Ideas About How To Balance Soccer Teams
Methods of Selecting Soccer Teams
Soccer Coaches Share How Their Leagues Do It

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With Spring soccer coming up, this is a timely article about balancing soccer teams and selecting teams. Many leagues try to balance teams. The best way to do so is by having some sort of player evaluation. That is discussed below. The following is from the SoccerHelp Premium Forum. It has been edited for this article.

You might want to forward this to your League President or coordinator.

Hi Premium Forum,

We allow teams to stay together. We get some pretty unbalanced teams this way. Our teams (U10 and U12 rec) average 13-14 players. If one coach has 10 kids coming back every season he's got a significant advantage over the team with only 3 kids coming back.

The thing that drives me crazy about this is watching the coaches with their returning teams talk about themselves like they're the greatest coach on the planet and how the coaches with all the new players are cheating the kids. There is some validity to their claims as they're good enough to keep their teams together season after season, but I think we lose a lot of kids that end up on the not-so-good teams.

I've been day dreaming lately about keeping the teams together, but giving the returning teams to the new coaches!

Coach S


Hi Premium Forum,

Our rec league is based around community centers that service defined catchment areas. Players can request coaches and/or specific teammates but these are used as guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules.

Centers that draw from smaller areas or areas with fewer kids tend to field the same teams year after year. Centers that have a lot of kids in their catchment areas field multiple teams where some sort of balancing is required. The fairest method I've found is to hold a blind 'draft' where the players are rated from 1 - 3, 3 being the top, on a handful of criteria (defense, dribbling, passing, finishing, speed, and impact) and then sorted based on their total rating. Players are then assigned round-robin to teams and then fine tuning is done to balance the total rating for the team and the individual dimensions, e.g. so one team doesn't end up with all the 3-rated finishers and another with all the 3-rated defenders.

This method tends to yield well-balanced, competitive teams and it gives the coaches a heads-up on what kind of formation ( and Style of Play ( will work for their squad.

We also see the drop off in players after U10 but this is likely because our league splits into a developmental (equivalent to select/travel?) league and recreational league at U11. Most of the players who are serious about the game move to d-league.

Coach I


Hi Premium Forum,

That sounds like a great system Coach I.

Is it mandatory that every player goes through the evaluations? What happens far too often in my league is we get kids that sign up late (like 2 weeks after the season has begun) and I'm curious if you guys get this and how you incorporate those players into the teams.

Coach S


This is David at SoccerHelp,

These are great ideas.

I know it's hard to hold evaluations, but the League in my area does it this way:

1. The coaches evaluate players who played for them

2. EVERY new player MUST come to an evaluation session. I suppose an alternative to this might be to ask the kid's parents to do the evaluation. Another way would be to ask for volunteers to do them .

A great and easy way to evaluate players is to play 5 SoccerHelp Games that are easy to set up:

1. Dribble Across a Square - - dribbling, composure on the ball, recognition of open space)

2. Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race ( - speed with the ball, kicking the bal while running, receiving)

3. Strength on the Ball and Shoulder Tackle Game ( - which players are aggressive and which players are timid, strength on the ball)

4. 2 Team Keepaway ( - aggressiveness, defense, shielding, teamwork, movement)

5. A fifth one might be "Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking and Defending" ( - aggressiveness and 1v1 attacking and defending)

The only other players I think you might want to identify are the great Goalies. As you know, a great soccer Goalie can make a difference. The League I played in didn't rate the Goalies and that resulted in some teams having big advantages where one team might have 2 great Goalies (who were also often good field players) and other teams didn�t have a good Goalie. I would say that discrepancy alone was a 2 goal difference even before the game started. SO, the teams really weren't balanced, even though that was the objective. An easy way yo evaluate soccer Goalkeepers is described in Premium at Goalkeeping (how to teach soccer goalkeeping) ( )

This discussion is very valuable.

David at SoccerHelp


Hi Premium Forum,

We ask the coaches to evaluate the players they know at the beginning of the season once the registrations are in. There are generally a few new players who we know nothing about and they're left to chance. In an ideal world the number of new players divides evenly into the number of teams but if not we usually make allowances by giving the team with more unknowns a slightly stronger team of rated players. We do the same for teams with players with special needs.

Late sign-ups are always a problem and dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Best case is that we have a team with a player who has dropped out or is experiencing a lot of no-shows. Average case is that we assign them based on where their friends are playing. Worst case is that we randomly assign them.

Coach I


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