Sunday, 21 Jul 2024

What Are Set Pieces in Soccer?

In recent years, soccer has gained immense popularity in the US. However, watching soccer is a unique experience compared to other popular US sports like baseball, basketball, and NFL. The game flows continuously, with minimal stoppages or breaks. But what happens during these breaks? This is where set pieces come into play.

Set pieces are an integral part of soccer and have been a fundamental aspect of the game since its formalization in the 1860s. In this article, we will explore what a set piece is in soccer, the different types of set pieces, and how innovative teams have utilized them in recent seasons.

What Are Set Pieces in Soccer?

In soccer, the term “set piece” refers to the action of putting the ball back into play from a dead ball situation. Throughout a 90-minute match, set pieces occur regularly whenever the ball goes out of play. Whether it’s a shot, cross, pass, tackle, or interception that takes the ball out of the field, a set piece is necessary to restart the game.

There are various types of set pieces in soccer, each awarded for different reasons. For example, free kicks are awarded for fouls committed on the field of play, while throw-ins are used to return the ball to play after it has exited the pitch.

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In the following sections, we will delve into each type of set piece and provide a comprehensive understanding of their significance within the game.

Free Kicks

Free kicks are awarded when a foul is committed on the field of play outside the penalty area. They offer teams the opportunity to relieve pressure in defensive areas or create dangerous attacking situations further up the pitch. The positioning of the free kick depends on the location of the foul, and the ball must be in a stationary position before play resumes.

Free kicks can be either direct or indirect. Direct free kicks allow players to shoot on goal and are awarded for more severe offenses. Indirect free kicks, on the other hand, are given for less severe fouls and require the ball to touch another player before a goal can be scored.


Another common set piece in soccer is the corner kick. Corners are awarded when the ball exits the field of play via the end goal line after last touching a defending player. If the ball touches an attacking player last, a goal kick is given.

During a corner kick, the attacking team has the opportunity to deliver the ball into the opposition’s penalty area using a lofted cross. Defensive players need to remain at least 10 yards away from the corner arc until the ball is in play. Tall, physical defenders are often brought forward to provide aerial options for the attacking team.

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Throw-ins are the most frequently occurring set pieces in soccer, awarded every time the ball goes out of play on either side of the pitch. The team that did not touch the ball last before it went out of play is awarded a throw-in from the spot where the ball left play.

There are two main types of throw-ins: short throw-ins and long throw-ins. Short throw-ins are used to maintain possession and move the ball quickly, while long throw-ins are more direct and aim to launch the ball into the opposition’s final third.


Penalties are a unique type of set piece awarded when an attacking player is fouled by the opposition inside the penalty area. The attacking team has the chance to shoot on goal from the penalty spot, 12 yards out, with only the goalkeeper to stop them. Penalties can occur in various situations and are a crucial opportunity for teams to score.

Goal Kicks

The final method of re-entering the ball into play is through a goal kick. Goal kicks are given when the ball exits the field of play via the end touch line after last touching an attacking player. The goalkeeper takes the goal kick and has the opportunity to distribute the ball up the pitch from within their own six-yard area.

How Important Are Set Pieces in Professional Soccer?

Set pieces play a significant role in soccer at all levels, from youth games to globally-watched matches like the World Cup. Certain clubs have recognized the importance of set pieces and have leveraged data and analytics to gain an advantage in these situations.

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For instance, when Brentford entered the Premier League in 2021/22, they focused on set piece play as a way to gain an edge over their opponents. They developed cleverly-worked routines for corners and throw-ins, which significantly improved their efficacy in these areas.

Teams can harness the power of set pieces to create scoring opportunities and disrupt the opposition’s defense. The strategic use of set pieces has become a key aspect of modern soccer, with clubs employing innovative methods to maximize their effectiveness.

In conclusion, understanding the different types of set pieces and how they are utilized in soccer is essential for both players and fans alike. Set pieces provide exciting moments and can often determine the outcome of a match. So, the next time you watch a game, pay close attention to the set pieces and the strategies behind them.