What is a Friendly in Soccer? Dive into Non-Comp Matches

Have you ever stumbled upon a soccer match where the stakes seemed a bit… off? Where the vibe was more laid-back, the tackles less aggressive, and the fans in a more jovial mood? Well, there’s a term for that in soccer – a “friendly” match. Let’s dive into what makes a soccer game a “friendly” and why they hold a special place in the heart of the sport.

What is a friendly in soccer?

A friendly match in soccer is a game played between two teams that doesn’t count towards any official tournament or league standings. It’s purely for entertainment, practice, or other non-competitive reasons.

Purpose of Soccer Friendlies

You might wonder, “Why even have these non-competitive games?” Friendlies serve various purposes. For players, it offers a chance to try new strategies without the pressure of an official match:

  1. Pre-season Preparation: Teams often use friendlies as a way to prepare for the upcoming season. These matches offer coaches the chance to test new strategies, integrate new players, and gauge the team’s overall performance.
  2. Building Team Chemistry: Soccer is as much about individual skill as it is about teamwork. Friendlies allow players to familiarize themselves with each other’s playing styles, forging bonds both on and off the pitch.
  3. Promoting Soccer: Many top-tier clubs tour different countries, playing friendlies to increase their global fan base and showcase the beauty of the sport to new audiences.
  4. Beneficial Causes: Soccer’s global appeal makes it an effective platform for charitable endeavors. Many friendlies are organized to raise funds for charitable causes, helping to harness the sport’s popularity for positive change.
what is a friendly in soccer

History of Soccer Friendlies

Diving a bit into history, we find that friendlies have been an integral part of the sport since its inception.

Early Days
In the nascent days of soccer, most matches could be termed “friendlies” as formal leagues and tournaments were yet to be established. Teams played for the love of the game and the joy of competition.

Evolution Over Time
As soccer grew in popularity, the structure became crucial. Leagues and tournaments were born. But friendlies endured, evolving into matches that celebrated milestones, or to honor certain players, or simply to build relationships between teams.

Benefits of Soccer Friendlies

You might think, “It’s just a game without stakes.” But friendlies come with their own set of advantages.

For Players
Friendlies can be an excellent opportunity for players to recover from an injury, get back in form, or even showcase their talent to potential recruiters.

For Teams
For soccer clubs or national teams, friendlies can be revenue-generating events, especially when played in front of large audiences or broadcasted internationally.

For Fans
Who wouldn’t want an extra opportunity to cheer for their favorite team? Friendlies often have a carnival-like atmosphere, making them a treat for spectators.

Soccer fans

The Unwritten Rules of Friendlies

Despite the lack of competitive stakes, there are unwritten rules teams typically abide by during friendlies:

Substitutions: Unlike competitive matches where the number of substitutions is limited, teams can make multiple changes to allow different players to get game time.

Intensity: While the game’s pace can be as fast as any other match, teams might not always go full throttle. This is to minimize the risk of injuries and to evaluate different tactical approaches.

Fan Engagement: Given the promotional nature of many modern-day friendlies, teams often engage more with fans. From signing sessions to interactive fan zones, friendlies provide a closer connection between the players and their supporters.

Table: Comparison between Friendly and Official Football Matches

CriteriaFriendly Football MatchesOfficial Football Matches
PurposeEntertainment, practice, fostering relations, charity eventsCompetition, league standings, championships
StakesLow; results don’t impact rankings or league standingsHigh; results matter for rankings, qualifications, and trophies
TacticsTeams might experiment with tactics and line-upsTactics are generally well-planned and strategic
SubstitutionsOften more flexible, allowing more subs than usualTypically limited to 3-5, depending on league/tournament rules
IntensityGenerally lower, less aggressive playHigh intensity due to competitive nature
Duration & Extra TimeUsually fixed 90 minutes; rarely goes to extra time or penaltiesMight extend to extra time or penalties if tied in knockout stages
RevenueCan be significant especially for big teams playing abroadOften associated with league/tournament broadcasting and ticketing deals
Player SelectionOpportunity to field younger or less experienced playersUsually features the best available line-up
Impact on Player FitnessGenerally lower risk; chance for recovery or return from injuriesHigh intensity can lead to increased injury risks
Fan EngagementMore relaxed and festive; carnival-like atmosphereHighly passionate with fans deeply invested in the outcome
Tie BreakersRarely used, match can end in a drawDepending on the competition, goal difference, head-to-head, or other criteria might be used
Famous Historical Match – Christmas truce match during WWI, when British and German soldiers played a friendly match in no man’s land.

Soccer friendlies, though not competitive in the traditional sense, hold immense value for teams, players, fans, and the sport as a whole. They exemplify the essence of soccer: a sport that transcends boundaries, fostering global unity and camaraderie. Whether you’re a passionate soccer enthusiast or a casual observer, friendlies offer a unique glimpse into the heart of the game, showcasing its global appeal and enduring spirit.


  1. What differentiates a friendly from an official match?

    A friendly is a non-competitive match that doesn’t count towards any league or tournament standings.

  2. Do players take friendlies seriously?

    While the competitive stakes might be lower, players use friendlies as an opportunity to practice, recover, or showcase their skills.

  3. Are soccer friendlies a modern concept?

    No, friendlies have been a part of soccer since its early days, even before formal leagues were established.

  4. Do teams earn from friendlies?

    Yes, friendlies can be significant revenue-generating events for teams, especially those with a large fanbase.

  5. Can friendlies be played between club teams and national teams?

    While it’s less common, club teams can play against national teams in friendlies, offering a unique matchup for fans.

Anthony Molina

Anthony Molina

Hello, fellow football fanatics! I'm Anthony Molina, and my life has always revolved around the beautiful game. My mission with FOOTBOLNO is to serve as the premier soccer guide, ensuring enthusiasts continue to play and cherish the beautiful game throughout their lifetime.

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