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  • Writer's pictureCoach Enzo

The Definitive Guide to Understanding the Differences Between Futsal & Soccer!

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Do you already know soccer but want to understand futsal better? You've come to the right place! In the next paragraphs, I will be breaking down many details about futsal and explaining some key differences with the 11 v 11 football (soccer) game.


***Before going any further it's important to start by affirming that Futsal is NOT just soccer played on hardwood in a smaller area. It is a different sport and has many game-specific elements which do not exist in soccer! It requires a different type of game model!***


1. What is Futsal?

- History

- Quick Stats

2. Futsal vs. Soccer: Game Setup Differences

- Rules - Court size

- Surface

- Ball

- Goal Size


3. Futsal vs. Soccer: Gameplay Differences

- Rules

- GK Restart

- Backpasses to GK

- Time limit for restarts

- Fouls

- Red cards

- Timeouts

- Stoppages

- Offsides

- Ball out of play

- Substitutions

4. Conclusion


youth futsal

Japan vs Portugal girl's game in the 2018 Youth Olympics!

 


1. What is Futsal?


Futsal is an exciting, fast-paced, highly strategic small-sided football game that originated from South America in the 1930s. More precisely, it began in Uruguay and Brazil where the large crowded cities and a shortage of playing pitches forced football mad populace to play small-sided football and in 1936 the first rules emerged.

The word futsal comes from a combination of fútbol sala or fútbol de salón.

It is widely played across the world, and is the small-sided football format that is officially recognized by both UEFA and FIFA and is an official Olympic sport. For the last five years, it has been declared as the number one growing sport in the world, with impressive development happening in Asia, Europe, and South America.


Quick Stats:

First Men's Futsal World Cup: 1989

First Women's Futsal World Cup: 2025 (Upcoming!)

Most Men's Futsal World Cup Wins: Brazil - 5 wins

Current Men's World Champions: Portugal

Most FIFA Best Futsal Player in the World Awards: Ricardinho (Portugal) - 6 wins

Portugal is the current world champion! They defeated Argentina, the previous holders, in the 2021 World Cup Finals!


2. Futsal vs. Soccer: Game Setup Differences


futsal vs football

Field Size:

Starting with the playing area, a futsal court is significantly smaller than a full-size soccer field. A soccer field is typically around 65 meters wide by 105 meters long, whereas a futsal court is 40 meters by 20 meters.


futsal court vs soccer field

To let that sink in, this means:

  • You could fit 8.9 futsal pitches onto an 11-a-side pitch.

  • Each 11-a-side player has around 4 times the space that a futsal player has!!!!

Such a small pitch means the game has much shorter passes, players are moving in tight spaces, need to work harder to get open and the distance to the goal is never far – hence why it is higher scoring (but more on that later in the gameplay section). It also means that players have less space to control the ball, so their technique needs to be sharp. For that reason, futsal is seen as a game that improves close control and the ability to become "press resistant" or play comfortably under pressure.


Surface:


The surface on a futsal court is slick whereas soccer fields are grass or astro turf. Primarily played on hardwood the ball moves very quickly on the slick surface, which is why the gameplay is much more fast-paced.


hard surface futsal court

grass soccer field

The hard surface consequently also means no cleats. Instead, the shoes used on hardwood have a flat bottom to enable proper grip on the floor. Futsal shoes also enable closer ball control and ball feel. Many of the futsal controls use the sole of the shoe instead of the inside like in soccer.


futsal shoes

Above is an example of a futsal shoe, with a flat bottom, and the photo below depicts an example of a typical sole ball control in futsal.

futsal control

Futsal Ball:


The futsal ball is smaller and is 30% heavier than a traditional soccer ball, therefore it bounces less on a hard surface. The smaller size requires more accuracy with each ball contact. This in part is why futsal is seen as a tool that really improves technique.



futsal ball size vs soccer ball size

Goal Size:


An official futsal goal is 3 meters wide by 2 meters high.

That is significantly smaller than an 11-a-side goal.


Here's a diagram to gage the scale difference:

futsal goal size vs soccer goal size

To put that in relative terms,

  • A normal 11-a-side goal is a little over a third of the width of a futsal goal.

  • A normal 11-a-side goal has three times as much space to aim at as a futsal goal.

With the goalkeepers being able to reach almost any part of the futsal goal, this means that goalkeepers' saving percentages are far higher. To score, shots need to be hit hard and accurately, or with an element of disguise to stand a chance of going in.



3. Futsal vs. Soccer: Gameplay Differences


futsal vs soccer rules

futsal vs soccer rules


GK Restart


Instead of a goal kick, in futsal, the ball starts in the goalie's hands. The goalie has 4 seconds to play the ball in. The ball can be played anywhere on the court, and the goalie can play it from anywhere in his or her box. This makes the restart much more dynamic than a soccer goal kick, where the ball is still in one location.


Here's an example of a goalie service into a forward on the opposite side of the court for a goal.



Backpasses to GK


After the goalie plays the pass inside the court he or she cannot touch the ball again in the same possession unless they are over the halfway line. In some cases, the goalie will spend extensive time in the opposing half to help their team create more attacking danger. This scenario is called a power play and is used in most games by most teams at some point during the game (usually in a losing scenario to get another goal).



Time limit for restarts

Whether a kick-in, a corner, or a GK restart players have 4 seconds from the time the ball is put on the ground to play the ball back in play.


Fouls


After 5 fouls on the 6th foul (and every additional foul after that) the team who was fouled gets an opportunity to shoot a 10-meter kick with no wall of any kind.



Red cards


Unlike soccer, red cards don't mean that the team has a player less for the rest of the game. The team with the player ejected has to deal with the one-man deficit for 2 minutes or until the other team scores.



Timeouts


Timeouts can be initiated by the coach once per half. These timeouts are only 60 seconds long and are usually used to change formation, make substitutions, or review a setpiece tactic.


Stoppages


The extra time added at the end of the soccer game does not happen in futsal. Instead of having a running clock, the clock is stopped every time the ball goes out. This also makes the finish of the game a more clear hard stop than in soccer. In soccer, referees are actually trained to let the team in possession finish the play if they are in an attacking phase, this is much more ambiguous as the referee is supposed to wait for a more neutral moment. In futsal this is not the case, when the timer goes off, the game is over.


extra time

Offsides


Since there are no offsides in futsal it enables players to maximize the space on the court and always provide a reference of depth in the formation. Goalscoring is also helped a lot by this detail, as many goals scored are runs to the back post for a tap-in. In the video below you will see a number of examples:




Ball out out of play


When the ball goes out of play on the sides a kick in follows. These kick-ins are sometimes used as opportunities for set plays and creative combinations directly off of the restart.

Here's a video example of a kick-in:




Substitutions


Substitutions in Futsal are similar to hockey. The clock is never stopped, and players tag out and initiate the change. There is one substitution gate on each sideline for each team and all of the substitutions must be made through that gate for the change to be legal.

These flying substitutions are sometimes used cleverly by teams to create chances on goal. For an example take a look at the video below:





4. Conclusion



Some summarizing points are:

  • More goals are scored in the average futsal game – despite the games being shorter and the goals being smaller.

  • Many more shots are taken in futsal

  • Fewer fouls are committed in futsal


In conclusion, understanding what makes futsal different is an insight into what makes it so very popular. More touches, more actions per player, more shots, more goals. What’s not to like about that?

But to understand the differences is only to scratch the surface of this exciting, wonderful, complex game, and highly tactical game.


To better understand the benefits of the futsal game and how they transfer to soccer read this article.


Also if you are interested in playing competitive futsal please check out the Playmaker Lab programs here or reach out to me directly about trying out.



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