Different Games Teach Different Skills

Each winter soccer teams in the cold weather states are forced inside to continue to train and play. Some are fortunate enough to continue playing the game as they do outdoor. Facilities like Total Soccer in Wixom, MI provide 11 v 11 and 8 v 8 fields indoors.

These facilities are rare around the United States so most teams are left with one or two options: Futsal or Indoor Soccer (also known as Arena Soccer). The two formats are very different

Futsal is FIFA's recognized form of soccer indoors. It is played all over the world is the only form of soccer indoors that offers a World Cup. Futsal is often played on a basketball sized surface with goals that are 3 meters wide by 2 meters tall. Each team plays with four field players and a goalkeeper. The Futsal ball is a, 'low bounce' ball that is one size smaller than the ball each age group plays with outdoor. The rules are almost the same as outdoor soccer with a few exception.

Arena Soccer is played on a field most similar to a hockey rink with goals set into the walls. The ball is the same as is used outdoor. The rules are also similar to the outdoor game but also with differences. Over the years there have been a number of professional leagues for Arena Soccer. The most recent being the MISL (The Major Indoor Soccer League).


The controversy among youth coaches is focused on the developmental qualities of each game. Some insist that Arena Soccer is more similar to the outdoor game while Futsal enthusiasts point to Futsal as the, 'World's Indoor Game' and that it is the best way to create skillful and creative soccer players like Ronaldo, Messi and other world soccer stars who grew up playing Futsal.

For 17 years my teams played only Arena Soccer each winter. I was of the opinion it was the best for development and transferred best to the outdoor game. For the last seven years my teams have played Futsal during the winter because I joined a club that used it for indoor training and playing. Having coached both formats for a number of years has given me an opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both and see the developmental qualities of each one.

The Arena game is a very easy game for players to adapt to because the ball is the same and the surface is similar. The Arena game is very fast and almost continuous because of the walls that keep the ball in play. The more the ball is in play the more touches each player gets.

With only four players on each team, Futsal requires every player to attack and defend equally. The smaller court and lack of walls demands greater ball control and skill to maintain possession. The smaller team numbers also make it more difficult to break down an organized defense so the players need move and rotate in order to create goalscoring opportunities.

After being exposed to both I now feel that neither is, 'the best'. They both offer developmental opportunities that the other doesn't. I think it's beneficial to expose players to as many different formats of soccer as possible. This is not a ground breaking idea, I know. After all, we would never use just one format for small-sided games in training. As coaches we realize that different games can be used to teach different skills and tactics. The same can be said for Indoor Soccer options.

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The perfect winter training for my teams would include a Futsal league before Christmas and an Arena Soccer league from the first of the year until the spring outdoor season begins.

Please share your opinions about Arena Soccer and Futsal in the comments section below.

Have a great day!


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