8v8 Soccer Formations
Advantages of a 2-1-3-1 Soccer Formation
Tips for a Fast Counterattacking Style of Play

"Just a note back to you that we beat a tough opponent yesterday by moving back to your 2-1-3-1 formation from 3-2-2. We were a completely different team with more attack and unrelenting shots." John, CA, U12

(Below are a letter and my reply to an excellent coach about a 2-1-3-1 soccer formation for 8v8)

Hi SoccerHelp:

I've implemented the 2-1-3-1 soccer formation for my U10 Rec team. I followed your advice in this formation and did extremely well in our first game.

The beauty of this soccer formation in Rec soccer is that it is a trap for the opposition. When the opposing team gets past the Stopper and down to the Penalty Box, they are far from their goal in my Defensive Third. Because my Fullbacks and Stopper have slowed things down there are usually four opposing players log jammed at the top of our Penalty Box.

All it takes is one good kick from one of my Fullbacks to one of my Midfielders and my Midfielder can quickly kick the ball to my fast Target Forward, and we have started a fast Counterattack before most of the opposing players can recover to defensive positions. If the opposing Fullbacks are pushed up, its a foot race to the goal and my fast Forward will usually win that race and have a chance to score. If the opposing Fullbacks have stayed Deep, we attack fast and bring our Midfielders into the attack to get more players involved in the attack.

If an opposing Fullback does kick the ball back toward our goal, it is usually intercepted by the second wave of my Midfielders or my Stopper who are following my fast Forward to suport our attack.

A lot of passing in Rec league is difficult with marginal players. My focus on passing has been to quickly get the ball into my Attacking Third

I've got two girls maybe three that are scary good. Two of them were on my team last year following your program.

Troy, U10 Rec


Hi Troy,

It is great to hear from you.

I agree 100% with your comments. The 2-1-3-1 has the advantages of being able to have 3 strong players in the Center (the most important part of the field) and Right Mid and Left Mid are good places to hide timid or slow players. The 4 "lines" of players are an advantage in Rec soccer and a fast Stopper can come to the Halfway Line to support your attack and still recover to help on defense.

A lot of Rec coaches think their team can play a short passing style of attack like a professional team. They can't because of the "weak links" that every Rec team has. Plus, these are kids, not adults and not professional players. It is better and a lot more fun to be realistic. No coach can turn an unathletic, slow kid into an athletic and fast kid.

Your stopwatch idea is a great one. Do you have a countdown timer watch? If you don't, you can get a good one for about $30 at Target. I found it very handy.

I think you are going to have a great season. Your ability to analyze the game is excellent. Your attack will be hard to stop because your team will be better "organized" (the word they use for "better prepared").

David at SoccerHelp


Check Ebay, I got a number of stopwatches for about 4 dollars a piece.

Most cell phone apps have a countdown timer.