Futsal is FIFA’s officially approved small-sided format of football (or soccer). There are 5 players on each team and is known for its fast, intense, technical game-play.
It’s increasing in popularity too. More and more people are turning on to this form of 5-a-side football, realising that it’s a really fun version of the game to play.
Both futsal and 11-a-side football have the same basic principles at their heart. At a basic level, you’re still trying to kick the ball into the opposition’s goal, past the goalkeeper, more times than they kick it into yours.
But despite being based around the same key concept, there are some important differences between futsal and 11-a-side that have a huge impact on the style that each game is played in. In this post you’ll learn what these differences are and how they impact the gameplay.
Next time someone asks you what makes futsal different to ‘normal football’, send them here.
Futsal vs Football Rules
Futsal plays to a very different set of rules than 11-a-side does. For anyone coming to futsal for the first time, this can be difficult to get used to.
The key futsal rules that you need to know, compared to 11-a-side, are detailed below:
Many of the above rules make futsal quite different, but three of the biggest differences are a) the type of ball used, b) the size of the pitch and c) the size of the goals. Let’s take each in turn.
The Futsal Ball
An official futsal ball is smaller (size 4) and has 30% less bounce than a ‘normal’ football which you see commonly used for 11-a-side.
Practically, what this means is that the ball should bounce only very slightly, and you should never really get two bounces in a row.
The ball is key. It’s smaller, heavier and stays on the floor better than a normal 11-a-side ball, which means that you can get it under control more easily, allowing you to play more intricate football on the smaller pitch… which is where we’re going next.
The Futsal Court / Pitch
The standard dimensions of a professional futsal court are 20m x 40m.
That is considerably less than an 11-a-side pitch. To illustrate just how small that is in comparison to an 11-a-side pitch, look at the following diagram drawn to scale:
To let that sink in, this means:
- You could fit 8.9 futsal pitches onto an 11-a-side pitch.
- Each 11-a-side player has around 4 times the space that a futsal player has
Such a small pitch means the game has much shorter passes, players are moving in tight spaces, and the distance to goal is never far – shots can come at almost any time. It also means that players have less space to control the ball in, so their technique needs to be really good. For that reason, futsal is often pointed to as a game that improves close congrol.
Futsal Goal Size
An official futsal goal is 3 metres wide by 2 metres high.
That is significantly smaller than an 11-a-side goal. How much smaller: just look at the following diagram, drawn to scale:
Again, let that sink in:
- A normal 11-a-side goal is a little over a third of the width of a futsal goal.
- A normal 11-a-side goal has three times as much space to aim at as a futsal goal.
With the goalkeepers being able to reach almost any part of the futsal goal, this means that fewer of the shots taken in futsal end up scoring. What’s more, because the goakeepers can reach almost every corner of the goal, shots need to be hit really hard, or with an element of disguise (see the often used toe-poke in futsal) to stand a chance of going in.
Differences in gameplay: futsal vs football / soccer
Understanding all of the above is all very good, but what does it really mean for the game. How does it change the action?
We compared data from the Euro Futsal championships (2016) with the English Premier League (2014/15 season). Here are the average stats per game:
the * denotes that the two figures are not exactly comparable – the futsal figures include all attempts including blocked shots.
A wider array of actions may count as an ‘attempt’ in the futsal data than the 11-a-side data.
Some interesting differences were identified:
- More goals are scored in the average futsal game (over twice as many) – despite the games being shorter and the goal being smaller.
- Many more shots are taken in futsal, with a similar ratio of these attempts being on target as in 11-a-side.
- A slightly lower percentage of shots on target resulted in goals (futsal = 23% vs 11-a-side = 31%). Presumably owing to the smaller size of the goal.
- Fewer fouls are committed in futsal, although there were still a relatively high number of yellow and red cards in futsal given that there were fewer overall fouls.
The data set of futsal games is relatively limited (20 games were in the sample size) and these trends are not guaranteed to repeat across a larger sample size, but it gives a pretty good idea of the differences in the way the game is played.
These differences aren’t exactly surprising. With the smaller pitch and tighter spaces you’d expect more passes of the ball, more touches per player and more opportunities to shoot. The latter of those is definitely borne out in the statistics.
Understanding what makes futsal different is an insight into what makes it so very popular. More touches, more action per player, more shots, more goals. What’s not to like about that? It is these reasons that 5-a-side is such a great game (see more on that in our awesome infographic: the benefits of 5-a-side).
But to understand the differences is only to scratch the surface of this wonderful, complex game. If you’re moving to playing futsal from 11-a-side it’s still going to be tricky to pick up at first, no matter how well you understand the rules.
If you really want to master the game, you need to understand the specific strategies for success – check out our 25 must-know simple strategies for futsal.