5 Soccer Formations Explained (Full Guides with Images)

The soccer formations and tactics that you implement can be just as crucial to the team’s success as the players you’re coaching.

Regardless of which formation you choose to use, an organised and prepared soccer formation lets your players know the roles and responsibilities that are expected of them.

This is very important.

Fortunately, there are many formations to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Below, I’ve listed 5 of the most common soccer formations you can use.

(I’ll keep this list updated as we add more guides to SCP!)


4-4-2 formation setup

The 4-4-2 is the ‘standard’ soccer formation.

This formation requires two centre midfielders who contribute on both ends of the pitch, creative wingers to generate goal scoring opportunities, and incredibly fit fullbacks.

Strengths of the 4-4-2:

Due to its simplicity, each player will have a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities when they’re out on the pitch.

The 4-4-2 is also a very balanced line-up, allowing teams to both attack and defend safely.

Weaknesses of the 4-4-2:

Teams playing in a 4-4-2 can sometimes suffer from a lack of passing options.

With only two central midfielders (who are expected to contribute a lot), they can quickly be overwhelmed by a team who plays with three in the centre of the park.

4-2-3-1 Formation

Perfect for teams looking to attack while retaining their solidity at the back.

With four at the back and two central midfielders lying in front of the defence, the four attacking players have freedom to express themselves and attack the opposition.

Strengths of the 4-2-3-1:

It can be a nightmare to defend against a team with such flexibility in attack.

By interchanging positions, space can open up in front of the opposition's defence and create goal scoring chances for the striker to tuck away.

Despite all the attacking potential, the team retains its solid spine as the defenders are protected by the central midfielders.

Weaknesses of the 4-2-3-1:

The team risks being exposed out wide if the wingers don’t track back and support their fullback.

The 4-2-3-1 formation relies on superb discipline and organisation. Even more so than other formations, everyone must work together as a unit both offensively and defensively.

4-3-3-formation-team

This soccer formation is designed for teams that like to attack.

With the right players, the 4-3-3 allows you to control the midfield while offering up an attacking outlook right from the start of the match.

Strengths of the 4-3-3:

With three central midfielders in the 4-3-3 formation, you can control the centre of the park, dictate play, and force your opponents to play out wide on the wings.

This will help you to control possession as there will be a lot of passing options if your team is committed to good movement and spacing.

Up front, three forwards means your team will always be a threat to score.

Weaknesses of the 4-3-3:

If the centre midfielders aren’t disciplined, there’s a risk the formation can get dragged out of shape which will open up space for the opposition to exploit - especially on the wings.

The team’s formwards need to be incredibly fit and help out at the back for the 4-3-3 to work.

3-5-2 Formation

With attacking potential, defensive solidity, and control over possession, the 3-5-2 formation can be fantastic to use if you have the right players.

Heavily reliant on wingbacks to provide width, every player must understand what’s expected of them and be willing to work hard for this formation to succeed.

Strengths of the 3-5-2:

The 3-5-2 formation will allow you to dominate possession and maximise your attacking output.

With five players across the midfield, you can pin the opposition into their own half, preventing them from playing from the back and forcing them into mistakes.

Defensively, with three at the back and a number of midfielders ready to help out, the team can easily revert back to a 5-3-2.

Weaknesses of the 3-5-2:

If you don’t have the right wingbacks, then the 3-5-2 formation is unlikely to work as they’re incredibly important to how the team plays in attack and defence.

The centre midfielders all need to be comfortable on the ball. If they don’t communicate clearly, they risk getting in each other’s way ruining the formation’s spacing.

3-4-3 Formation

A very attack-minded formation, 3-4-3 is recently back in fashion and a number of teams have used it to great effect over the last couple of seasons.

For it to be a success, you need tactically disciplined players with a lot of stamina and technical capabilities who know exactly what to do both with and without the ball.

Strengths of the 3-4-3:

The 3-4-3 formation allows you to press teams back as well as dominate possession.

With tons of attacking options, teams can be creative in their approach play with the wide forwards and wide midfielders able to create a number of 2-on-1 situations on the wing.

Weaknesses of the 3-4-3:

Playing a 3-4-3 against a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 can be dangerous as you risk your defenders getting overrun and pulled out of position.

You need players who are comfortable on the ball, disciplined, and have a lot of stamina. If you don't, the odds are that it's not going to work.


Conclusion: 

With so many soccer formations to choose from, picking the right one for your team is one of the keys to a happy and successful season.

It can be well worth tryout out a few different formations in training to find one or two that perfectly complement the players on your team.

What is for certain is that whichever formation you choose, it will require hard work, discipline, and organisation from the players on the pitch.

The soccer formations featured above are some of the most popular as they offer up defensive solidity with attacking threat and control of possession.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Meddy - November 26, 2018

Good information and idea thanks

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segujja meddy rashid - February 10, 2019

oh this is great work, thank you so much

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Julianna Bonner - September 8, 2019

We have played in this 3-5-2 formation for the last two games (Temple and Fordham) and I think it is the best formation to maximize our teams potential in the middle and offensively. I think we have been very disciplined defensively in this formation (both games have resulted in a shut out) and we are really starting to get used to the pressure cover relationships that exist across the field. This position allows us to get numbers forward (having that back post runner to follow up) and have better pressure on their backline with two forwards instead of one to force turnovers and cut the field in half. Obviously finishing is a key piece of this puzzle that we need to figure out and as coach Bill said “being mature enough to score.” Once we step up and get the first goal in the formation I think we will be successful in preserving the lead and then capitalizing again to score. In this formation, we should have Annika in the middle, Keefe (Bridget in this position when she is healthy) and Ally on the left side. All of these players are solid defensively and have good composure on the field. Across the midfield, Mary (or Maggie/ Becca) on the right, Lisa in the holding position (Libby as a sub) Abby and Kayla in the midfield (Mattie to sub in) and Myself on the left (sid subbing in). The starting lineup that we have had the last two games is just starting to get the flow and work well with each other/ understand each other’s strengths. Up top, I would start Ryelle and Courtney (Maggie first sub in, Grace next sub) because they have very different styles for playing the same position and I think they compliment each other well. Bottom line, getting a goal is our teams priority and this formation will help.

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