What is a Friendly Match in Soccer?

When it comes to soccer, the type of the match that a soccer club is playing matters a lot.

For example, there are matches that are considered life changing for the players and extremely entertaining for the audience (a champions league match). On the other hand, there are matches, friendly matches in particular, that are considered less important both by the fans and the players.

But What is a friendly match in soccer ? and how significant is it for the players and the teams?

A friendly soccer match is a match organized between 2 soccer teams and that does not belong to any official soccer competition. Friendly matches are held upon the request of both of the opponents involved and they are meant to be just a form of preparation for the upcoming competitions.

In other words, soccer clubs or international soccer teams hold friendly competitions against each other in order to prepare themselves for the upcoming matches and competitions that they have throughout the year.

These friendly matches are completely optional and they do not have a huge significance when it comes to a club’s history and trophies. However, they are considered to be an important pre-season preparation phase for all the competitions ahead of any soccer club.

So in simple words, a soccer friendly match is like the match that you play when you ask your friends to join you for a soccer match for fun. However, the only difference is that the match is taken a little bit more seriously and it has a few other purposes than pure entertainment.

What’s the purpose behind the friendly soccer matches?

1- Friendly matches give new soccer coaches/managers the chance to test their tactics.

One of the most important purposes of friendly matches is to give the new coaches the chance to play some actual soccer games with their new team before the real competitions start.

A soccer coach (aka manager) has complete control over which players should play, where they should play, and what tactics the team should use on the field.

But for the coaches to be able to set up the perfect plans and to make the most out of every player they have, they’ll need some actual game time. This time is given to them in the form of friendly matches instead of making them test their tactics during actual competitions which might be a huge risk for the team.

In other words, friendly soccer matches serve as a test ground for new tactics and they give the coaches a chance to adapt to their player’s abilities and skills after watching how they perform on the field.

2- Friendly matches give new players a chance to blend with the team.

In soccer, the player transfer window is open at the end of every league season (and in the middle of the season too). During that period, soccer clubs get the chance to register new players from their own youth teams and they also get the chance to sign new players from other clubs.

In order for these newcomers to adapt to their new teammates and their new coach, they need to play a few matches with them.

So friendly matches give new players a chance to gain their confidence with their new team and blend in with them.

Good chemistry between the team players is a core ingredient for the team’s success, and the friendly matches that the newcomers play will give them the chance to improve their chemistry with the other players on the team.

3- Friendly matches get the players back in shape after the vacation.

After each season, soccer players get a few weeks vacation that they can spend with their families and their loved ones. After all, soccer players are employees and they deserve some off days.

However, these vacations certainly affect the player’s physical readiness for the upcoming seasons. 

Soccer players are supposed to run during most of the week days, they are also supposed to train on a regular basis and follow strict diets to perform well during games. But these activities aren’t usually taken seriously by the players during their vacation days.

So, the club has to get them back in shape once their vacation ends. This is where the friendly matches come in.

The soccer players join back their team during what’s called a pre-season phase. This phase is supposed to get the players ready for the upcoming season.

The players first start with training to gain back their physical readiness, then they play friendly matches to get back in the mood of soccer and competitions.

So in other words, the friendly soccer matches are important to make sure that the players are completely ready and are in shape when the real soccer leagues and competitions kick off.

4- Friendly matches give the soccer clubs a chance to establish a world wide presence

It’s true that “the beautiful game” is aimed towards entertainment. However, there are financial benefits behind being a professional soccer club too.

And as you can easily figure out, one of the most important factors when it comes to the success of a business is the ability to expand and grow their audience as much as possible.

Soccer clubs do the same. They try to expand their audience as much as possible whenever they get the chance too. Friendly matches can help them do that. But how exactly?

It’s simple. Due to the time differences between countries, some soccer fans might not be able to watch their favorite soccer club play.

Take the European soccer giants as an example. If an American or a Japanese person is a fan of an European soccer club, they’ll have a hard time adjusting to the scheduled matches of this soccer club due to the large time differences between their country and the origin country of their favorite club.

So, what big soccer clubs do is go play friendly matches in countries like the USA and Japan during the pre-season phase in order to give the soccer fans in these countries a chance to enjoy the game and grow their attachment to their favorite club.

Many giant European soccer clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City, Real Mardid, and many others make tours inside the United States and play friendly matches against other giant soccer clubs there. Their main goal is to gain the interest of more American soccer fans and to give the people who already consider themselves fans of the team a chance to watch them play.

And guess what, it’s working. According to this science daily article, the European professional soccer fanbase is growing inside the United States as time goes by.

Giant soccer clubs also play friendly matches in countries other than the US and that have completely different time zones than the timezone of their home country.

5- Other reasons like charities, celebrations, and more.

Friendly matches can sometimes serve as a great charity event. Soccer clubs sometimes play friendly matches to raise money for charities. The money made from ticket sales and from other sources are donated to some charities.

Soccer friendly matches are sometimes also held to celebrate the end of a player’s career and for various other reasons.

Alright. Now that you know the main reasons behind the friendly soccer matches that you hear about very often during each pre-season, it’s time to answer some other quick questions that are related to these friendly matches.

Do the rules change during friendly soccer matches?

Most of the soccer rules remain pretty much the same during a friendly match. After all, rules are rules.

However, some of these rules are loosened a little bit. For example, the number of substitutes that are allowed during a friendly match is higher than the regular number.

The rules regarding international friendly matches are more strict than the ones applied on friendly matches between clubs, but more on this later.

In case you don’t know what international friendly matches mean. They are basically friendly matches between countries instead of between clubs. Most of the countries around the world have their own soccer teams that compete in international soccer competitions like the world cup.

For now, you should know that during a friendly match, more than 3 substitutions are usually allowed for each team. The teams can agree on the number of substitutions before the game starts.

This totally makes sense. The goal of a friendly match is to make sure that a lot of players get the chance to play with their teammates, and the goal is to get the players in shape without exhausting them. So more substitutes per a friendly soccer game makes a lot of sense for both of the opponent teams.

The substitution rules isn’t the only rule that isn’t strictly applied during friendly matches though. For example, the referee will usually be less strict during a friendly match and will give less yellow cards and red cards during the match.

referee with a yellow card

The referee might allow things during a friendly match that they don’t usually allow during other official soccer matches.

But that doesn’t mean that the referees won’t attempt to punish soccer players that misbehave during friendly matches.

Although it’s rare, soccer players can get a red card during a friendly soccer match. But what happens if they do?

What happens if a player gets a red card during a friendly soccer match?

In general, when a soccer player gets a red card during a match in a certain competition, then the player gets suspended for up to 3 matches in that competition. In other words, the player won’t be allowed to join their team when they play their next match(s) in the competition.

But, a friendly match does not belong to any competition, so how do red cards and suspensions exactly work during friendly matches?

According to the FIFA rules, if a soccer player gets a red card during a friendly soccer match, then they aren’t allowed to play the next friendly match that their team organizes.

How serious are soccer players during friendly games?

One final question that I would like to address in this article is how serious are soccer players during friendly matches?

Usually, during friendly matches, the players are not as aggressive as they are during other matches.

You will not find the players fighting to score a goal as much as they would during other games. The reasons are obvious, the results of the friend game do not have a huge significance.

But that doesn’t mean that all friendly matches aren’t competitive. Usually, if 2 rival soccer teams compete against each other during a friendly match, then they both teams will fight to win the game due to their pride.

Also, it’s worth noting that international friendly matches are sometimes taken more seriously than friendly matches between soccer clubs. But why?

There is an official ranking for international soccer teams by FIFA. These rankings are calculated based on many different variables, and one of these variables is the victories during friendly matches.

In other words, winning an international friendly match can contribute to the overall FIFA ranking of a country. The contribution of friendly matches to the overall ranking is less significant than the other variables but it does make a difference.

For this reason, international friendly soccer matches are taken more seriously than other friendly matches.

In addition to that, when it comes to international competitions, the reputation of the competing countries are at stake. Even if the match is a friendly match, if a country performs poorly, they’re going to be judged by the fans and the critics.

With that said, you have reached the end of this article. Here’s a quick summary.


Friendly matches in soccer are matches that are organized between 2 soccer teams for the sole purpose of preparing the players of each team for the upcoming soccer season. However, friendly matches also serve other purposes such as expanding the exposure of the soccer clubs and raising money for charity.

The soccer rules are usually loosened a little bit during a friendly match. Especially when it comes to substitutions and red cards. If a player manages to get a red card during a friendly match, then they’ll be suspended from the next friendly match that their team organizes