9v9 Soccer Formations

True Story - Changed Soccer Formation and Scored 10 Goals
The Previous High Was 4 Goals
Importance of Stopper and Center Mid
How He Subbed to Keep His Players Fresher
The Number of Subs Matters When Selecting a Soccer Formation & Style of Play

This article discusses 9v9 soccer formations and other topics. Following is a letter I received from a soccer coach whose team played great defense but didn't score many goals and my recommendations. As you will see, he "Saw tremendous results" and in one game his scoring increased from a high of 4 goals to a record 10, from 6 players.

Dear SoccerHelp:

I'm a premium member for the last 5 years, coaching U4-U8 soccer. This year my boys moved up to U10, and are on a young U10 team. Most of the kids are aggressive, have good footwork, and generally pass to space, thanks to 2+ seasons of your games and techniques. Of the 12 players, 4 are newer and less skilled. We play a in a 9 player league, which doesn't enforce offsides. I play either a 2-1-2-3 or 1-2-2-3 formation, and place the weakest players at Right Forward and Left Forward (and keep them pushed up), and strongest players at CF, RMF, LMF, and St/SW. This formation has allowed us to dominate the center of the field and we usually shut out our opponents, but we only average 1-2 goals per game. We can usually move the ball up the wings, but have trouble generating good centering/cross passes in the Attacking Third. Should I change my position strategy to allow "team attack" up front, or encourage my MFs to take long shots and have the forwards "crash the goal".

Not having played soccer or coached older kids, I don't want to encourage bad habits.

Thanks for the help.

Coach Scott, Premium Member

Hi Coach Scott,

Thanks for writing and for being a Premium member.

Four things in your letter catch my attention:

  1. you have 4 newer and less skilled players and 8 good players
  2. You moved up to U10 and have been Pushing Up your Fullbacks when you attack
  3. Offsides isn't enforced in your league
  4. You only have 3 subs

I recommend you consider the following:

  1. Be realistic about your team's strengths and weaknesses and use the formation and Style of Play that gives your team the best chance to be successful. That means emphasizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses
  2. It is much easier to get away with Pushing Up at U8 than at U10. Since they don't call offsides, you will run into good teams that will kill you if you push up slow Fullbacks. IF you Push Up your Fullbacks, it will reduce breakaways if you use a fast Sweeper in a Formation like a 1-2-1-3-1 (where the 2 are a RFB and a LFB who are backed up by a Sweeper and have a Stopper in front)
  3. If you have slow but brave players (and since you only have 3 subs) AND since they don't call offside, I would consider using 2 slow but brave players at Right Fullback and Left FB and leaving them deep (one off each post - stay out of the Goal Box except in an emergency and don't Push Up past the Penalty Box line. I would tell those 2 FB's that they can play the entire game IF they follow your instructions. That will leave you for 3 subs for the other 6 field positions.
  4. I would consider a 2-1-3-2 formation where you do as described in # 3 above and leave the RFB and LFB deep. Put a fast, brave player at Stopper (the "1") - the Stopper doesn't have to be skilled, but he MUST be fast and fearless. Tell the Stopper to stop at the Halfway line when you attack and shift with the ball to stop cleared balls (this is important because if the Stopper comes into the attack, then the entire middle of the field is left undefended and the Stopper won't have time to recover to help stop a fast Counterattack - at least to start out keep your Stopper on your Defensive Half of the field). . The Stoppers job is to SLOW the opposing attack to give the CMF time to recover to help on defense. That means it is okay for the Stopper to kick the ball out of bounds if he is under pressure, or to just kick it straight ahead toward your Forwards - you don't want the Stopper to try to dribble, lose the ball, and the opponent scores - that is demoralizing - if you have a fantastically skilled Stopper, then anything is safe, but if you have a Stopper who isn’t very skilled, then play it safe. The # 1 defensive objective is to NOT give up easy goals or goals on breakaways - make your opponent beat you, don't beat yourself.
  5. A 2-1-3-2 with the 2 FBs Defending Deep should stop breakaways. It also gives you 2 safe places to hide weak players (RMF and LMF, which are MUCH better than at LF and RF because at LF and RF the weak players can get in the way of the scorers and can break up your attack - that is probably one reason you aren't scoring more).
  6. The most important positions in this formation are Stopper and CMF and those are the 2 that will run the most and need to be subbed. The Stopper needs to be the one to pressure balls in the corners, so that player will be all over the Defensive half of the field.
  7. At CMF you need your best overall player - ideally one who can dominate the Center of the field in the Middle Third. Your CMF will need to come back to help on defense but NOT go into the Penalty Box (the CMF MUST stay a kick away from the ball and shift from side to side with the ball to be in position to win the balls your FBs and Stopper clear). The CMF MUST also come into the attack to Support the 2 Forwards (at least be positioned to take a drop back pass and then attack the goal). That will give you 3 good attackers who by working together should be VERY hard to stop. If they can go straight to goal, GREAT - that is an easier way to score than attacking down the side and crossing it in. Encourage teamwork and creativity in attacking.
  8. Keep in mind that you do NOT have a select team - you have some weak links - be realistic about that and don't try to play the entire field like a select team might. Your team can play like a select team in your Attacking Third with your 2 good Forwards and your great CMF, but don't try to play a possession style that builds from the Defensive Third. I would tell my FBs to kick the ball hard and straight ahead out of my Defensive Third to get it away from my goal, teach my CMF and Forwards to position to win most of the cleared balls and to launch a fast counterattack (if your FBs kick it straight ahead your MFs and Forwards know what to expect and can be in position to win those cleared balls).. As your team gets older you will start to face better teams and if you lose the ball in your Defensive Third, you will give up goals. Get the ball as quickly as possible onto your Attacking Half of the field where your skilled players can score.
  9. If all your players show up, you will have 3 subs. If you don't sub your 2 FB's, that leaves you with 3 subs for Stopper, Midfielders and Forwards (for the 6 field positions). Try to keep your weaker players at RMF and LMF - those are the least important positions - give up the "wings" (where the RMF and LMF play), but you MUST stay strong in the Center between the 2 goals, which is why Stopper and CMF and the 2 most important positions. Hopefully you have at least one or 2 good players who you can sub at Stopper, CMF and the 2 Forward spots.

There is about 200 pages of information about formations for 4v4, 5v5, 6v6, 7v7, 8v8, 9v9, 10v10 and 11v11 on Premium at Soccer Formations.

I hope this helps. Please let me know. Your opponents will start to get better, so be prepared for that.

Good luck.

David at SoccerHelp

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Thanks for the corrections and help. We switched to a 2-1-3-2 as recommended, and saw tremendous results.

First, my substitutions became much more orderly. The new lineup put my weakest kids in a position to work both offensively and defensively, so I didn't feel the need to move them around. As

suggested, I let the FB's play the entire game. I then rotated my three best players between CMF and Stopper, my three weakest players between LMF and RMF, and three remaining between RF and LF (two of which are ideally suited for forward). Everyone stayed fresh, and there was a lot less confusion about where they were supposed to be playing after substitutions.

Second, we increased our offense from a high of 4 goals to a record 10, from 6 players.

We play our toughest three opponents in the coming weeks. I look forward to seeing the kids progress as they get more comfortable with this new formation.


Hi Scott,

Wow! Good job. I had forgotten how that made substituting easier and that players would be less confused. I think it is easier for U10 kids to learn to play one position at a time than to play

several different positions during the same game..

10 goals is great and pretty amazing from only 6 players!!!

Please let me know how you do - that is how I learn - and please share any other observations and good ideas.

David at SoccerHelp