8v8 Soccer Formations, 2-2-1-2 vs 2-1-2-2 vs 1-3-3
How to Choose the Soccer Formation that Will Work Best
How to Adapt a Soccer Formation to Fit Your Team
Scoring More Soccer Goals
Soccer Field "Width" vs "Depth" � Which is More Important?
Team Discount on the SoccerHelp Foot Skills and Moves Training DVD
Letter from a U11 Girls Competitive Soccer who Is Also a High School Coach

Hi SoccerHelp,

I've noticed your site and really like it. I've never played soccer but have coached competitive girls soccer team for two years. We play as a U-11 team but are 70% U-10 due to we're from a rural area. I'm also a head football coach and have developed these girls to be physically tough and mentally tough. We have won six comp. tournaments on the silver category level running the 1-3-3 (Yes 3- Strikers, 3- Mid-Fielders, 1- Super Athletic Sweeper) We've started playing some elite gold teams and I really think my girls are just as athletic and good skill wise but I think something is missing. We are not getting a lot of scores and we're giving up about 1-2 goals a game. I've been reading about the 2-1-2-2 and really like what I read. Do you offer a DVD for teaching this offense and how to transition to defense properly? Also- what do you think about us running a 1-3-3- (I would really like your honest opinion) We just tell our super athlete to make the girl work that breaks away, don't stab unless you know you can win it, and the other three mid-fielders will be on the way for help on defense. Works great until our Mid-fielders gas out. And that is exactly when we've been losing our games is right at the end.

Sorry for so much- but looking to get better!

Coach Toby


Hi Coach Toby,

You sound like a great coach. There are a lot of similarities between various sports. I think you have a good team and that you can have a great team by changing your formation and by playing some of the Premium Practice Games. The things I'm recommending will be easy for you to do.

There isn't a DVD that shows a 2-1-2-2 and even if there were, the "Style of Play" is equally important and the formation needs to be adapted to your circumstances -- there isn't a "one size fits all" -- you need to do what gives your team the best chance of being successful. But there are 3 things I recommend to you:

  1. SoccerHelp Premium is by far the best value for your money -- It has over 1,200 pages and over 30 articles discussing 8v8 and explains a 2-1-2-2 and a 2-2-1-2, which is what I recommend you consider, "Styles of Play" and many tips for scoring more goals. How you play a 2-1-2-2 or a 2-2-1-2 depends on the speed and ability of your players. The main questions (and trade-offs) are how far you Push Up your Fullbacks (or do you leave one of them deep like a Sweeper?) and how much of the field width do you NEED to cover on defense. In a "1-3-3" you have a lot of width (3 across) but are giving up "depth". As you know, in Football and basketball you MUST stay strong in the Center (the area where the CFB, CMF and CF might play) -- you can't let your opponent go straight to goal -- it's much better to force them wide, because you can cut the angle. In soccer, you have an advantage that you don't have in football because the goal is small and if an opponent is wide they must bring the ball to the Center in order to score. The point is, unlike in football, an opponent can't score by going down the sideline, SO it's more critical to defend the Center than it is the sideline. You definitely need to change your formation -- I'm surprised you haven't been getting killed by good teams. Also, it's equally important to consider your "Style of Play" -- how far to Push Up your Fullbacks to support your attack, etc -- there's a lot about this on Premium. My guess is that you have some great athletes and that your midfielders are having to play defense as well as try to play midfield, and that is why you aren't scoring much. (I just saw this, which confirms it -- "Also- what do you think about us running a 1-3-3- (I would really like your honest opinion) We just tell our super athlete to make the girl work that breaks away, don't stab unless you know you can win it, and the other three mid-fielders will be on the way for help on defense. Works great until our Mid-fielders gas out. And that is exactly when we've been losing our games is right at the end." When your Midfielders have to run back on defense, you are leaving a big gap in the field. You're lucky your sweeper is great, but soon a great sweeper won't be enough to stop a good team -- they will double team her, blow by and score. As it is, your formation isn't serving you well -- it doesn't give you enough "depth".

  2. Watch the Video Clips on SoccerHelp from the Anson Dorrance Soccer Clinic DVD. That's a coaches DVD by the best women's coach ever -- he has a 94% winning record. Anson is the most brilliant coach I've heard speak and he has coached over 20 All Americans. His teams score tons of goals and in about 600 games scored about 2,600 and only gave up about 300.

  3. Watch the Video Clips from "SoccerHelp Foot Skills and Moves Training Program DVD" and talk to the parents about buying a copy for each player. You can buy 11 to 15 at a "Bulk Discount" of $22.95 each + S&H. As a Premium Member, you can save 10% off that by using the 10% Off coupon on Premium. Or, give the parents the Coupon and let them buy individually -- they can still save 10% by using the coupon. It's a re-usable coupon that can be used an unlimited number of times.

I'm pasting below a letter and my reply - it's from the Premium Forum.

I recommend you consider a 2-2-1-2 formation as discussed in this paragraph and in the correspondence I had with Coach J which is pasted below, and that on your attack you let one of the Fullbacks Push Up to the Halfway Line and even come into the attack if she is "onball", while leaving your great Sweeper to play as a Sweeper. Think of the "1" as a "recessed Center Forward/Pushed Up Center Midfielder combination". In this Formation/Style of Play, the 2 most important players are the Fullback who stays back as a Sweeper and the "1" who is a combination of Pushed Up Center Mid/Recessed Center Forward. The player who is the "1" will be absolutely critical to your team scoring. You want a player at that position who can DOMINATE that part of the field. Also, that player should be able to score and a threat to score any time she gets the ball. When that player gets the ball (which she will a lot) she needs to be able to "take on" the opposing defenders and score if she can, BUT what will start to happen is that the opposing Defense will start overloading to her AND that will cause the 2 Forwards to be open for a pass. Given what you've told me, I would strongly consider a 2-2-1-2, played as described in this paragraph.

Here are 7 tips that will help you score more goals. There is more about them in the correspondence below and on Premium:

  1. My biggest tip for you is to try to teach your team to score on Turnovers, fast counterattacks, and by stealing the ball on your opponent's Goal Kicks and Punt (if you can steal some balls on your opponent's Goal Kicks and Punts, you will have an advantage because the opposing defense won't be in position). To score on Fast Counterattacks, you must NOT try to play a Slow Possession/Short Passing style -- simply have your Forwards stay pushed up as far as possible, teach them to "Breakaway Dribble" by using the Practice games described below, and have your FBs and Stoppers (aka Halfbacks or Defensive Mids) send the ball Straight Ahead and deep (a pass to Open Space) so your Forwards can break onto it for a fast break (this will also keep the opposing FBs from Pushing Up to support their attack). If you do this, you should get at least 2 or 3 scoring opportunities per game, and if you score 1 or 2 goals, you win a couple of extra games. THIS IS THE BEST WAY FOR your attackers to have a chance to score -- it doesn't sound like your attackers have the skill to score using a "Slow Style of Play" against a defense that is in position -- your best chance to score is to launch a fast counterattack or score on a turnover before your opponents can "recover" to good defensive positions -- even pro teams are now putting more emphasis on a Counterattacking Style. Given the speed of your FB's, I think you can let them Push Up and that you can let your Stoppers (Halfbacks) come up to support your attack. That will let your midfielder join your 2 Forwards in the attack. I would think of my Midfielder as a "Recessed Forward". On a fastbreak Counterattack, you might even think about letting one of your FBs come onto the attack, and leave the other one at the Halfway line and tell her to just kick the ball back toward goal or even out of bounds if it comes back to her (this will minimize the risk of her making a mistake that lets your opponent have a breakaway on your goal � your risk is that the opponent counterattacks before your defense is in position).

  2. Be sure to teach Coaching Rule No. 3 -- that's worth a goal or 2 per game. Where it can help you score is on stealing the opposing teams Goal Kicks and Punts. If you can steal those you will have an advantage because the opposing defense won't be in position to stop a fast counterattack. If you steal them, your players MUST go straight to goal and NOT play the ball back or slow it down or give the opponents time to recover to good defensive positions.

  3. Play the Premium Dribble Across a Square Practice Game 4 times as a warm-up to start each practice to teach BOTH control dribbling AND Breakaway Dribbling. Have the Square be 10 steps wide for 2 games (to teach Control Dribbling) and then enlarge it to 15-17 steps wide and use that to teach Acceleration into Open Space and Breakaway Dribbling (Speed Dribbling).

  4. Play the Premium version of "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" a lot and use it to teach "Aggressive Receiving" and passing while running.

  5. Teach "Passing to Space" and NOT "Passing to Feet". The reason is that Passing to Space is a way of thinking and your attack will be much more creative. How to teach this is described in Premium. This is VERY important.

  6. Premium "Breakaways, Shifting, Chipped Passes and Passing to Open Space Practice Drill". If you can get a field to practice on, practice Breakaways for 15 minutes where you simply have your FBs or Stoppers send a Chipped Pass from the Penalty Box Arc into the open space between the Halfway Line and the other Penalty Box Arc. In this Drill, have your Forwards stay on the Halfway Line, alert, watching the ball, and break on the ball, Speed Dribble toward goal and take a shot while running. Have them BOTH follow up the shot for a rebound. DON'T have defenders in the way -- the idea here is to teach your Forwards and Midfielder how to position themselves, to shift with the ball, to KNOW what to expect, to stay alert, to break on the ball, Speed Dribble, to shoot on the dead run, and follow the shot for a rebound. If you want to make it more realistic, pretend you are the Opponent who is attacking, hold the ball in your hands, and move the ball from side to side across the field (stay about halfway between the End Line and the Halfway Line, just moving from side-to-side to teach "Shifting" and "First Defender/Second Defender") -- have your FBs and Stoppers (Halfbacks) shift with you (as they would in a real game) maintaining defensive spacing and support, AND the Midfielder and 2 Forwards should ALSO be shifting with the ball from side to side and staying alert. When you drop the ball, the defensive player who is closest (the First Defender) should send a Chipped Pass STRAIGHT AHEAD across the Halfway Line that the Forward can break on (there are several good reasons to send it straight ahead -- one is that you won't unintentionally "switch the field" as you might if the ball was sent diagonally, but the main reason is that by sending it Straight Ahead your Forwards and Mid know what to expect and can be in position to win the ball). The closest F should break on the ball and Speed Dribble to goal, with your Midfielder running fast to trail the play and get in position to stop a clearance, and to try to steal the ball back if an opponent gets it, and your other Forward should run beside the "onball" Forward -- she should be a short pass away and 3 steps behind the ball so she isn't "offside" and is in position to "run onto" and possibly one-touch shoot a pass that is layed in front of her, and can be in position for a rebound on her side of the goal (this way, she won't run past the rebound, which is something young players often do by getting too close to goal).

  7. For your conditioning, DON'T do slow, long runs... slow runs train muscles to be slow. Use lots of sprints and "shuttles" to condition your players -- that teaches their muscles to run fast and to accelerate quickly.

Please let me know what you do and what works for you. That's how I learn what works best.

David at SoccerHelp