Soccer: World Cup Soccer Tournament

Soccer: World Cup Soccer Tournament

Paul Gannon, Contributor

Looking for an activity that incorporates technical skill, tactical situations, fierce competition, and is also fun to play?  Try a World Cup tournament!

A World Cup can be played in a small amount of time and in a small space.  And it so much fun, you'll have to pry the kids off the field.


Play with four or more participants, using one soccer goal and as many balls as you have on hand. The size of your playing grid will depend on the age, size and technical abilities of your players.  The grid can be penalty area size (18 yards x 44 yards) or larger.

Organize your students into equal teams of one to four players, depending on how many teams you want in the tournament.  Each squad is given the team name of a country. One goalkeeper is placed in goal, and a server (usually the coach) stands along the end line, next to the goal, with a pile of soccer balls.

World Cup Soccer Tournament
World Cup Soccer Tournament

How to Play
All teams step onto the field and spread out.  The server takes a ball and randomly tosses it onto the field of play.          It's the objective of each team to gain possession of the ball and maintain control until a shot can be made and a goal scored. That team then leaves the playing field and waits to move into the second round.

 A new ball is served and play continues until there is only one team — the team that has not scored — left on the field.  That team is eliminated from the tournament and retrieves missed shots for the server.

Rounds two, three, four, etc. are played identically to round one. Play continues in this fashion until there are only two teams remaining for the Finals. At this point the coach announces that the first team to score two or three goals will be declared “World Cup Champions.”

During any of the rounds, if a shot is taken and goes out of bounds, the coach simply serves in a new ball.  Should the goalkeeper make a save, the goalkeeper rolls the ball to the coach who throws  in a new ball, or the goalkeeper simply kicks the ball back into play.  The coach should always have a supply of balls so there is no break in the action.


  • Send out only two teams at a time.  The team that scores moves into the next round while the other team is eliminated.  Then two more teams step onto the field.  This way teams get eliminated more quickly and the game finishes up faster.
  • Send out three teams.  The team that scores eliminates the other two.
  • Require a team to score two goals before they can advance to the next round.
  • Place restrictions on the type of shooting allowed. For example, you might stipulate that players must shoot from outside a certain distance, can only score off a header, must connect three passes with  teammates before shooting, etc.
  • Have players from the disqualified teams become additional goalkeepers who defend on the goal line.  They may not use their hands to stop the ball.
  • Have players yell the name of their team whenever their team shoots.  Should a goal be scored and the team did not “call” their team's name, then the goal is disqualified and that team remains on the field.

You can modify the intensity, duration, and/or enjoyment level of the game by simply changing some rules or restrictions.  Allow your players to come up with some modifications of their own.  They will love the tournament.. 

Contributor: Paul Gannon is an instructor in the Department of Physical Education at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

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