9 v 9 Soccer Positions: Everything You Need to Know!

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If you are a regular soccer player, you will probably be well aware of the formations in the 11 v 11 gameplay. However, 9 v 9 formations are popular among young players. 

In the U.S., 9 v 9 is considered a crucial step towards transforming players from smaller game styles of 5 v 5 to conventional 11 v 11 games. However, the game dynamics change drastically when you shift to 9 v 9 gameplay. 

We personally believe that formations shouldn’t be decided on the mindset or preferences of the coaches. Rather, a formation should compliment the playing style of the team and the strengths and weaknesses of the players. 

We have carefully jotted down the most effective 9 v 9 soccer positions you can test with your team to see what yields the best gameplay.

What is a 9v9 Soccer Formation?

Unlike the conventional 11 v 11 soccer gameplays where there are 11 players on each team,  9 v 9 formations only have nine players on each team. The 9 v 9 soccer formation refers to the placement of the players on the field. 

9 v 9 is most popular in the U9 to U13 age groups who are looking to transform their 5 v 5 game style to a larger 11 v 11 game style. 

If you are new to 9 v 9 soccer, understanding different tactics and formations can be tricky initially. The overall rules in 9 v 9 soccer are the same as 11 v 11 game. The entire team is divided into 3 main layers:

  • Defenders
  • Midfielders 
  • Forwards
  • Strikers

Best Soccer 9v9 Formations and Positions

Coaches can use various formations according to the strengths of their players and the playing style of the team. We have created a list of some common 9 v 9 formations and their advantages and disadvantages.

We’ll take a look at formations that suit an offensive high-press game style and others that are of holding gameplay. It all boils down to the playing style, strengths and weaknesses of the players, and your mindset as a coach. 

The Lone Front-Man (4-3-1)

The Lone Front-Man (4-3-1) is a solid 9 v 9 formation that provides additional defensive support with a backline of 4. The 2 center-backs hold the backline as the full-backs must be pacy since they occasionally make forward runs. 

Unlike the conventional 3-3-2, the center midfield (CM) plays a more offensive role in this formation as they have additional defensive support from the 2 center backs.

This doesn’t discharge the CM of his defensive duties. Instead, he defends higher up the pitch. 


  • Great formation if you have fast players who can craft deadly counterattacks. 
  • A back line of 4 defenders gives the CM freedom to march forward, which also creates space for the lone frontman.
  • Great defensive coverage with 4 defenders, providing additional stability to the team. 


  • Losing dominance in the midfield can be easier as the wide midfielders create more attacking runs. You will need a good CDM who is strong on the ball.
  • For an opponent who defends their wide areas well, the wide gameplay of the midfielders can quickly become ineffective. 
  • A backline of 4 means you are limited to 4 attacking players. 

The Classic (3-3-2)

The Classic (3-3-2) is one of the most played 9 v 9 formations. It is just like the famous 4-4-2 from 11 v 11 gameplay. It provides a solid setup for short passing, creating close triangles. 


  • It is a balanced formation that doesn’t overload any part of the pitch while providing a decent buildup.
  • If you have a quality CDM who can connect well with the midfielders, this classic 3-3-2 can be very effective for possessing the ball. 
  • It’s great for teams that lack fast or pacy players. The players can easily pass the ball around without covering lots of ground. 


  • If there’s a lack of coordination, the midfield can often get confused about whether they should be attacking or defending. 
  • This formation can lead to your team being outnumbered in the middle part of the pitch if the opposing team has a lone striker and a packed midfield. This can lead your team to lose control of the midfield. 
  • If you lose control of the midfield, it can result in the isolation of the attackers. This can shrink your chance creation in the final third of the pitch.

The Lone Front-Man Holding (3-1-3-1)

This formation is a modified version of the traditional 4-3-1. It has a backline of 3, with a defensive midfielder playing right in front of it. The Lone Front-Man Holding gives your midfield more attacking freedom than the 4-3-1.

Overall, this formation creates a balance between offense and defense. The defensive midfielder can occasionally make attacking runs while providing additional defensive cover at the center. 


  • Gives the attacking players greater freedom without worrying about the defensive duties.
  • This formation can be lethal if your team has a talented holding player who is comfortable with the ball under pressure and can effectively connect with other midfielders!
  • The central midfielder has greater freedom as he can play in a more advanced position. This also gives the striker a chance to make more forward runs.


  • The game heavily relies on the defensive midfielder. In the absence of a strong defensive midfielder, you can very easily lose control of your midfield. 
  • A backline of 3 means that the defense sometimes lacks players if the opposing team is attacking.
  • Against the teams that press high up the pitch, the lone frontman can end up being isolated.

The Heavy Midfield (2-4-2)

If you want to play total possession, this formation is very effective. With 4 midfielders, you will always have a numeric advantage in the midfield.

This also allows you to press much higher up the pitch and cut any threats before they reach your backline. Like the classic Barca, this formation needs patient players in the midfield who can create one-touch passing combinations.

Once you have possession in the midfield, you can wait for the right moment to feed the ball to your frontline. Although the goal is to keep possession, the 2 wide midfielders must also tend to their defensive duties.


  • Great formation if you like to keep the ball and believe in slow buildup. This formation can complement your game strategy if you want to play quick one-touch passes. 
  • Overloading the midfield works like a charm against less compact defenses. 
  • Keeping the ball for long periods can take a toll on the opponent’s physical and mental stamina. 


  • If the opponents decide to sit deep in their half and let you have the ball, the game can become stagnant. 
  • It can be difficult to penetrate the opposing team’s defense if they defend as a compact unit and if you’re playing against teams who are comfortable with you having possession.
  • Having fullbacks play with the midfield can lead to over-stretching, and it makes you vulnerable to counterattacks.
  • Too much responsibility on the 2 center-backs requires extraordinary positional awareness. 

The Well-Balanced (3-4-1)

The Well-Balanced (3-4-1) is your go-to formation if nothing else works. It provides you with a solid hold on the midfield with 4 midfielders. It makes a balanced team that can adapt smoothly between offense and defense. 

The backline of 3 is complimented by additional defensive support from the two central midfielders. Placing wide midfielders will also provide you with extra protection on the wings.

The two compact central midfielders provide the wide midfielders with more attacking freedom. At the front, you can play a lone striker with greater mobility (like Harry Kane). 


  • Well-balanced formation in both offense and defense.
  • 4 midfielders enable greater control and more possession to create chances. 
  • Slight tweaks in the players’ roles can convert offense into defense and vice versa.


  • Can result in slow and stagnant gameplay if players get too comfortable in their lanes. 
  • If your midfield is ineffective in finding gaps, the striker can become very isolated.

The All Guns Blazing (2-3-3)

As the name suggests, this is an all-out attack. If you have loads of quality attackers and have an offensive mindset on the pitch, this is the formation for you. 

Only use this formation if you have a weaker defense or are playing against a weak defense. 

All 3 lines in this formation are high up the pitch, creating a much greater press. This is how Barcelona plays, with a high defense line that controls possession. 


  • Great formation if you are playing against a weak defense. 
  • It makes high pressing easy with players high up the pitch. 
  • Ball recovery becomes much more effective.
  • Extreme offense can throw the opponent off their natural game plan. 


  • Your team’s defense will be extremely vulnerable against quality and compact teams. 
  • Central midfielders have greater responsibility.
  • Tough to sustain for a full 90 minutes due to the high physical demand of the high-press playing style. 

What to Consider When Choosing a Formation and Line-Up

The following are some factors you need to consider before deciding your formation and line-up.

Where to Put the Best Players

Build a team around your best player. Surround them with players with whom they connect with the best. Chemistry in soccer is crucial for a well-connected and smooth gameplay. 

Where to put Weak Players

Players who complement each other should be put close together on the field. If your CDM is good in aerial duels but is slow, you should pair him with a fast midfielder. 

How to Use Pace & The Fastest Players

Pace is always an advantage in soccer. Although, if you have magical midfielders like Xavi or Iniesta, you don’t always need pace. A pacy player is best placed in a dangerous position, especially on the wings, where there is potential for 1 on 1 duels. 

Player Combinations – Defense & Attack

Ever wonder how the Alba-Messi cutback combination is so legendary? 

Player combinations are crucial if you have a short-passing game style. Different players complement each other even if they don’t play on the same lines on the pitch. So, creating player combinations will allow you more passing opportunities for the passers. 

Isolated Players – Work as a Team

Make sure none of your players are isolated during a game. Your fullbacks or lone strikers are most likely to get isolated. This means it’s important to have a strategy where everyone plays as a team and creates options for each other. 

Balance and Shape

Keeping your shape in all lines of play is crucial to avoid confusion on the pitch. Most importantly, your defensive line should never lose its shape.

This will provide you with a strong and balanced gameplay. If your team loses shape, the opponent can easily find gaps and score goals. 

Your Opponents

If you play a very high defense line against PSG, you will be too vulnerable to their pacy front 3. Studying your opponent before choosing a formation is crucial.

Play your opponent; if you are facing a lethal team on the counter, choose a more compact and deep-sitting formation. 


This is a factor that many coaches miss out on. Not all formations will work for you on day 1. So, keep experimenting with the players’ placement and formations. This will also allow you to see which player performs the best in a particular position.  

Include and Use Everybody

Each player has a unique strength, so make sure to know your players’ strengths and work with them. This will create diversity and depth in your team. Having a good bench is essential to putting pressure on your opponent. 

9V9 Formations – 5 Quick Takeaways

  • 9 v 9 soccer is specially designed for the players transitioning from 5v5 to 11v11. 
  • Different formations have their pros and cons. Study your opponent and choose wisely. 
  • The 3-3-2 gives you a solid and balanced approach on the field. The 4-3-1, on the other hand, gives you an edge when it comes to passing by creating more triangles. 
  • Only use the 2-3-3 when you have limited options in defense.
  • Don’t be scared to experiment and take risks. It will help you discover your team’s real potential.


Choosing a 9v9 formation depends on the players on your team, your opponent, and the mindset you want to enter the pitch with.

The 2-3-3 formations provide you with lethal offense, while the conventional 4-4-2 formations allow for a more balanced approach between offense and defense. Overall, it all comes down to the potential of your players and the style of play you want.

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