Assigning Soccer Positions and Soccer Formations


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Assigning Positions, Formations, Most Important Things To Teach and Read

I am a first time Rec league coach for a U-13 Boys team. My soccer playing experience includes about 7 years of youth soccer and 1 year in high school.

Our league tries to evenly distribute players according to ability across 8 teams. We play 8 vs. 8 including goalies (7 on the field plus a goalie).

The team I coach has 11 players, 2 of which really standout. One is an excellent shooter and dribbler. The other has decent technical skills, but is "dominant" from a standpoint of pure athleticism.

For our first game (which was this week), the hardest decision for me to make was who to play as goalkeeper, the athletic superstar or the second option which was a BIG drop-off in ability.

I decided before the game to put the more athletic player in goal for the first half and the second option in goal for the second half. Listed below is what happened. (By the way, we only had 8 players show up--no subs. The other team had 11.)


Strategy: 2-2-1-2 formation with the excellent shooter as the lone midfielder who played like a center forward when we were on offense. The 2 stoppers stayed in our half of the field. The 2 fullbacks stayed in the penalty box. The athletic player was the goalkeeper.

Results: Our team (4 shots on goal, 1 corner kick & 1 great save)
Other team (7 shots on goal & 4 corner kicks)

First Half Score: Our team 1 / Other team 1

Comment: The ball was in our defensive third for most of the first half. Our only goal was on a breakaway by the talented shooter. The other team's goal was an excellent shot on the ground to the far side of the goal.


Strategy: 2-1-2-2 formation with the excellent shooter moved up to forward. The 2 midfielders were permitted to go up on offense, but rarely did. The 2 fullbacks stayed in the penalty box. The athletic player played stopper, and the second option played goalkeeper. The stopper was told he was free to go up on offense, but his first priority was defense.

Results: Our team (12 shots on goal, 3 corner kicks & 1 save)
Other team (2 shots on goal & 0 corner kicks)

Second Half Score: Our team 5 / Other team 1

Comment: The ball was in our middle third and attacking third for most of the second half. Our talented shooter had 7 shots on goal and scored 3. The stopper scored one by dribbling down the sideline from the midfield and shooting from far out. Our other forward scored a goal from persistent rebounding inside the goal box. The 2 shots from the other team resulted in a goal that should have been stopped and a ball that was dropped and then picked up by the goalkeeper (this is the one save listed above).


What a difference it made to have the dominant athlete play Stopper instead of goalkeeper. We were 1-1 at the half, and won 6-2 after changing to a 2-1-2-2 and putting my most athletic player at Stopper.

Goalkeeper is arguably the most important position on the field, but not if you have a field player who can significantly reduce the opponent's shots on goal as well as create more scoring opportunities for your team.

Hope this feedback helps,

Coach Michael, U-13 Boys Rec, AL, USA

Hi Michael,

Thanks for this excellent analysis. I think you have an excellent grasp of positions. It's very interesting how much of a difference the Formation change made when combined with putting your best athlete at Stopper. This confirms my thought that in Rec soccer the most important position is "Stopper", and 2nd is to have a strong scorer at Forward.

Send me your address and we will send you 30 free Red Soccer Ball Patches for taking the time to write this. Use these to reward hustle, bravery and winning the ball -- my boys called them "Blood Patches" and they were coveted -- they really make a difference. ONLY give them out for hustle, bravery, winning the ball and defensive toughness -- NOT for goals scored unless it involves bravery, hustle and toughness.

Any other feedback would be very much appreciated. You have an excellent tactical grasp of youth soccer.

Here are some tips:

1. Play the "Dribble Across A Square" game 3 times to start EVERY practice (use it as a warm-up) and ask each player his score at the end of each game -- trust me, this really works.

2. Teach Coaching Rule No. 3 (at "Coaching Rules" in Premium) -- it's worth 1 or 2 goals per game.

3. Play games that involve dribbling and maintaining possession, such as "Double Dare Attack/Defend" and "Dribble Turn and Shoot" .

4. Try the "2 Team Keepaway Game" -- it combines 1v1, team play and teaches fast transitions.

5. Be sure ALL your players can make a "Lofted Pass" -- this is especially important for your defenders to be able to clear the ball, but also so your Stopper and Midfielder's can send Lofted Passes into the open space toward the opponent's goal. Our "Chips/Lofted Passes Game" is a good way to teach this.

I'll bet you have a great season. The parents and kids will love having a good coach and being successful as a team.