9 V.s 9 soccer formations are fun to implement. It makes you feel like a team when everyone knows their new role so that you can outsmart your opponent.
Formations for youth games are different than selecting one for an adult game.
Which soccer formation is the best 9 v.s 9 soccer formation?
For a defensive system, use 4-3-1. For a neutral formation, choose 2-4-2, and for an attacking formation pick a 2-1-3-2. Play to your team’s strengths and have appropriate players for your formation.
How to Coach 9 v 9 Soccer: Positions – Players – Tactics
One of the best ways to introduce a new formation is by changing one player at a time. This could be during a game or at the halftime team talk.
Dropping one player back or moving one forward allows players to adapt to a new system gradually. Too many changes at once can cause chaos!
When I was a youth player, my coach did not have a formation board, not even a piece of paper! I once felt unsure of where to be, so I played safe and did not go forward.
Before we look at formations, for those newer to the game, here is a soccer field diagram to show what is what.
Formations – Positions – Systems: Considerations
Choosing your formation to play will depend on the following key points. When picking your system, getting the best out of your players is the intention.
Where to Put The Best Players
Players often have a favorite player to play with – a trust factor may be because of a knowledge of what they can do and where they’ll be.
A common saying in soccer is to build a team around your best player. Wherever that player is playing, who do they work with the best?
If your best player is a midfielder who can play a ball 60 yards into the corner, have a winger willing to run into space.
Where to put Weak Players
An opponent will look for weaknesses in your team, and any good coach will change the game to utilize your weak point.
Be sure to minimize the risk by pairing players up who combine well.
You might have a central defender who is good at heading the ball but is slow. Players who play next to each other ideally complement one another with their attributes.
How to Use Pace & The Fastest Players
Having pace is always a good trait for a team. Whether it’s the full-back in recovery or a winger taking on a player, it can be influential.
You don’t necessarily need the speed if you’ve players like Iniesta and Xavi, who can accurately control the ball and pass.
A player with pace is best placed in a position that’ll be dangerous. Have them in a position where they’ll more often face a 1-on-1 situation.
Player Combinations – Defense & Attack
Tiki Taka is widely known for its combination play. That’s short, quick passing with one or two touches, played at a speed that is hard to close down and intercept.
When players are in their positions, they’ll not only be combining with those directly next to them but those on a diagonal.
So a full-back will be linking with a central midfielder. Forming combinations can be highly effective. You ideally need to play in triangles.
A player ideally will have two options when to pass the ball – this is the triangle. Players waiting for a pass will constantly move to create an opportunity to pass.
When the ball is passed, there will be a new triangle of players that should be on the move away from their markers.
Isolated Players – Work as a Team
It’s important when picking players to play there that they’ve got the right attributes. They need a good ‘engine’ to get up and down.
The full-backs are expected to work the full field length in a wingback formation. They can become isolated. The same applies to the lone strikers, they need support from other players or a quality pass.
The striker will often be playing against two defenders, so they either need to have the pace to get behind or be able to hold up the ball.
9 v 9 Soccer Formations
2-4-2 Formation – Positions: Diagrams
- Strong Midfield
- Wide players
- 2 strikers
- Can turn to a 4-2-2
- Defenders can be exposed
- Strikers need to defend from the front
For this youth under 12’s formation, you need two wide players that enjoy running. Most often, the play will be central for youth games, so they won’t be needed as much.
It’s a balanced formation with two permanent defenders and two strikers.
The key is with the midfield and how they defend an attack. There must be runs from the middle to keep the opponents on the back foot.
2-4-2 Player Zones
As mentioned, the wingers are required to cover the length of the field, so they must be good runners. More often than not the ball will be central.
The player zones for this formation are simple and easy for a youth team to grasp.
As with most formations, it’s best to be compact in defense – players go narrow, closing the gaps.
Spread out in attack, creating space and opportunities.
This formation relies on combination play between two players that are paired – defenders, midfielders, and attackers.
They must work together (it’s best to build up a bond in training and pair them together). On occasion, one midfielder will attack, and the other will support.
2-4-2 Defensive Positions
In the defensive positions, the attackers will close down players with the ball near the halfway line – but also be ready for a counter-attack and get in space.
The main problem areas are covered in this system when the players are in position.
It might be advisable to have one of the attackers drop back into the center when defending to stop the attack from the middle through the midfielders.
2-4-2 Attacking Positions
Two strikers in the box will always cause problems for the opposition, and that is backed up by the midfield – it’s an attacking line-up.
Depending on the type of wingers you’ve, they can either attack the box and help the strikers, or they can cover for the two central midfielders when they attack,
With the two strikers, it’s always good to get crosses into the box and cause problems. It won’t always create a goal, but persistence will pay off.
The goalkeeper should be on the edge of their box, so they’re ready for any balls over the top.
2-4-2 Danger Zones
The corners of this formation can cause problems if the opposition has good wingers. You’ll need to decide if the defenders follow the attackers or stay zonal.
As mentioned, the midfield needs to be able to help the defense so they’re not isolated.
Because the formation is flat, there are pockets of space between the defense and midfield.
The midfield should be closer to the defense when out of possession, making a compact unit.
3-4-1 Formation and Diagrams
- Solid defense
- Strong foundation
- Counter attacking
- Striker can be isolated
- The striker needs to be very strong or fast
- Needs runners
For a good formation to begin with for under 12’s, the 3-4-1 is a good place to start. With players covering the dangerous areas, it can make the team stable.
For this formation to work, you must have a good striker (and alternative for injury).
They must be able to hold the ball up, bring others into play, or be fast to take on a player. The winger must attack and support the striker.
3-4-1 Player Zones
The fullbacks can move forward when in possession, but their main priority is to defend. The central defender will always be defending, and it’s ideal if they’ve good speed, so they’re not beaten by any runs.
The wingers will focus on attacking, so this formation is good if you’ve two players that can dribble the ball past players.
The wingers will not always be back in place for defending, so the central midfield and defenders must expect it.
The striker must look for the spaces to run into for a through ball and be around the goal for crosses.
3-4-1 Defensive Positions
This formation provides plenty of cover in the goal box. With three players, the attacking team will find it difficult to break down. With two midfielders in front of the defense, they cover the spaces between the lines.
At times the defensive sides will go out to cover the wings, so the team must shuffle across to cover.
The striker will stop the opposition defenders from playing the ball, and they’ll find space so that they can attack.
The striker mustn’t be around the defenders so that they can hold the ball up and bring other players into play.
3-4-1 Attacking Positions
In an attack, the wingers will be pushed up the field, ready to support the striker, and running from this angle can cause many problems.
The striker must move in all directions to look for space to cause problems.
The advantage of this formation is that the two midfielders can support the attack knowing that they’ve three defenders behind them to cover for any counter-attacks.
When the ball is in the opponent’s box, the two wide defenders can move forward a little so that they’re slightly advanced – this can build up the attack if the ball goes back.
3-4-1 Danger Zones
The center of the defense is well covered with three defenders for under 12s. Problems can occur when the ball is wide, and the winger is forward.
Normally it’s best for the defender to go wide and for the other two to move central to cover the goal.
Again, as this formation is flat, there is space between the defense and attack, so the midfield must drop back to minimize the gaps.
The two wide defenders must be close to the center back. If they’re spread out, gaps will appear for the opponents.
4-3-1 Formation and Diagrams
- Need good fullbacks
- Isolated striker
- Restricts attacks
For an under 12’s team with a good striker, the 4-3-1 formation could be good for you.
It’s a solid base to work from. Setting up like this will limit your opponent, which allows you to develop your style of play and system.
The key to this formation is the striker and the fullbacks. It can be highly effective if the fullbacks can time their runs forward and cover themselves when needed.
4-3-1 Player Zones
The fullbacks will advance when in position, like a wingback. This is not always expected by the opposition and can catch them out.
It’s the role of the central midfielder to cover for the fullbacks if they’re out of position.
The wide midfielders are to keep close to the center midfielder and not to be dragged out wide too often. It should be when attacking if they’re out wide on the byline.
As with any lone striker formation, they need to be supported for it to work.
The support will mainly come from the two wider midfielders, backed up by the central midfielder and fullbacks.
4-3-1 Defensive Positions
This is one of the hardest formations in the under 12s to break down. All the danger areas are covered when all players are in their defensive positions.
The midfielders are ideally placed to block the lines through the defense. The team is compact here, but they must be ready to counter-attack.
When the ball is regained from this shape, the players must move wider to create space.
Dribbling skills are needed to take the ball in an advanced area before they can find support.
4-3-1 Attacking Positions
In attack, the formation covers the key areas, and everyone has their own space to attack. The two central defenders will always be at the back, which gives security for the other players to advance.
Movement is key for this formation; as shown in the defensive shape, it can look like a restrictive shape, but now on the attack, it looks dangerous.
The two wide midfielders must get in the box as often as possible when in possession to cause problems.
4-3-1 Danger Zones
The main problem with this system is the position of the midfielders. When the ball is on one wing, the midfield must shuffle across to limit the gaps.
The fullbacks will face many one-on-ones, but they must not let the attacker behind them.
2-1-3-2 Formation and Diagrams
- Two strikers
- No width
- wide players stretched
The ball will be central for most games in the under 12s, so this formation is suited to be played if you see the ball in your league.
This formation gives an attacking edge with a solid midfield. Two central midfielders, one defensive and the other attacking.
There could be a danger in the wings if the players and not communicate.
2-1-3-2 Player Zones
Normal wide players need to be athletic to cover most of the field. This is highly important to give some width, so the team is not stretched.
Two solid defenders work together to keep it stable at the bank and the defensive midfielder.
The team has its strength in the midfield with the 3 players and one support, along with two strikers, gives an attacking look.
As mentioned, the areas on the wing are not covered well – this can be overcome if the team effectively shuffles across as a unit.
2-1-3-2 Defensive Positions
The central part of the field is covered well, demonstrating the vulnerable areas out wide. So the wide midfielders will be responsible for covering the wings, so they need to be able to run a lot.
When the ball is in the box, the team can transform into a 3-3-2 formation, which gives the team an adaptable system.
If the team is under a lot of pressure, the strikers can drop back further to help out and keep the team compact.
2-1-3-2 Attacking Positions
Two strikers in the box that work well together are positive, and this can be made into a front three when the attacking midfielder breaks forward.
Again the wide midfielders will be required to give with supplying balls into the box. The defensive midfielder should always be available to keep possession of the ball and start attacks.
2-1-3-2 Danger Zones
The corners and wide areas are the main concern. As mentioned, the wide midfielders can track back and cover if they’ve got the energy to get up and down.
A backup to this problem is for the players to move back towards the goal, keep the formation compact at the back, and deal with any crosses that come in.
Have fun with your players testing and trialing 9 vs. 9 soccer formations.
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9 V 9 Soccer Formations PDF
Free PDF Download: Under 12’s – 9 vs 9 soccer Formations – Infographic – Tactics Field
Where do you put your weakest player in soccer?
A weaker player will be supported by teammates around them and not be exposed to a one-on-one situation defending their goal.
Which position is best in soccer?
A central midfielder will enjoy all parts of the game as they will be involved in defending and attacking.
How do you become a good soccer coach?
Players enjoy training when they have a ball, especially when there is a game. Keep them happy with training variations and a focus on playing as a team to build unity.