entirely on the goalkeeper.

Knowing this, it’s fair to say that the goalkeeper is the most important position in soccer. A team also needs goals, though. This means the second most important position is the striker, with central midfielders being the third most important.

Before we discuss what makes strikers and midfielder players so important, we need to look more in-depth into why goalkeepers are the most important soccer position.

1. Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper is the most important position in soccer. The goalkeeper has the biggest responsibilities of any player on the field.

Pressure and responsibilities:

When scoring goals, strikers can be relieved of pressure if a winger, midfielder, or even a defender scores.

Fullbacks and center backs have each other and defensive midfielders to support each other and help spread the weight of expectation.

Goalkeepers, though, only have themselves to blame if a mistake is made in the goal.

Goalkeepers are expected to save as many shots on goal as possible and to put their bodies on the line to stop the opposition from scoring.

The responsibilities of a goalkeeper include:

  • Using their agility to stop shots anywhere at their goal
  • Jumping through crowds of players to catch crosses and corner-kicks
  • Sprinting off their line to stop on-rushing attackers
  • Organizing the defense 
  • Save penalties

Because of these unique responsibilities, goalkeepers are put under immense pressure. Goalkeepers are likely to receive more criticism than any other position if they fail to meet these requirements.

This is why the goalkeeper is the hardest soccer position to play and the most important position on the field.

Game changers:

There’s a strong argument to be made that no position can influence a soccer game as much as the goalkeeper.

Goalkeepers are the last line of defense, and a big goalkeeping mistake can easily lead to a loss. On the other hand, a big save at a crucial point in the game can also effectively win their team the game.

Goalkeepers are hugely important when it comes to penalty shootouts as well.

When a game must be decided this way, the outfield players can volunteer themselves to take a penalty, or they can shy away.

While the goalkeepers have no choice but to participate in the entire shootout, this means goalies have more influence over winning a penalty shootout than any other player.

A good example of this is Argentina's Emiliano Martínez.

During the 2021 Copa America tournament, Argentina needed to beat Colombia in a penalty shootout to reach the finals.

Despite having players such as Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martínez, and Ángel Di María on the field, it was goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez who would win the game for Argentina.

During the penalty shootout, Emi Martínez would save three penalties. Argentina won the penalty shootout 3-1, then went onto the finals to beat Brazil.

Many spectators said that Argentina would have never won the tournament had it not been for their goalkeeper.

Even Lionel Messi said the following:

“Dibu [Emiliano] Martinez is fundamental. When they come to him, he always responds.”

“Emi is a phenomenon. We trusted him. We achieved the goal of being able to play all the games, and now we are going to the final.”

Reliability:

Another reason why the goalkeeper is so important is that one must be able to rely on them throughout the game.

With coaches only being allowed to substitute five players (three in some cases) during a game, it is extremely rare for one of these substitutes to be the goalkeeper.

If a striker is struggling to score, the coach can simply bring on a replacement or even a second striker to help. There is no such possibility for a goalkeeper.

Therefore, the coaches rely on the goalie to be at his best from kickoff to the final whistle.

One of a kind:

Goalkeepers need to be at their very best at all times. With only one goalkeeping position available in a starting lineup, only the very best goalies are picked to play.

Goalkeepers even have their own specialist coaches and unique training sessions.

Soccer teams provide these one-of-a-kind coaches and training sessions because they know just how important it is to have a good goalkeeper.

In fact, some teams go above and beyond to ensure they have the best in this position. The elite teams are not afraid to spend a lot of money on top goalkeepers.

Chelsea spent a massive $86 million on Kepa Arrizabalaga to try and fill their goalkeeper position.

For another good example of how important goalies are, we can look at Liverpool.

Liverpool sold a top forward player in Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, then used most of that money to sign goalkeeper Alisson Becker for $79 million from Roma.

Alisson Becker would go on to win the Premier League title and the Champions League with Liverpool.

Leadership and organization:

Goalkeepers are also responsible for organizing the defense during opposition set-pieces.

In some cases, the goalkeeper is almost playing the role of the coach or manager as they direct defenders where to position themselves during corners and free-kicks.

This means that goalkeepers must have excellent leadership and even better communication skills.

2. Striker

If we can conclude that goalkeepers and their responsibility to stop goals is the most important position in soccer, then scoring goals as a striker must be the second most important.

Even if a goalkeeper can keep the zero, the players on the field still need to score goals. The position that is expected to score goals more than anyone else is the striker.

(Click here to find out what position in soccer scores the most)

Pressure and expectations:

Like goalkeepers, there can be a lot of pressure put on a striker. This is because they are responsible for scoring goals more than any other position.

If a player in a different position scores a goal, an attacker can come away with a quiet game.

However, if a striker has too many games in which he does not score, then the pressure can build up very quickly.

Scarcity:

Another reason why strikers are so important is that it is difficult to find a good striker. At the highest level of soccer, top strikers are scarce.

The transfer market regarding strikers reflects just how important the position is and how far clubs are willing to go to get the best striker available.

Below are the top 5 most expensive transfers of all time:

PlayerTransfer feePosition
1. Neymar Jr$227 millionWinger
2. Kylian Mbappé$148 million + $36 million add-onsStriker
3. João Felix$129 millionStriker
4. Phillipe Coutinho$123 million + $41 million add-onsWinger/Cam
5. Antoine Griezmann$123 millionStriker

As you can see, clubs are willing to spend a lot of money to get the best strikers.

Reliability:

Other than goalkeepers, a team’s coaches will rely on their strikers more than anybody else.

Strikers are on the ball less than both midfield players and defenders. This means that strikers need to take their chances when they come.

In one-on-one situations, the team relies on the striker to be calm under pressure and score the goal for their team.

Strikers also usually take penalties for their team. 

Penalty kicks don’t come around too often, so once again, the team is relying on the striker to score from a penalty when the opportunity arises.

3. Central midfielder

We know that stopping and scoring goals are soccer’s two most important parts. So why is it that the midfield position is the third most important?

This is because midfield players are tasked with keeping the game moving. Midfielders see more of the ball than any other player, do the most running, and have to both attack and defend.

Multifunctional:

Midfielders are different from all other positions because they must help in all areas of the field.

If the midfielder’s team has the ball, then it is the midfield players’ task to play the ball up the field to either a striker or a winger to assist them in scoring.

However, if their team does not have the ball, then the midfielders’ tasks are very different.

They are then expected to fall back and sit in front of the defense to help them stop a goal from being scored.

Effectively, midfield players are doing a part of every player’s job.

Controlling the game:

Because of the many responsibilities central midfielders have, they are usually on the ball more than any other position.

Research shows that over 55% of an average team’s possession is played through the center of the field. The remaining percentage is split between either side of the field, with less than 20% being played down either wing.

Because of this, midfielders are the ones who are most responsible for controlling the game.

Running:

Being the position that has more of the ball than anybody else means that the midfield position runs the most in soccer.

A 2021 study covering 31 top leagues across Europe and America determined that midfielders cover an average distance of 10,611 meters (11,604 yards) during a game of soccer.

Of those 10,611 meters (11,604 yards), 719 meters (786 yards) were covered while running at a high intensity, while 114 meters (124 yards) were covered while sprinting.

This was more ground covered than any other position. This is why the midfield position is the third most important in soccer.

Conclusion

Being the last line of defense and having the ability to single-handedly win or lose a game, the goalkeeper is the most important position in soccer.

The second most important position is the striker. This is because they are responsible for scoring the main bulk of the team’s goals.

Just like goalkeepers, strikers also have to deal with a lot of pressure.

Because of the amount of ground they cover and the amount they have the ball, midfielders are the third most important position in soccer.

Now that you know what the most important position is, you probably also want to know what the least important position in soccer is. So check that article out as well!

James Miller

Soccer has been my passion since I was a kid. After my own career, I became a coach, something I have been doing for 15 years now. Sharing my knowledge about soccer is what I love most. So I hope you can appreciate my articles.
Published: 
August 12, 2022
Published: August 12, 2022