When playing an 11-sided soccer game, your team has one goalkeeper and 10 players to distribute on the field in the best way possible. Putting players in positions keeps the team orderly and helps players spread out and cover their part of the field. Teams use several formations, depending on whether they want to focus on offensive or defensive strength.
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The most common soccer formation used around the world today is known as the 4-4-2. This formation has four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards. It is easy for older youth players to learn because the positions are well-defined and straightforward, and many college and professional teams use it as well. In this formation, the four defenders can either be in a straight line or can line up with a stopper in the front center and a sweeper in the back center. Having a sweeper is helpful when playing against fast teams.
When an opposing team has a particularly strong offense, soccer teams often play an even more defensive formation by moving one of the forwards back. They can either play a 4-5-1 formation or a 3-6-1 formation. In the 4-5-1, instead of having a second forward, teams play a defensive midfielder. The midfielders on the wings and one or more of the center midfielders can join the forward on the front line on offensive drives. The 3-6-1 formation is popular with German teams and includes four center midfielders, two who play more offensively and two who play more defensively.
Teams that have a strong set of defenders or who are playing against a team with a weak offense might want to set up with a more offensive formation. Usually, a team will switch to a 4-3-3 formation, moving one of the center midfielders up to a center forward position. This makes it easier to get together a scoring drive because one more player can receive passes at the front. Another option is a 3-5-2 formation, which provides up to seven offensive players.
Adjusting Your Formation
The best formation depends largely on the skills of the team members and the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team. Coaches need to be flexible and willing to adjust their formation to face particular opponents or to compensate for a key player's injury. Some coaches even change formations in the middle of the game in an effort to come out with a win. However, youth soccer coaches should use no more than two soccer formations to avoid confusing the players.