Systems of Play in Soccer

Understanding the system of play being used in a soccer match provides a whole new layer of appreciation for the game. There are four things we need to consider when choosing or evaluating a system of play:

1. The team makeup. How well suited are each of the players for various positions around the field? What does each player bring to the table in terms of speed, work rate, knowledge of the game, tactical awareness, control, etc?

2. What we can train. We don’t always have the luxury of training multiple systems of play. Maybe the players are still learning the basics. Maybe the team would be confused. Especially in a recreation league, we often have to choose the best fit for a given team – even when, depending on how we mix players on the field, one group may be more effective in a system other than the one we chose. We chose the system that best matches the abilities of our players.

3. The maturity of the team. A young team may be best introduced into the 11v11 format through “a flat four” A.K.A. a 4-4-2. A more mature team that has mastered the basics of the various lines may be ready to play in a different system – perhaps migrate to a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1.

4. Specific tactical strategies. Here, we consider both the skills of our own team and the strengths/weaknesses of our opponent. A strong attacking team with good penetration in the 4-3-3 might be countered by shutting them down in the midfield with a 4-5-1, for example. This pulls one or two players into the midfield to act as the first line of defense or as a dominating center field presence that makes it difficult for the more aggressive 4-3-3 to penetrate – easier for slower players to get back on defense.

At the end of the day, the game can be appreciated on a whole new level when we see the systems of play in action on the field.

In this episode, we walk through a few examples and leave our listeners with a better understanding of the concept of Systems of Play.

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The Soccer Sidelines

Soccer Dad, Coach, and Club President who is devoted to developing kids and their families. With a diverse background in leadership in other settings, David is focused on empowering parents, players, and coaches to focus on the stuff that really matters in youth sports.