As a soccer coach, there’s a lot riding on your shoulders. Not only do you have to keep parents happy, morale high, and teach your players new skills, but you also need to pull out soccer formations that win games.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to help your players hit top form. Whether you’re an experienced coach who wants to bring something new to the table, or just learning the ropes, understanding the most popular formations in the game is a key to success.

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In this guide, we’ll break down some of the most common options for ten-player teams, and discuss their potential advantages on the field. We’ll also point out pitfalls you might face if you use them.

Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about formations and have the knowledge base you need to create your own game-winning options. 


Getting Started


Getting your team set up in a formation that will be used in practice and matches is one of the first things every coach wants to do. However, if you’re working with inexperienced players or ones you haven’t coached before, you’ll first want to evaluate their skills, strengths, and weakness to understand your talent pool.

Have them play a “free play” style match and look at their skills, teamwork, creativity, agility, and overall work ethic. Make notes on each player so that you have an understanding of where they might best fit the formation.

It’s common for inexperienced coaches to default to placing weaker players in defensive positions and strong players on the offense, but this is a mistake that could limit not only your player's development but also your ability to win.

Building a team that’s balanced in every position is the key to success.

Key Positions

In any formation, you’ll be assigning your players one or more of three key roles:

  • Defense
  • Midfield
  • Attack

Your defenders need to be comfortable covering the field, defending the ball, pushing up into spaces created during midfielder attacks, and providing coverage.

Midfield players are required to play both the center and wings of the field and to push forward to support the central attacker. They should also be able to identify when to drop back and protect their defenders if your team loses the ball.

These players see a lot of the ball during the game and therefore are often some of your more skilled athletes. Your most advanced players and often your team captain will play midfield positions.

The athletes who are in attack positions are going to be fast, agile, and good at finishing plays. They don’t necessarily have to be great at holding on to the ball, that role will fall to your midfielders. Rather, they should be a player who has good intuition on whether to take a shot or pass it backward to get it to a better location to score a goal.

Popular Soccer Formations

Here is a breakdown of a few of the most commonly used formations and notes on how to get them right, and potential drawbacks. These are an excellent starting point to reference when creating your own for your team.

The 4-4-2 Formation

The 4-5-1 Formation

The 4-3-3 Formation

The 4-4-2 Diamond Formation