Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, played on every continent and probably in every country too! That means that it’s played in all sorts of climates. Soccer can be played in the scorching heat of arid desert countries (like the next world cup, in Qatar), or in cooler and wetter climates elsewhere.
Soccer can be safely played in some rainy weather if there isn’t accompanying weather (like lightning) that would create an unsafe playing environment. Soccer games may be rained out temporarily or postponed to another date depending on the severity and intensity of the rain.
Whether you’re interested in how rain affects the tactics of the game or have more practical considerations about keeping your little ones dry, there’s a surprising amount to think about. We’ve got your back on this though! If you’re new to the sport, you might have some questions about how weather conditions can affect the games!
Read on for our practical guide to whether it’s safe to play soccer in the rain, and how to keep you and your family warm and dry.
How Does Weather Affect Soccer?
Soccer will be affected by weather if the weather creates a safety hazard for players or dangerous field conditions. Soccer games will continue on as long as they can be done so safely, though some playing tactics must be adjusted to account for the weather.
Certainly, rainy weather does have an impact on soccer games, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that the game will be called off (unlike some summer sports, such as cricket, that are called off at the first sight of clouds).
Weather can have quite a big influence on a soccer match. In general, there are two ways that weather affects proceedings; in terms of safety and tactics.
Weather can affect the safety of soccer
It takes a lot for a game of soccer to be called off because of bad weather, but it does happen! It’s at the discretion of the referee to call off a game at any time. It’s also possible that the game will be paused to allow for the weather to improve, then either resumed or abandoned after the break.
A referee decides whether to allow play based on whether the ball will roll along the ground. If it can’t roll either due to a waterlogged or muddy pitch, there isn’t much point in playing as the game will be too difficult (and potentially dangerous, if the players have no grip).
As well as safety, there are other reasons why a game will be called off in this kind of weather; it’s too difficult to pass or dribble the ball, and playing when it’s muddy can ruin a normally well-maintained pitch (think of the poor grounds keepers!).
Lightning is another safety concern, and in the US organizations such as the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) have specific provisions for this.
If any field official detects lightning, then a 30 – min delay can be called and if the situation does not improve for a considerable amount of time then rainout or the game is stopped for the weather can be called out.
National guidelines point out that the responsible official in the case of lightning should not necessarily be the referee (after all, he or she probably has a lot to think about already), but another official such as a linesman.
Although relatively rare, canceled fixtures happen at all levels of the game, from local games to professional and international matches!
We’ve had quite a few games canceled due to rain or surprise snowstorms hitting in early fall. But we’ve also watched our kids play games in light rain or light snowfall. It’s always up to the call of the local official.
Most youth leagues will have a notification system letting you know if the game has been canceled due to weather. So, make sure you ask your coach about that kind of thing.
Weather can affect playing tactics and strategies
Weather conditions can also affect the way that coaches choose to make their teams play soccer. Ever wondered why it tends to be leagues from hot countries, like Brazil or Spain, that have a reputation for fast-paced soccer, and others such as the Premier League or Serie A have a reputation for more physicality?
Well, partly it comes down to weather conditions. In colder, wetter climates, it’s a little harder for the ball to travel fast along the floor. For this reason, some teams use a style known as ‘route one’ (kicking it hard forwards and hoping that a striker manages to muscle their way onto the ball).
Conversely, drier climates are more suited to fancy skills (a la Pele), or the fast-passing style known as ‘Tiki Taka’, as a pitch that lets the ball move quickly and accurately is perfect for these types of play.
Of course, with modern pitch facilities (including synthetic pitches), top-level teams can basically play how they want, wherever they are. Normally, though, you’ll find that the coach has some weather-specific tactics up their sleeve just in case.
At the amateur level of the game, where pitches are normally more basic and less well maintained, it’s more common for teams to revert to national stereotypes about how they play!
So, if your kids are playing on the grass behind city hall as mine do, remember that it’s less about the fancy skills right now. Right now, it’s more about developing a love of the game and an appreciation for the skills they’ll develop over time.
What Do You Wear to Play Soccer in the Rain?
Most soccer players wear the same things to play in the rain as normal. If it’s particularly cold, they might choose to wear long sleeves, base layers, or even gloves.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of gear that can help you when it’s raining… As a soccer player, it’s probably just best to embrace the fact that you might get wet sometimes and get on with it!
Some youth leagues may let the players wear a hooded poncho-style jacket during the game to stay warm, although it does obscure jerseys. Some older youth and more advanced leagues tend to discourage any outerwear that hides the jerseys.
In that case, our kids would swap the jersey to be outside of the warm jacket so they could stay warm while still playing.
How Do Soccer Players Stay Warm? (with Practical Tips)
When it’s cold on the pitch, there are a few things soccer players can do to keep warm. These might be as simple as keeping moving, wearing an extra layer (or gloves), or having special onesie-style sub-suits to wear while sitting on the substitute bench.
Tip #1: Keep moving
In general, the best way to keep warm is just to keep moving. Most soccer players are moving most of the time anyway, so hopefully, this can keep your body temperature up!
Tip #2: Keep inside as much as possible
In really cold conditions, it’s a good idea to avoid standing out on the pitch for too long before a match.
Try to warm up, then take your team back into the changing rooms (if you have them) to wait for kick-off.
If you can’t stay inside (because it’s game time, for example), then make sure you’ve got appropriate outerwear and an umbrella to stay as dry as possible between plays.
Tip #3: Wear the right gear!
There are a few things soccer players can wear to keep warm.
- Goalkeepers, who don’t have as much opportunity to run around, normally wear long-sleeved jerseys, and already have the thick gloves they need to help them save the ball.
- Outfield players might also choose to wear long-sleeved jerseys, base layers, and even thin gloves if they are particularly susceptible to the cold.
Tip #4: Warm that bench
While running around can keep you warm on the pitch, it’s a little trickier if you find yourself on the substitute bench or standing around at halftime.
It can be a good idea to bring warm extra layers for these moments and try to go inside if possible. Some teams buy what’s called “sub-suits,” which are onesie-like fluffy jackets that can keep you super warm and dry!
If you don’t want to invest in a sub-suit yet, then know that a nice, warm, long jacket can still work wonders, especially when it’s paired with a poncho and/or an umbrella.
Tip #5: Bring the heat
If you’ve got a thermos flask or similar, this can be a great way to keep yourself feeling warm before the match, at halftime, or afterward.
Chemical hand warmers are also useful if you’re someone who struggles with cold hands. These use chemical reactions to heat themselves (often when shaken or a small metal part inside is clicked). Some are even reusable, too!
How Do Soccer Players Stay Dry?
If it rains, soccer players generally just get wet and play on! Of course, in extreme conditions where this can threaten hypothermia, soccer players might take extra measures to keep warm, such as gloves and base layers, and dry themselves at half-time.
As a general rule though, soccer players tend to just accept the rain and get on with it – after all, while you might be wet for 90 minutes, you’ll have plenty of time after to sit with the team and warm up, whether that’s celebrating or commiserating the game of the day, which brings me onto my last tip.
Tip #6: Always bring extra dry layers
Always bring extra layers to a soccer game for afterward, so that you have something warm and dry to get you or your kids changed into.
Sitting in cold wet clothes is a really easy way to be cold or, in the worst-case scenario, come down with some level of hypothermia!
Always change out of wet, cold clothes at the first possible moment. Dry off, then put on dry clothes to warm up. And always seek medical advice if you are concerned about something serious, including hypothermia.
Pro tip: sitting in the cold rain isn’t going to make you catch a cold; however, it can lower your immune system enough that you get sick with some germs that are around and cause you to have symptoms of a common cold.
If you’re someone who’s particularly affected by the cold (which can really bite especially if you have bad circulation) then check out the tips above about keeping warm on and off the pitch.
Tip #7: Follow all the same tips whether you’re a player or a spectator!
These tips work for players, but they also apply to parents, parent coaches, and anyone else who’s watching the game. Oh, and it works if it’s a game where your children are playing or if you’re watching a professional game.
You may get some weird looks from other parents if you’re wearing a sub-suit on the sidelines, but at least you’ll be warm and dry!
Now that you know more about staying dry and playing soccer in the rain, make sure you read this article I wrote about volunteer coaching youth leagues. That way, you’ll be able to make a difference in your community and for your children and their friends.
If you’d like to find out more about this, don’t worry because we’ve got your back! Here are a few of the sources that were most useful for me when I was writing this article.
- “Are Soccer Games Canceled For Rain? Shocking Conditions.” Soccer Blade, 18 July 2021, soccerblade.com/are-soccer-games-canceled-for-rain.
- Chaverst, Garri. “What You Need to Know About Playing Soccer in the Rain.” Girls Soccer Network, 23 Sept. 2020, girlssoccernetwork.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-playing-girls-soccer-in-the-rain.
- “How Much Rain Is Too Much For Soccer?” The Farley Group, 2021, www.thefarleygroup.com/blogs/soccer-in-the-rain-when-to-take-your-game-inside-a-dome.htm.
- “USA-Soccer.Org » Inclement Weather and Forfeit Procedures.” USA Soccer, 2021, usa-soccer.org/inclement-weather-and-forfeit-procedures.
- Fingers crossed that you’ll have good soccer weather all season, but if not then it can’t hurt to be prepared!