What Is the Number Nine Position in Soccer?
Soccer requires its players to make individual plays and work within the concept of the team. When players take the field, they know which position their coaches are assigning them to play. Soccer uses a numbering system for its positions. If you're in the number nine position, you hold the spot typically reserved for the most creative player on the team and its top goal scorer.
Numbering System Instituted
Soccer players did not wear uniform numbers until the 1928 season. However, in August of that year, British soccer teams Arsenal and Wednesday -- later renamed Sheffield Wednesday -- took to the field with players wearing numbers one through 11. The lower numbers went to defensive players and the higher numbers went to the players in the offensive-minded positions. The number nine position went to the center forward, who often had the greatest responsibility for scoring. The center forward is often referred to as the striker.
The uniform numbers that were originally handed out matched the positions used by coaches when drawing up attacking or defensive schemes. The number nine player was often the player leading the attack and would get the most scoring opportunities based on the player's speed, ball-handling ability and shooting. Coaches wanted their offensive players to get the ball to the number nine player to maximize scoring potential.
1954 World Cup
At the 1954 World Cup, organizers changed the way numbers were issued to players. Instead of having players switch uniform numbers if they switched positions from game to game, they declared that all players must keep their uniform number throughout the duration of the tournament. Players regularly used the numbers one through 11 on their uniform jersey, but numbers 12 through 23 were also used. While those numbers remain the most popular numbers, players now wear jerseys numbered up through 99.
Famous No. 9 Stars
If you wear the number nine jersey for your team, you follow in the line of great soccer players. The game of soccer has been dominated by many players who occupied the number nine center forward position. Among the best include Ronaldo, Bobby Charlton, Ian Rush and Alan Shearer. Ronaldo was probably the most explosive of the players who wore the number nine uniform. He scored 68 goals in 92 international games for Brazil and scored 247 during his professional career. Charlton was known for having one of the most dangerous long-range shots in the history of the game.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.