Most people think a tackle in youth soccer is a slide tackle. This is the most well known. A tackle is a way of trying to steal the ball from an opponent. Defenders who steal the ball from a running opponent are likely to have their legs near the opponent's, causing them to fall or be 'tackled'. In soccer, if a defender makes contact with the ball first, any leg contact with the opponent won't result in a foul. In other words, if you touch the ball and the opponent then trips over your legs or foot or the stopped ball, it's not a foul, it's a tackle. There are three common types of tackles: block tackles, poke tackles, and slide tackles.
- Block Tackle: This is done when a player is directly facing an oncoming dribbler. At the moment the opponent goes to contact the ball, the defender will do so as well with the inside of their foot and 'block' the ball. The intent is to stop the ball and the momentum of the opponents foot, causing them to lose possession, and often fall over the ball. You will find uninformed spectators often call for the ref to call a trip when a block tackle occurs because players often will go down spectacularly if the ball is stopped suddenly. But if the defender contacted the ball first, stopping it, and the opponent trips/falls - it's 'all ball' and legal.
- Poke Tackle: The poke tackle is used by a defender to poke the ball away from the opponent, usually when they are shielding the ball. The defender will lunge and poke the ball away, often taking down the opponent. If the defender contacts the player before the ball, then a foul is normally called. But if they touch the ball first, the tackle is legal.
- Slide Tackle: Often prohibited at younger ages (U10 and below), the slide tackle is the tackle most people have heard about. It is fun to watch, but also can be very dangerous. Usually coming from the side, a defender will slide their foot and leg just in front of the rolling ball, trying to catch the ball it the top of their foot. Using their foot and lower leg as a barrier, the ball is stopped and the ball carrier's momentum usually carries them into the barrier as well, causing them to fall. A well executed slide tackle is one where the defender can cradle the ball with the top part of their ankle/foot, stopping it, and getting back up as fast as possible to continue to possess the ball. The reason slide tackles are often prohibited for younger players is if they are executed incorrectly, the risk for injury is high. If you mistime your tackle, your foot/cleat may slide directly into the planted foot/ankle of an opponent. Slide tackles from behind, where the ankle/leg is most vulnerable, are prohibited at all levels and will (hopefully) result in a defender getting a red card.