Indoor soccer is a fast paced, football-inspired game designed to be played in a smaller, walled indoor arena. Played on artificial turf or hard court flooring on a pitch bound by walls, the sport has its own set of rules that differ significantly from the regulations imposed in football and other indoor adaptations of the sport such as five-a-side and futsal.
The sport is played extensively in the United States and Canada where it was originally developed as an alternative to football during the winter months when outdoor play is impossible. The short outdoor soccer season due to harsh outdoor conditions and the availability of ice hockey and basketball arena as indoor soccer venues made the sport popular in both countries where there are professional and amateur leagues. It is particularly popular in Canada where it is one of the events in the Arctic Winter Games, an international biennial sports event in which Canada is a participating country.
Where is Indoor Soccer Played?
While the game is originally designed for indoor venues, indoor soccer is also played in wall-delimited outdoor arenas in other countries. Arena sizes, goals and penalty areas are generally smaller than standard soccer areas with the field measuring 200 ft. x 85 ft., the standard playing area size for North American hockey rinks.
The game is played between two teams with six active players on each side including a goalkeeper. Each team try to score by kicking the ball into a goal area just like a regular soccer game. Play times vary depending on the league but most are played for 60 minutes divided into four 15-minute quarters with 15-minute half-time breaks and 3-minute breaks after each quarter. If the scores remain tied at the end of the allotted time, the game is extended for 15 minutes. Most amateur games are played over two 20-minute halves with 5-minute breaks in between.
Unlike outdoor soccer, there are no throw-ins, offside rule, and sliding tackles in indoor soccer. There is less game stoppage and the pace is rapid and intense. Players can also use the walls in passing and rebounding shots.
Soccer players who want to level up in the sport will find indoor soccer an excellent way to prepare for the bigger things ahead such as tryouts or competitions. Playing the sport offers several advantages to young and serious players and physical fitness enthusiasts.
- It allows players to stay active and in tiptop shape during off-season, which is vital if you want to go far in a physically demanding sport like soccer. The minimal breaks during play will help improve your fitness levels and build endurance and cardiovascular capacity while you’re having fun with the game.
- It is a great way to continue playing the game and build up and master important soccer skills such as ball control, dribbling, quick and accurate passing under intense situations, fast thinking and team play.
- In a game of indoor soccer where there are significantly less players than in a regular soccer match, players have more opportunities to actually touch the ball and sharpen their competitive skills.
- Joining indoor soccer leagues allows you to bond with friends and build camaraderie among team members.
For those who simply love the sport and want to get fit all year-round by playing the game, indoor soccer is a safer way to enjoy soccer and its healthy benefits.
Indoor Soccer Organizations
The World Minifootball Federation (WMF) is the international body handling the promotion, supervision and direction of indoor soccer. Currently based in Czech Republic, it was established by national and continental mini-football associations all over the world and its members include the Confederación Panamericana de Minifutbol (CPM), African Minifootball Federation (AFM), European Minifootball Federation (EMF), Oceania Minifootball Federation (OMF), and Asian Minifootball Confederation (AMC). The WMF held its first ever World Cup in the USA in March 2015, with the United States emerging as champions after beating Mexico in the final.
The game, also known as futbol rapido or arena soccer, is likewise a well-liked sport in Mexico where it is one of the featured games in its University National Games or Universiada and a private school tournament known as CONADEIP.
In South America, formal national and regional leagues have been established in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. The sport has also reached Europe. The United Kingdom and Spain, in particular, holds regular mini-football competitions. At present, the sport is growing at a rapid rate around the world.
The most commonly played variation of indoor soccer is definitely 5-a-side or depending on the number of players and the league you participate in 6-a-side. Ideal for small areas and without the formal organisation of 11-a-side football, small sided games are perfect for fitness, improving technique as well as all round good fun. The small enclosed space means games are always competitive and give opportunities for players of all standards to involve themselves in the sport.
Where to Play – We have a dedicated section at IndoorSoccer101 guiding you on where you can take up indoor soccer close to home and there are a number of local organisations around the world who specialise in introducing new players to the sport as well as placing teams in leagues of a similar standard.
Tactics and Strategy
Obviously you may think in a game as high tempo and frantic as indoor soccer how much strategy can there really be but there is and if you are part of a team looking to improve performances some new tactics might be just what you’re looking for. This can really help if you’re playing in a weekly competitive league and looking for any advantage on the pitch. If this is the case there are number of guides and drills to follow, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has also even given his advice in the past when speaking to FourFourTwo magazine about playing 5-aisde he suggested to set up in a 1-2-1 formation. One player sitting in a deeper defensive role at all times, two ‘full-backs’ who would constantly shuttle up and down the pitch with the demanding nature of indoor soccer, dropping in to defender alongside the one defender without the ball but also supporting the one striker up front when attacking. This formation will ensure your team is strong while defending but also offers options in attack, with many small sided games often high in number of goals scored this is vital to remember.
Other suggestions Wenger gives is to make sure you are playing players in their proper positions, not wasting a deadly finisher in defence, as well as recommending finding a proper keeper which is solid advice, we have all played in a team without a real goalkeeper and although they are doing you a favour it can be frustrating when you see the 5th goal slip between their fingertips!
Wenger’s last piece of advice is that counter attack beats possession. This might sound strange from a football coach who has built his footballing philosophy on controlling matches with the ball as well as the way football has evolved within the last 10 years but it also shows that indoor soccer and small sided games are a different challenge all together. Short sharp passes are the name of the game where sitting in and defending, inviting opposition teams on to you and tempting them to lose their shape can be a hugely successful tactic.
These sorts of tactics and the different ways of playing indoor soccer show how the game can help to develop the skills needed if you want to make the step up to 11 a-side football. This is particularly true in youth football where small sided games encourage more touches and reward risk taking and quick trickery compared to games on large playing areas and can benefit anyone learning to play the game. This is massively important if you are looking to play as much football as possible and a major problem in many popular football playing nations in recent years within the amateur game has been the huge number of players dropping out of 11 a-side football. This may tell a story about the popularity of the smaller sided game but it is important to remember how indoor soccer in particular and the skills it promotes can be a great ‘gateway’ and stepping stone the other way to propelling players on to a big scale in the bigger format of the game, which is important for countries who have aspirations to achieve success on the international scene.
Fitness for Indoor Soccer
If you want to take your game seriously, whatever type of football you play then fitness should be a huge focus. Soccer is one of the most demanding sports on the body, not only does it take constant pressure applied to joints and muscles with the amount of turns and different speed of movements required but the constant competition for 90 minutes with very few breaks either side of half time expends a lot of energy. As mentioned indoor soccer can be a great stepping stone to larger sized games and one of the main reasons for this is the fitness levels of small arena football is very demanding and can help when more space is added and more players are involved. But what about if you are new to 5 a-side, how do you build your fitness from scratch?
Obviously in this scenario practice is the name of the game but there are a number of running drills you can do to make sure you build your fitness and get up to speed quickly which is vital if you want to focus on the game. To do this traditional techniques for gaining fitness may not always be the most effective. Running 5k to 10k several times a week is not going to harm your game or your stamina at all but with the stop start nature of football, high intensity interval training is far more effective. In football depending on the position you play you are asked to spend different periods of play at top speed, jogging, walking and even standing still when the ball is not active. In indoor soccer these motions are even more exaggerated as the small game is even more demanding and offers no breaks in the form of the ball going out of play. With this being the case it is important to base your training methods to mimic a real game of indoor soccer, with sprints, ¾ pace runs and jogs all incorporated together. The bleep test is not a bad way to test your fitness against others but may not necessarily be the best way to get improve your fitness for 5 or 6 a-side.
As well as fitness, when it comes to improving your soccer skills, the shoes you choose are vitally important and we’ve got you covered with our best picks of the year. Goalkeeper gloves are also important for the keepers amongst us and we also cover these as well as how to keep your cleats and gloves clean for indoor use.