Soccer Formations

Soccer formations for youth Rec and select soccer teams U8 to U18. How to evaluate your team and choose the best soccer formation. Formations for weak and strong teams, and for slow or timid players.

Soccer formations for soccer teams playing 8v8, 11v11, 7v7, 6v6, 4v4, 5v5, 9v9 and 10v10.

Attacking and defensive soccer formations.

The soccer formation you use will determine the number of players on defense, in the midfield, and on offense. You can also have a Sweeper and one or 2 Stoppers.

Below are examples of the 100 soccer formations articles on SoccerHelp Premium.

The soccer formation and Style of Play a youth coach chooses should depend on the following (NOTE: This is written for Rec coaches and select coaches to U12 - don't worry about formations for U6) :

  1. Your player's speed, stamina and skill
  2. The width and length of the field you play on
  3. The number of subs you have
  4. The speed of the opposing forwards.
  5. Whether you have unskilled or slow players, or players who are scared of the ball or of being bumped by opposing players

Diagrams of Soccer Formations

The soccer formation and style of play you choose, and how you assign soccer positions, will have a huge impact on how well your team plays, how much fun they have and how many games they win.

I recommend you read How to Choose a Soccer Formation and How to Assign Soccer Positions

Soccer formations numbering starts with the Defenders (the Fullbacks) and doesn't include the Goalie. For example, a 1-2-1-3-1 formation would consist of a Sweeper, 2 Fullbacks, 1 Stopper, 3 Midfielders and 1 Target Forward. Conventional numbering of soccer formations, such as a 4-4-2 soccer formation can be confusing, because midfielders often aren't lined up straight across; when you look at a 4-4-2, it might look like a 4-1-2-1-2. In most soccer formations, there are "right" side and "left" side players. Right and left are as you face the opponent's Goalie; so, if you have 2 Fullbacks, one is the Right Fullback and one is the Left Fullback. The Style of Play you use is as important as the soccer formation you choose. Most Rec teams are better off to Defend Deep instead of Pushing Up when they attack. Most websites discuss soccer formations for 11v11. We have extensive descriptions of soccer formations for 4v4, 5v5, 6v6, 7v7, 8v8, 9v9, 10v10 and 11v11 - over 100 articles and 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play on Premium. (Note: Don't worry about soccer formations for U6.)

We only show a few diagrams of soccer formations as examples because the specifics depend on coaching preferences and the ability of the players -- there are hundreds of possibilities. Also, where players should be depends on where the ball is, whether they are on offense or defense, and whether the Fullbacks "Push Up" on the attack or "Defend Deep". The important concepts are Shift and Sag, First Defender/Second Defender, First Attacker/Second Attacker, and that positions are relative to each other and generally when on Defense, the "left" side players should stay on the left side of the field, the "right" side players on the right side of the field (left and right are as you face the opposing Goalie), Fullbacks should be closer to their Goalie than their Midfielders are, and Midfielders should be closer to their Goalie than their Forwards are. (These guidelines also apply when a team is on offense, but not as strictly. Offense is more creative than defense and players may "overlap" in order to advance the attack; this is particularly true with Midfielders and Forwards, because most coaches may want their Fullbacks to be conservative and stay in a defensive position in case there is a counterattack by the opponent).

Scroll Down for Soccer Formations Articles

Soccer Formation Basics (How to choose a soccer formation)

Diagrams of Soccer Positions & Soccer Formations

How to Select a Soccer Formation and Assign Positions - Tips for selecting a formation and assigning positions.

6v6 Soccer Formations (SoccerHelp Premium has 12 articles about 6v6 soccer formations, 2 about 5v5, and 6 about 4v4 and 3v3)

7v7 Soccer Formations (SoccerHelp Premium has 13 articles about 7v7 soccer formations)

8v8 Soccer Formations (SoccerHelp Premium has 39 articles about 8v8 soccer formations, 6 about 9v9 and one about 10v10)

9v9 Soccer Formations

11v11 Soccer Formations (SoccerHelp Premium has 21 articles about 11v11 soccer formations)

Click here for an excellent letter about the 2-1-2-2 Formation, the importance of a Stopper and Assigning Positions

Soccer Positions Basics & Soccer Kick-Offs

Soccer Positions Overview

Youth Soccer Positions - How to Teach, Coach & Assign

How to Choose a Soccer Formation 22 questions to help you choose the best soccer formation

How to Assign Soccer Positions 25 tips for assigning soccer positions

Samples of the 100 Soccer Formations Articles on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium is as low as $14.99 for 30 days and only $39.99 for a year. Read about Premium or Sign-Up

  1. 11v11 Soccer Formations - This link is to one of the 21 articles on Premium about 11v11 soccer formations. It discusses how to assign and teach players to play 3-2-2-3 and 3-2-3-2 formations. In addition to the 3-2-2-3 and 3-2-3-2, the other 20 articles on Premium discuss formations such as 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-3-3-1, 1-3-1-3-2, 3-2-1-2-2, 3-3-2-2, 3-1-4-2, 3-1-1-4-1, 3-3-4, 4-1-3-2, 4-3-2-1, 1-2-1-3-3, 3-1-3-3, 3-1-2-1-3, 1-2-1-3-3, 4-1-2-2-1, 3-1-3-3 and 1-3-4-2.
  2. 8v8 Soccer Formations - This link is to some of the 40 articles from Premium about 8v8 soccer formations. Among the formations discussed are 2-1-3-1, 2-1-2-2, 3-3-1, 2-3-2, 2-2-1-2, 1-2-2-2, 3-2-2, 3-1-2-1, 1-3-2-1, 1-3-3, 3-1-3 and a 1-2-1-2-1. NOTE: Most Rec teams will do better using a 2-1-3-1 instead of a 2-1-2-2, because a 2-1-3-1 provides more strength in the center of the field and allows you to put weak players at RMF or LMF.
  3. Formation ideas for U-9 playing 11 v 11 and how to teach positional play, "support" and "shape". Also, what is the best scrimmage method to get a team ready to play. 3-2-2-3, 3-2-3-2, 3-3-4 and 4-3-3 are discussed. Go To
  4. Comparison of 3-2-3-2, 3-2-2-3 and 3-3-3-1 formations and how to teach 3-2-2-3 and 3-2-3-2 formations. Go To
  5. Teaching 3-2-2-3 and 3-2-3-2 formations. Go To
  6. More about teaching 3-2-2-3 and 3-2-3-2 formations (most of the concepts apply to any formation that uses 4 "layers" of players). Go To
  7. 9 v 9 formations. Comparison of a 3-2-3 and 3-3-2. How to teach a 3-3-2. Go To
  8. 8 v 8 formations. Discussion of a 3-1-3, 3-2-2 and 2-1-2-2. Go To
  9. How to teach U-9 and U-10 players to not "bunch up". (Also, see Letter No. 2 in "Letters From Coaches and More Soccer Formations and Soccer Positions"). Go To
  10. Read this if you play 11 v 11. Which formation and "style of play" is best for a U-14 Girls Rec team playing 11 v 11? Discussion of a 3-2-2-3, 3-2-3-2 and 3-3-4. How to assign and teach players to play a 3-2-2-3 and a 3-2-3-2. Many tips and strategies. 3 pages of discussion. Go To
  11. Formations for U-8 playing 6 v 6. 3-2 and 2-2-1 are discussed. Practice Games are recommended for U-8. Go To
  12. Tips for U-12, 11v11, 3-2-3-2, 3-1-4-2, 3-1-1-4-1 Formations. Go To

Excerpts From Letters to SoccerHelp Regarding Formations. The Premium Version Contains Our Responses and Totals 18 Pages:

  1. 11v11 Soccer Formations
  2. 8v8 Soccer Formations
  3. Letter From Coach Matt, U-10 Coach:

    Dear SoccerHelp:

    I am coaching a 7-8 year old group of kids who will be playing 11 on 11. Their first game is September 14 and we have had one practice with one more to go before their first game. I will be playing a 3-2-2-3. Some of the kids have played organized soccer (i.e. 11 on 11) last spring but many haven't, just 6 on 6 swarming to ball. I'll have a 1.5 hour practice this week and need the best way to organize them to learn positional play. I have 15 kids. Please advise on the best teaching method for this. I am very concerned that they will be all over the field. Also, with 15 kids, what is the best scrimmage method to get them ready to play, i.e. have my starting offense against the starting defense (5 on 5 plus goalie) and what about the other 5? Please help!!

    Thanks,
    Matt

    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  4. Letter From Coach Dave, U-12 Girls Coach:
  5. Dear SoccerHelp,

    We just had our first soccer game and we were the only team from our town who won. (6th grade girls). I used the 3-2-2-3 formation. I chose girls who were more aggressive and more skilled at the forward position, the next best players who are also good kickers I put in at fullback, the next best players I put in at offensive mid and the least skilled at defensive mid. ( some of our girls have not played before or only have one year experience) I then kept rotating in our four subs at the offensive and defensive mid positions. The one problem we had was with only two people at each mid position our opponent kept beating us down the center. In practice the next week I began having the mids box up towards the center trying to force the opponent to the outside. It still seems that a 3-2-2-3 formation is more vulnerable than a 3-3-3-1 formation. What are your thoughts? Also, where do you suggest the slower less skilled players play? Do you agree with how I assigned positions?

    Thanks,
    Dave

    (Note: We had some other ideas for Dave to consider about how to assign positions, particularly concerning the DMF's).
    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  6. Letter From Coach Don, U-14 Boys Coach:
  7. Dear SoccerHelp,

    I coach a rec U14 boys team that is probably my weakest ever (a new travel team scooped up 80% of the best players in town.) I have played a 4-4-2 in the past, but it's becoming clear that possession soccer isn't working for this team.

    My question is about attackers coming down the wings. Do I understand that we are to allow crosses into the box and depend on numbers between the posts to clear the ball? It doesn't seem like the DMFs or outside defenders are "allowed" to pressure the ball that far outside.

    I think this scheme is a good fit for this team, but not contesting the ball on the outside goes against the grain. Am I understanding this system correctly?

    Don

    (Note: Don had some incorrect assumptions that we were able to correct)
    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  8. Letter From Coach Kevin, U-12 Girls Coach:
  9. Dear SoccerHelp,

    Hope all is well with you! Our first game this season is this Saturday. We already had two practices, but I was only able to attend one of them. I'm not as prepared as I want to be, primarily because of a demanding new job that involves a long commute. I hope to be a good coach to the girls (rec team, 4th & 5th graders), but I'm playing catch up right now. We have two new girls (which we are obligated to play for at least half of the game): one has never played before. I'll reread all your material within the week. Here is a miscellany of question, though. My apologies if some of them are too repetitive.

    1. We are now playing in a much larger field (a regular size field with a regular size goal) and will be playing 11v11. Any special suggestions? I assume that your deep 3-2-2-3 formation is ideally suited for this, so that's how I'm planning to play them. My guess is that because of the size of the field the games will be more high scoring (both ways, goals for and goals against).
    2. Since I have willing but slow fullbacks, I'll keep them within the penalty area and discourage pushing-up, and ignore the temptation to set up offside traps. Is this okay by you?
    3. As a way to encourage toughness I will institute your "blood patches" prizes. Do you give them out right after the game? How many do you hand out per game? One? More than one? Are there games when you don't hand them out? That is, how strict is your criteria?
    4. To encourage more goals we are also going to keep track of goals scored and assists. Two points for a goal, one point for an assist. The girls seemed excited about this. My question, though, do you know of a system that also rewards good defense work? Any suggestions?

    Once again, David, thank you for your good material and your great help. I will keep you posted on the progress of our team. I don't expect much for our first game, but in a week or two I should be more on top of things.

    Kevin
    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  10. Letter From Coach Bill, U-8 Boys Coach:
  11. Dear SoccerHelp,

    We had a great game today thanks to your help. The parents couldn't believe how well our boys played even though we lost to the best team in the league. We still had a tough time getting enough boys to attack their goal. I think I know what to do based on your material but I did want to ask you about formations. We play 9 to a side including the goalie. We have been using a 3-3-2 formation but I'm thinking we might want to try 3-2-3 in an attempt to generate more offense. However, I don't won't to get beat in the midfield. What do you think?

    Best, Bill
    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  12. Letter From Coach Tony, U-9 Coach:
  13. Dear SoccerHelp,

    I am dropping down to coach a group of 8 year olds for the first time in years. We are only allowed 8 players to a side (7 field and 1 goalie). I can't decide what is the best formation to use. It appears the other coaches will use 3 forwards, 2 midfielders and 2 fullbacks. I find this hard with only 2 fullbacks because it is difficult to play zone and help defense with only 2 kids back.

    What do you think the best formation should be for this age group. I am almost tempted to go to a 3 - 1 - 3 but am afraid I would lose the middle of the field.

    Thanks for any advice you can provide.

    Tony
    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  14. Letter From Coach Daryl, U-10 Coach:
  15. Dear SoccerHelp,

    I'm coaching 8 & 9 year olds. Some are new at the game. How do we teach them to not bunch up around the ball?

    Daryl


    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  16. Letter From Coach Bobby, U-14 Girls Coach:
  17. Dear SoccerHelp,

    Great information here.....very insightful.

    I'm coaching a Girls U-14 Rec. team. I'm considering going to the 3-2-2-3 you recommend.

    Here's the make up of my team:

    2 good finishers who can also dribble and pass
    2 good halfbacks/fullbacks who can dribble and pass and are fast
    2 big, slow, non-aggressive players but they will block the ball with their body. One of them plays goalie.
    2 big players who have good field presence and can move reasonably fast for short distances. One has reasonable endurance. They will both block the ball with their body. They both play goalie.
    2 aggressive players with great legs but not good dribblers
    4 players that are good dribblers, good positioners, pretty fast, but have weak legs and are not domineering
    1 player with a great leg, a great throw in but is not domineering
    1 player has a great leg but otherwise is just out of it.

    If I understand the 3-2-2-3 concept, it allows me to play the slower, less aggressive players at fullback (what about sweeper (MFB))?

    Can the 3-2-2-3 work for this team? I think it can work for my starters but what happens when I sub in, and who would be the best to sub in at stopper?. It's a Rec. league everybody is supposed to play for at least a half.

    When using 2 stoppers who should take the throw in? If the OMF takes it who should be receiving it?

    Would it work to go with a 3-3-4. Put my 2 good halfbacks at fullback, move one of the stoppers to sweeper and push them up? Keep my midfield strong by pulling my 2 finishers back and then hope that my less domineering players get so many opportunities to score that we win 1 to 0?

    Thanks,
    Bobby

    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  18. Letter From Coach Leslie, U-8 Coach:
  19. Dear SoccerHelp,

    Can you tell me where I might find info on soccer formations for 6 player teams (5 plus a goalie). We play U-8 and need formation help.

    Thanks,
    Leslie

    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

  20. Tips for U-12, 11v11, 3-2-3-2, 3-1-4-2, 3-1-1-4-1 Formations
  21. Dear SoccerHelp,

    Thanks for the help. I have learned more in the two weeks since subscribing that I learned in the seven years of coaching. I searched the web long and tediously before signing up. Your information is easy to follow.

    I am struggling with a formation that will fit this rec. 12 and under coed team with seventeen players. I am currently trying a 3-2-3-2 but I am not sure. Here are the players.

    1. 11 year old aggressive athletic female, medium speed with good dribbling and passing skills and a long kick. Not great endurance.
    2. 11 year old tall and strong aggressive male with great speed but no endurance. Last year in the last game of the season he played a great goalie.
    3. Two 12 year old slow males, aggressive with large build. Good passers and dribblers, the longest kickers but no endurance.
    4. 10 year old aggressive, slow, but large built male. If ball is on right foot can kick it hard but weak with left foot.
    5. 10 year old fast male, still learning how to kick but can pass well with right inside of foot.
    6. 10 year old male is slow, aggressive but needs ball on the right foot.
    7. 9 year old passive male, good passer.
    8. Three 10 year old beginners.

    I am thinking of trying a 3-1-1-4-1 with a combination of speed and passing ability in the mid-fielders. What do you think?

    Thanks,
    Coach Rion, SC, USA

    (David's reply to this letter is on SoccerHelp Premium. Premium contains over 300 pages about formations, positions and Styles of Play, over 1,500 pages total, and over 5,000 internal links so you can easily navigate. There is a, no questions asked unconditional refund policy. Pricing starts at $14.95).

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