What is Futsal & How to Play It

If you were to sit down and imagine a version of Football where skill is king, where teamwork is everything.  A game that actively discourages time-wasting and back-chat, where speed of thought and movement is imperative.  A five-a-side game where the ball is not bouncing uncontrollably off the walls and ceiling and the pace of the game is breath-taking.  A football game that encourages kids from a young age to take someone on and to think about their movement on and off the ball, the game you would probably come up with would be Futsal.

Futsal was designed and has evolved with all this in mind. The “4 second rule” prevents players’ time-wasting and back-chatting, you can take-on players without fear of having your legs taken from under you and if you don’t play-out your tactics at 100 mph and as a team you will be left standing.

What is Futsal?

In Brasil and all through South America, the lack of full-sized pitch facilities have resulted in generations of kids who’ve learned the art of soccer on a small court, playing 5-a-side game known as futebol-de-salao, meaning indoor football.  We’ve seen the results in some of world’s finest players for generation after generation coming from the Latin countries.

Futsal is unlike the conventional 5 a side game because players have to play to touch encouraging them to receive the ball under pressure giving each player 50% more ball time promoting their technique and ability. Players such a s Ronaldo, Fabregas, and Zidane put a lot of there success down to playing futsal at an early age.

In 1989 FIFA took on futsal as its official 5s game and has been promoting the game all over the world ever since. No surprise to see some of the early adopter European counties, Spain, Portugal, Italy, producing some of the world’s most skilled players. The USA is now starting to really wake up and smell the coffee in seeing futsal as a great new game of soccer in itself, but also as a very useful development tool for the big brother game as well. All the technique and mental skills learned in playing futsal are completely transferable to the big game. Futsal just provides an exciting way to learn and play soccer.

Why Play Futsal?

Futsal is the only indoor soccer game sanctioned by FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) and USSF (United States Soccer Federation).  The national governing body for the sport is the United States Futsal Federation, which is affiliated with USSF.

Why Play Futsal?

More Touches on the Ball

FUTSAL is a small-sided game (5v5), four field players and a goalkeeper played on a basketball size court. With this in mind each player including the goalkeeper get more touches than with outdoor or American indoor soccer.

Ball Size

FUTSAL is played with a smaller low bounce ball.  The ball is approximately a size four soccer ball (for U13 and above) and is heavier with a double bladder to give it a low bounce. The U12 and under use approximately a size three soccer ball which is also a heavier low bounce ball.

Ball Movement

With a heavier low bounce ball and a smaller playing surface, players must distribute the ball as quickly and efficiently as possible. Passes must be crisp and accurate.

Moving off the Ball

Players must constantly move off the ball.  They must run to the open space and create space for teammates.  This opens a Futsal game up and creates numerous scoring opportunities.

Offense and Defense

FUTSAL is a quick transition game.  As soon as player loses possession they are immediately on defense and must automatically switch to a defensive mode.  This helps create a better-rounded player.

FUTSAL Creates Better Goalkeepers

Quick reflexes and good ball distribution are essential to your team’s success.

Ball Possession

FUTSAL is different than the outdoor game and indoor soccer because it forces the player to use quick short passes.  A team must maintain ball possession to create scoring opportunities and prevent the opponent from getting opportunities to score.

No Boards

In FUTSAL there are no boards to bang the ball against.  If a player is in trouble near the touchline there are no boards to strike the ball against to eliminate a possession turnover.  The game teaches a player to think two or three steps ahead of him/her self in order to maintain possession.

Shot Accuracy

The goals in FUTSAL are 2×3 meters or approximately 7’x10’.  The smaller goal means more accurate shots.  Shots must be struck with placement in mind.  This creates a better goal scorer for all members of the team both offense and defense.  A shot wide or over the goal is a possession turnover.  There are no boards for a rebound.

More fun, more excitement, more player involvement, more spectator enthusiasm, more goals, more scoring and most of all more skill development.

Futsal vs 11 a side soccer football

How is Futsal Different from 11-a-Side & 5-a-Side Football/Soccer?

One of the best aspects of Futsal, is that it fit the developmental needs of younger players perfectly.  It’s rules are different to traditional games of football and soccer in the following ways:

  • The use of sidelines (touchlines).
    • If a ball goes out of play, a throw in is not awarded, but rather the ball is put back into play via a kick in.  A player is not allowed to score from a kick-in, it has to touch another player first.
    • If a ball goes out of play (over the by-line), either a corner kick is awarded or the goakeeper can throw it out to restart the game.
  • How a goalkeeper plays the game.
  • There are no off-sides in Futsal.
  • It is possible for a player to score from anywhere on a Futsal field.
  • Following a goal, play is restarted from a kick-off in the center of the pitch.
  • Each half of a match, or period, is started with a kickoff from the center of the pitch.
  • If a team commits more than 5 fouls in a single half of a Futsal game, the opposing team is awarded a direct shot on goal for every subsequent foul committed in that half.

For more information on how Futsal is different to traditional games of soccer, take a look at our article, 27 REAL Reasons Why Futsal Is Better Than 11-A-Side Football.  Yes, I know we might be biased, but see for yourselves.

How to Play Futsal

All you need is 2 teams, an indoor court to play on, a set of nets, shoes and a futsal ball, and you have everything you need to play Futsal.

  • Futsal is more like regular football than 5-a-side.
  • Futsal is played on a lined court with more upright goals (like hockey / hand-ball).

How Many Players in a Futsal Team?

Each team can have 5 players on the pitch at any one time, 4 outfield players and 1 goalkeeper.  As there is an unlimited number of substitutions you can use in a Futsal game, you can have an unlimited number of players in your team or squad, but only 5 from each team on the Futsal court at any one time.

Minimum Contact, Maximum Respect

Futsal is also played with less contact allowed and a higher code of conduct than what we see in soccer today. There’s plenty of time in later years for the physical side of a players game to be developed.  Without core skills, technique, respect and discipline all well bred into the players psyche and ability, no amount of brut force can really help create professionals of the future.

The ball is less bouncy, which allows for greater control and confidence. All in all, a Futsal game is focused on skill, pace and physical and mental agility.

More ball touches = increased learning. It’s been well proven in independent studies: playing futsal means you touch the ball far more often than in 11s soccer. So it all seems pretty simple. Smaller pitch, 5 players and the magic low-bounce ball provides for a great game and a great way to learn and enjoy soccer/football.

Futsal Meaning

Originating in Uruguay in the 1930’s Futsal is basically Spanish for indoor football.  The Spanish terms “futebol de salon” or “futebol sala”, literally translates as gym football or football played in a gym.  Combining the two words “futebol” and “sala” and you get the game of Futsal.  A 5-a-side football, played in a gymnasium, or indoors.

The word Futsal was commonly used throughout Spain and Portugal to refer to the game of “futebol de salon”, and in Madrid, Spain in 1985 the term Futsal was first used in a Futsal game by the governing body FIFUSA.

Over the last 25 years, the name Futsal became synonymous with the game and has been adopted by most country and regional FA’s and governing bodies, including FIFA as the official name of the game.