The Paradox of Pickup Soccer

I recently experienced true pickup soccer.

My previous experiences was with groups of friends where we just formed two teams and we all played the whole time.

True pickup is more of the ‘hard knuckle’ variety that I have heard described: you have to win to stay on the field.

We formed into 5-6 teams of five for a small field. Each round is 1 goal or 6 minutes, whichever comes first. The scoring team stays on the field. The nonscoring team yields to the next team up. If there is no goal after 6 minutes, both teams yield to the next two teams.

I’ve heard folks say how good true pickup is because you have to win to stay on the field, so that motivates you to bring your A game and to improve to earn your spot.

I agree.

But, after experiencing this format firsthand, I think there are benefits that don’t get mentioned.

One is that, surprisingly, you end up getting a lot of play time, even if you’re not that good!

A reason I shied away from this style of pickup is that I figured that I wasn’t good enough so I wouldn’t get much play time.

But, I was wrong. I got more play time than in organized league games.

The rotation was much faster than I thought it would be and even the teams of dominant players got tired, so that was a natural leveler. A weaker team with a full set of fresh legs could match up better to a stronger team with a full set of tired legs and often won that match up.

That’s the paradox of pickup. While you do have to earn your spot on the field, you also get more quality play time than you might in an organized game or pay-to-play leagues.

It even beats out the pickup style where everybody plays the whole time, because you get to rest. In everyone-plays-all-the-time pickup quality drops after 20-30 minutes when everybody gets tired.