Best 7v7 Formations in Soccer

A walk-through of a few of your best formation options for you and your team.

Best 7v7 Formations in Soccer

Within the world of 7v7 soccer, there are many many many different ways that you can organize your team.

Each one has it's own advantages and disadvantages, and for a lot of people, in particular beginners, it's unclear why you would want to play one over the other and what kind of benefit you might gain from changing your formation.

So today we're going to talk about three of the most fundamental formations that you can employ with your team, what each one does well, does poorly, and how you can use them to their greatest effect.

I will say, it is always fun and incredibly useful, to grab a little white board, sit with your team for 5-10 minutes at a bar or before a game, and just go over the strategy that you want to employ for your team.

You'll be shocked at how big a difference it makes.

#1: 2-3-1* - The Industry Standard

*For those of you unfamiliar with how to read a formation, the number at the left is the furthest back on the field, and you move up the field as you go left to right. So 2-3-1 is two defenders, three midfielders, and one striker. Goalies, however important they are, are not included in the formation.


Breakdown: If you and your team are brand new to soccer and you don't know anything about movement or shape, do this formation.

It's simple, it spreads your team out in a relatively even way that prevents you from being exposed defensively, which for starters is the most important thing.

Pros: It's simple and everyones 'roles' are fairly simple too. Defenders play back, wingers and center midfield work together to get the ball up the field, striker try to make yourself a target, either to provide a for your midfielders running up the field or to take a shot.

It uses the width of the field effectively, allowing attackers to run wide and move defenders out of position/away from the middle of the field.

Cons: Beginners and intermediate players often struggle to rotate-a player intentionally moving out of their position either to receive a pass or to create space for another player to move into their position- and move off of the ball, making this formation sometimes stagnant and easy to defend against.

Players, in particular the striker and center midfielder, can feel very isolated. Make sure when you play this formation two players always check to the ball- when a player without the ball runs to the player with the ball to present them an option to pass to- so you don't stretch too far apart.

How To Do It Right: When you have the ball 1. make sure two players always check to the player with the ball; 2. continue to move off the ball in tandem with your teammates, even if you're not open for a pass, run and make a defender follow you, which allows one of your teammates to run into the space you just took the defender away from; 3. be patient with the ball, this formation has a lot of players on the outside, so remember it's ok to work the ball back towards your goal and to try to attack at a different angle, it's not chess, you don't have to give the other team a turn with the ball; 4. put you most stable, gifted player at the Center Midfield position, it's a very demanding position in this formation, and that player has to play well on both sides of the ball.

#2: 3-2-1 - Baby Got Backs.


Breakdown: 3 backs, to be exact.

It's defensively sound and very strong in the middle of the field. There is space for the opposing team to possess the ball on the wing, but as long as your team stays in the center, that won't be an issue. The outside players (midfielders and right and left defenders) will have the chance to make counter attacking runs.

This formation can be difficult for beginners to execute because at first glance it doesn't seem like there is much opportunity to attack. However, that isn't the case as we'll get into a little further down.

Pros: As mentioned, it's a very solid defensively having three defenders and two midfielders playing towards the middle.

It may not appear so on the surface, but if you have players who understand how to effectively make short passes to move up the field together, this is a very effective, controlled attacking formation as it allows your defenders to join the offense.

Defenders and midfielders should come together to make very simple, 5-yard passes between each other, advancing in small pieces of the field until you break through the other teams pressure and the field opens up.

It can also make the opponents vulnerable to counter-attacks, as they will creep further and further in trying to break your solid defense.

Cons: It can be very difficult to generate offense, as often times it is not clear who should be moving up the field and how to support them without exposing yourself.

If the other team puts a lot of pressure on you, it can be very difficult to control the ball and pass it effectively.

How To Do It Right: The key to making this formation work is understanding how to unlock-allowing a player from the back to move up the field into an attacking position- your left and right defenders.

The defender and the midfielders on either side need to be able to work together to move the ball up the field together, with the striker and even sometimes the central defender checking to the ball and always providing simple passing options to the ball carrier.

At the same time the weak side midfielder or defender-the weak side is the opposite side from where the ball is- can move up the field undefended and be an option for a long open pass.

Defensively, make sure you players stay tight and don't give up the middle, stepping out to meet attackers only as the close in on you. There should be no chance for attackers to play the ball through the center, but rather need to go around the outside preventing any real threats.

#3: 1-3-2 - Under Pressure

1-3-2 #2

Breakdown: This formation is a bit risky, but it's one of my favorites because your team is pushing heavily up the field with two strikers and three midfielders, forcing your opponents to execute at a very high level to beat you, and in all likelihood fail and cough up the ball.

It's great when you have one incredibly solid, dependable defender, and a team with a lot of energy and zeal.

Pros: There are lots of attacking options as you technically have a total of five players who are in attacking positions on the field (note: typically not all five should be attacking at once).

It allows you to play a high press-pressuring the opponent team deep in their half of the field when they have the ball- which is very effective against beginner and intermediate teams. It doesn't allow the other team to move up the field with the ball.

Cons: It is very vulnerable to long passes through the air and to counter attack.

Players can get a little bit confused with how to rotate between midfield and striking positions and so teams sometimes end up with too many people too deep and be exposed defensively.

How To Do It Right: The person you have on defense needs to be very safe and dependable, they are your anchor. If you have a player on your team who you trust to win most 1v1s and who can handle defending long passes, they need to be your defender.

Make sure to press the other team aggressively. The key to this formation is not allowing the other team any space to breathe or to move the ball comfortably and so never even having the chance to put your defender under pressure, except by just blindly kicking the ball out of their zone.

At no time should the other team be allowed to pass the ball between two players without them getting pressured by you.

Outside wingers need to be able to do two extra things.

First, they need to be always checking behind them. If the opposing team has a few people waiting behind you, against your one defender, stay a little bit back so you can defend more easily.

Second, they need to know when to rotate with the striker-when the winger has space in front of them to make a run towards the goal.

Hopefully this gives you some idea of the formations you can run with your own teams. These aren't all the formations that exist, but it represents the basic spread of high pressure, high defensive, and balanced formations that you can do.


Coach James