What Are Friendlies In Soccer? (Everything You Need To Know!)

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As a passionate lover of soccer myself, I must admit I am not a fan of friendly matches. Although not as popular as competitive matches, they play a major role that most people are unaware of. 

For instance, these matches help to raise awareness for a good cause or to pay tribute to a player who has given us their best performance for over ten years! 

Not only that, soccer friendlies also play a big part by helping players stay in shape and practice formations and tactics. 

So, if you’re interested in what soccer friendlies are, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything you need to know about soccer friendlies.

What Are Friendlies In Soccer

The sole purpose of soccer friendlies is to help the players improve their fitness and prepare for the new season. By playing friendly matches, the new and young players get the chance to establish themselves and work on their formations and tactics. 

We know that to stay at the top of their game, players must be in incredible shape at their highest peak. While training can help them achieve this feat, there’s no better way to get the results than playing an actual match. 

Soccer friendlies give all the players in the squad a chance to play and show off their skills. This also helps managers and coaches better understand what each player is capable of. Also, it helps them raise their game against tougher and more experienced players.  

History of Soccer Friendlies

Before there were competitive league matches, soccer friendlies used to take place more often. Teams traveled all over playing friendly games with all sorts of players. The primary goal was to spread the good word about soccer. 

Other than that, friendlies were also essential internationally. In fact, the first soccer friendly took place between Scotland and England in the year 1872. Back then, international matches were considered to be exhibition games. 

Why Soccer Teams Play Friendlies

Now that I’ve given you a brief idea about the history of soccer friendlies, let’s dive deeper to figure out why soccer teams play friendlies in the first place. Here’s my take: 

1. To Increase the Player’s Fitness Levels

After every season, players get a small window to spend some quality time away with their families without worrying about training and fitness. 

While I agree this is necessary for the player’s sake, it’s also vital to note that going weeks or months without training can cause trouble for players when the next season starts. That’s where soccer friendlies come in handy. 

These friendlies help players to increase their fitness levels and stay in shape through practice and strict diets.

2. To Provide More Time For the Players to Play Alongside Each Other

With every season ending, there’s news for transfers, and for new players to transition into a new club can be tough. It’s even tougher for players who get transferred mid-season. 

This can cause them to miss a couple of matches before being able to make their debut. However, that too is not certain thanks to their physical fitness levels. It’s also tough to adjust to new teammates, rules, languages, city/country, and different training regimens. 

Soccer friendlies give the players more than enough time to get up to speed and build a rapport with their new peers.  

3. To Test Themselves Against the Opposition and Try New Tactics

Since friendly matches are non-competitive, they’re perfect for coaches and managers to test new tactics, formations, and new players. If something is not working out, then the team doesn’t face any major consequences.

The friendly matches can be a form to test out new offensive or defensive tactics and new team formations and put players around in different positions than their usual positions. 

4. To Mark an Occasion

Soccer friendlies can also be played to mark or commemorate an occasion. For instance, a player’s retirement or a team/nation’s anniversary. This is mostly to give back some love to the fans as they see their favorite icon play for the last time. 

Besides marking a player’s retirement, friendlies can also be played to introduce a new player the club has signed. These matches are mostly just filled with fun and are momentous. 

5. To Raise Money

There are some teams that have organized friendlies in order to raise money for a good cause or for charity.

These matches help bring a lot of positive media and the attention of the fans, too. The teams end up donating the money they make from selling the tickets to the cause they played for. 

Take soccer aid, for instance; an exhibition game like this can garner millions of dollars and have to UNICEF.

Friendly matches for charities can also take the form of a testimonial match as well. The player is paid tribute to then donates the money to their designated charity at the end of it.

Do Soccer Friendlies Count?

No, the soccer friendlies do not count as other matches. These are only counted as non-competitive games. There’s no trophy to win or points to be added in a league unless it’s a friendly league, and the goals scored are also not counted on a player’s record.

Friendlies Count Toward a Player’s Goals and Caps

Whether goals and caps earned during soccer friendlies count toward a player’s official career statistics depends on several factors.

Soccer friendlies can count toward a player’s goals and caps, but it depends on the nature of the match, the governing body’s policies, and whether the match is recognized as an official international friendly. 

FIFA-sanctioned international friendlies are typically included in a player’s official statistics, but non-sanctioned matches or domestic club friendlies usually do not count. Always check the specific competition’s rules and regulations for clarity on this matter.

Friendly Soccer Game Rules

Most friendly games follow the same rules as any other soccer game. The length of the game is also the same as a competitive game, which is 90 minutes.

That being said, some rules get modified or ignored because of the nature of the game. And this is only accepted in a friendly match since they’re non-competitive. This is simply because the results don’t have the same long-term importance as a regular league match.

There’s one rule that’s modified when it comes to friendlies, and that’s the number of players that can be substituted.

While in a league match, only three players can be substituted, there’s no limit in a friendly match. Basically, everybody gets a chance to play, even if it’s for a few minutes. 

Why Soccer Club Friendlies Are Important

Soccer club friendlies are super important! They help teams practice and improve their skills in a fun and relaxed environment.

Plus, they give players a chance to bond and build team spirit. Also, there are other vital reasons that make the friendlies essential. So, let’s dive into exploring why soccer club friendlies are important: 

Pre-Season Preparation

It’s not uncommon for clubs to play friendlies before a new season starts. Players get to match their fitness and also bond as a unit.

Pre-season is also about transfers and potential signings, and a friendly match can be a great way for clubs to check them out before things get busy.  

Young and fresh players get a chance to show off and make their debut. Even veteran players can benefit from playing friendlies because it helps keep their skills sharp. You never know when an old dog can wow you with new tricks! 

Maintaining Fitness and Practice

I always thought of soccer friendlies as practice matches, and that’s essentially what they are. Teams can play and practice without worrying about causing any injuries.

Although sometimes that’s unavoidable, fortunately, players get enough time off between competitions to recuperate from their injuries.  

However, if they’re given only one break, then chances are some players won’t be able to perform well due to fatigue. 

Help Build Team Chemistry

I mentioned before that players get to bond in a friendly match, and it’s absolutely true. While building a bond is crucial, it’s also important to maintain a level of chemistry between the players. 

Take the trio of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, and Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, these three were absolutely in tune when they were playing in the same club. This kind of trust and chemistry can only be achieved through playing friendlies. 

Players can get comfortable around each other enough to trust them to have their back, and that’s vital to building a strong team. 

Why International Friendlies are Important 

After all this, you might wonder why these friendlies are important if the goals and points don’t count in favor of the players. This is because friendlies have a slightly different importance internationally. 

When it comes to ranking, FIFA ranks every international team, so the rankings help determine which teams will advance to the next round in a tournament.

Rankings are based on a mixture of various games, and they are mostly influenced by the results of test games. Moreover, the reasons that add value to international friendlies are:

  • Improving Ranks 

Soccer friendlies can help improve ranks, and playing against inferior teams pushes them to move up in said rankings. This is mainly why teams make five or six subs in international friendlies because it’s all about recognition that eventually helps them in the rankings. 

  • Recruiting Players 

National teams can take advantage of friendlies in order to recruit players with dual citizenship. If a player can play for more than one country, then chances are they’ll also get called up in friendly matches.

They have the option to represent one country and later switch nationalities. It’s a risk-free option for players who are trying to figure out which nation they want to represent and play for. 

All-Star, Testimonial, and Other Types of Exhibition Football Game

Most soccer fried lies place between two clubs or nations, but did you know there are other types of friendly fixtures? 

You have probably heard of all-star games, which is counted as an exhibition game. It involves all the best players from a league or nation playing against each other.

The American MLS All-Star team is one of the best examples. 

Soccer Friendlies For Promotional Tours

Friendly soccer games can also be used to promote the club to an international market. They visit fans all over and hold small tournaments between top teams. 

For Testimonials

After a player has played for a team for more than ten years, many clubs like to hold special games to celebrate their successful career. Michael Carrick’s testimonial match should paint a clearer picture for you all. 

After ten years, any pro player deserves a proper send-off, and it gives the club a chance to thank their peers and the fans for saying their heartfelt goodbyes. 

For Charity Games

Charity games are played as friendly games in order to raise awareness for a certain cause, and it’s usually a good cause.

Soccer plays a huge role in societies all over the world and gives young, impressionable children to have good role models.

Besides the amount of money these players earn, it makes sense to give some of it back to those who are in need. Friendly games don’t need to be just for teams. Soccer Aid is a great example of the good that can be done in soccer. 

The teams that okay these charity games usually consist of a mixture of retired players, current players, and even big star players as well. In pure essence, these games are played with full of smiles and joy. 

Final Thoughts

I’d like to say that while competitive league matches are super entertaining and full of drama, friendly matches have their own charm. It’s all about building up the team’s morale and preparing them for the upcoming tough matches. 

New players get a chance to dirty their boots and also raise money for a great cause all at the same time.

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