Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve been playing soccer all my life at a high level consistently, however, I frequently play pickup whenever I can. Having played with many different organizers, and have organized my own pickup game, I am very familiar with what gear is necessary for pickup soccer. Today, I am here to share with you the ins and outs of the necessary equipment for pickup soccer.
Pickup soccer is one of the best ways that players can enjoy the game without any restrictions.
It’s a very popular form of the game, attracting players with skill levels ranging from beginners to even professionals.
So you decided to organize an event yourself, but don’t know what gear you need to be successful.
To help you out, we have made a list of the most important pieces of equipment that you need to get started.
Each piece of equipment will be thoroughly explained so you can be sure that you have all of the correct gear.
So let’s get right into it. Enjoy!
Related article: Essential Soccer Gear to Pack for Tournaments
5 Pieces of Equipment You Need to Organize Pickup Soccer
In the following list, we will be discussing the 5 pieces of soccer equipment that are necessary for organizing pickup soccer.
We tried our best to include comprehensive explanations for each type of equipment, and help you make a decision based on your needs.
Don’t forget to check out any embedded links below for a more in-depth explanation for certain topics.
So without further due, let’s get started with the items.
A significant part of setting up a pickup game is having proper targets to score on.
It’s possible to create goalposts with backpacks or water bottles, but that means players will have to chase after every shot even if they score.
This makes the overall feeling of the event lackluster and it destroys the vibe of the game.
Portable goals are one of the most popular and widely available solutions to this problem.
Mini soccer nets
Though mini soccer nets are mostly used in small-sided games with up to 5 players per team, they can be used in larger pickup matches.
The main advantage of the mini nets is that it eliminates the need for a goalie.
So unless you have designated goalkeepers, players will not have to rotate between the goalkeeper position.
Additionally, it’s simply better to have some type of target that players can score on than just backpacks and water bottles.
After all, you can pick up a pair of mini-goals for less than $20.
- Eliminates the need for a goalkeeper
- Better than backpacks & water bottles
- Makes the event feel organized & thought out
- Very cheap
- Difficult to score with larger teams
- Mini-goals are unfit for bigger games
Mid-Size Soccer Nets (4ft x 6ft)
A better option for scoring targets is a 4-foot by 6-foot net that can be taken apart.
These nets are larger than their mini counterparts, so they accommodate larger teams better.
There is still no need for a goalkeeper, though, having a foot-only keeper can be fun.
Larger nets make it easier for teams to score, making games high-scoring and increasing the fun.
But as the fun increases, so does the price.
Mid-size soccer nets cost at least $50 per goal in most sporting stores, but they can be found for as little as $30 in some places.
- Larger net
- Accommodates larger teams
- Makes games high-scoring
- Provides the option to have a goalkeeper
- More expensive
- Less portable
Futsal nets are where it gets serious.
These are the closest it gets to full-sized nets for pickup games, being roughly 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
These nets are too large to be unguarded, so goalkeepers are required to play on each team.
Additionally, you want to have at least 6 players on each team, including the goalkeepers, to accommodate for the size of the goal.
Now, the price of futsal nets can range anywhere from $80 to $200.
The sweet spot is around $90-100, where the goals are good quality, and still being relatively affordable.
With that in mind, I would only recommend investing in futsal nets if you are regularly organizing pickup events with a large group of people.
- Extremely fun
- Accommodates large teams well
- Similar experience to a real match
- Requires goalkeepers
When picking a net, the mid-size goal is probably the best pick.
A 4ft by 6ft goal is all that is needed for a fun time with a small or large group of people.
It gives the option of including a goalkeeper, without requiring one.
Overall, mid-sized nets keep the characteristic of being affordable, while also making the experience much more fun than it would be otherwise.
#2: Boundary markers
One of the most important pieces of equipment that you need for creating pickup soccer games is boundary markers.
The most efficient tools to mark the playing area are cones.
They are great because they come in many shapes and sizes, making them widely available and cheap.
From all of the available options, there are 3 types of cones that you should focus on.
These three are Regular Soccer Cones, Mini Soccer Cones, and Flat Disk Markers.
Regular Soccer Cones
Regular soccer cones are the most widely available of the three types of markers, making them very cheap.
Since these cones will likely not be stepped on very often, the quality or branding doesn’t matter.
Rather than paying extra for better quality, I would recommend prioritizing quantity.
This way, you will have enough cones to mark out as large of a playing area as needed, to accommodate for the right amount of players.
As for the color, from my experience bright yellow works the best, but any bright color be fine.
- Widely Available
- Many different colors
- Low quality is fine
- Green cones are difficult to see
- Easily break when stepped on
Mini Soccer Cones:
Mini soccer cones have the same availability as regular-sized cones, and they are roughly the same price.
However, they are much more durable due to their size, even the nonbrand examples.
On top of that, they can be used for other applications such as practicing different soccer skills, if that’s something that you are interested in doing.
Additionally, the difference in quality between the non-brand and branded versions is minimal.
You can get away with picking the cheapest mini cones and they will be just as durable and last as long as the expensive ones.
- Overall more durable
- Even nonbrand cones
- Can be used for more applications
- The size makes it easy to avoid
- No difference between cheap & expensive versions
- The smaller size makes it less visible
Flat Disk Markers
Flat disk markers have similar characteristics to the mini soccer cones, except they take it a step further.
These disks are completely flat, only a couple of inches in diameter, and made of rubber.
This makes them the most durable out of the 3 options we listed.
Furthermore, they are also the cheapest.
Only costing $10-15 for a few dozen, the flat disks easily win quantity for the money.
High-quality examples can go for up to $40, though, the difference in quality that you get from the money is insignificant.
- Most durable
- Widely Available
- Can be difficult to see
- Even with bright colors
My recommendation for the best type of boundary marker is the mini soccer cones.
They are not completely flat, so they are clearly visible.
Additionally, unlike the regular-sized cones for the same price, the mini soccer cones will not break when you step on them.
So from my experience, the mini soccer cones will work the best for boundary marking.
#3: Soccer balls
Soccer balls are arguably the most important piece of equipment that you need for pickup soccer.
To make the experience enjoyable, it’s important to have at least two or three high-quality soccer balls.
When a ball goes out of bounds, having a ball on standby to quickly keep the game helps players avoid snapping out the game and losing focus.
Though this makes the game more fun, it’s not detrimental to the gameplay when there is only one ball to be played with.
Further, it is important to make sure that the soccer balls being used are of good quality to make the experience of the game more enjoyable.
So how do you know if a ball is high-quality?
Here are the features to look for:
Firstly, the surface of the ball should not be made of rubber or sticky materials.
When playing with a sticky ball, bouncy passes will be a common occurrence, and circulating the ball between teammates will be frustrating.
This makes the game less enjoyable and players will likely not return to future games.
Padding is another feature that can determine the feel of the ball when kicking it.
Too much padding can make the ball feel as if you were kicking a rubber ball, and too little padding can make it feel as if you were kicking a rock.
Generally, the padding correlates with the surface of the ball, so as long as the surface of the ball feels fine, padding shouldn’t be an issue either.
Lastly, the construction of the ball should also be considered to make sure that it lasts a long time.
High-quality examples will usually be fused or glued together, which has a stronger bond than just regular stitching.
Though, it’s usually not a deal breaker when the ball is stitched, as long as the surface and the padding of the ball are good quality.
Characteristics in short:
- Avoid sticky surfaces like rubber
- Not too much, not too little
- Good padding comes with good surface quality
- Glued or Fused is better than stitched
- Stitched is fine as long as the padding & surface is good
Easily differentiating between teams is also an important aspect of the game that can make the overall experience much better.
Pickup events are usually organized so that all attendees are informed to bring both bright and dark-colored shirts.
That way teams can be easily distinguished, and there is no confusion.
But from my experience, players will often show up unprepared, making it difficult to create teams.
So how can this issue be solved?
Pennies or Solid-Colored Jerseys
Out of every pickup game or tournament I have attended, I’ve always had the best experience when pennies were provided for the players.
These are solid-colored, inexpensive jerseys that fit all sizes to help players distinguish between teams.
I would recommend buying one set of bright yellow pennies so that only one team has to wear them.
Bright colors are easily distinguishable from generic colors that other players might be wearing.
Not to mention, a complete set of pennies can be picked up for as low as $20.
So especially if you are regularly organizing events, I highly recommend investing in solid-colored pennies, as they can attract new and previous players to attend future events.
Last but not least, the need for water is similar to that of pennies.
People are expected to bring their own, however, players will often attend unprepared.
As the organizer, it’s much better to have extra water at the game than dehydrated players who don’t want to play.
Additionally, proper hydration is crucial not just for having fun, but also preventing any health issues.
Gallon jugs of water cost only a few bucks, and they can help someone elevate everyone’s experience while attending your event.
Soccer nets are one of the best investments when it comes to organizing a pickup soccer event.
They create a fun environment for players by providing targets to score on without breaking the bank.
Although there are other alternatives, portable goals provide a large variety of options, providing a solution to fit everyone’s needs.
Next, Boundary markers are also an essential part of having an organized soccer event.
Mini soccer cones are the overall best choice because they are clearly visible, durable, and widely available at sporting stores.
Continuing, Soccer balls are a no-brainer.
At least one or two high-quality balls are crucial for having an enjoyable experience at a pickup soccer event.
Players will be able to demonstrate their skills and have more fun while playing with a quality soccer ball, than with a sticky, rubber-feeling ball.
Pennies are one of the best ways to distinguish between teams while playing.
Players often forget to follow dress codes, so for roughly $20, it is a brilliant idea to invest in solid-colored pennies to make sure the event can still happen.
Similar to the issue of the dress code, water is also often forgotten by attending players.
Not only will dehydration cause players to stop playing, but it can also create health issues.
Gallon jugs are available for only a few dollars, and they eliminate the issue of having dehydrated players.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Pickup Soccer Players Around a Soccer Ball’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#1: ‘Soccer Balls Piled Up’ by Pedram Raz (Licensed via Unsplash)
#2: ‘Pickup Player Getting Ready to Play’ by Raul_Mellado (Licensed via Envato)
#3: ‘Full Size Soccer Goal’ by dolgachov (Licensed via Envato)
#4: ‘White Lines on Soccer Turf’ by elxeneize (Licensed via Envato)
#5: ‘Soccer Ball in the Corner Triangle’ by Maryna_Vagonetochka (Licensed via Envato)
#6: ‘Soccer Players in Red Pennies’ by Wavebreakmedia (Licensed via Envato)
#7: ‘Exhausted Athlete Drinking Water’ by YuriArcursPeopleImage (Licensed via Envato)