What Position In Soccer Scores The Most? (Stats & Facts)

Soccer is a team sport where the goal is to score more goals than the opponent but also to concede as few goals as possible. Defending is an essential part of that, but to score goals, you definitely need to attack as well. So, what position in soccer scores the most?

The center forward position in soccer scores the most. This can be a striker, target man, or false 9. If we look at the top 10 goal scorers in the major European leagues in the 2021/22 season, 80% of them are strikers. Other high-scoring positions in soccer are wingers and attacking midfielders.

In this article, I'll show you, using statistics, that these are the most scoring positions in soccer. You will also find out why these positions score so many goals.

Which Position in Soccer Scores The Most Goals? (Top 5)

There's nothing like the feeling of a goal being scored in soccer. Whether it's a bullet of a header from a big defender or a well-placed strike from an athletic winger, it's why we watch the game.

You may be wondering, though, which position actually scores the most goals?

In this article, I will list the top 5 highest-scoring positions in soccer and break down how players in these positions score so many goals.

1. Center forward (striker):

Striker position in soccer on tactics board

It shouldn't come as a surprise that strikers score the most goals in soccer. After all, that's exactly what they should be doing on the field.

A striker, sometimes called a center forward, is always positioned at the top of a formation. This puts them in the best position to score a goal.

In most formations, there is usually only one or two strikers in the starting eleven. Nowadays, teams are more likely to only play with one striker.

The striker is the player who all his other teammates will look for when trying to score a goal. This is why strikers score more goals than anybody else.

There are many different types of strikers—some score more goals than others.

For example, there's the classic target man.

The target man is a striker to whom other players look to pass the ball when attacking, usually with long passes.

The target man then uses his size and strength to take the ball and either hold up the play while his teammates get up the pitch or simply tries to score himself.

Target men are often also very good at scoring from crosses and corner kicks, usually with headed goals.

Usually, the target man is a tall and strong striker.

Good examples of a target man would include Romelu Lukaku, Olivier Giroud, Didier Drogba, Erling Haaland, and Zlatan Ibrahimović

Another example of a striker is the false 9 position. These players usually score fewer goals than other types of strikers.

The false 9 usually starts a game in the classic forward position but then drops deeper to create for others and themselves.

Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller, and Roberto Firmino are good examples of players who have played the false 9 position.

Then there's the classic center forwards, sometimes called all-around strikers or complete forwards. These are usually more agile forward players who focus on being in a position to score as many goals as possible.

These players are usually the outright best shooters of the ball and include the likes of Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema, and Wayne Rooney.

More recently, this is the position that Cristiano Ronaldo has begun playing in after being a winger for most of his career.

As you can see, the striker is set up to score more goals than any other position. But do the statistics reflect this?

The stats clearly show that strikers score more goals in soccer than any other position.

When looking at the top 10 goal-scorers across the major European leagues in the 2021/22 season, 80% of them are strikers.

PlayerGoalsPosition
1. Robert Lewandowski35Center forward
2. Kylian Mbappé28Center forward
3. Karim Benzema27Center forward
- Ciro Immobile27Center forward
5. Patrik Schick24Center forward
- Wissam Ben-Yedder24Center forward
- Susan Vlahovic24Center forward
8. Mohamed Salah23Winger
- Son Heung-min23Winger
10. Erling Haaland22Center forward

The same can be said when looking at the top 10 goal-scorers in history, with 80% of them being strikers. If you include Ronaldo as a striker rather than a winger, then that brings it up to 90%.

PlayerGoalsPosition
1. Cristiano Ronaldo815Winger / Center forward
2. Josef Bican805Center forward
3. Romario772Center forward
4. Lionel Messi769Winger / false 9
5. Pelé767Center forward
6. Ferenc Puskás741Center forward
7. Gerd Müller735Center forward
8. Jimmy Jones647Center forward
9. Robert Lewandowski584Center forward
10. Zlatan Ibrahimović572Center forward

As you can see from these statistics, strikers dominate the scoring tables in soccer.

Another good example of this was a study taken in 2019 that examined the scoring patterns across every World Cup tournament between 1998 and 2014.

In this study, it was revealed that forwards/strikers scored the majority of goals. 54% of all World Cup goals between 1998 and 2014 were from forward players.

2. Wingers:

Wingers position in soccer on tactics board

The position that scores the second most amount of goals is the winger. These players are sometimes also called wide forwards. However, that's an older term that is rarely used these days.

Wingers can be a very effective tool when it comes to scoring goals. They usually thrive best in a 4-3-3 formation with two wingers and only one striker.

The best recent example of a team using wingers in this way is Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team, specifically between 2017 and 2022.

During this period, Klopp would set up his team in a 4-3-3 formation that featured Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane as his two wingers.

He would then position Roberto Firmino as a false 9, whose main role was to actually provide for the two wingers rather than look to score himself.

This tactic resulted in Salah scoring 118 goals in 180 appearances for Liverpool and claiming the Premier League Golden Boot (top scorer) on three separate occasions.

In fact, during the 2021/22 Premier League season, the Golden Boot award was shared between two wingers; Salah and Heung-min Son.

So it's not just Salah at Liverpool that we can use as a winger who scores many goals. 

Cristiano Ronaldo is the all-time highest goal-scorer in the history of soccer. Although he converted himself into a striker towards the end of his career, Ronaldo scored most of his goals as a winger.

Then we have Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest of all time, according to many fans. 

Messi is the fourth highest scorer of all time. Although he has spent a portion of his career playing as a false 9 or even a CAM, the position he has played in the most is as a right winger.

When looking at the all-time top 10 goal-scorers, wingers are the only non-striker position that makes the list. 

The main statistic that proves the winger is the second highest goal-scoring position is simply looking at the top scorers across the top leagues in every season.

Of course, strikers dominate these lists, but wingers made up for 20% of the top scorers across Europe's top leagues in the 2021/22 season.

There's also an argument to be made that wingers are becoming more of a threat in modern-day soccer. 

The best proof of this is in the English Premier League.

In the 2021/22 Premier League season, a record-breaking 9 out of the top 20 goal-scorers were wingers. 

This is the most number of wingers to ever feature in the Premier League top 20 goal-scorers and is a clear sign of how many teams in England are now using wingers to get goals.

The other major European leagues didn't quite have the same numbers as the Premier League for goal-scoring wingers.

However, they are still clearly the second highest-scoring position in soccer.

  • 4 out of the top 20 Bundesliga goal-scorers were wingers
  • 5 out of the top 20 La Liga goal-scorers were wingers
  • 3 out of the top 20 Serie A top goal-scorers were wingers
  • 4 out of the top 20 Ligue 1 top goal-scorers were wingers

One of the main reasons wingers score so many goals is due to the best ones having the ability to 'cut in.'

When we say 'cut in' in soccer, it means the winger will often play on the opposite side of the pitch to his dominant foot. He will then use his weaker foot to knock the ball more centrally, opening up a chance to shoot the ball cleanly with his stronger foot.

The highest-scoring wingers in the world all utilize this method of scoring.

Being a winger usually takes up a lot of energy. This is why you may see some players, such as Ronaldo, change positions as they get older.

Some wingers choose to play on the same side of the pitch as their dominant foot. However, these wingers are more likely to cross the ball to assist a teammate rather than scoring themselves.

3. Attacking Midfielder (CAM):

Attacking Midfielder position in soccer on tactics board

Strikers and wingers are by far the highest-scoring positions in soccer. A fair way behind in third place is the attacking midfielder.

An attacking midfielder, sometimes also called a CAM (central attacking midfielder), plays as the furthest forward midfield player. 

The attacking midfielder's role is usually to create for the forward players. However, they often find themselves in advantageous positions to score themselves.

To be an attacking midfielder, you usually need a lot of skill and a good vision for attacking. This usually results in the attacking midfielder being a good striker of the ball as well.

(Click here to find out more about what a CAM is in soccer)

One of the best examples of a high-scoring attacking midfielder is Ronaldinho.

Ronaldinho is arguably the best ever attacking midfielder, scoring 313 goals over his career.

Although attacking midfielders don't quite have the same goal-scoring records as strikers and wingers, there have still been some impressively high-scoring players in this position.

Below are the top 10 highest-scoring attacking midfielders:

PlayerGoals
1. Ronaldinho313
2. Kaka236
3. Henrikh Mkhitaryan217
4. Rafael van der Vaart196
5. Michael Ballack185
6. Wesley Sneijder184
7. Marek Hamsik167
8. Pavel Nedved165
9. Zinedine Zidane156
10. David Silva155

As you can see, these are some very impressive numbers, especially for players whose main job isn't necessarily to score goals.

With that being said, it's still not enough to get these players into the conversation for highest-ever goal scorers.

It's also worth pointing out that attacking midfielders aren't used as much as they used to be, which is why most of the top-scoring ones have now retired.

This could be due to the popularity of the winger in modern-day soccer.

4. Central Midfielder:

Central Midfielder position in soccer on tactics board

Central midfield players usually play just behind the attacking midfielder and cover the center of the field.

Unlike an attacking midfielder, a central midfielder isn't expected to get as high up the pitch and is also expected to perform defensive duties as well as attacking ones.

For this reason, they don't get anywhere near as many goals. 

However, there have been a few exceptions to this rule in the form of players such as Frank Lampard and Michel Platini. They both managed to score well over 300 goals in their careers.

In fact, Lampard is Chelsea's top goal-scorer of all time. Though, it's worth pointing out that he's also played more games for the club than any striker or winger has.

The 2019 study that examined the scoring patterns across every World Cup tournament between 1998 and 2014 determined that 33.3% of goal-scorers were midfield players.

However, the study does not distinguish central midfielders from attacking midfielders, so many of these scorers were likely attacking midfielders.

The central midfielder should not be confused with a defensive midfielder, as the defensive midfielder is tasked with staying back in defense and rarely scores.

5. Center back (sweeper):

Center back position in soccer on tactics board

You may be surprised to find that center backs, or central defenders, actually have a better scoring record than fullbacks and wing backs.

Although fullbacks and wing backs are sometimes asked to get further up the pitch, they usually do this to provide for the attacking players. 

Center backs are, of course, supposed to stay back and defend the goal at all times. However, they do get their moments to score, usually from corner kicks and set-pieces.

Because center backs are often bigger and stronger than other players on the pitch, they are ideal candidates for going up the pitch when their team has a corner kick or a free kick.

They can use their size and strength to get above other players and head the ball towards the goal. This is why center back is the fifth highest-scoring position in soccer.

Looking at the top 10 highest-scoring defensive players of all time proves this to be correct.

PlayerGoalsPosition
1. Ronald Koeman253Center back / Sweeper
2. Daniel Passarella175Center back / Sweeper
3. Fernando Hierro163Center back
4. Laurent Blanc153Center back
5. Graham Alexander130Fullback
6. Sergio Ramos127Center back
7. Steve Bruce113Center back
- Paul Breitner113Fullback
- Roberto Carlos113Fullback
10. Franz Beckenbauer109Center back / Sweeper

As you can see, most top-scoring defenders are actually center backs.

You may have noticed the term 'sweeper' being used. This is an older term for a center back who had a role that required them to "sweep up" the ball if it got behind the main line of defense.

This role was actually a bit more free, meaning they could potentially get forward from time to time.

Sweepers in soccer is an old tactic that really isn't used anymore in the modern game.

It's also worth noting that many defenders will take free kicks and penalties due to how hard they can hit the ball. This also results in more goals for center backs.

Sergio Ramos was a good example of this, as he took most of Real Madrid's penalties during his career.

Conclusion

Strikers get more goals than other positions in soccer. This is unsurprising as it's the primary role of a striker.

Wingers are becoming more and more popular in soccer, resulting in them being the second highest-scoring position in soccer. 

Attacking midfielders and central midfielders are the third and fourth highest-scoring positions, with center backs surprisingly coming in fifth place.

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: 
July 19, 2022
Published: July 19, 2022