Which Position in Soccer Runs The Most?

Which position in soccer runs the most? Kingsley Coman during a game for Bayern

Soccer requires considerable amounts of running especially among players in certain positions. Whether you’re an aspiring player or a dedicated fan, you may want to know the running requirements for all positions for one reason or another.

This article answers the question “Which Position in Soccer Runs The Most?” by revealing specific areas on the playing field that demands maximum work rate. We also look into what positions run the least and how much ground the average soccer player covers during the 90 minutes of play.

Which Position in Soccer Runs The Most?

Midfielders run more than all the other positions on the field during soccer matches because they set the tempo of the game. Midfielders also engage in both defensive and offensive duties to help the team by running upfield to support the strikers during attacks while running back to aid the defense when necessary.

A great work ethic on the playing field is a key attribute of midfielders because it increases the team’s chances of winning. They are also required to be physically strong with high levels of concentration and commitment to make the necessary runs to advance their team’s agenda on the playing field.

Why Midfielders Run The Most In Soccer

Midfielders run more than strikers and defenders because they need to be in the correct positions to attack and defend at every point in time. Not only are midfielders required to keep possession and distribute passes that can create scoring opportunities but they are also tasked with recovering lost balls.

It is not uncommon for the majority of players to lose possession upfield or somewhere in the middle of the soccer pitch. Regardless of how or who may have given possession away, the team’s midfielders are often required to press for the ball until recovery.

Ball pressing demands lots of running and intelligent positional play because most players pass to teammates when under pressure. The best midfielders anticipate the opposition players’ next move and run into the right position even before the ball is passed.

This enables interceptions which ensure that lost balls are recovered quickly without delay. Even the most defensive teams in the world like to keep possession as much as possible. No wonder teams do everything possible to recover lost balls.

With the forwards waiting for a constant supply, midfielders respond by running with the ball toward the opposition’s goal. This enables them to get into the right areas before making defense-splitting passes that increase the forwards’ chances of scoring.

Additionally, midfielders often make incisive runs into the opponent’s penalty area to support the forwards when necessary. Sometimes, those runs are used as a diversionary tactic to draw the opponents away from the striker to create more space for shooting the ball into the net.

The above reasons explain why midfielders cover more distance than defenders and strikers in every soccer game according to data from the best soccer fitness trackers.

When Do Midfielders Run The Most?

When Do Midfielders Run The Most? Midfield battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona players

The amount of ground covered by midfielders goes up a notch when the quality of the opposition is high. A look at the running statistics in big games like the El Classico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona), Manchester City vs Liverpool since the 2016-2017 season, and the Milan Derby (Milan vs Inter) shows why the most competitive soccer games are often termed the “battle of the midfield”.

The top teams are often adept at defending meaning the ball spends the majority of the 90 mins in the center of the field. The team featuring the hardest running midfielders often ends up winning because not only do they make the much-needed ball interceptions but they also find ways to tire the opposition.

The opposite is true in games where one team is superior to the other in terms of talent. The premium team usually outwits the opposition quickly and dominates the game for significant portions of the 90 minutes.

How Much Running Does Each Soccer Position Engage In?

The table below indicates the average amount of running recorded by players in each soccer position during Euro 2016.

PositionAverage Distance
Goalkeepers 1-2 Miles
Central Defenders5.7 – 5.9 Miles
Fullbacks6.2 – 6.5 Miles
Central Midfielders6.7 to 6.9 Miles
Wide Midfielders6.5 to 6.7 Miles
Strikers6.4 to 6.6 Miles


Goalkeepers run the least distance by far as seen in the table above and this is not surprising considering the small size of their penalty area. In games where the goalie’s teammates dominate the opposition, they are required to run even less.

Central defenders are forced to run to defend against the opposition once the ball crosses the central part of the field. They run considerably more than goalies but often less than the midfielders, forwards, and strikers.

Fullbacks may be known as the easiest position on the field but they typically run more than defenders due to the need to join the wide midfielders during attacks while also tracking back to defend when necessary. Wide midfielders run just a bit more than the strikers since they frequently interchange positions on the field.

What Are The Types of Midfielders?

The key to understanding the reasons why midfielders outrun other positions on the playing field is to know more about the role of the position. Here are the four main types of midfielders in the game of soccer.

Defensive Midfielders

Defensive midfielder holding possession against an opponent

Defensive midfielders have become more important in the game in the last two decades thanks to the recent advancements in attacking play. Defensive midfielders or holding midfielders sit in front of the central defenders to stonewall the opponent’s attacks.

During attacking onslaughts, these midfielders drawback swiftly to help the defenders regain possession. They are usually the first to pass the ball upfield once it is intercepted from the opponent’s attackers.

Valuable attributes to becoming a solid defensive midfielder include an excellent reading of the game to anticipate the opponent’s next move. Exceptional tackling qualities are also required for defensive midfielders throughout the game.

Discipline is essential for these often tireless midfielders to prevent racking up cards that could lead to suspensions. Even after receiving a card, the mental toughness of defensive midfielders enables them to move on without allowing it to take a toll on their ability to play their best soccer.

A few of the best defensive midfielders include:

  • Patrick Viera
  • Claude Makelele
  • Ngolo Kante
  • Lothar Matthaus
  • Edgar Davids

Central Midfielders

Central Midfielders operate between offensive and defensive play on the field at various points in the game. A high work rate is critical to becoming an effective central midfielder since it involves running all over the soccer field for 90 minutes.

Central midfielders are excellent at distributing the ball across various areas of the field while creating space for other players to perform to the best of their ability. They typically have good leadership qualities and are not afraid to make their voices heard during the game.

Their excellent positioning provides a better overview of the game which enables effective communication especially when an opponent is close to getting into trouble. Additionally, these workaholics are responsible for slowing down the game or upping the tempo when necessary.

Central midfielders are also likely to come to the aid of teammates that are being overcrowded by the opposition at any point in the game by getting closer to be able to receive passes that draw the opponent players’ attention away.

Some of the best central midfielders to have played the game include:

  • Xavi Hernandez
  • Luka Modric
  • Andres Iniesta
  • Michael Essien
  • Paul Scholes

Wide Midfielders

David Beckham playing as a wide midfielder for LA Galaxy in the MLS
CARSON, CA – MAY 5: David Beckham warms up before the MLS game between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls on May 5th 2012 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Ca.

The Wide Midfielder plays on either the left or right side of the midfield but is not a traditional winger. This position requires great passing skills as well as the ability to switch between offensive and defensive duties fluidly.

Physical strength is vital because these players need to be able to hold possession for long periods to protect the ball from the opponent’s grasp. Excellent vision is another core attribute of wide midfielders since they are typically tasked with making long-range passes.

Wide midfielders should be excellent at positioning to attract attention from other teammates in order to give their team an advantage on the field. While they are not traditional wingers, their ability to get opponents chasing the ball across the wider areas of the field makes it a critical position for teams to fill.

A couple of celebrated wide midfielders include:

  • David Beckham
  • Serge Gnabry
  • Christian Pulisic
  • Steve McManaman
  • Michael Laudrup

Attacking Midfielders

Attacking midfielders are probably the most glamorous on the field thanks to their attacking instinct and eye for assists and goals. These players do not typically fall back into defense but may be forced to do so when necessary, especially during the dying periods of an important game when conceding a goal changes the total outcome of the game.

Attacking midfielders play directly behind the forwards and link up during attacks to create goalscoring chances. Known as the playmakers, these guys typically wear the number 10 jersey and are responsible for some of the most magical moments in the game thanks to their generally exceptional dribbling skills.

Through-balls and other creative passes are a big part of an attacking midfielder’s game due to their exceptional vision which often catches the opponent off-guard. They may also double as a false nine or second striker to foil the opponent’s attempts at crowding the main striker to fizzle out free space for scoring opportunities.

Some of the most iconic attacking midfielders to have played the game include:

  • Diego Maradona
  • Ronaldinho
  • Zinedine Zidane
  • Johan Cryuff
  • Kevin de Bruyne


Midfielders run the most among all soccer players meaning playing in any of the midfield positions requires a great work rate as well as a natural athletic ability and the commitment to cover maximum ground during the 90 minutes of play.

Central midfielders run the most out of all soccer player positions followed by wide midfielders and forwards. The full-backs are not too far behind the forwards in terms of running distance but the central defenders do not run as much.

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