Soccer Coaching Tip: Choosing a Formation

One of the biggest decisions that a youth soccer coach faces when planning for his or her team is the decision of what system of play should be employed. In fact, this is a question that coaches want answered as they are looking for whatever edge they can get when preparing their team.

There are so many things to consider when picking a formation for your team, and these decisions are multiplied when different age groups are considered. When making this decision, I think it best to keep in mind a few basic principles, balancing them out, then making a decision on what system to play.

Here are a few things that need to be considered when picking a system of play:


The decision should be based on the individual player characteristics and personalities on the team. For example, if the team has only one player that is effective at playing up front, they may decide to play a system that only has one striker--such as a 3-6-1 or a 4-5-1.

If their keeper is not very mobile and thus makes the team vulnerable to balls played over the top of the defense, a team may decide to play with a sweeper. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and plug that into the equation when looking to choose a system of play.


The decision should be based on the opponent that you play. Perhaps they play with three players up front and your team is accustomed to playing with only three in the back. Perhaps the decision will be made to play with four in the back against that opponent, or perhaps one of the central midfielders will need to sit back a bit and play in front of the opposing team's strikers.

Of course, all of these decisions need to be balanced with the thought that at times too much attention can be placed on the characteristics of the other team, thereby drawing attention away from what your team does best. A fine balance needs to be maintained.

Coaching Vision

The decision should be based on what the coach's vision on how the game should be played or how familiar the coach is with the system and his or her knowledge of teaching that specific system. Before an attempt is made to try a new system, the coach needs to make sure that he or she understands the strengths and weaknesses of each, and, how to coach it.

It seems better to stay with what you know well, rather than attempt something that you do not know anything about. Study first, then make the change when you are comfortable with the information that you can give to the players.

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