This article looks at the most popular youth soccer formations. Youth soccer has evolved tremendously in this country-I've seen it first hand. Just as important as the number of kids on the field is the formation that is used during soccer games.
How you designate the different positions on the field is paramount in developing young soccer players. The "diamond formation" has become the best and most popular formation used in small-sided soccer for three reasons.
The diamond formation is useful because it automatically sets up diagonal passing lanes and because it clearly defines the most defensive and the most offensive player in the formation. The base of the diamond gives you stability on defense and the two midfield players give your formation width.
As we'll see in this post, the diamond formation can be incorporated into several different age and size groups. These include 4 v 4 (with no goalie), small-sided 5 v 5 and 7 v 7 soccer, and full field11 v 11 soccer.
It can be confusing when you first here about a specific formation that the coach is trying to teach, but it's not that complicated once you have it explained to you properly. Here's the basic explanation of formations used for youth soccer. This includes full sided as well as small sided soccer games.
Not counting the goalie, soccer formations are described with the number of players closest to their own goal first, followed by the number of players at each level moving toward the opponents goal. As an example a formation with 4 defenders, then 4 midfielders, then 2 forwards is described as a 4-4-2 formation.
Here is an example of a 4 - 4 - 2 soccer formation.
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Here's a table that gives you the most popular youth soccer formations for small-sided soccer games.
There are only 2 possible configurations for 3 players on a team, all in a straight line or in the shape of a triangle. Three players in a straight line is a recipe for disfunction. Three players in a line across the field gives you no depth and three players lined up lengthwise gives you no width.
The two best formations for 3 v 3 soccer are either a 2-1 or a 1-2 formation.
This triangle formation is the most popular formation when playing 3 against 3 soccer. The triangle can be set with the single player playing forward or the single player playing back, acting like a lone fullback. This gives you two players pushing forward. In either one of these types of short-sided soccer formations all 3 players have both offensive and defensive duties.
For youth soccer, 3 v 3 soccer means there is no goalkeeper and the most popular triangle formation is with 1 forward and 2 defenders. Coaches that want a more offensive outcome will play with 2 players forward and just 1 defender.
The very youngest soccer players play matches without a goalie and the 4 v 4 formations are the simplest of all. If there is a goalie then it becomes a 5 v 5 game. With only 4 players per team on the field at once, there are just 2 viable formations in youth soccer. The most popular formation of these two is the diamond formation.
THE DIAMOND: It's a recognizable shape. It's the most popular way to teach young players about diagonals and passing into space. Midfielders become wings when in the attacking half of the field and become full backs when defending their own goal.
THE 2-2: For the brand new youngest of soccer players, just beginning to learn about defense and offense. Two players concentrate on defending and two players focus on scoring. Teaching the concept of left and right positions helps the kids learn about the concept of "shape."
Here's an excellent video (it's nice and short) on the diamond formation and maintaining shape:
In 7 v 7 soccer, there are 6 field players per team. That gives you a couple of options for formations.
2-3-1: The most popular formation for youth soccer when there are 7 players for each side (including the goalie) is the 2-3-1. You always have 2 main defenders in position to stop the attack of the opposition. You control the midfield with 3 players and the outside midfielders push forward to act like wings when you're on the offensive end of the field.
1-2-1-2: Another popular formation for youth soccer with 6 field players (7 v 7) is a diamond defense plus 2 forwards as shown below. The most defensive player is called the sweeper. The stopper contributes both defensively and offensively. This combines the benefits of defending with a capable formation and having two players forward to generate offense.
Once the kids hit the age of 12 they play 11 versus 11. That leaves you 10 field players and 1 goalie. There are many different possibilities for formations. The most popular formation for 11 v 11 soccer is a 4-4-2. That gives you 4 defenders, four midfielders, and 2 forwards.
When in the attacking half of the field some teams may have the 4 defenders play in a diamond formation, or switch to a 2-4-4 with 2 defenders, 4 midfielders, and four attackers. Others will have the back full in a diamond shape throughout the match, with the sweeper being a player with superior speed to defend.
It's most important for kids to get a basic understanding of formations, but not to get too obsessed with them. The shape of the team depends on the situation on the field. The game of soccer is full of constantly changing situations that require the young plyers to make decisions on their position on the field.
Teaching the concept of forming triangles to the players during the match will benefit the team in any formation you choose.
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