Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

What Are Assists In Soccer?

In the world of professional football, statistics have become an integral part of the game. With the rise of data and analytics, soccer fans are now well-acquainted with technical terms and metrics used by pundits, coaches, and journalists. However, one term that often perplexes many is the “assist.” What exactly constitutes an assist? How are assists recorded and tracked? Are there any exceptions when it comes to counting assists? This article aims to shed light on all these questions, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of assists in soccer and enhancing your knowledge of the beautiful game.

What Are Assists In Soccer?

A soccer assist is a pass that leads directly to a goal — it’s as simple as that.

While assists have been a part of the game for quite some time, FIFA officially started recording them in 1994. Whether intentional or not, any pass from an offensive player that directly leads to a goal is counted as an assist. As you can imagine, assists are a common occurrence in football. Even if the goal scorer single-handedly dribbles past multiple defenders before finding the back of the net, the player who provided the final pass will still be credited with an assist.

It’s important to note that there is no standardized system for awarding assists. Different statisticians, organizations, or competitions may record assists differently. Unlike goals, assists aren’t an official part of the Laws of the Game, which means there is room for interpretation.

Kevin De Bruyne with an assist

Are Assists As Important As Goals?

There is no definitive answer to this question. While goal scorers often steal the headlines, the pass leading up to a goal can be just as spectacular. Think about Joao Cancelo’s outrageous trivela assist for Manchester City or Lionel Messi’s exquisite pass to Crameschi for Inter Miami. Both goals wouldn’t have been possible without the remarkable assists.

Assists and goals are both essential in football, but players have different preferences. Strikers like Robert Lewandowski or Karim Benzema prioritize scoring goals, while creative players like Kevin De Bruyne or Luka Modric value the number of assists they record. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Can A Goal Have No Assist?

It is possible for a goal to have no recorded assist, but it depends on who is recording the statistic and their leniency. Different organizations or statisticians may have varying criteria for awarding assists. For instance, penalty kick goals may not always be accompanied by an assist. Additionally, the FIFA World Cup initially did not award assists if the goalscorer took advantage of a missed pass by an opponent.

Generally, the rules for awarding assists are quite lenient. There is no time limit for how long the scorer can be on the ball before scoring, meaning a player could dribble for a considerable amount of time before finding the back of the net, and the initial passer would still receive an assist. However, if another player intercepts the ball, no assist is given.

Luka Modric with an assist

Can Penalties Have Assists?

When it comes to penalties, an assist will be awarded to the player who wins the penalty if another player subsequently converts it. However, if the player who wins the penalty also takes and scores the spot kick, no assist is given. In fantasy soccer leagues like the Premier League’s official FPL app, players who excel at winning penalties can be valuable assets. Players like Wilfried Zaha or Raheem Sterling, with their quick and clever dribbling, are often awarded assists for winning penalties.

Do Players Get Assists For Own Goals?

According to statistical experts Opta, an assist is defined as “the final touch (pass, pass-cum-shot, or any other touch) leading to the recipient of the ball scoring a goal.” If the final touch is deflected by an opposition player, the initiator is only given an assist if the receiving player was likely to receive the ball without the deflection. Own goals, directly taken free kicks, direct corner goals, and penalties do not receive an assist.

It’s worth noting that Opta’s criteria for assists are stricter in comparison to other record-keeping methods. For example, unlike fantasy leagues, Opta doesn’t count it as an assist when a player wins a penalty that leads to a goal.

Can A Player Assist Himself?

Not every goal will have an assist. For example, if a defender makes a mistake with a backpass that a striker capitalizes on and finishes, or if a goalkeeper passes the ball directly to an onrushing attacker who then converts the chance, there is no registered assist.

Thomas Muller with an assist

What Are Second Assists In Soccer?

A second assist is the last action of a player from the goalscoring team before another teammate provides the primary assist. However, second assists are not widely recorded and do not hold as much weight or significance as a regular assist.

What Is Expected Assist (xA)?

Expected Assists (xA) is a statistical metric used to measure the likelihood of a pass resulting in a primary assist. It considers various factors such as the finishing location of the pass and the type of pass played. Expected Assists provide a better understanding of a creative player’s ability to create dangerous chances based on historical data comparisons. Regardless of whether a shot is taken after the pass, xA can be used to judge all creative passes.

What Is Expected Goals?

Expected Goals (xG) is closely linked to Expected Assists and is a well-known metric in football. xG measures the probability of a shot resulting in a goal. It assesses the quality of a goal-scoring opportunity by comparing historical data. By evaluating thousands of shots with similar characteristics, xG estimates the likelihood of a goal on a scale from 0 to 1. A value of 0 means that, on average, similar shots in the past did not result in a goal, while a value of 1 indicates that all such shots went in.

To learn more about Expected Goals (xG) and its role in the modern game, click here. Alternatively, check out the top 10 players with the most assists in soccer history.

Frequently Asked Questions

– What exactly is an assist in soccer?

An assist is a pass that directly leads to a goal. Whether intentional or not, any pass from an offensive player that results in a goal for their team is counted as an assist.

– Can a goal have no assist?

Yes, it is possible for a goal to have no recorded assist. The criteria for awarding assists can vary depending on different statisticians, organizations, or competitions.

– Are assists as important as goals?

Assists and goals are both essential in football. While goal scorers often grab most of the attention, the pass leading up to a goal can also be spectacular and game-changing.

– Can players assist themselves in scoring a goal?

No, a player cannot assist themselves in scoring a goal. An assist is awarded when a pass from one player directly leads to a goal scored by another player.

– What are second assists?

A second assist is the last action of a player from the goalscoring team before another teammate provides the primary assist. However, second assists are not widely recorded and are not as significant as regular assists.


Assists in soccer play a crucial role in recording and evaluating the contributions of players. Understanding what constitutes an assist and the various rules and exceptions surrounding them enhances our knowledge of the game. Whether you value goals, assists, or both, it’s clear that these statistics provide valuable insights into a player’s impact on the field.

Remember, the term “assist” has become an essential part of football lingo, and being well-versed in its meaning and intricacies can elevate your understanding and enjoyment of the beautiful game.