Slide Tackles in Soccer

In soccer, when the opposing team gains possession of the ball and goes on the attack trying to score, it becomes your mission to regain possession of the ball. If possession of the ball is unable to be obtained, then they must make an effort to at least disrupt the play so a goal can’t be scored.

While there are a number of ways to tackle and regain possession of the ball, nothing is more flashy and dramatic as the slide tackle.

Let’s take a closer look at this defensive move. We’ll cover the rules around slide tackles, when to use them, and how to perform them successfully.

successful slide tackle in soccer

What is a Slide Tackle in Soccer?

A slide tackle is a defensive move that is intended to remove possession of the ball from a player of the opposing team. When a slide tackle is performed, a player will make a forward sliding motion with one leg fully extended out and the other tucked slightly underneath the body. The foot on the extended leg makes contact with the ball which disrupts the opposing team’s play and provides a good opportunity for the player and their teammates to regain possession of the ball.

If you look at The Laws of the Game which provide a universal set of rules for the game of soccer, there are no rules that ban the use of slide tackles. Therefore, slide tackles are a legal soccer move.

The Laws of the Game do have a section, Law 12, that covers dangerous tackles. If a slide tackle is performed in such a way that the referee believes it to be dangerous, excessive, or careless, a foul can be called and a penalty awarded.

Even though slide tackling is allowed, you may not be able to do it when playing. It will depend upon the rules and regulations set by your soccer league.

Use of Slide Tackles in Youth Soccer Leagues or with Beginner Soccer Players

Slide tackling may be flashy and dramatic, but it can also be extremely dangerous for both the player performing it and the player being slide tackled. If a slide tackle is not properly performed, players are at risk of experiencing a serious injury.

Beginner soccer players often do not have the skills or physical capability to properly perform a slide tackle. To protect players, most youth soccer leagues and recreational leagues where players’ skill level can range have rules set in place that ban the use of slide tackles.

Rules set forth by leagues for slide tackles can vary ranging from an outright ban to allowing this defensive move to be used but only in certain age groups.

Before slide tackling during a game or if you’re a coach encouraging your players to slide tackle, it is important to verify your soccer league’s stance on slide tackling. This will provide you with a better understanding of if the move is allowed.

What Age Do Players Start Using Slide Tackles in Soccer?

There is no set age as to when players can start slide tackling in soccer. However, most people agree that players do not gain the skills necessary to perform a proper slide tackle until the age of 15.

Of course, this varies depending upon each individual player’s skill level and experience, but this provides a general overview of when a player may be ready to start incorporating slide tackling into their game play.

A slide tackle is no longer considered a legal move when it is used in a dangerous manner or when it is improperly performed and puts the other player at risk for injury.

Some examples of when a foul or penalty may be awarded on a slide tackle include:

  • Making contact with the opponent before any contact has been made with the ball
  • Tackling in a manner where the cleats of the shoe are in an “upward” direction and can cause injury
  • Excessive force has been used during the slide tackle
  • Slide tackles from behind

Determining whether or not a foul or penalty is awarded for a slide tackle is up to the referee. The referee will assess the situation and use their best judgement to determine if a slide tackle was performed in a dangerous, reckless or careless manner.

A general rule for slide tackling and issuing of penalties is that if the referee believes the tackle was careless or reckless and there was a possibility the player could have been injured, a yellow card should be issued. If a player performs a slide tackle and the referee believes it was done with the sole purpose to injure another player, a red card and automatic ejection from the game could occur.

A referee can choose to issue a yellow or red card for slide tackling even if the other player wasn’t injured. If a player is injured from a slide tackle, it increases the likelihood that the referee will issue a yellow or red card.

Situations When You May Want to Use a Slide Tackle

Some examples of when you might consider using a slide tackle to disrupt a play or gain possession of the ball include:

  • An opposing team’s player is making a “breakaway” and heading to attack your goal to score. You may consider slide tackling if you are positioned on the side of the player and are coming in at a run. This will give you a potential to remove the ball from the opposing team.
  • Opposing team’s player is about to take a shot on goal or pass the ball – you can slide tackle from the front which may allow you to block the ball.
  • Notice a player on the opposing team fails to keep the ball close to them when traveling up the field – you can slide tackle which will allow you to remove possession of the ball from the player. By performing a slide tackle, you can reach the ball in a way that is almost impossible with just a standing tackle or other defensive move.

Due to the risky and outright dangerous nature of slide tackling, it is often recommended that players only use this move as a last resort. Many times, you can use other defensive moves, such as blocking or a standing tackle, to achieve the same thing but without putting players at risk for injury.

Tips for Performing a Successful Slide Tackle

As a player, there are very specific things you can do when slide tackling that will not only improve your chances of disrupting play or gaining possession of the ball, but it will reduce your risk for getting fouled or penalized.

The following tips will help you safely and effectively perform a slide tackle:

  • Use the leg closet to the ball to slide tackle
  • Picture yourself “locking” your ankle, which is similar to stiffening it up, and then pulling your foot backwards towards the shin – this gives your foot a hook-like appearance that allows you to make contact with the ball
  • Make sure the timing is perfect – try to time your slide tackle so that you are doing it when the opposing team’s player is dribbling the ball and their kicking foot is fully stretch outward in front of them
  • Quickly get yourself off the ground after a slide tackle – this allows you to be prepared to continue on with playing
  • Trust yourself – if you don’t believe you can safely or effectively perform a slide tackle, don’t do it. This will help protect not only yourself, but the other player while reducing your risk of getting fouled or penalized.

Slide tackling in soccer should only be used as an absolute last resort. However, when used properly it provides you with the opportunity to gain possession of the ball or prevent a player from the opposing team from scoring.