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Youth soccer coaching: picking a good formation for U11 teams

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There are many different opinions about what the best formation is for teams that play in a youth under 11 league. Typically these leagues will feature seven field players and the goalie, and the question is what formation will allow us to achieve our goals?

A coach would be well served to sort out his or her goals for the season when selecting the formation to use. You should consider the skill level of your players and their familiarity with each other along with their overall skill level. No matter what though, choosing a formation can go a long way towards helping you realize your season’s goals.

My recommendation is to use a 3-3-1 formation throughout the season in order to begin learning the roles of each of the four different positions on the field. A 3-3-1 formation features three defensive backs, three midfielders and a single striker or forward. In this formation, you can emphasize the importance of team defense and positional play while identifying your attacking forward as a target player to receive outlet passes from the defensive zone. Although a single striker can limit your immediate offensive opportunities, you can still use your excellent defense and midfield density to bring the ball out of your defensive zone and slowly build your attack with team play.

This formation will feature a defender and a midfielder on the left side of the field, a defender and midfielder in the center, and a defender and a midfielder on the right side of the field. These sets of two players get to experience a partnership on their side of the field with the responsibility for covering for each other if they create a hole when they pursue the ball. The possibilities for overlapping runs require these partners to play with an eye on each other the entire game.

In addition, the three defenders must learn to play as a unit by staying on the line and covering for each other if one is out of position in pursuit of the ball. Three midfielders must play in a similar fashion: online in covering each other in case one gets out of position.

In the attack, the outside midfielders must run forward to support the lone striker by getting into the box. This puts their fitness levels under stress and you can expect to have to rotate these two outside midfield players most often when using this formation.

As another coaching point, you want to make sure that your outside defenders fill in the open space behind the midfield players when they make a run for. In this way they get in the habit of joining the attacking play and taking over a midfield role.

This formation is stable and sound on defense, solid in the middle, and features a target player in the striker who can receive the outlet pass and set up 18 attacking play. It is a conservative yet ideal way to begin teaching the roles and missions of each of your field playing positions.


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