Slide Tackles in Youth Soccer: Everything You Want to Know

It is all too exciting to see a professional soccer player take the ball away from an opposing player with a slide tackle. The timing, the strength and the grace of a slide tackle are beautiful to watch. Naturally, youth soccer players want to imitate what they see the pros doing. But is it safe? Is slide tackling in youth soccer even allowed?

Slide tackles in youth soccer can be legal, but often, there are restrictions at the younger ages and recreational levels to ensure the safety of the children playing. Slide tackling can be a useful move in soccer, but with a lack of experience, many things can go wrong.

If you’re interested in all things related to slide tackling in youth soccer, keep reading. This article will answer many of your questions. 

Can You Slide Tackle in Youth Soccer?

The short answer is “it depends”. In youth soccer, players are not as physically capable as professional players and might have a higher risk of injury with a slide tackle.  Also, it is difficult for youth soccer players to pull off a successful slide tackle without fouling the opponent.

Slide tackling is seen as a higher level defensive move, and unless you are an experienced player, a slide tackle can be a very complex — and dangerous — maneuver. 

For these reasons, many recreational soccer leagues do not allow slide tackling for the younger age groups.

Of course, depending on different leagues and regions, the rules determining the legality of slide tackling might vary. More competitive leagues might not have restrictions on slide tackles because the players tend to be more experienced than average soccer players their age.

Below are more specific explanations of why slide tackles are typically illegal in youth soccer.

ExperienceSlide tackles require enhanced skills, and players with less experience might not perform a slide tackle properly or effectively.
SafetyIf a slide tackle is not performed correctly, it can cause harm to the tackler or their opponent.
CompetitionIn youth soccer, players are typically still developing their skills. Since slide tackles take enhanced skill and experience, many youth players will not be ready to successfully execute a slide tackle. It is important for developing players to master the basics before trying to sharpen more specific skills.

What Age Can You Slide Tackle in Soccer

A general rule for the appropriate age group in which slide tackles are legal – regardless of experience or competition level – is typically U15. As might be apparent, this is around the age of high school-level soccer. Once a player gets to high school, they will likely have the appropriate physical ability and sufficient experience to execute a proper slide tackle. So, slide tackling is often allowed at that point.

That said, slide tackle restrictions can stop earlier or later than high school, depending on the league’s rules. It is up to each specific league to decide the legality of slide tackles, so the specific rules for each league might not always follow the general guidelines. 

For example, most competitive (as opposed to recreational) soccer leagues allow slide tackling as young as the U9 age group. Teams in those competitive leagues are judged to be sufficiently competent to appropriately perform slide tackles without risking the safety of the players involved.

All of the high level regional and national youth soccer leagues — ECNL, GA, MLS Next, US Youth National League — permit slide tackling. For more information on these high level soccer leagues, click over to ECNL vs. GA and MLS Next.

Below is a table further describing different circumstances where slide tackles may or may not be legal in soccer:

14+ leagues where experience is at a higher levelTypical under-14 leagues with lesser experience (recreational leagues)
Under-14 leagues where competition is more intense (competitive leagues)14+ leagues where experience and ability is likely less-developed than other leagues
College and professional levelsClub team leagues in which high school players might play during the off-season; these leagues are usually put in place for typical upkeep on skills rather than overly competitive environments

As mentioned before, the rules and regulations of a specific league will dictate whether slide tackles are legal. As a general rule, however, slide tackling will likely be legal in all soccer leagues beginning in high school. 

Can a Soccer Goalie Slide Tackle?

Just like any other player, a goalie may slide tackle. Therefore, if slide tackling is generally legal in your league, it is legal for the goalie. However, keep in mind that an errant slide tackle by a goalie is often much more costly than an errant slide tackle by a field player, as a penalty kick is usually the result. 

If a goalie slide tackles, he or she is likely in the goal box. If the goalie does not perfectly execute the slide tackle and a foul is called, it will often result in a penalty kick.

So, yes, a goalie can slide tackle if slide tackling is legal in the applicable soccer league. However, unless a goalie has a great deal of experience with slide tackling, the risk might outweigh the reward

What Constitutes A Slide Tackle?

A slide tackle is a move in soccer meant to take the ball away from an opposing player. Whether you are coming from the front, side, or back of the player with the ball, you transition from running into sliding by dropping to the ground and sticking one leg in front of you in an attempt to hit the ball away and disrupt the motion of the opposing player.

Youth player executing a slide tackle.
Football – Soccer player making sliding tackle

While this move can prove greatly useful and successful, if not done correctly, it can result in a penalty or an injury to either party. Multiple things can go wrong if you do not know how to properly execute a slide tackle. 

To successfully execute a slide tackle, the tackler must always make contact with the ball first.   Incidental contact with the opponent after hitting the ball first will not be considered a foul.   However, hitting the opponent before the ball will always result in a foul call.

If you are not able to time your slide right, you could land awkwardly and hurt yourself, or you could slide into the opposing player rather than the ball, causing the player to become entangled or tripped and face a risk of injury.  

The risk of injury is even greater when the slide tackle comes from behind the opponent.  Therefore, even if the ball is hit first, tackles from behind are almost always called a foul and may even result in a red card ejection from the game.

So, if slide tackles can cause so much harm, why are they legal at all? Below is a bit of information regarding the presence of slide tackles in higher-level soccer leagues.


Slide tackles are incredibly effective against opponents with superior ball skill.  They allow a defender to go all in for a ball even if the opponent is maintaining close control. A properly executed slide tackle is difficult for even the best offensive players to avoid.  


More experienced soccer players are likely more developed physically and mentally, allowing them to execute a slide tackle more effectively without risking injury.


Higher-level soccer players are also more aware of the risks that slide tackling poses and know that even if they do not cause injury, poor execution can result in a foul call or a penalty. As previously indicated, if a defender makes contact with the opposing player before the ball, a foul will likely be called.  Higher level players have the awareness to balance the risk with the possible reward.

Positives and Negatives

With the quick pace of higher-level soccer leagues, slide tackling can be extremely useful. However, it is not always a go-to defensive move because it takes time, and if not executed properly, it will result in the defending team simply losing the tackler for a few seconds as the tackler gets up from the ground. In a fast, non-stop game, this can be detrimental.

Other Moves That Can Take the Place of A Slide Tackle In Youth Soccer

If your child is in a league where slide tackles are illegal, there are other defensive moves that they can learn to keep up with the competition. Some moves focus more heavily on taking the ball away while others deal with slowing the opponent. 

Below are a few defensive alternatives that can be used instead of slide tackles in youth soccer.


“Tackling” the ball is basically like a standing slide tackle. It poses much less of a risk of injury or foul since you can more easily control your movement. 

A tackle involves simply attempting to push the ball away from the attacker. It is not a full-force kick, but instead, a strong tap or pushing motion. A successfully executed tackle can result in a steal in which you take over total control of the ball.


A pull move is similar to a tackle, but it is useful in different circumstances. If you are defending an attacker who is stationary or moving slowly, a pull can result in a clean steal and gaining possession of the ball. 

While you are in front of the attacker, you quickly reach one foot out, position it on top of the ball, and pull the ball towards you by rolling it backward with your foot. This can be an effective move if the attacker is not doing a good job protecting the ball.


A press in soccer is more simple than other types of defensive moves. It is not necessarily a “move” at all. Pressing involves putting pressure on an attacker rather than falling back while you are defending

No matter what direction you are coming from, a press involves you going towards the attacker in an attempt to slow their attack. It is a basic defensive move that can also allow you to set yourself up for other moves, like a tackle or pull.


Containing in soccer is less intense than a press. When you contain, you keep your opponent in front of you without attempting a tackle or a pull

You make yourself a barrier between them and the goal or their teammates. This can be a useful move in disrupting the rhythm of the opposing team, but it takes fast feet and good anticipation.


As you can see, many different factors can come into play when deciding the legality of slide tackles in youth soccer. Generally, slide tackles will not be permitted in recreational soccer leagues at younger ages, but will be permitted at older ages and in competitive leagues

The slide tackle is a good defensive move to learn. However, many other defensive techniques can be effective for youth soccer players learning to develop their skills as well.

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