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Soccer is by far the world’s most popular sport, with more than three billion fans. Despite the huge fan base, the game is continuing to grow every year because it offers a truly unique experience that no other sport can deliver. While new fans are instantly enthralled by soccer, learning the sport’s terminology can still be somewhat tricky. These are the four soccer terms that every new fan needs to know.

The offside rule is the most difficult concept for new soccer fans to learn. It is essentially a rule that prevents an offensive player from being closer to the goal than the ball and any opposing defender. If they are in this illegal position when the ball is passed to them, then play will be immediately stopped. This rule is the primary reason why so many disallowed goals exist in soccer.

VAR is relatively new to the sport of soccer, but it is now impossible to watch a match without hearing it mentioned. VAR is an acronym for the video assistant referee. This additional official reviews every aspect of the game to review and make the right calls on the field. The VAR system is soccer’s version of the replay review system used in other sports. The primary goal is to disallow illegal goals and spot any egregious fouls missed by the on-field referees.

Penalty Area
If you hear an announcer talk about the penalty area, then they are referring to the large rectangular box surrounding both goals. This box extends 18 yards away from the goal and is 44 yards in width. This is the only area on the field that the goal can touch the ball with their hands. If another player uses their hands to touch the ball in the penalty area, then the opposing team is awarded a penalty kick.

Set Piece
A set piece is a term used to describe any play that starts after the referee’s whistle. They are call set pieces because both teams get the opportunity to set their position on the field before play resumes. Set pieces occur after a foul is committed, or the ball leaves the area. They include goal kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, and free kicks.