A Basic Introduction to Soccer Formations

Soccer Formations pic
Soccer Formations
Image: worldsoccer.about.com

Suzanne Itani has worked in Houston, Texas, as chief executive officer at International Exports, Inc., for more than six years. Away from work, Suzanne Itani spends time with her children and regularly attends their marathon events and soccer games.

To the untrained eye, the game of soccer may seem to lack the structure of similar team sports such as gridiron football. In reality, however, the 11 players on a soccer field have specific positions and responsibilities, most notably the goalkeeper, and can choose from any number of distinct formations.

While teams generally have a set formation, various circumstances can dictate changes or alterations. The opposing team’s preferred playing style and talent level, the condition of the field or the weather, and the strengths and weaknesses of both competing teams should all be taken into account when selecting a formation.

Soccer formations are read as a set of three, or sometimes four, numbers adding up to 10, as the goalkeeper always remains in the backfield to defend the net. The first number denotes how many defenders occupy the backfield with the keeper, the second and sometimes third numbers describe how many players oversee the midfield, and the rightmost number represents players tasked with a team’s scoring.

As an example, the 4-4-2 formation is considered the most standard set in modern soccer. In this formation, four defenders remain in the backfield to support the goalkeeper. Another four players are stationed in the midfield, where they can drop back to help on defense or surge forward to pressure an opponent’s defense. Lastly, two forwards remain on the opposite side of the midfield line, where they wait for goal-scoring opportunities. It is a balanced set that suits the playing styles of most teams and can easily be altered to a 4-4-1-1 for more defense or a 3-4-3 for added offense.


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