Category Archive : Formations

Formations are how teams distribute their players on a field. They are rarely a hard and fast rule but more like an organizational structure and guideline informing how they want to play. Formations have evolved quite a bit over time, from the now comically sounding 2-1-7 of the late 1800s to the more modern 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. How a team sets their team up can say a lot about how they wish to play. Here are a few modern formations and descriptions courtesy of Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Examples of Formations

The variety of formations is only limited by the number of players allowed on the pitch, so don’t be surprised to see a range of setups and strategies employed. The overarching responsibilities for each position on the field stay the same, but it is the ability to flow as a unit and show creativity that truly makes soccer a beautiful game.

There are defensive and offensive formations, and any given formation may be more or less successful, depending on the other team’s setup. You’ll notice that the number of players in a formation only adds up to 10. That’s because the formations only relate to field players and exclude the goalie.

Typically, these field players are broken out into three key zones, with the formation being set up from back to front (defense to midfield to forward). That means a 4-4-2 formation has four defensive players, four midfielders and two forwards.

Sometimes coaches will divide the three main sections further, causing formations such as a 1-4-3-2, with one sweeper, four defensive players, three mids and two forwards; or a 4-4-1-1, which has four defenders, four mids, one second striker and one striker.

U.S. Soccer tends to favor a 4-3-3 formation. Two common variations of the 4-3-3 formation are a defensive setup and an attack-minded setup, based on where the 8 lines up. Generally, the 8 is a box-to-box player, so this can rotate continually through the game to react to the run of play.

433Attack-minded-midfield
433Defensive-midfield

Another popular formation in soccer is the 4-4-2. This is commonly run with a diamond shape in the midfield but can also feature a flat midfield.

442Diamond-midfield
442Flat-midfield

Keep in mind that these are just some common formations and there are several you may see or use in the game. Every coach has a different style and there are multiple ways they could choose to set up formations.

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