Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. Every league I’ve played in had equipment requirements from players. From my vast experience, here is all of the gear you need to start playing on a team.
It is no secret that soccer players use a lot of different gear to optimize their game.
But how can players know the boundaries of what is allowed and what isn’t?
It can be very overwhelming to do hours of research before players can have fun.
So we created a list of all of the items that you need to join a team and be able to participate in matches.
If there is any confusion, please check the embedded links for detailed information.
Alternatively, feel free to contact us with any inquiries via the Contact Us page.
Related article: How to Become a Technical Soccer Player | MLS-Next, Advice
Four Necessary Items to Play Organized Soccer
As we said previously, there are many types of equipment available to help players perform their best.
However, not all of them are required to start playing on an organized team.
The following list includes the four necessary items required to start playing organized soccer.
Regardless of the playing level, these pieces of equipment will always be necessary to play in a match.
So without further ado, let’s get into the list!
Soccer cleats are arguably the most exciting piece of equipment that players need to participate in a match.
Picking the right one out of the bunch can be a fun process, but players must know what they should be looking for.
Different types of cleats are good for different applications.
The playing surface is the primary determining factor of what type of cleats players should purchase.
Since matches are organized on two types of surfaces, grass or turf, there are two main types of cleats that we will focus on today.
First, we will discuss Firm Ground Cleats (FG) and then Soft Ground Cleats (SG).
If you would like to learn more, here is everything you need to know before purchasing your first pair of cleats.
Firm Ground Cleats (FG)
Firm Ground Cleats are the most common types of cleats that players can buy.
They are used on Turf Fields, hence their name firm ground.
These shoes feature a stud plate made entirely of plastic, with studs also made entirely of plastic.
Since turf is more stable than dirt, the studs are short and don’t dig deep into the playing surface.
Instead, manufacturers use different stud shapes for better traction and stability while running or changing directions.
Crucially, Firm Ground Cleats are allowed to be used in all competitions, regardless of the playing surface.
The studs are short and made of plastic so it’s the least hazardous to other players when performing tackles or dangerous maneuvers.
Soft Ground Cleats (SG)
When comparing availability between the two types of cleats, Soft Ground Cleats are much less common than Firm Ground Cleats.
Soft Ground Cleats are primarily used on Grass Fields due to the nature of their studs.
They feature interchangeable metal studs, that dig into the playing surface further than any plastic stud could.
Depending on the nature of the playing surface, players can equip longer or shorter studs to prevent them from slipping.
Soft Ground Cleats are generally not allowed on turf, and sometimes even on grass, depending on the league requirements.
On top of that, referees can choose to disallow players from participating who they think are wearing dangerous studs.
I’ve seen referees disallow my teammates for studs being too long, too sharp, or simply having too many for their liking.
So this decision is up to the referee’s discretion, it’s a hit or miss whether referees will allow Soft Ground Cleats.
So which type of cleat do we recommend?
As long as your team occasionally plays on grass, I would recommend purchasing Firm Ground Cleats.
These cleats will be great for most applications and bring a lot of fun to the game.
Plus, nothing is more disappointing than getting disallowed from the match for wearing the wrong studs.
Now, if your team plays on grass often, it may be a good idea to have a pair of Soft Ground Cleats as well.
Depending on the quality of the grass, playing with Firm Ground Cleats on grass can be dangerous.
The shallow stud plate will fill up with grass chunks and prevent the studs from digging into the ground.
This can cause players to slip when changing directions which increases the chances of getting injured.
I’ve only seen players dangerously slipping on muddy grass, so it’s relatively safe to use Firm Ground Cleats on a dry surface.
Though, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Lastly, here are some additional advantages of Firm Ground Cleats.
- Studs come with the cleats for free
- Don’t have to clean the stud plate
- Studs will not rust
- Allows players to play on any surface
If you have limited experience shopping for cleats, I highly recommend checking out our article about the 8 Best Places to Shop for Soccer Cleats in 2023.
#2: Shin Guards
A pair of shin guards is the next piece of equipment that is a must-have to play organized soccer.
Each club and league is responsible for the well-being of their players via regulations and referees.
Mandating shin guards during matches is one of the regulations designed to prevent players from getting hurt.
Players who don’t wear them will likely be disallowed from playing by the referee.
So having shin guards is nonnegotiable, every player must have a pair.
There are two types of shin guards available on the market.
The first is Strapped Shin Guards, and the other is Slip-in Shin Guards.
Here is what you should know about each.
Slip-in Shin Guards
Slip-in shin guards are as simple as it gets.
Essentially, it’s a piece of bent plastic that takes up the shape of the shin, with foam padding to prevent discomfort or blisters.
It has the name “slip-in” because players need to slip it into their game socks to wear it.
So how can you tell that a pair is strong enough to protect the shins?
As a start, the thickness of shin guards is one of the features that can indicate how well they will protect the shins.
The thicker the shin guards, the better they can absorb the impact of a kick.
Another feature that can indicate great protection, and even comfortability, is the padding.
A great sign that the padding will provide additional protection is that it is attached to the piece of plastic at its edges.
This leaves room between the foam and the point of impact, so it doesn’t directly transfer the energy into the leg.
Alternatively, thick padding will also provide enough protection for the shins.
What are the advantages & disadvantages?
- Easy to put on & take off
- Easily adjustable
- Can slide around
- Doesn’t protect ankles
Strapped Shin Guards
Strapped shin guards are all about protection.
Instead of just having the piece of plastic to provide protection, strapped shin guards have ankle protectors attached to the bottom side.
These ankle protectors are just socks with holes on both ends and padding around the ankles.
To properly equip them, players must put the shin guards on first and then pull the match socks over them.
So how can you tell that a pair is strong enough to protect the shins and the ankles?
Since strapped shin guards are difficult to adjust while playing, they make up for it with their larger size.
By covering a larger area of the shin, the impact is dispersed more efficiently to prevent players from getting hurt.
So there is no need to test the strength of strapped shin guards.
As for the ankles, the thickness of the ankle pads is the only indicator of protection.
The thicker they are, the better.
What are the advantages & disadvantages?
- Straps provide more stability
- Protects the ankles
- Doesn’t need to be adjusted often
- The larger size means more protection
- Can be uncomfortable
- Difficult to adjust
- Can interfere with the ball
So which type of shin guard do we recommend?
For beginners, we recommend shin guards depending on their position on the field.
Defenders should use strapped shin guards because the likelihood of missing a tackle or being kicked is higher.
Better protection allows defenders to learn fundamental skills without being hurt.
On the contrary, we recommend that attackers use slip-in shin guards because it provides them a better platform to control the ball during a match.
Slip-in shin guards fit onto the shins in a compact manner to not get in the way of the ball and the foot.
This allows players to control the ball easily and have a better chance of creating goal-scoring opportunities.
#3: Long Socks
Long socks are another piece of equipment that players must own to participate in matches.
A majority of the lower-level soccer leagues will require uniform-colored long socks for every player on each team.
The length requirement is generally right below the knees, but sometimes it’s enough if the shin guards are entirely covered.
But high-level leagues only require color-matched socks, there is no length requirement, right?
That is correct, higher level leagues don’t have a length requirement.
But for players who are new to soccer, there is no real benefit to wearing shorter socks.
The reason that players wear shorter socks is so they can use smaller shin guards that interfere with the ball less often.
They have the skill to avoid tackles and don’t want to risk their shin guards getting in the way of the ball during important moments.
But in low-level leagues, it’s much easier to get hurt so players usually wear larger shin guards which requires a longer pair of socks.
In organized soccer, game jerseys are used to differentiate between teams.
Most leagues will provide teams and players with full game kits, including the jersey, but sometimes players need to purchase them.
I recommend asking the team’s coach how to acquire game jerseys because they are usually responsible for ordering them.
If the club does not provide or require players to order jerseys, here is what most teams do.
A pot of money is created and each player contributes a certain amount toward buying a kit of bright and dark-colored pennies.
These pennies will be used to differentiate between teams during matches.
It’s the most affordable option when clubs or teams do not have enough resources to purchase custom jerseys.
Alternatively, teams can agree on a certain design and create custom game jerseys.
The first item that is needed to start playing organized soccer is a pair of cleats that match the league requirements.
We recommend going with Firm Ground Cleats, but it’s better to have a pair of Soft Ground Cleats for grass use.
Shin Guards are also necessary to play in a league.
For beginners, we recommend choosing a shin guard type based on playing position.
We recommend strapped shin guards for defenders because of the extra protection that they provide.
For attackers, we recommend slip-in shin guards to make sure that there is no interference between the ball and the foot.
Long Socks are also often required to meet league regulations.
To be safe, we recommend socks that reach just below the knees, but some leagues allow any length of socks as long as they cover the shin guards.
Last but not least, jerseys are required to be worn by players on each team.
These can be pennies or custom-made jerseys, as long as they clearly differentiate between the opposing teams.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Basic Soccer Gear for Beginners’ by RTimages (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#1: ‘Excellent Juggler Showing Off His Skills’ by oneinchpunchphotos (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#2: ‘Soccer Players Ready to Play’ by Anastasia Shuraeva (Licensed via Pexels)
#3: ‘Synthetic Adidas Cleats on Display’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)
#4: ‘Soccer Player With Thick Shin Guards Kicking the Ball’ by Marcel Strauss (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Elite Soccer Player Wearing Cut Socks’ by Anastasia (Licensed via Pexels)
#6: ‘German Soccer Player Wearing Custom Jersey’ by Marcel Strauss (Licensed via Unsplash)