Before the birth of modern soccer, “jolly young lads” in England would play a game of kicking around an inflated cow bladder where the goals were usually on the different sides of the town. Because of the violence of such games and consequential damages to properties, it was made illegal several times throughout history. But, in the middle of the 19th century, the game went from the streets of cities to the fields.
The first soccer fields were just that, fields. Most often a grassy area of a public park, or a lawn of a public school. With the first written rules came the goalposts and corner flags. But the dimensions of the pitch were not defined. And the pitches could measure as much as 200 yards in length and 100 yards in width. Depending on the size of the lawn, it was being played on.
Such a situation remained until 1891 when pitch markings were introduced. Goal lines and bylines were added, along with the circle on the center of the pitch. Because of the introduction of the penalty kick, 12 yards from goal, a line was drawn, and a player could take the kick from any spot on that line. Also, the 18 yards line was added to denote the area in which any foul would result in a penalty kick. But both of these were running across the whole width of the pitch. At the same time, a six yards goalkeeper’s area was introduced. And it didn’t resemble anything we would recognize today as the 6-yard box. It was made of two intersecting 6-yard semicircles drawn from each post.
But, in 1902, soccer pitch went through another wave of changes, and become something we would recognize as such. The penalty area became “boxy”, as did the 6-yards box, half-line was added, and the penalty spot became a spot 12 yards from the middle of the goal. At the same time, the minimum and maximum dimensions of the pitch were defined.
A slight modification of these markings was made in 1937. On the insistence of several continental European federations, the penalty arc was added. And, yes, that’s how it is called. That semi-circle on top of the penalty area, most of the people are often wondering how it is called, and which serves no real purpose.
Because of the varying sizes of the soccer fields in the earliest days of the game, the first regulation defining professional soccer field dimensions gave a range of maximum and minimum allowed. Such a rule remained to this day. And what is today known as a full-size senior pitch follows it.
Professional soccer field dimensions
Per the Laws of the Game, a soccer pitch can have 100-130 yards length and 50-100 yards width. But various other soccer organizations allow pitch dimensions of various ranges, though they all fall inside this base range. And what exact dimensions a pitch will have very often depends on the tactical preferences of coaches. For example, Jose Mourinho is known for preferring his team to play a narrow and compact formation. So he would instruct the groundskeeper to mark the pitch at the minimum allowed dimensions.
For all international competitions and the national teams’ matches, per rules of FIFA soccer field dimensions have a much smaller range. And can be 110-120 yards length and 70-80 yards width.
MLS soccer field dimensions
The MLS soccer field dimensions are defined per rules as minimum 70 yards wide and 110 yards long. But it is not exceeding the maximum allowed by the Laws. And most of the pitches don’t go more than 10 yards beyond the minimum dimensions.
College soccer field dimensions
College soccer field dimensions fall in a similar range as in MLS. Thus a regulation approved, NCAA soccer field dimensions are 70-75 yards width and 115-120 yards in length.
Youth soccer field dimensions
Youth soccer field dimensions depend on the age group of the players. High school soccer field dimensions are inside the range set by the Laws of the Games. And per the rules of NFHS soccer field dimensions can range between 55 by 100 to 80 by 120 yards.
It can be said that the middle school field dimensions also fall inside of the range for the full-size soccer pitches. But as the age of the middles school pupils is not uniform across the states, it is more precise to state them per age groups:
- U14 – from 70 by 110, to 80 by 120 yards;
- U13 – from 50 by 100, to 60 by 110 yards;
- U12 – from 40 by 100, to 55 by 105 yards;
- U11 – from 40 by 70, to 50 by 80 yards;
- U10 – from 40 by 60, to 50 by 70 yards.
Indoor soccer field dimensions
The indoor soccer field dimensions were historically defined by the limits of the venues they were most often played, the hockey rinks. And thus have the same shape and dimensions, 200 feet long and 85 feet wide.