person standing on the white snow

Top Snow Gear for Soccer Players [Complete Guide 2024]

If you live in a place with weeks and months of snow, you know how painful it can be to get there on the soccer pitch. Whether you are a parent trying to the kids to practice, a coach to get them to move, or just a player attempting to perform, you know how painful it can be to adjust to the snow and the winter weather. Obviously, if it is actively snowing heavily, there is nothing much you can do to get visibility. However, you can definitely do a lot to stay dry and warm on the soccer pitch, while avoiding injuries. Many players get injured because of improper clothing, which is inexcusable. The field is more slippery and the players take time to warm up, with the right snow gear for soccer. Also, as players cannot easily see and are more likely to slip the collisions are more probable, so it is so vital to get the right gear.

What is the best snow gear for soccer players?

The best snow gear is the one that will keep you warm, and dry and protect you from injuries. Getting the right covers for your cleats is crucial to keep your feet dry. Then you have to cover any open areas, like your head, neck, and hands. For this, you should use neck warmers, beanies, and gloves. However, you cannot use the thickest ones like you use for skiing, because they will limit your movement and agility. Finally, make sure you get your thermal insulation right – base layers for your legs and your core body will provide both warmth and protection from injuries.

Cleat Covers by Sleef

There is nothing more important than keeping your feet dry. You just can’t move properly and will subconsciously avoid hitting the ball if they are wet and cold. The snow might melt on your feet, but the feet will become so cold that you will get injured or at least sick.

Sleef, a company from South Florida, has come up with “cleat covers”. While not designed to protect from snow, using polyester and spandex, work great. We can’t recommend them strongly enough! They cover only the parts that get wet, but the tip of the foot stays uncovered for better control. Also, they provide extra protection against slipping or rolling the ankles. As we mentioned before, players slip and bump into each other. You have to be extra careful to avoid getting injured by twisting the ankle and these covers will help you with that.

Neck Warmer by Nike

The neck warmer is vital to get the warmup ready. I cover most of my face so that the air that I breathe is warmed up at the beginning. Breathing freezing air can be detrimental for your lungs and your warmup will take much longer. Over time, I lower it to cover only my mouth and then just the neck. You don’t want your neck warmer to take too much water if it’s still snowing and you don’t want to be too rigid so that you cannot move your head to scan the pitch. Nike happened to get the right technology for that, but there are several others we recommend, too.

Bula – Great for cold weather, but absorbed too much water

Sleef – Waterproof and very cheap, but somewhat thinner

Adidas – Closest to Nike, but a bit more limited in movement

Waterproof Gloves by FanVince

The worst thing when I play soccer in the winter is when I get my feet wet. The only thing coming close to it is for my hands to get wet and freezing, even with the rest of the body dry. Now, you can’t just take your skiing gloves and look like you are wearing mittens on the pitch. You need water-resistant gloves with some protection. We found FanVince to work best for this, as they don’t absorb water. The protection if you slip is decent, which is also important. What you don’t want is to keep swapping gloves because they get wet, so these are the way to go. Finally, you want to have a little bit of grip, as this is still a physical sport and you might need to do throw-ins in the game.

Water-resistant Beanie by OtterShell

There was a saying that most of the heat dissipates from the head. That was proven to be wrong, but there is no doubt that we need to make sure that the head must remain dry and warm. The best way to achieve that is with a beanie. Now, we have tried hundreds of beanies, probably even more. The reason why we are picking OtterShell is because it’s the best balance between waterproofing and keeping warm, while also allowing for movement. There are other solid beanies, too. But, let’s not overthink it – don’t get anything weirdly shaped, too large, or bulky. If you find something that works better for you, let us know, as we are always looking out for better products.

Long Sleeve Base Layer by Under Armour

Layers, layers, layers! During winter this is crucial. Nobody does that for sports than Under Armour. We are looking for snow gear for soccer, but UA is good for all sports. We recommended a lighter version for rain that is still waterproof. However, you will need a base layer that provides that extra thermal insulation. Also, back injuries are very common during this time, so get the sturdier ones that will protect you from those kinds of injuries and provide extra support. I usually get colors to match with the uniform, but other players like to stand out with different colors. It’s really a matter of preference – UA has it all.

Leg Sleeves by Tough Outdoors

I used to wear leggings but changed to leg sleeves instead. If you want just a thin layer of support, then Tough Outdoors would do. However, if you want true winter protection, then Sleef is much better for you. It really adds that extra protection and I tend to use them even when it’s not as cold. It doesn’t limit movement of the ankles and the hips are free to rotate, too. So, I like combining it with the cleat covers for the ankles and I feel indestructible. Obviously, that’s not a good idea because I am definitely not. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend these for the winter and the snow.

Get your snow gear for soccer

There it is! Playing in the snow can be fun for kids until they find the pain of freezing hands and feet. Then it can cause such reluctance to get on the pitch, that parents end up begging the players to get out of the car. It doesn’t have to be that way. Getting the right snow gear for soccer is all that is needed. Staying dry and warm from head to toe can be done with the right equipment. Get your cleat covers and leg sleeves and you are halfway there. With the right base layer you will keep your core and arms warm, and the gloves will keep your hands dry. Finally, buy the beanie and the neck warmer for your head. It’s not that complicated and you might have to adjust. However, be ready for it with the items we suggest or let us know what works better for you and we’ll give it a try!

10v10 Soccer Formation [Complete Guide for Coaches 2024]

The first time I played in a 10v10 soccer formation was in my early 20s. At my first job, I noticed a field just outside of my office. One day I was picking up lunch and saw a group of folks playing soccer. It definitely looked like just regular pickup soccer, some 6-a-side games with small goals. Obviously, I immediately asked to join next time. What I found out is that they play twice a week pickup, but they also played in a league on that pitch in the evenings. As the field was a multipurpose field, it didn’t have the right dimensions. It had the right goals, but it looked smaller. The league simply figured out – let’s play 10v10 to accommodate for these irregular dimensions.

Honestly, I haven’t seen anybody else play 10v10 except for that league. However, it brought me countless of hours of tinkering with the formations and analyzing opportunities to come up with better systems. Having analyzed 9v9 formations for my U11 and U12 teams, as well as standard 11v11 formations throughout my life, it is really a challenge to come up with good formations to win games. But it is a good type of challenge. It made me learn much more about how to utilize the space and the types of players. As colleagues join and leave the company, the players on the team change. Of course, recruiting plays a big role in winning but so does creating a system to get the best out of them.

What is the best 10v10 soccer formation?

The best formation is the one that utilizes the advantages of your players and exploits the vulnerabilities of the opponents. With this in mind, the most popular are the 3-4-2 and 4-3-1-1. The 3-4-2 can provide lots of support on the wings, with both the defenders and attackers helping the midfielders. However, it can also be used to overload the middle of the pitch if they stay inside. Finally, if the reason you are playing with 10 players is because of a red card, the two wide midfielders can easily drop into a solid 5 player defensive line. On the other hand, the 4-3-1-1 can provide a solid system to build from the back and opportunities to dominate the center of the pitch.

The goal of any formation is to create superiority. Creating overloads on the wings is better in the 3-4-2, while the 4-3-1-1 can really dominate the middle. Therefore, individual qualities really matter at that point. If you have one natural poacher or target man, then you should use them in the latter formation. However, if you have two tricky attackers that can move between the lines, drift to the wing, and drop in the middle if needed, then the 3-4-2 is the right gameplay for you. That’s up to you to analyze, but let’s give you a framework for it.

3-4-2 [Guide and Progression]

10v10 Soccer Formation 3-4-2
10v10 Soccer Formation 3-4-2

I like this formation because of the fluidity and flexibility. Playing with 3 defenders at the back can open the possibility of having the side defenders play wide to cover the ground. Alternatively, if you need to play defensively, then the defenders stay central and the midfielders drop deep, essentially forming a 5 persons defense that is very hard to crack. Similarly, if you decide to

The downside of this formation is that it can really struggle when playing against more physical opponents. If they outrun you, then the holes will really show up, and covering space will be hard. Also, if the opponent is playing in a low block formation, then it can be hard to break it. Playing with 3 defenders can bring stability, but also it can lack the opportunity to have a numerical advantage if the opponents are defending with 10 or 11 players.

PROS

Very fluid formation

Works great with two mobile strikers

Can use the entire pitch well

CONS

Goalkeeper is not part of attack

Hard to win against more dynamic opponents

Hard to beat low block

4-3-1-1 [Guide and Progression]

10v10 Soccer Formation 4-3-1-1
10v10 Soccer Formation 4-3-1-1

This is probably the most likely formation that teams use when defending after a red card. Keeping one striker up will pin down two of the defenders and provide a threat on the counterattack. However, with only two natural wingbacks, there is not much support in the wide areas. To mitigate this, I sometimes deploy two of the central midfielders as carrileros to support the wide areas.

When playing against a low-block team, this formation can offer lots of opportunities. However, if both wingbacks push up, the team can suffer from breaks. Therefore, this is a formation to use with caution, as it can create opportunities for the opponents. It is up to the players to determine the danger assess risk-reward opportunities and shift positions accordingly.

PROS

Great for counterattacks

Works great for single striker

Goalkeeper can participate in buildout

CONS

Lacks support on the wings

Wing-backs must run a lot

Susceptible to fast counterattacks

10v10 Soccer Formation Transition

As I outlined the pros and cons of each formation, you might have noticed by now – we attack better in long possession attacks with 3-4-2, but defend well with 4-3-1-1. Ideally for this, one of the wide defenders will become an inverted fullback. Similarly, the two side midfielders will be carrileros, drifting to occupy the wide areas. Alternatively, we can have a fullback push higher and everybody drifts a bit to the side. That minimizes running, but it can bring lots of confusion to the squad. It’s up to you to determine what works better for your squad.

10 players because of red card

In an unfortunate event of getting a red card, you might be forced to play 10v11. If you are losing by two or more goals, then it’s virtually impossible to come back regardless of your strategy. However, assuming it’s an even score and your goal is to at least draw, but preferably win, then you need a patient approach. With a player less, you will have to deal with some pressure and try to win on quality. It is very unlikely that you can outrun them or get a numerical advantage. Instead, you will look to get positional and quality superiority. In other words, you will look for counterattacks and set pieces. For that, I recommend the 3-4-2 formation, often converting to a 5-2-2 when defending in a low block.


Conclusion

4v4 Formation by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
4v4
8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1
8v8
5v5
9v9 soccer formation 2-3-2-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
9v9
6v6 Soccer Formation 2-1-2
6v6
10v10
7v7 soccer formation 2-3-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
7v7
11v11

Here’s a complete guide on how to play and coach the 10v10 soccer formation. The same principles that we have learned in the developmental formation of 7v7 and even 4v4 pre-school formation still hold true. Whether you need to readjust because of a red card or that is the system of your competition, you need a plan to get a result. A lot will depend on the situation such as your mentality to score a goal vs. preserve the result. Also, the players that you have and the opponents will dictate your formation. Finding the right balance to get the most out of the types of players you have is crucial. I cannot answer all the questions without knowing that, but the blueprint is here. Use it wisely and feel free to change your setup when things are not working.

8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1

8v8 Soccer Formation [Complete Guide for Coaches 2024]

While not part of standard formations for youth soccer level, there are some tournaments set for competing in the 8v8 soccer formation. It is a sweet spot of adding complexity between the 7v7 developmental league and the mid-level 9v9 at U11/U12 level. For this reason, some summer tournaments introduce playing 8-a-side in the summer after U10, so that players get adjusted. I have used that to introduce the different roles of central midfielders, which was a great bridge before the fall season started. Let’s get into how to choose the right formation for your goal of coaching and winning.

What is the best 8v8 soccer formation?

While not taking into account the types of players you have at your disposal, the best formation for 8v8 is the 2-4-1 formation in a diamond shape. While providing a balance between attack and defense, with a strong foundation at the back while also allowing for creativity in the attack, this is the best formation for both winning and coaching. In transition, we can think of how to morph the formation into a 3-3-1. This will depend on the moment of the game and the opponents. The key point is to create lots of opportunities to create triangles of passing for keeping possession, as well as open opportunities for long balls in space for your attacker if that is a way you need to attack.

2-4-1 [Guide and Progression]

8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1
8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1

This is as a natural succession from 2-3-1 as it comes. The main downside of that formation is the demand for two roles that the central midfielder needs to play. They are both a holding midfielder and an attacking midfielder. It is very rare that a player can be a good 6 and 10. In fact, I can’t think of any. So in this case, we specialize those roles by adding an extra player there. Your best players will play in these positions and will get lots of touches on the ball.

In a standard diamond-shaped formation, we have a formation that has many triangles of passing, which makes it perfect for possession-based play. You get to keep the width with your wingers, solid defenders, a ball-playing goalkeeper, and a pressing striker. The one thing that you will have to address is the lack of width. This is the first time you will have to ask your striker and your 10 to think about drifting to the flanks to provide support when needed.

PROS

Easy buildup from 7v7

Balanced approach

Goalkeeper participates in building attack

CONS

Wings can be light

Defenders have to communicate well

Requires disciplined wingers

3-3-1 [Guide and Progression]

8v8 Soccer Formation 3-3-1
8v8 Soccer Formation 3-3-1

I usually think of it as a defensive-minded formation. Let me be clear – it is easier to structure this and it brings more stability at the back. However, I feel that is because players are not challenged as they should be to develop skills that they don’t naturally have, such as communication and dynamic positioning.

When it comes to winning a game, the formation can provide stability in defense. Compared to the 2-4-1, imagine if you move the central players back. The holding mid becomes the central defender. At the same time, the attacking midfielder becomes the bottom of the diamond with the striker at the top. This means that it’s easy to convert into this formation when trying to defend the result.

PROS

Simple structure to coach

Dedicated striker

Easy to balance against high press and low block

CONS

Goalkeeper is not part of attack

Center of the pitch can be light

Hard to break low block


Conclusion

4v4 Formation by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
4v4
8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1
8v8
5v5
9v9 soccer formation 2-3-2-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
9v9
6v6 Soccer Formation 2-1-2
6v6
10v10
7v7 soccer formation 2-3-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
7v7
11v11

This is the complete guide on how to play and coach the 8v8 soccer formation. While this setup is not common in the youth soccer system in the US, it can be a stepping stone to build players that can play in 9v9 formations, and even 11v11. As many other formations, we always look at how this can be used for coaching. As coaches, it is our job to set the environment where players can learn without our intervention. Then, we jump in when we see that we need to bring structure into the learning. However, all of that is part of a long-term plan that we see, even if the players don’t. Of course, everybody wants to win, so in addition to teaching, we want to set the team to score and not concede. So, we discussed strategy for that and for transitioning between the formations depending on the score and the moment. Play hard and have fun!

Top Personalized Soccer Gear with Character [Stand Out in 2023]

The goal for many soccer players is to be recognized by soccer scouts and coaches at tryouts and games. Obviously, if you have a hat-trick in the first half, they will notice and remember you. However, if you play in the middle of the pitch, you tend to do great, tough work, but it is hard to notice you among 21 other players. Visibility can be awful and often there is no big visual difference between you and your teammate who misses every other ball. Of course, you can have neck tattoos or giant blue hair. However, it might be easier to stand out, while respecting the team uniform and gear. What you need is personalized soccer gear that will make you be seen.

Furthermore, you want to be inspired by your soccer gear. I always feel good when I pick up my soccer cleats, but when I wear the socks I got as a gift from my parents, I feel elevated. You need to figure out what that is and find what motivates you. Some might be to get you to practice hard when you have an odd day. Other gear will be reserved only for games and tournaments. You need to pick what you need, but let us help you with some ideas.

What is the best personalized soccer gear?

You need to get top personalized soccer gear to be noticed and to be inspired. The best ones will help you achieve that, by elevating and motivating you. We will start with the cleats, as a core element of any soccer player. We will look for wristbands, neck warmers, and beanies, as they often add that extra distinction, in addition to their function. Finally, we will review some great ideas for the personalization of captain armbands and shin guards. They are more useful for motivation than differentiation, but players love them and we highly recommend them.

Note: we are not looking for jerseys, shorts, undershirts, leggings or socks. Clubs rarely let you play with them, choosing colors or patterns. For them to look like a team, everybody must respect that code. However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be done. On the contrary, let’s see how to solve that issue.

Shin Guards

Brilliant gift! I have seen that this works as a gift every time!

Let’s be honest – you rarely see the shin guards of players. However, I’ve heard of players wearing the same shin guards for over a decade for luck. They are very personal and don’t really wear out, except maybe for the lining sometimes. The important aspect is that they can inspire the players. In the ritual of getting ready for the games, being able to get into the right mindset just by looking at the shin guards can be massive. Whether looking at the picture of your partner, soccer hero or super hero, whatever motivates you to give the maximum effort will go a long way.

Neck Warmer

If you live in any place that has less than perfect weather conditions, you need a neck warmer. It has been a game changer for me to warm up and stay warm throughout the game. You can start by covering your nose and mouth at the beginning, then I initially tried my snowboarding balaclava at a game, then ended up buying multiple ones just for soccer. I have them in different thickness and material, to differentiate when I need water protection from the rain vs. warmth from the cold.

The amazing feature on this product is that you can put whatever picture you want! From a photo of your favorite player to one from your dog, everything works. You don’t have to limit yourself to just words, numbers or logos.

Cleats

Most professional players don’t have personalized cleats, even though they represent the manufacturers. However, you can still stand out with your cleats. There are three reasons why we like these cleats. Firstly, they are quality Adidas cleats and look good! You have to buy solid cleats if you want to play well. Secondly, they stand out because of their color. Thirdly, they are several years old. That’s a good thing – the technology is only so much evolving, but the prices drop and it is unlikely that others have the same ones. That means that you will stand out just because of that! Hunt for bargains with cleat models 3-5 years old!

Captain Armband (For Clubs!)

“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” In a ceremony at practice every year, the captain of the team for the previous year hands over the armband to the new captain for the upcoming year. The club is the real owner of the armband and the captain is the ambassador who sets the example for future players and captains.

Unlike the other products, armbands already make you stand out from your teammates. So, it’s not for a captain to get one with their name on it. The club needs to build its brand by giving personalized ones to the captain of each team.

Wrist Band

You will stand out by wearing wrist bands anyway. They are not that common, even though they can be very practical. They are designed for very hot days, but I really like them because it provides the extra protection of the wrist in case of a fall. Recently they became more popular as covers for smart watches, but I strongly recommend against wearing smart watches while playing. You really don’t need them and there are over-the-chest or at the cleats more accurate devices to measure all the data you need.

How to personalize it? Any way you want! You can add a name, a logo or even just the jersey number. It all depends on your personal preference.

Beanie

When I was younger I thought that the quality of the beanie didn’t matter. However, I learned that you have to get at least a decent one to protect you from the cold weather and the snow. Even more, you want protection from the rain, instead of soaking the water on your head. No fancy materials and super waterproof requirements, but you want to not absorb all the water to last 90 minutes.

This is the best one we’ve tried and it can also be personalized. If you live in a cold place, likely all the teammates will have beanies and the club might require the same color for all of them. However, you will be able to get away with your name or at least a number to differentiate yours. It’s a great personal touch, but also a way not to lose yours.

Time to get your personalized soccer gear

This is a great mix of products to set you up just right for your soccer games! Some of them are to motivate you, others are to make you stand out from other players. Soccer should always be fun, but as you get more serious, it can often look like a job. However, when it is asking to give 100% every time, you will need any extra bit of inspiration to do that day in and day out. These small items can help you get there. So look for the piece that resonates with you and find a way to motivate yourself!

Disclosure: I may receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy. This site is not intending to provide financial advice. This is for entertainment only.

6v6 Soccer Formation 2-1-2

6v6 Soccer Formation [Complete Guide for Coaches 2024]

While not part of the standard US youth soccer curriculum, I have played a lot of games in 6v6 soccer formation. It is often used for some variation of futsal or small-sided games. One of the players is a goalkeeper and the other 5 players are field players. Usually, there is no offside and the size of the field is small enough that the goalkeeper can be a sweeper keeper, but still need to stay in goal. However, because of the size of the team, it is a great opportunity for players to get many touches on the ball, and develop technical skills and also it is a great exercise with lots of short sprints. Let’s go through the formations that work best for this size of game. I will choose the best formations for both coaching and winning games.

I have played 6v6 on many indoor fields, often a bit bigger than a futsal court. Some of them have a hockey-like shape, with walls on the sides. You can pass from the wall, which is super fun. However, they often are more dangerous because of the occasional body check. Either way, it’s a high-paced game with many touches on the ball. That is perfect for technical development and also good for high-intensity exercise.

What is the best 6v6 soccer formation?

While there is no one best formation for winning the game, there are certain formations that work best. The most popular are the 2-1-2 and the 1-3-1 formations. The 1-3-1 is easier to teach and to keep shape. However, with a keeper that can play well with their feet, the 2-1-2 is the best formation to go with. It brings balance between the attack and defense, as well as stretching the field to pass the ball easily on the flanks and through the middle. The number of natural passing triangles formed by the players is the highest you can have.

The important contrast from the 5v5 soccer competition is the extra person on the field that adds complexity. Furthermore, at most levels that means that there is a person with very little chance of receiving the next pass. What I mean by that is that a person with the ball has 5 options for pass now, with the goalkeeper, 4 passes. It is very unlikely that at high-paced games, a player can see them all. When I play 4v4 soccer, I basically see all my options for passing constantly. I track them regularly and can see their movements. However, by adding a player and a defender, it becomes hard to do so. It really pushes players to improve their scanning skills by moving to 6v6. Obviously, this complexity grows at the 7v7 formation, but it’s just a building block in our tower of soccer knowledge. Now, let’s move to the formations.

6v6 Soccer Formation

2-1-2 [Guide and Progression]

6v6 Soccer Formation 2-1-2

As you probably have noticed by now, I like to think of my goalkeeper as a field when in possession. Because of that, I like to play with a pair of defenders on each side of them, instead of one towering center-back. When in possession, the defenders stay wide. Then they quickly come closer when there is a chance of the team losing the ball. If the ball is with a defender on the side, then the first option is always to play it forward down the line. The goal is to play in the opposition half and the fastest way to do that is to get the ball through the line. The central midfielder is essentially a box-to-box midfielder, playing lots of first-touch passes to move the ball to other players.

This formation is perfect to break a high press, as most of the games 6v6 are. However, it is not as effective in a low-block situation. Furthermore, against 1-3-1, the middle of the pitch can look empty and your central midfielder will struggle. Finally, if your wingers are not disciplined and come back in defense. The communication between them will determine the effectiveness of this formation.

PROS

Formation that is easy to understand

Players don’t need to cover too much ground

Goalkeeper participates in building attack

CONS

The middle of the pitch can be empty

Hard to break low-block teams

Requires disciplined wingers

1-3-1 [Guide and Progression]

6v6 Soccer Formation 1-3-1

The counter to the 2-1-2 is the 1-3-1 formation. The wingers cover a lot of ground. At moments it can look like you are playing 3-1-1, like when you are playing against a high-press team. But other times you might play 1-1-3. When you need to overload the low-block team, for example.

Furthermore, this formation is easier to coach. The players know exactly what their role is. The striker stays up, the defender stays back, and the wingers stay wide.

However, this will also mean that your goalkeeper will not be part of the build out and that might be a wasted resource on the pitch. Also, when playing against any low-block team, they will try to hit you on the counterattack. When playing with one defender, you will be a target. Therefore, if you go the 1-3-1 route, it’s really about all the players being the right type and quality. You need fast wingers, a natural striker, a quality center-back, and a center midfielder that operates in very tight spaces. Fortunately, you can get away without a ball-playing goalkeeper. Overall, it is a very demanding formation for your players.

PROS

Overload in midfield

Dedicated striker

Easy to balance against high press and low block

CONS

Goalkeeper is not part of attack

Wingers must run a lot

Susceptible to fast counterattacks

6v6 Soccer Formation Transition

As always, let’s try to find the blend between the two. Any tactical approach needs to be adjustable based on the opponent. Therefore, we should strive to build with 2-1-2 from the back, using the goalkeeper as an extra. Then instead of keeping the shape, we should aim to move one of the defenders up and form a 1-2-2 or a 1-3-1 formation. When we attack from the wide areas, the defender on the side of the ball naturally pushes up and the other defender becomes the center back. Similarly, the moment the winger gets the ball high becomes the striker while the other winger becomes the winger on the other side. This fluidity and balance requires not only tactical understanding but also players who know how to play in multiple positions. Because the pace of the game is high, the players need to both move fast and think even faster. It is so important to understand the superiority of your team and exploit the opponent’s weaknesses.


Conclusion

4v4 Formation by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
4v4
8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1
8v8
5v5
9v9 soccer formation 2-3-2-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
9v9
6v6 Soccer Formation 2-1-2
6v6
10v10
7v7 soccer formation 2-3-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
7v7
11v11

This is the complete guide on how to play and coach the 6v6 soccer formation. While this setup is not common in the youth soccer system in the US, it can be a stepping stone to build players that can play in 9v9 formations, and even 11v11. It is common for indoor fields across the country, often on turf fields with hockey-like walls and smaller goals to have this setup.

Playing 6v6 can be extremely beneficial for technical and tactical development. Short passes, intense sprints and lots of touches on the ball – you get all that you need. However, if your goal is to win, this guide will help you win while also having fun. Do a bit of analysis on the players of your team to do your setup. Also, be ready to change it quickly as you see the opposition approach because the best way of thinking is to have a fluid setup where players can take positions where they would use the superiority over the competitors. Have fun at the pitch!

5v5 Soccer Formation [Complete Guide for Soccer Coaches 2024]

In the UK, there is a time of the youth development process when they play 5v5 soccer formation. They call it “mini soccer” and it’s the first structured play for most players. Usually in the U8 and U7 timeframe, the structure is to play with 5 players. In the US, they play in a 4v4 formation at that age, but in England, they decided to add a goalie to the formation. I think that opens up an interesting opportunity to develop good ball-playing keepers. But also it makes everybody think about the fact that keepers are still part of the formation and not players that stay at the goal line. As always, I will not give you a solution on how to win every game, but on how to use the 5v5 formations for player development with a long-term plan.

What is the best 5v5 soccer formation?

While there is no one best formation for winning the game, a formation that utilizes the players to balance attack and defense is vital. The most popular are the 2-1-1 and the 1-2-1 formations. In fact, having the 1-2-1 when defending and morphing 2-1-1 when attacking brings the best results. This is because we want to include the goalkeeper when attacking as a sweeper keeper that plays with their feet.

However, the crucial point is to as you have to develop your players to play in larger formations. So, when moving to 7v7 formation, the players should understand the difference between an attacker and a defender. Also, they should understand the difference between a central player and a wing player. You can worry about 9v9 formation with overlaps later on. But you have to keep in mind that it will come at some point.

1-2-1 [Guide and Progression]

5v5 Soccer Formation 1-2-1 by Rondo Coach

Let’s start by looking at the 1-2-1 formation. This is the most common formation because it’s easy to explain and teach. As this is the first formation for most players, they will understand if we tell them to “stay as a defender”, or “occupy the left side of the pitch”. Furthermore, when we move to 7v7, roles like striker and winger will mostly remain the same. Therefore, this formation is a good building block for most players.

Unfortunately, the formation has the limitation of any formation with a “main central defender“. The role of the goalie is not to play with their feet and that is very limiting at a young age. Furthermore, when there is only one defender, then they tend to rely on their technical skills and don’t develop their communication skills. As team sports coaches, we fail to help them grow if we don’t do that.

PROS

Formation that is easy to understand

Develop wingers and striker

Works great if the best player is the defender

CONS

Not developing 2-defender formation pairing

Goalkeeper rarely participates in attack

The middle of the pitch is empty

2-1-1 [Guide and Progression]

5v5 Soccer Formation 2-1-1 by Rondo Coach

The 2-1-1 formation is the other logical choice and we recommend using that to supplement what the 1-2-1 formation cannot teach. Firstly, the goalkeeper will be part of the game, which sometimes can feel like an extra player. Secondly, the development of two defenders that are active is crucial for the development of players, especially as we get to 7v7 and 9v9 formations. Finally, your best player will likely be the central midfielder. This is great because they will get the most touches on the ball and be part of both attacking and defending.

Unfortunately, this formation will make you concede way more goals. It can be frustrating, but it will develop your players in the right way. Also, it will make the middle area of the pitch way more congested. Without natural wingers, it is up to the striker to sense when they need to move wide. Some players will do that naturally, and others will need way more guidance. If you see it as an opportunity to learn, it can be a great time for your players to do so early, rather than late.

PROS

We develop two defenders that can work well together

The central defender is likely the best player and connects everybody

The goalkeeper is part of the game

CONS

The center of the pitch is crowded

Opponents will score lots of goals because the central defense will be empty

Nobody will develop playing as a winger

5v5 Soccer Formation Transition

As we hinted before, what if we bring the best of both worlds? If our players are proficient enough in these formations, 1-2-1 and 2-1-1, then we can merge them together to get the ultimate strategy. When we defend, we play with one center-back who plays safe and conservative. On both flanks, we have players that help in defense. However, when we attack, we transform ourselves into a 2-1-1 shape that allows us to push on either side. Furthermore, our goalie can push much higher, forming a 5-player formation of 1-2-1-1, essentially playing 5v4. This ultimate advantage is massive. It doesn’t come easy and the players need to know how to play the basic formations before moving to this fluid formation.


Conclusion

4v4 Formation by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
4v4
8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1
8v8
5v5
9v9 soccer formation 2-3-2-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
9v9
6v6 Soccer Formation 2-1-2
6v6
10v10
7v7 soccer formation 2-3-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
7v7
11v11

This is the full guide on how to coach the 5v5 soccer formation. While we suggest how to transition between the two best formations, we understand that it will be hard for young players at the grassroots level to execute that. However, if you coach both formations, they will subconsciously understand the positioning and roles. Then when you play small-sided games in their teenage years, they will perform well. After all, soccer at the 11v11 level is just many small games or 3v3 or 5v5. If we develop the players well at 5v5, they will be good with their feet, learn to communicate, pass and receive the ball, as well as position themselves with the right posture and timing. Most importantly, we develop adaptable players that can play in multiple positions and roles. I hope this guide will help in developing the players in a 5v5 soccer formation, with a much longer term in mind.

man standing beside soccer ball on soccer field

Should I take private soccer classes? Are they worth it?

At almost every tryout I am approached by a proud parent who wants to share that they have bought private soccer classes for their kid. However, at the tryouts, nothing confirms that. It looks like a theft when looking at how technically deficient the kid is compared to the other players who have never had a private lesson. Let me be clear, I am not saying that you should never take a private soccer class. But nobody tells you when you should take one. At worst, it’s the team soccer coach trying to get extra money from the parents by offering individual classes to the same players, because the parents cannot coach their kids soccer as it is something they don’t know. At best, it’s a knowledgeable soccer player who knows little about actual coaching. Either way, it’s not what we want.

Should I get private soccer classes?

Whether or not to get private soccer classes depends on your specific goals, budget, and learning preferences. Private classes can offer personalized attention and faster progress, but they should only be used as a supplement for the group lesson and the self-guided practice. They should be used to fix a particular problem that the player needs help with and not to think of them as a substitute for team practices, individual practices, or without a purpose.

The levels of experience the players need, at any level and any age, are these:

  1. Game experience – Even at the highest professional level, players move clubs to get playing time. There is no way a player can progress if they don’t get competitive playing experience. I recommend playing pickup games and rec leagues if possible. This is in addition to the team games and practices. I recommend a significant amount of unstructured playing time. Please make sure you make that happen.
  2. Team practice – If the player is more serious about soccer, join a team at least for a year. That will bring some structure and some experience in both practices and games. Don’t judge immediately based on the quality of the coach, the teammates, and the opponents. It is likely that there will be much variation in the talent and commitment of the players at an early age. Adjusting for the right coach and teammates will never end. Just look at Ronaldo and Messi moving continents!
  3. Individual practice – Kids don’t understand that individual practice is related to performance. So, we need to make sure we show that to them. When a player understands that they need to start doing the individual drills themselves, they will start to progress rapidly. If they enjoy doing them, then we have the next soccer superstar in our backyard. I show individual drills at team practices. However, it will be up to the players to do many, many repetitions on their own. Especially when they are very young, they need to make a game out of it with soccer toys.
  4. Private lessons – Only once we are done with the first 3 buckets and are hungry for more, do we need to look for private soccer classes. Good private coaches will ask what you want to fix and if you barely play soccer, how would you know? So, make sure you spend lots of time playing, going to team practices and games, and doing your own individual practices before looking for private lessons.

How to determine if the private soccer classes are worth it?

Let’s assume that the player has been trying something specific, like a goalkeeper doing long kicks. If they have been trying for weeks, have worked with their coach, and tried to make it work on their own time, but keep failing to execute. If a quality coach can solve that issue in a class or two, then that’s a good use of time and money. However, when the private coach starts teaching the same drills over and over again, just to get through the time, it’s time to move on. They see soccer coaching as a side job to make money and that’s it. In fact, if the lesson is “Let’s do the same with our other foot”, then it should be the last class. Instead, when I coach, I give homework to repeat the drills with both feet. Then, I ask to come back once that is done.

How much does a private soccer class cost?

Depending on the location and reputation of the coach, prices can vary from $35 to $200+. The price variation can be steep. But high price doesn’t guarantee results. Coaches often offer a discount when signing up for multiple classes at once. You can find coaches on various platforms, but the best is word-of-mouth recommendations. Feel free to reach out to us and we might be able to help looking for a coach in your area.

Note that while reputation and quality are often correlated, they are often not linked. You need to judge the coach’s character. Firstly, are they here with the purpose of significantly improving the player? No, we are not talking about keeping them active. They need to make substantial fixes to individual elements of the player. Secondly, they need to have a plan. When I coach a team, I always have a plan on what to teach them. I can change that if I see something more pressing, but I always have a plan. Finally, they need to admit when they don’t know something. While I coach all positions on my team, I ask the goalkeeping coach to do individual practices for my goalkeepers. You don’t want wrong advice to be the only advice because of the price paid for it.

Conclusion

I hope this helped you decide on your private lessons. We wrote a clear step-by-step guide to help you decide when to get individual soccer classes. It’s not an easy decision and you might get it wrong. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to experiment. I always try to see where I can learn and get value. However, when it doesn’t work, I am happy to move on. So, be open to changes and make sure you follow the structure. Get lots of unstructured play, join a team, and do individual practice. Only then consider getting private lessons with a clear goal in mind. Good luck and feel free to reach out for a question or a chat!

father and son playing football in the backyard

Top Soccer Toys for Toddlers [Little Messi at Home 2024]

It’s never too early to start playing soccer! Every parent says that they want their kid to love the activity they do. I’ve heard the same saying about piano, painting, basketball, cooking, knitting, or soccer. Doesn’t matter what it is, it has to be fun and they have to like doing it. The best way to do that is through games. While we can make up games at home, it’s useful to have the right tools, in this case, indoor soccer toys for toddlers, to achieve that quickly and effectively. You can have great soccer experience through rain and snow, but you can have it at home without worrying, too. Let’s make sure our loved ones are safe, engaged, and challenged, all at the same time.

What are the best soccer toys for toddlers?

We’ll start building our toolkit of toys by figuring out the playing field first. If you have a dedicated space in your home that has enough space without fragile items and windows (backyard acceptable), then you have to get a small soccer ball. Having a plush soccer ball is also a great substitute, that can work for both indoor and outdoor settings. While you don’t have to shoot on a goal, it instantly brings excitement to the kids, so just get one if you have the space. You might not need soccer shoes indoors, but having a pair at least for the backyard sessions is needed. Finally, if your kid already loves doing art, try to merge the two activities by painting soccer art. Let’s get into the best items we have found in these categories.

Plush Soccer Ball

We keep hearing about the lack of unstructured play that the kids have these days. All of a sudden coaches are “forced” to dedicate half of the practice to the players just kicking a ball without much structure. Instead what they need is a soccer ball just being around the house that they can kick whenever they want. While watching TV or waiting for dinner to be ready, just have it be there. The great thing about this plush toy is that you can use it from a very young age. Most kids have a plush toy they are attached to. They go everywhere with it, eat with it, fall asleep with it… Sometimes it’s a dinosaur or a bunny, but imagine if it’s a soccer ball. Give it a try and you never know – maybe it’s going to develop an instant love for soccer!

Small Soccer Ball (size 2 or 3)

Kids need to have fun, but they need to see a ball moving and be able to kick it. So, regular soccer balls will not do because they are too heavy. Neither would random balls because they just have different physics. Instead, get the right size balls, size 2 or 3, that are appropriate for the feet size. The kids love them and they can practice hitting it differently. You want as realistic a representation of the soccer world as possible but in a controlled environment. I would definitely recommend having at least one ball for indoors and one for outdoors.

Soccer Shoes

This one is a bit tough because they grow so fast! If you are playing only indoors, then you don’t need them right away. If you see that the kid loves playing, you can use it as a stepping stone to get them playing outside with other kids or maybe a rec league. However, once they get on the grass, get them the shoes. If you are wondering about the soil – get one level below the recommended one. If they play on grass, get the turf shoes. If they play on turf, get the futsal one. They will feel more comfortable, have better control, and can use their shoes outside of soccer. You don’t want them to outgrow the shoes after 5 practices.

Soccer Book

Human brains are good at synthesizing information and signals. Kids need to have multiple stimulants to develop affinity and interest. Obviously, one is to have the family around – playing with parents and siblings is vital at the beginning. But also, unlike pro athletes, you can’t have them play for hours and hours. Instead, you can read books to them about soccer. Of course, you can also do other things like watch some videos or even bake cookies shaped like soccer balls. Those are fun. However, you want to grow persons first, and soccer players second. Let me not convince you why books work. They do at this age and hopefully for the rest of their lives.

Soccer Goal

It’s not a soccer game without a goal! The reason why I like this goal is that it’s scalable. Firstly, it’s a popup goal that can be folded and transported whenever you need to. Secondly, it has options to either work as a full goal or be marked with holes on the sides. This is so crucial as your kid gets too good for the open goal or needs to challenge themselves. Thirdly, this goal works great for the backyard or park. There are pins you can use to ground it and bring stability. I have used many other goals and they are good if you have large groups of players. However, this is the one you want for your kid – it’s great for indoors, great for beginners, and excellent when they get better and want to play outside.

Soccer Ball Lamp Kit

Not everything needs to be about playing soccer. Whatever your kid needs to be engaged, you should do that. If the kid needs to do a dance with the ball, that’s ok. Sometimes you might need to include a candy, a song, or a goofy outfit. For those into the arts, we found a great idea to paint a lamp with their favorite colors. The actual painting is interesting, but also it keeps reminding the kid of soccer because it’s there all the time. Don’t forget that they need multiple inputs and reminders to inspire them. There are other ideas for painting and decorating, but we liked this one as a great reminder on a daily basis.

What to avoid? What are not soccer toys for toddlers?

Soccer Disks – there are some made-up home games with two goals and gliding soccer disks. While fun, they really have different physics than the real soccer balls, both in how they move and how they are being kicked. We want the kids to have fun, but we want them to have some correlation with soccer. It’s fine to buy these toys if the kids enjoy, but don’t think that they have real connection with soccer.

Excessive soccer video time – again, I am not here to decide how much screen time your kid should or shouldn’t have. All I am saying is that they will not really benefit from watching others play soccer without them playing with the soccer ball. They need the ball around their feet as much as possible at this age.

Individual practices – when they are this young, they simply don’t need them. Don’t make soccer a chore until they become professionals. Just make sure that it looks like a game and that can last for a long time.

Time to get your soccer toys for toddlers

Now that we have reviewed that top soccer toys for toddlers, it’s time to build the right environment. I’ll repeat again – your main goal is for them to enjoy and fall in love with the sport. Their skills will not matter now, but their feelings toward soccer will. There is enough time to get good at it and it will not be a straight line. However, you want them engaged and challenged, so that the line is directionally upwards and not downwards. Keep trying by adding one piece at a time and it will work out. And don’t forget to have fun!

Disclosure: I may receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy. This site is not intending to provide financial advice. This is for entertainment only.

man people summer grass

How to Become a Great Soccer Center-Back? [FULL Guide]

“We always build out of the defense!” I’ve heard that saying from coaches on my first ever practice… and a million times ever since. The value of a quality defender particularly a center-back is self-evident. It is reflected in the price that these defenders are traded for. Virgil van Dijk, Josko Gvardiol, Harry Maguire, Matthijs de Light, Wesley Fofana, and Lucas Hernandez, have all been traded for over 80 million euros!

Yet, for some reason, every new young player asks to be a striker! The center-backs are still generally undervalued for their importance. The best coaches in the world see that, but the general public doesn’t. Let’s shed some light on the role, the formations where it is used (spoiler alert: all of them!), how to train for it, and how some players have written their names in soccer history as legendary center-backs.

What is a Center-Back?

A center-back, also known as a central defender, is a player positioned in the heart of the defense, typically as part of a pair or trio of defenders. Their primary role is to defend opposing attacks, win aerial duels, and distribute the ball strategically to initiate offensive plays. The actual role can vary based on the teammates and especially the opponents. However, there is nothing clearer in soccer than the primary role of center-backs and goalkeepers – prevent the opposition from scoring goals!

Generally, the center-backs play in 3 or 4-player formations. Based on that, they either have a sole central role paired with wider supporting roles or a natural partnership of two center-backs. In the first setting, the role of the central defender is to defend – period. The wider defenders often support the buildup play, sometimes even pushing up to assist or score.

When there is a partnership of two players, the center-backs try to balance each other. One is the natural aggressor, trying to prevent easy passes to the opposition striker. The other one has to provide backup any time there is a danger. We have seen that with the best teams in history, including the best teams today.

Formations with a center-back

As we said, you can’t really have a formation without a center-back, or really at least two of them. I usually play in a 4-3-3 formation until U15, so that no youth player takes the responsibility of being the last defender. The burden can be too big if the team starts to concede goals. However, in a formation of 4 defenders, it is likely that one player will push higher and help the attack when we are a controlled possession. Here are a few options of how to use fullbacks, but also how can a center-back become a ball-playing defender and even an inverted center-back. We have seen Manchester City doing that with John Stones in the 22/23 legendary treble season. It is a shorter distance for a center-back to push higher while the fullbacks come closer than it is for a fullback to move to the center of the pitch. Pep Guardiola recognized that and solved it with Stones coming to the middle. Also, he put natural center-backs on the sides, so now they have solid defense regardless of “losing” Stones as a defender.

Center-backs in 4-player defense- traditional and inverted

3-player defense

The 3-player defense, such as 3-5-2 or 3-4-3, can be very effective. While not ideal for youth soccer formation coaching, it provides solidity with the right players. As I said in the beginning, it is hard to find quality players when they are very young who want to play as center-backs. It requires patience, very limited risk-taking, and often lots of pressure. The role of defending the entire game can be uninspiring for them. However, at one point they realize the importance and can specialize in certain roles. The one role that symbolizes this is the sweeper or libero. They are the last person in the defense and, therefore carry lots of responsibility.

3-4-3 soccer formation. 3 defender formation
3 center-back formation – 3-4-3 soccer formation

What is a sweeper in soccer? What is a libero?

A sweeper in soccer, also referred to as a libero, is a specialized defensive player positioned behind the center-backs in a defensive formation. The sweeper’s main responsibility is to read the game, anticipate attacks, and use their exceptional ball-playing skills to initiate counterattacks and distribute passes from deep positions. They often decide on when to make offside traps, too. With the emergence of ball-playing sweeper keepers, having a libero is less popular.

Training guide for a center-back

The most important characteristic of a center-back is the psychological composition. A defender would rather draw 0:0 than 3:3. They would play it safe whenever they can, not taking risks. However, they are targeted by the strikers with whatever weaknesses they might have. Therefore, the center-backs can’t have significant weaknesses. If a center-back is slow, the opposition will put the fastest player they have against them and try to outrun them. If height is the disadvantage, then there will be high crosses for the entire game. Fair or not, attackers can use their strengths and center-backs will be attacked at their weaknesses. Similarly, strikers can play bad all game, but one moment of magic (or luck) will make them heroes. In contrast, center-backs can win all their duels, but one bad mistake can cost them the game.

Becoming a center-back

There are two major items to work on in order to become a world-class defender: individual defending and team defending. Individual defending is something that you simply have to excel in order to be good in the role. This means a combination of physical training, such as agility, speed, and strength. That 1v1 ability is often what we define as a natural talent for a soccer defender. Also, individual technical training – yes, technical defending practice is needed at the highest levels. Finally, basic ball manipulation skills are needed. However, the most important trait is the psychological barrier when playing against attackers who are excellent both technically and physically. It is vital to have focus, bravery, and determination. Again, these are things that can be learned and must be practiced. We won’t go into the drills here but will cover them in other upcoming articles.

Team defending takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. The main goal is to only attack the opponents when we have an advantage – numerical, positional, or qualitative. The center-backs are the ones who will need to excel in making these decisions because they have to get them right. Of course, they will need to know how to delay the opponents and force them into a disadvantageous position, but then they need to be able to do the final strike. The whole concept of team defending is too much to dig into at this point, but it’s well worth reading about.

X factors of world-class defenders

Assuming we have mastered individual and team defending, we still know of players that have become legends in defending and others that are just “solid defenders”. It takes some time to motivate the young soccer players to get proficient in all these skills. But then there is something more to them, still. So what are those characteristics that we can see with the best center-backs?

Communication – Captains at the pitch and Leaders in the locker room

We talked about how to get players to communicate when they are young. As you remember, most of it was about defending as a unit. Now, that’s the minimum for defenders. However, because of their dominant presence and importance to the team, many of them become leaders. That still needs to be nurtured, as they are often young and inexperienced. So, it is important not to only give them the armband and the opportunity, but also to guide them to become leaders to their teammates and to themselves.

Defense is the best attack

I often want to rotate the soccer position of the players when they are young, even if they have picked theirs. let my center-backs play a few friendly games as strikers, especially when they are young. Understanding how attackers think is crucial. The defenders are often less pressured, so they can take their time and pick long passes if they see a gap to exploit. Of course, they need to be able to do these long passes. At the highest level, that’s not a problem given the time and space.

Reverse psychology is important, but so is the skill of attacking. Center-backs are naturally big and strong, so using them to defend and attack set pieces, such as free kicks and corners is important. Almost every world-class center-back has several goals each year from set pieces. Some of them are headers, but many are just acrobatic kicks. Being in positions to attack and knowing how to execute are important traits at the highest level.

Famous center-backs

There are many center-backs that left their mark in the world of soccer. The most famous school of defenders is the Italian one. Franco Baresi, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, and Fabio Cannavaro are easily in the top 10, if not the top 5 center-backs in history. Franz Beckenbauer, Rio Ferdinand, Sergio Ramos, John Terry, Carles Puyol, and Nemanja Vidic, are right up there, but as you can see they are scattered from other nations. There is something in the Italian National Soccer Team and the way they coach defenders that yields superior results.

Conclusion

We explored the role of the center-back in modern soccer. We looked at the variety of them, how they fit in various formations, and how to become one. I have no doubt that for these world-class players, it is much more of a calling to become so good at protecting the goal. The traits are specific, the practice is intense and the work is never-ending. However, it is such a rewarding and valuable role, that I hope you appreciate even more after reading this guide.

4-4-2 diamond soccer formation by Rondo Coach

What is a Diamond in Soccer? [Complete Tactical Guide]

There are many formations that are hard to explain to young players. Sometimes we play with two strikers, other times with one. Sometimes we have inverted wingers and fullbacks, other times we have wingers and inverted fullbacks. Double pivot vs. single pivot? Ok, it can get really complicated. However, one of the simplest ones to explain is the diamond formation. Often used in the 4-4-2 or 3-4-3, this is a shape that is not only easy to explain because of the clear roles and responsibilities but also because it can be incredibly effective both for retaining possession and counter-attacking style of soccer. Let’s into this guide to the diamond!

What is a diamond in soccer?

The “diamond” in soccer refers to a tactical formation where players are arranged in a diamond shape on the field. It features a deep defensive midfielder, two central midfielders, and an attacking midfielder at the tip, often providing a balance between defense and attack.

The roles are incredibly clear. The holding midfielder acts like a single pivot, in front of the defense. The attacking midfielder is always the first possible pass, likely the most creative player on the team. The two other midfielders are the dynamos that has to be versatile players. They can act like carrileros, mezzalas, box-to-box midfielders, deep-lying playmakers, or any mix-and-match combinations. We’ll get into these variations and ideas on how to make use of this shape.

Formations to use a diamond in soccer

The diamond shape formation was historically created in the 4-4-2 formation. It’s natural to keep the diamond compact so that players have options to pass to. Also, instead of a flat 4 in the middle, by having the diamond, we open ourselves to assigning specific roles to the midfielder. For example, a creative player would play in the attacking midfielder role, while a defensive-minded player would take the holding midfielder role. However, depending on the rest of the formation and the result, we can vary them. If we have received a red card and try to hold to a one-goal lead, we will keep the diamond, but pull all four players back.

4-4-2

4-4-2 diamond soccer formation by Rondo Coach

As simple as it gets, we have a 4 player central midfield. They are tight and compact, letting the sides be occupied by the wingbacks. For backup, they can have the sides of the diamond support them as carrileros or mezzalas. Alternatively, when attacking on the flanks, we can have the two forwards act as raumdeuters or even wingers. In this scenario, the diamond stays narrow in the middle. The benefit is that this formation is flexible, but requires creativity. Having two forwards means that our attacking midfielder can cause havoc with passes behind the defense. This can be both in counter-attacks and when fighting to overcome low-block teams.

History notes: Arrigo Sacchi is the master of the 4-4-2 formation. While he didn’t use an obvious diamond shape, he allowed fluidity. Some great soccer players, future coaches, and soccer leaders were in the heart of it, such as Carlo Ancelotti and Rijkaard. Similarly, Guardiola, Xavi, and Arteta were the ones in the La Masia diamond.

3-4-3

While many teams play in the flat 3-4-3 formation with two wide midfielders, a better option is to deploy the diamond. The benefit of this formation is that we can have a high press, but have protection at the back. This means that the middle of the pitch can look empty at times if we use the wide midfielders. So, many formations force the striker to be a false nine. Instead, we can keep the diamond shape and use the wingers, while having a classic poacher in the middle.

A bit of history: it was Johan Cruyff who perfected the 3-4-3 diamond formation during his time at Ajax and Barcelona. In fact, all youth categories and the first team in Ajax played the same. That way it was a seamless transition when a youth player was promoted to play with the senior squad. It is still used today, especially to counter the more popular 4-3-3 formation. However, Cruyff was playing possession “total football”, while today we have Tuchel and Conte being more defensive and counter-attacking.

How to counter against the diamond in soccer?

If we want to understand how to play effectively against the diamond, we need to understand the gaps. The diamond shape is great when it stays in that shape, but it’s rigid when we want to add one more player to it. The team can play well with two wingers, creating a bunch of triangles. However, we kind of break it if we overload the central area.

In a 4-4-2 formation, the strikers cannot really come and help without breaking the shape and causing confusion. What we need to do instead is overload and prevent clear balls to the strikers. This means that we need to have tight markings on the passers.

When playing against 3-4-3, we need to make sure we overload the center area with 5 players but prevent clean passes to the wingers. Those passes will make us shift our entire formation to help imbalanced areas. It is not easy to play against a 3-4-3 diamond formation if they are playing a high tempo. So, we need to slow them down, by preventing clear passing lanes.

Rondos: The Diamond in Soccer

Have you noticed that the diamond shape is what we use in rondos? Do you think that’s a coincidence? The fact that we have three options for passing always makes it natural for players to have preferences, but also backup options. It becomes a subconscious decision-making activity. We always want to break the lines. If that’s not possible, we have backup options to retain possession. In the end, we look for ways to get advantage over the opponents and keep the ball. Either way, the diamond in the heart of the midfield area, and by practicing the rondo throughout their career, it becomes second nature for players to operate in the diamond shape.

Conclusion

We talked about what a diamond in soccer is, the formations in which we can use it, and how to counter it. What I am particularly excited about is the usage of it in youth soccer formations. If we have practiced rondos (and we should have!), the players should expect to see their teammates in a diamond shape naturally. Also, they would place themselves like that, too. It’s exciting to see how much of the formation will be planned, and how many players will be using it subconsciously.