Sweeper Position in Soccer: Here’s What Sweeper Do

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In the modern age, you might find the game of soccer has become highly complex. A wide range of different positions and playing methods have emerged and grown in the past few decades. Because of this, the traditional positions on a soccer field are evolving drastically. 

If you have been following soccer for any amount of time, you might probably already know about the sweeper position on a soccer team.

This position is as important as any other position in this game. Keep reading to know more about a sweeper position in soccer!

What is the Sweeper Soccer Position?

The sweeper is a defensive player in soccer. This player has to sit behind the defensive line to sweep up and deal with any balls that enter that zone.

The sweeper is also known as a libero. It means “free” in Italian. You may interpret the sweeper role in different ways, but whatever system you use to describe them, this position plays an important role in keeping up the defense.

Sweepers are highly intelligent ballers. They have leadership skills as well as the ability to occupy a variety of positions across the pitch.

By staying behind the defensive line, a soccer sweeper becomes a crucial element of support for the other defensive players while also making it harder for the opponents to target them.

The sweeper may also act as a deep-lying playmaker. They can launch attacks themselves and pass the ball with great skill across the pitch. The extra room they can find in deeper sections of the soccer pitch tends to come in handy here.

What is the Role of a Sweeper?

Here’s what sweepers really do on the pitch.

1. Covering the Area Behind the Defensive Line

As mentioned above, the sweeper in soccer is a central defender that plays behind the defensive line. They stand as the last defender on the field with the goalkeeper and cover the area behind the rest of the players.

Without particular movement patterns or zones to work in, the sweeper has to depend on their ability to analyze the game and provide enough cover.

If an opponent’s attack gets past the rest of the squad, the sweeper’s role is to ‘sweep up’ and prevent the goal. Their mere presence might discourage a team from attempting long passes.

2. Last-ditch tackles and Interceptions

The sweeper stands as the final hurdle in the way of a striker’s shot on the goal. They are responsible for making last-ditch tackles or blocks to stop the other team from scoring.

Tackling in these kinds of situations requires discipline, patience, and perfect timing. In the final third, carelessness could lead to free kicks or penalties. The sweeper bears the risk of getting sent off with each tackle since he is the “last man back.”

3. Predicting Runs Behind the Defense

A sweeper plays an important part in a game without having any visible impact. During low-action stretches, a sweeper can read the game, take note of movement patterns, as well as position himself to face any forward runners.

Since a sweeper does not have a specific position, he can move himself into a space that he anticipates a run or pass might enter.

Good anticipation or prediction can make sure a libero can either clear a through ball, interrupt an incoming pass, or directly face an attacker at the end of a pass. 

4. Defensive Communication and Organization

A sweeper should be a good communicator as he has to lead from the back. They should be able to observe the entire game due to their deep starting position, which enables them to decide on the routines or runs.

A sweeper needs to be in constant communication with his teammates so that he may make sure each of them is in the right position.

5. Recycling Possession

One of the most crucial tasks of the sweeper is to assist their team in maintaining possession. As a free player, a sweeper might need to receive passes from his teammates – especially the center backs and goalkeeper.

A sweeper needs to drop into space to provide a passing outlet when the defense is under pressure. Although his first job is to defend, he should also possess exceptional technical skills as well as be comfortable with making all kinds of passes. This is the key distinction you will find between a sweeper and a center back.

From making short passes to center backs to making longer diagonals across the fields, sweepers are strategists who do more than just defend. 

6. Making Surging Runs

A good sweeper can often bring the ball out of defense and surge forward to instigate attacks. With no definitive marker, sweepers can easily draw out defenders and create space for teammates, making up tremendous ground in the opponent’s half.

Although this tactic might leave gaps in the defense, it is effective if one wants to create numerical overloads and open up space for teammates. 

Timing is the key here. Only the top players might identify the right and wrong times and carry out these types of runs. A single error in judgment can leave the defense completely vulnerable to a counterattack.

7. Deep Playmaking

A sweeper often might find himself in an area inside his own half.

Getting into these kinds of positions may become extremely advantageous in case the sweeper is able to do something beneficial with the ball using his technical skills.

They can dictate the flow of the play from behind the backline by using their vision and ability to make a line-breaking pass or switch the play.

Which Qualities Define a Good Sweeper on the Field?

The qualities that define a good sweeper keeper are:

Reading the Game

The ability to anticipate where the ball will end up and being able to impact its direction is arguably the most important aspect of this position.

This way, a sweeper can sniff out danger, which often means predicting a mistake by his teammates. It is a vital role for a soccer sweeper.


Just moving to seize possession of the ball or reacting to prevent something bad from happening is not enough as a sweeper.

A sweeper must accurately assess the situation so that he can make sure that he arrives at the proper time to have an impact.

This is really crucial when he is in the last line of defense. If he slips up or fouls the opponent, the team will be in a seriously dangerous position.


The most common task in the arsenal of a sweeper is intercepting the ball, but effective tackling abilities are also necessary. He should have the ability to take the ball from the opposition cleanly and effectively, especially when he moves forward into the midfield.

Strong Communication

Effective communication with the other defensive line members is an important aspect of a sweeper’s role.

Without continual communication with the players surrounding him, it will be difficult for a soccer sweeper to know where to stand. Since a sweeper is not officially a member of the back line, he might run the risk of obstructing their path if there is a communication gap.


Any in-depth look at the sweeper position can emphasize the importance of passing in this role. Both short and long passes might be made to wingers, midfielders, or forwards, as well as other defenders or a sweeper keeper who comes off the pitch to win the ball.

A soccer sweeper should be able to perform a variety of different passes to make sure he can support his team

Why don’t Teams Use a Sweeper Anymore?

For the most part, teams have stopped using sweepers. It is because of the rising importance of a defensive midfielder. The sweeper is now simply the defensive midfielder who sweeps up play in front of the center-backs instead of the goalkeeper. 

You might notice a huge difference in the role as it prevents the sweeper’s “last-ditch tackle” scenario. Now, when the ball gets past a sweeper, two center-backs may stop the attacker.

Additionally, as a sweeper now plays in front of the center-backs, it means the offside trap might get sprung on attacking players.

What is the Difference Between Sweeper Keeper and Goalkeeper?

The goalkeeper is the furthest team member from the opposition goal at all times. He stands as the last line of defense. His job is to guard the goal, and he must do everything he can to prevent the opponents from scoring.

As stated before, a sweeper keeper is also a defensive player. He sits behind the defensive line to sweep up and deal with the balls that enter that zone.

Unlike the goalkeepers, who mainly stay within the goal area, a soccer sweeper ventures outside the box. He can engage in defensive actions as well as contribute to his team’s attacking plays. This is what makes his role different from a goalkeeper.


Few positions in soccer allow you to play almost anywhere on the field. Being the sweeper is probably one of the most enjoyable positions to play because it allows you to have an impact on almost every aspect of the match.

Although the sweeper role is not as popular as it once was, the principle and core of what the position does still remain crucial in today’s game.

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