9v9 Soccer Positions

9v9 Soccer Positions

In U.S. youth soccer, 9v9 is typically played by players in the u11 and u12 age groups. This means that players are typically between 10 and 11 years old.

soccer positions (2)

The switch to 9v9 soccer is often made as a part of a player’s transition from small-sided games (usually 5v5 or 7v7) to full-sized 11v11 games. The 9v9 format allows for a slightly larger field and more players on each team, which helps players develop the necessary skills for playing full-sized soccer.

Understanding 9v9 soccer positions is helpful in learning the tactics that will be required when the players jump into a traditional 11v11 field.

As a side note – I’ve heard many coaches share their opinion on when players should transition to a full field and many think players in the U.S. move on too early. The consensus is that they should start on a full field at age 14 and not 12. I agree with this logic. Players at 14 years old are much more developed and don’t need to put everything they have behind the ball.

In this article, we’ll address the most common formations for 9v9 soccer positions and some of the strategies for team success.

9v9 Positions in Soccer

As we’ll address the different formations, it’s important to keep these positions in mind:

  • Goalkeeper (GK)
  • Center Back (CB) or Right/Left Backs (RB, LB)
  • Defensive Midfielder (DM) or Central Midfielder (CM)
  • Winger (RW or LW)
  • Striker (ST)

Basic 9v9 Soccer Formation

9v9 soccer formations often have four lines of players, just like 11v11 formations.

  1. The goalie stands between the goalposts as the final line of defense
  2. A defensive line (defenders)
  3. A middle line (midfielders)
  4. A forward line (strikers)

Teaching the significance of positions and their roles in young players is critical for their development.

With this said, the lines of a soccer formation should be used as a guide and not the end-all. This is especially true in the younger age groups.

For example, central defenders should focus on defending the middle of the field rather than racing to the sides in search of the ball. At the same time, give them the freedom to track back or attack when necessary.

As a coach, you’ll want to mix players into different positions based on what you need, the game flow, and the potential you see in players.

Coaching 9v9-sided games can come with its challenges but can also be the spark for many of the young players to flourish. In this next section, I’ll provide some tips on how to effectively coach 9v9 teams.

Coaching 9v9 Teams

Coaching a soccer team requires a combination of soccer knowledge, effective communication skills, and the ability to develop a positive team culture.

Here are some tips for coaching a youth soccer team successfully:

  • Develop a loose game plan: Establish a loose strategy that takes into account your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your players, you may want to adjust your line up and formation.
  • Focus on player development: 9v9 soccer provides ample opportunity for all players to develop their own individual skills. Use practice sessions to work on passing, dribbling, shooting, quick decision making, and other fundamental skills.
  • Prioritize teamwork: Like all team sports, players need to work collectively to find success on the soccer field. Encourage your players to communicate with each other, move into open spaces, and support each other on the field.
  • Provide clear and constructive feedback: Effective coaching involves providing constructive feedback to help players improve. There are many opportunities throughout the season to provide this feedback including training sessions, in-game and end-of-season. The key is to be clear, constructive, and positive.
  • Continue having fun: Soccer should be a fun and rewarding experience for players and coaches. Encourage your team to enjoy the game, celebrate in their successes, and learn from their mistakes.

With a patient and focused approach, you can help your players develop their skills and achieve their goals on the field!

9v9 Soccer Formations

3-3-2 Formation

3-3-2 Formation

This is perhaps the most common lineup for a 9-on-9 soccer game. It’s a variation of the standard 4-4-2 formation used in 11-a-side soccer, with one fewer player in each defensive and midfield line.

Youth coaches that don’t want to overcomplicate things can often find success with a 3-3-2 formation. This lineup doesn’t overload any third line and keeps each layer of the team well-balanced.

4-3-1 Formation

4-3-1 Formation

The 4-3-1 enables a back four to be used, which is the norm for professional soccer teams.

The two center backs are responsible for securing the back line, while the two outside backs can switch roles between attack and defense depending on the strength of the opposition and the current momentum of the game.

Compared to the 3-3-2 formation, the center midfielder (CM) player has more flexibility in this formation. With two central defenders protecting their backs, they can direct their attention toward creating passing channels for the wingers and lone striker.

The CM’s role in defense is still crucial, but they now play it further up the field.

With the full-backs protecting the wide defensive zones, the wide midfielders can concentrate on attacking plays during the transition.

A variety of players may fill the forward position in a 4-3-1.

  • A target man may be great if your wingers consistently provide dangerous crosses into the area.
  • A more energetic forward may do wonders when paired with dribblers and space attackers in the wide midfield positions.
  • Attacking duos with both wingers and strikers who are able to cut in and out of the field may be dangerous.

3-1-3-1 Formation

3-1-3-1 Formation

The 3-1-3-1 formation is an alternative to the more common 4-3-1 that utilizes a back three with a defensive midfielder (DM) in the middle.

The 3-1-3-1 formation gives the midfield three more offensive options than the 4-3-1 since the holding midfielder may provide back-line coverage from the center of the field. The center midfielder is free to press forward during attacks since a holding player is protecting the back line.

The back three allows the opponent to attack with more width, just as in the 3-3-2.

The 3-1-3-1 formation allows a coach to exploit offensive skills even more than the 4-3-1 does, especially if a holding man is comfortable on the ball and ready to disrupt opposing attacks.

2-4-2 Formation

2-4-2 Formation

Teams that wish to control the ball should consider the 2-4-2 formation.

Maintaining possession in the middle of the field and attempting to shorten attacking plays further up the pitch are both aided by overloading the midfield with four players on either side of two attackers/defenders. The midfielders in this formation need to be patient and confident on the ball.

This center-focused formation allows for simple one-touch passing and dribbling. The midfielders work to force the defense to throw a player out of position, opening up space for the attack.

The two wide midfielders need to keep an eye on the defensive line even if controlling the ball is their top priority. Since there are only two central defenders in front of the goalie, the wide players may have to make defensive runs back to deal with threats from the wings.

In this formation, you’ll want your strikers to be able to work well together. Both attackers need to be prepared to drop deep to assist the midfield in maintaining possession and making intelligent, well-timed runs to take advantage of any spaces created by opponents who are caught out of position.

Where Should the Best Players Be Placed?

It’s common for teams to have one or two stronger players. Players who can dribble out of danger, make clean tackles, and find the open player are typically the most effective during games.

Building your youth soccer team from the center-out can be a great strategy since most of the activity tends to be in the middle. Therefore, you may want to consider placing your strongest players in the midfielder positions.

Fastest & Quickest Players

Having quick feet is a valuable asset to any team. It may have a positive impact, whether it’s the fullback getting back up or the winger taking on a player.

A fast-paced player should be stationed where they can have the most impact. In this case, placing them in an area where they will regularly interact one-on-one can be advantageous.

A winger or striker may be suitable for these types of players.

Combinations of Defenders and Attackers

Tiki Taka is famous for its combo play. This is one or two-touch passing that moves at a quick pace, making it difficult to close down and intercept.

When everyone is in their respective positions, there will be interaction not just between players who are close to one another but also between those diagonally.

So, a defensive player can sometimes make a pass in the middle or the wing.

Ideally, teams should form triangles. The triangle represents the ideal situation in which a player has two possible passes available to them. Players who are waiting for a pass are continually shifting positions in order to open up passing lanes. After a pass, a new triangle of players should be in motion away from their markers.


I hope this article helps shed some more light on 9v9 soccer positions and formations.

It’s important to ensure your players keep their shape. Players should understand the general area they cover and their responsibilities.

Also, at this age, try to move kids around in different positions. For the sake of the player’s development, moving players in different spots on the field can give them different perspectives. They may find success in a position they didn’t consider.

Best of luck in your 9v9 matches and remember to keep it FUN!

Common Questions

What is the best 9v9 soccer formation?

The 3-3-2 soccer formation is the most common. However, your formation should be based around the talent of your players.

How many players should be on a 9v9 soccer team?

On a 9v9 team, there will be nine players (including the goalie) on the field and about 4-6 subs on the bench. In total, having 13-15 players is ideal.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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