What Is Fullback in Soccer? Meaning, Role, and Responsibilities

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Fullback in soccer: Each soccer team has 11 players on the field, and each one of these players has their own position and their own role. One of these positions and roles is the fullback position.

But what is a fullback in soccer?

A fullback in soccer is a defensive player that is usually positioned near the sides of the field. Fullbacks take several roles on the field. They defend when their team does not have the ball, and they join their attack when they do have the ball.

The reason behind this is that to be able to play as a fullback, you should have a very large set of skills that span across offense and defense. In this article, we will explore all about the fullback position in soccer. So, let’s begin with “what is a fullback in soccer”.

What is Fullback in Soccer?

Fullback in soccer plays the role of both defender and offensive player accordingly. He starts a game positioned at the left or right side of the touchline of the field.

The main role of the fullback position in soccer is to muscle up the defense. However, he is also responsible for handling attacks.

The fullback is a player who plays on either the far left side of the defense, or the far right side, usually as part of a four-person back line. In its earliest incarnation, a player would be expected to hold their position on the left or right of the defense and wait for an opponent to attack that area.

The word fullback in soccer comes from the period of soccer history where the players in this position started a game as the primary defenders on their team. The position is called fullback because these players were further back than any other player.

Over the years, the formations teams used developed and evolved from these earlier forms. And the position of a fullback gradually moved out toward the sidelines of a soccer field.

How many fullbacks are there on a soccer team?

The soccer formation used by the coach determines how many fullbacks will be playing on the team. A 4-3-3 formation generally means that there are 2 fullbacks on the team. Besides, a 3-5-2 formation generally means that there are no fullbacks on the team.

It is usually up to the coach to decide the number of fullbacks on the team based on the formation that they want to use. However, most of the time, there are either 2 fullbacks on the team or none.

As for the 3-5-2 formation, all of the defenders will usually be central defenders and none of them will be a fullback.

You may ask, can a soccer team have a single fullback instead of either 2 or none? Well, they can, but it won’t make sense at all so almost no team does this.

If you want to use fullbacks, it makes sense to have one on each side of the field instead of only having a single fullback on one of the sides.

A team might have a single fullback for a short period of time during a match. But that happens when one of the 2 fullbacks on the field gets a red card.

But even during this event, the coach will most probably change the team’s plan either. They can substitute the remaining fullback or by making them change their role on the field till the end of the game.

What are the responsibilities of a soccer fullback?

As I have mentioned before, fullbacks have some extra responsibility than the other defenders on the team.

As a fullback, you should take part in the defense when your opponent wins the ball. And you should also help your team’s attack when your team wins the ball.

Sometimes, fullbacks play as “wingbacks”, which means that they play as fullbacks when defending. And they play as wingers when attacking.

If you do not already know, a winger in soccer is a player who runs on the sides of the field close to the opponent’s goal.

This makes the fullback position very physically demanding. According to this study, the fullback position is more physically demanding than the other defensive positions.

After all, A fullback might have to run the whole field back and forth throughout the whole game. You can only imagine how physically demanding this is for the players.

But let’s dive into a little bit more details on what the fullbacks do in terms of defense and offense.

What are the defensive roles of a soccer fullback player?

Fullback players are expected to cover the side areas of the field. Ie, they are expected to keep the wingers of the opponent team in check.

A winger from Team A tries to penetrate Team B’s defense by running on one of the sides of the field toward team B’s net. Then it is usually the responsibility of Team B’s fullback to try and stop the winger from approaching any further.


Fullbacks are also expected to not allow the wingers to cross the ball from the side of the field to the penalty box. Because the opponent might get into a good position to score.

Sometimes the fullback absolutely can’t prevent the cross because they got outnumbered or outclassed. They try their best to delay the opponent until the defense regroups and closes the gaps in their area.

For the fullback to be able to do all this, they need to have some excellent agility skills. And they need to be great in a 1 vs 1 encounter. Because if they slip at any moment, they might give their opponent an excellent opportunity to score.

But things do not stop here. A fullback sometimes also joins the central defenders to help them when they get outnumbered and outclassed.

If there is no threat on the side that the fullback defender is covering, then they usually head toward the penalty area. Therefore, they can help the central defenders block any upcoming goal attempts by the opponent.

What are the offensive roles of a soccer fullback player?

Once the fullback’s team wins the ball, the first thing that the fullbacks do is that they head toward the opponent’s side of the field. They try and help the midfielders and the forwards/strikers penetrate the opponent’s defense.

The fullbacks are expected to work as wingers by their coaches. Then the fullbacks will try to cross the ball to their teammates whenever they can.

Fullbacks will try to take the ball from their defense/midfield teammates. Then, they run with it on the side of the field till they get close to the opponent’s team.

Once they get close, they will usually attempt to cross the ball to the box area of the opponent by kicking it there.

The ball reaches one of the fullback’s teammates after they cross the ball. Then the teammate might get a very good opportunity to score with either a header or a normal kick.

Sometimes the fullbacks do not even cross the ball when they become close to the goal line of the opponent. What they do instead is run directly toward the goal. And they try to score themselves or make a short pass to one of the strikers to score.

But what if the fullbacks get blocked by their opponent’s fullbacks? Well, they simply either try to win a 1v1 encounter with them. Or they just pause their run and pass the ball back to their midfielders or their defenders and try again later on.

Fullbacks can also offload some of the pressure that their midfielders encounter in the middle of the field.

Best Full Backs Of All Time

Roberto Carlos

Brazils Roberto Carlos was part of the famous Real Madrid Galiticio team and often pushed forward with reckless abandonment. He is known for his incredible long-distance free kicks and impossible-to-believe goals. Roberto Carlos will always be remembered as the most exciting and glamorous full-back the world has ever seen.

Trent Alexander Arnold

A highly creative attacking full-back, Trent has speed, effective dribbling moves, and an incredible range of passing skills. As a result, he regularly gets more assists in a season than the average attacking midfielder. Trent has even been deployed at times as a central midfielder for club and country due to his incredible ability on the ball.

Ashley Cole

He is England’s Best left-back for over a decade between 2001 and 2014. Ashley Cole showed a level of consistency that was beyond compare during his playing career with both Chelsea and Arsenal. Cole has also won the most FA Cups of any player in history. Cole had plenty of attacking flair going forward but was also a phenomenal 1v1 defender.


A fullback in soccer is one of the most critical positions. A soccer team with good fullbacks can rest assured that it will always get great chances to score. And that its defense will be hard to penetrate from the sides of the field.

I hope you found this guide on the full-back position in soccer useful. Check out other soccer position guides to learn more about soccer player roles and positions at FootballTerms.

Thanks for reading!

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