What is an assist in soccer, and when does a pass become an assist?

What is an assist in soccer, and when does a pass become an assist?

Helix Odhiambo
September 17, 2023 at 1:00 PM

Assists are crucial statistics in soccer but carry less weight than goals. Many fans only celebrate goalscorers during victories, ignoring players who created the scoring opportunities. So, what is an assist in soccer? What qualifies as an assist in soccer? Find out more here.

What is qualified as an assist in soccer?
Kevin de Bruyne (L) of Manchester City crosses the ball past Rayan Ait-Nouri (R) of Wolverhampton Wanderers to provide an assist for their 3rd goal during their Premier League match at Molineux on 17 September 2022 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. Photo: Simon Stacpoole
Source: Getty Images

What is considered an assist in football? It is when a player helps score a goal by passing to the goal scorer. The stat measures a player's contribution to their team's success. What is an assist called in soccer, and who has the most in history? This article explores more about the football stat.

What does an assist mean in soccer?

Many fans do not understand what counts as an assist in football and how it works. It is as essential as a goal within football, but certain players will prefer which is more important to them. What is the definition of an assist in soccer?

It refers to a pass that leads to a goal. It could be with the feet, head, back, top shoulder, or any other legal means apart from the hand. Goal scorers cannot pass the ball to themselves. The history of the stat dates back to around 1994 when FIFA introduced it as part of the game stats. Since then, it has been adopted globally in different competitions.

What qualifies as an assist in football?

What is an assist called in soccer?
Argentina's Angel Di Maria is among the players known for scoring beautiful goals and delivering incredible assists to his teammates. Photo: Joao Rico, Kyodo News (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

A football assist goes to the player who made the pass or touches the ball, leading to a goal, whether intentional or not. The pass must come from a teammate. Even if the scorer dribbled past five defenders before notching it into the net, the teammate who gave them the ball gets the credit. So, what is considered an assist in soccer?

According to soccer assist rules, passing to an opponent who then scores does not deserve credit for helping. It is also not awarded when a team scores an own goal. Blocking defenders or goalkeepers to allow your teammate to score does not count as an assist.

Are assists important in soccer?

Creating goal-scoring opportunities is among the most essential aspects of the game. Some players are technically gifted to create chances when all hopes have vanished. Footballers like Lionel Messi, Kevin De Bruyne, and Thomas Muller have even made more beautiful opportunities than the goal. Their vision, accuracy, and passing abilities helped their teammates score out of nothing.

Who is the king of assists in football?

Who is the king of assists in football?
Thomas Muller (L), Lionel Messi (C), and Cristiano Ronaldo (R) are among footballers with the most assists in the current generation. Photo: Simon Bruty, Carlos Rodrigues, S. Mellar (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Argentine skipper Lionel Messi has the most assists in soccer history among the current generation. Messi, who played for Barcelona and Paris Saint-German before joining Inter Miami in the MLS, has 398 as of September 2023. Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich and Germany has 298, while Uruguayan and former Barcelona star Luis Suarez has 292.

Legendary players like Ferenc Puskas, Pele, Diego Maradona, George Best, Johan Cruyff, and Michel Platini created dozens of successful opportunities before the official recording started. Here is a breakdown of the most successful chances created in football history based on competitions.


Most assists

Player (s)

Single season competition


Lionel Messi (La Liga), Thomas Muller (Bundesliga)

Champions League


Cristiano Ronaldo

Champions League single season


James Milner (2017-2018)

World Cup



European Championship


Karel Poborsky

Premier League


Ryan Giggs

La Liga


Lionel Messi

Copa America


Lionel Messi

Can goalkeepers have assists?

The primary role of football goalkeepers is to guard the posts and stop the ball from entering the net by catching crosses, saving long shots, free kicks, and penalties. Some incredible keepers have also delivered stunning passes leading to goals.

Soccer assist rules
Alisson Becker (R) of Liverpool passed the ball to Mohamed Salah of Liverpool to assist him in scoring the second goal during the Premier League match against Manchester United at Anfield on 19 January 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Photo: Andrew Powell
Source: Getty Images

Paul Robinson has the most assists (five) in Premier League history. Pepe Reina and David Seaman had four, followed by Mark Crossley, Tim Howard, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Peter Schmeichel, and Alisson Becker with three. Alison recorded his third in the Premier League in a 1-0 win over Man City on 17 October 2022. His long kick found Mohamed Salah, who slotted in the lone goal in the match.

What constitutes an assist in soccer in different leagues?

Few leagues recognise players who impacted a season by helping their teammates score goals. The French League One introduced 'Trophee de Meilleur Passeur' in the 2007-08 season to award the player who has the most decisive passes. In 2018, the Premier League Playmaker of the Season award was created, given to the player with the most assists.

FIFA criteria

The world football governing body drafted the first criteria with six points regarding assists. They are:

  • Assist goes to the player who passed the ball to the goal scorer.
  • It could also go to the passer and the penultimate passer (second assist).
  • In goals from a ball rebounding off the crossbar, the player who made the original shot on target receives the credit for helping the scorer.
  • The fouled player received credit for goals scored from a penalty kick.
  • No one gets the helping credit if a goal scorer scores without receiving the ball as a pass from a teammate.
  • If the goal scorer takes advantage of a missed pass from an opponent, it has no assist.

What is an assist in soccer? It is a credit given to a player who helps to score a goal by passing the ball to the goal scorer. The growth of data and analytics in football has brought focus on many stats like total passes, shots on target, saves, blocks, and team possessions.

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Helix Odhiambo photo
Helix Odhiambo
SEO Editor