The Differences Between Indoor Soccer and Futsal

It’s winter time here in the US, and the outdoor soccer season has come to a close. The only problem is your kid still has the itch to play. Your child doesn’t want to sit around and wait for the spring to get back on the pitch.

We have some good news. Indoor soccer and Futsal are two great options to explore to stay on top of the game during the offseason. Both share many similarities, but there are differences to be aware of. 

Below is a table discussing the differences between Futsal and Indoor Soccer.

FutsalIndoor Soccer
Ball Size4, less bounce5
BoundariesYesNo, walled-in field
Time PeriodsTwo 20 min halvesTwo 45 min halves
Playing SurfaceIndoor court (gym floor)Turf field with walls
Players5v5 with goalies6v6 with goalies
ClockStopped clockRunning clock
Time Limit4 seconds Not defined

There are several more but the most important are above. We will dig a bit deeper here, so you can determine which will be suited for your child during this winter season. 

Listed below are several advantages and disadvantages of Indoor soccer and Futsal.

What Are the Advantages of Futsal?

Futsal has been around for more than 50 years but has grown drastically in popularity in the past decade. Many top players competed in Futsal as kids including Neymar Jr, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, and many more. 

“As a little boy in Argentina, I played Futsal on the streets and for my Club. It was tremendous fun and helped me become the player I am today.”

Lionel Messi

With an endorsement like this, there is no wonder why Futsal has grown rapidly. 

Here are a few advantages to playing Futsal:

  • Playing area – Futsal is played on 38-42 meters (125-131 ft.) long and 18-22 meters (59-72 ft.) wide court, which is considerably shorter than an average pitch. There are many benefits to this setup.
    • Players are forced to move into space, shield from defenders, use creativity and control the ball. With less space, players learn to embrace one versus one frame. Early on, many players pass to avoid this dynamic and prefer to pass into open space. In Futsal, kids are forced to work through it. This improves a young player’s outdoor game greatly. For the showboaters out there, this is the game to play! 
    • The speed of the game is much faster than a normal soccer game. On average, players will make 60 decisions with the ball each Futsal game. In contrast, during an outdoor soccer game, players make 20-30 decisions per game. In less than half the time, players make twice the decisions. Now, that’s powerful.
  • Time limit – The game has a 4 second limit on corner kicks, goalkeeper possession, and free kicks. The purpose is to speed up the gameplay for all involved. 
  • Ball Characteristics – A Futsal ball is solid with foam instead of synthetic leather, rubber inflatable ball. The reason why is because the court is a hard surface like a basketball court causing the ball to bounce. Since the ball doesn’t bounce as much, players are forced to pass deliberately, dribble intentionally, and feigning seriously. 
  • Out of bounds – The ball can go out of bounds. Players are forced to make accurate passes or they will lose possession. Futsal mimics a lot of outdoor soccer techniques on a tighter playing surface. There are no new obstacles or rules in Futsal that would take away from playing soccer. This makes for a great winter season to develop your skills. 
  • Unlimited Substitutions – A team can be up to 14 players, and there is no limit to substitutions. Substitutions can be made at any time throughout the game, whether the ball is in play or not but only in special marked substitution zones. This gives team freedom to choose as they please and a big help to coaches to make sure every player gets in. 
  • Indoor and Outdoor – Futsal started in Uruguay in the 1930s and can be played indoors and outdoors. While Futsal is often played indoors in the offseason in America, many countries around the world play outdoors. Since walls aren’t permitted, the game can be played in many settings such as a basketball court or gym floor. This is a big positive because you don’t have to seek out a specific type of building to participate in.

I’ll add one more as a bonus. This is one for the coaches and parents. The games are fast-paced, high scoring, and super entertaining to watch. With short time periods and a smaller field, the energy of a Futsal game is much higher than an ordinary soccer game. 

What Are the Disadvantages in Futsal?

Although there are many positives to the game of Futsal, there are some disadvantages for you to take note of. 

  • Different equipment –  Since Futsal is played on a hard surface, the ball and soccer shoes are different. Cleats on a hard surface would cause a lot of injuries. In general, soccer can be an expensive sport to play with membership fees, equipment, travel, camps, and the like! It adds up. Here I have posted a few links for you check out what a few Futsal shoe and ball options. 
  • Time periods – Futsal is a short game of two twenty-minute halves. Compared to the 11v11 outdoor game, this is less than half the playing time. While the game is short and intense, each team has unlimited substitutions. Players get more touches but less playing time. Nothing comes close to actual playing time versus another competitive team. 
  • Out of Bounds – Unlike indoor soccer, players can kick the ball out of bounds stopping game time. Coaches can direct players to kick the ball out of bounds as a way of stalling or delaying the game. This can be frustrating and waste a lot of time. Furthermore, players with poor ball control cause slow gameplay. 

What Are the Advantages to Indoor Soccer?

Indoor soccer is played around the world. Imagine a hockey rink. Take out the ice, add soccer turf. Viola! We have an indoor soccer field. 

  • Goalkeeper Training – Becoming a great goalkeeper is not an easy feat! Teaching young players to dive onto the ground takes a lot of courage. This goes over much easier when the surface is softer such as turf. In addition, there is less injury risk for goalies by using the turf as the landing surface. 
  • Field Size – Similar to Futsal, the playing area is much smaller than a normal soccer field. It is harder for players to get distracted since they are constantly close to the action. 
  • Fast-paced game – Walls surround the playing field meaning the ball never goes out of bounds. The ball is always in play; players must always be on their toes. This maximizes the amount of playing time and ball touches without disruptions. Few games match the number of touches a player can make during this game, allowing for better ball control and spatial awareness of everything on the field. 
  • Similar equipment – Oftentimes, players can wear outdoor cleats to indoor soccer games. This reduces the amount of investment to play. When you can use the same equipment on the turf as you can on a grass pitch, it is a nice cost-benefit. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Indoor Soccer?

In order to have a balanced analysis, let’s discuss a few disadvantages to playing indoor soccer.

  • Wall Bouncing – Kicking the ball against the wall to evade a defender is unique to indoor soccer. Some argue this mimics a pass to a teammate. However, many view this as a disadvantage since the wall is always present. This doesn’t translate well to outdoor soccer since accurate passes are necessary to complete a pass. Kids can learn techniques that don’t translate into skill. It is a form of laziness and can causes players to rely on bad technique. 
  • Odd Angles – The walls bring a new dimension to the game. The downside is shots can from different angles because of the walls. Keepers can develop skills and habits that might not adapt well to the outdoor game. A goal off of the wall can’t happen outdoors. Exposing goalies to many environments can’t hurt, but this doesn’t directly contribute to their development for outdoor soccer. 
  • Injuries – The most serious disadvantage is injuries. A walled-in field adds another obstacle in the way of players that they could hurt themselves on. Young kids are still learning control of their bodies. They run into the walls or fall into them. A hard, immovable surface increases the chances of injuries. Coaches must focus on safe practices to avoid as many injuries as possible.
  • No Feigning Skills – Another disadvantage of having walls is the reliance on a safety net. One of the most celebrated aspects of the game is foot trickery. When walls exist, players go the path of least resistance instead of challenging a defensive player head-on. The ability to beat a player in open space is a masterful skill to learn. Few players grasp the art of feigning. But those who do get an unbelievable advantage on the pitch. Coaches should create environments for players to develop this skill. 
  • Availability of venue – Walls are a crucial part of indoor soccer. Many places might not have a venue to play in. The ability to play indoor soccer depends on if you live near an indoor field. This could limit your options and force you to resort to other training options in the offseason. 

Which Is Better?

As we laid out, Futsal and indoor soccer both bring a unique opportunity for young players in the offseason. Some people are limited by their location by their options. In general, Futsal offers the same benefits as indoor soccer without the injuries and walls limiting certain areas of development. Futsal put ball control and spatial awareness at the forefront. Player development is at its highest in Futsal. Many top-level football pros attribute their development to playing Futsal throughout their childhood.

In the US, it appears more popular in the last decade as we catch up to what international leagues have been doing for decades. However, everyone is different. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, it all depends on what works best for your child. 

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