Different Types of Football

There are many games that descended from football; check out its 7 most popular variants

A Brazilian player in beach soccer action.

The popularity of football has led to the development of many variations of the game.

Some were developed out of necessity while others were modified to cater to people with disabilities. For example, indoor soccer was invented so football can be played all year round in a controlled environment and wheelchair soccer was adapted to make the game accessible to people with disabilities.

Over time, these types of football gained foothold among fans and leagues were established to facilitate tournaments. Below are the most popular variants of football that you can play.  

5 a side footballPlayers of 5-a-side football

Five-a-side football is an informal variant of football played with five players, with one taking the position of a goalkeeper. The game is played on a smaller field and with a smaller goal. It can be played indoor or outdoor and the field may be enclosed with barriers or not.

There is no governing body that establishes the rule for five-a-side and the game rules are often decided right before kickoff. Despite that, there are rules that are widely used in five-a-side games like:

  • the ball is not allowed to go over the head
  • sliding tackles are forbidden

Futsal (Futebol de Salao)A futsal player of Brazil's team

Futsal is the fastest-growing variant of football in the world. The game is played indoors on a hard playing surface defined by lines. Five players play for each team and the number of substitutions is unlimited. The ball used in futsal is smaller than regular football and has lesser bounce.

Two major bodies govern the rules in futsal, FIFA and the World Futsal Association. The biggest futsal tournament is the FIFA Futsal World Cup, held every four years. Brazil and Spain are the two nations that dominate this sport.  

Beach soccer (Beasal)Beach soccer player attacking the goal

Beach soccer is a variant of football played barefooted on a sandy surface that measures 30 by 40 yards. Five players on each side, who can be replaced anytime, compete in three 12-minute periods.

Beach soccer is no longer considered a mere pastime by vacationers, having been officially recognized by FIFA in recent years. It has become a discipline in its own right and now has its own World Cup.

The sport owes its success to its dramatic and intense nature, with high number of goals per game that are often scored in acrobatic and stunning ways.

Indoor soccer (Arena soccer)Arena soccer, a popular sports in the United States

Indoor soccer is a six-a-side variant of football played on a field delimited by walls or boards instead of touchlines. The ball can be played directly off the boards, which makes goal kicks, throw-ins, and corners unnecessary and the game very fast-paced.

Different leagues in the world have their own version of indoor soccer but they all have similar features:

  • the game is typically played in four 15-minute periods
  • there is no offside
  • the ball is not allowed to go over head height and headers are not permitted


Street soccerStreet soccer played by barefoot children

Street football is an informal variant of football that has no fixed rules: it can be played anywhere by any number of players, there is no time limit unless agreed upon, and players can decide on the method of winning.

The rules for street soccer are created before the game to suit the playing environment and can evolve during play to deal with any new situation (for example, the addition of players or the intolerance of the neighborhood).

Many of soccer’s greatest technicians like Maradona and Zidane are products of the streets. The lax rules of the game encourage creativity and the crudeness of the playing area and equipments develop technical skills.  

Freestyle footballFreestyle football emphasizes control, elegance, and showmanship

Freestyle football is basically juggling a soccer ball in creative and impressive ways. Any part of the body can be used with the exception of the arms and hands. It is originally a street game but has become a sport in its own right with competitions like Red Bull street style.

Freestyle football came into prominence when Nike launched an ad in 1998 featuring the Brazil squad performing tricks in an airport. Football superstars Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho have also performed freestyle tricks for soccer ads.

Paralympic footballA paralympic football tournament between Brazil and Argentina.

Paralympic football is a form of football that has been adapted for people with handicaps. Its two most common versions are five-a-side, for people with visual impairment, and seven-a-side, for people with cerebral palsy.

Other versions of football for people with handicap exist and are becoming more structured and popular:

  • deaf football – adopts FIFA rules, has grown out of the community of deaf people around the world
  • wheelchair football – played with a bigger ball by people on electric wheelchair
  • football for amputee – outfield players must have one leg amputated and goalkeepers may have two legs but must have one amputated hand