Best Formations for 7v7

2-3-1 7v7 Formation

The 7v7 game arrives at the pinnacle of optimal learning for kids developing their footballing trade. The smaller size in field allows players to have more touches on the ball, creates more 1v1 situations and is an easy transition from 5v5 into an easy-to-understand formula for success out on the field. 7v7 formations are by no means complicated and they are extraordinarily easy for players to understand, even for players that are only ages of nine and ten. The focus with 7v7 soccer should always be on a player development first and as such a formation should always come second. That being said, here are some of the best formations for 7v7 football to help you get started and encourage optimal player development within your team.

2-3-1

2-3-1 7v7 Formation

2-3-1 is the most classic 7v7 formation out there. It offers fantastic balance in any team and is incredibly easy for young players to grasp. Two defenders being helped by three hard-working midfielders offers plenty of support at the back without overloading defensive areas. Simultaneously, the midfield can get forward and the wide players allow for plenty of width in attack. A lone striker is often supported by a central midfielder who can play as a 6 or 10 depending on the situation and has the best of both roles wrapped up in one. Goals are not hard to come by whatsoever in this formation and it is incredibly effective to defend against all of the formations listed below.

ADAPTABLE FORMATIONS FOR 9v9

  • 2-3-2-1
  • 2-4-2
  • 3-4-1

PLAYERS/SKILLS REQUIRED

  • Hard-working midfielders who can get up and down the field. Particularly a hard-working central midfielder.
  • Wingers who don’t get drawn to the middle and can also get up and down the line in short sprints.
  • A centre forward who can hold the line all on their own.
  • Defenders who do not create too big of a gap between themselves.

PROS

  • Attack-minded and possession oriented.
  • Achieves fantastic balance in both wide and central areas; defense and attack.
  • Every player has a clearly defined role.
  • Creates lots of opportunities for goals.

CONS

  • If defenders play too far apart, a massive gap is left in the centre of defense.
  • Midfielders are required to be non-stop runners and help out in both attack and defense.
  • Striker can become isolated if opposition midfield shuts down central areas.

2-1-2-1

2-1-2-1 7v7 Formation

2-1-2-1 offers a different take on the classic 2-3-1, bringing the central midfielder a little deeper and the wide players higher. The major and obvious benefit to this formation is that it is very attack-oriented but still provides enough cover in defense. With the right players and a central midfielder that can cover a lot of ground, this could be the formation that catches any team by surprise. 2-1-2-1 also helps players clearly understand that they are either primarily an attacking player or a defensive player, helping to make the transition from the 5v5 game all the smoother.

ADAPTABLE FORMATIONS FOR 9v9

  • 2-1-4-1
  • 3-2-3 or 3-1-3-1
  • 2-3-2-1

PROS

  • Attack-oriented and supports a fast style of play.
  • Striker should never become isolated.
  • Shape is interesting and creative, forcing opposition not to have too much knowledge on the best methods of counter-acting it.

CONS

  • Attacking midfielders may be less inclined to help out in defense than if they were right/left midfielders in a 2-3-1.
  • A massive gap in between DM and AM’s can be created if DM does not cover enough ground or gets caught too low.
  • A larger gap is created between defenders and wide midfielders than in 2-3-1.

3-1-2

3-1-2 7v7 Formation.JPG

For a more defensive approach, coaches and managers should look no further than the 3-1-2. The formation provides excellent balance and a three-player defensive base to ease the future transition into 9v9 and 11v11 formations. Although the central midfielder may look isolated on paper, playing with a 3 in behind and a 2 up front offers loads of tactical flexibility and positional fluidity, which often happens with younger players either way. Defenders can be given the license to fill in gaps in wide areas, while strikers learn that they have to be more than just goalscorers and have to do a job in defense as well.

ADAPTABLE FORMATIONS FOR 9v9

  • 3-3-2
  • 3-2-3
  • 4-2-2

PROS

  • With three strong defenders, teams can be indestructible in defense.
  • Forwards get accustomed to working in a two-striker system.
  • Easy for strong, less skillful teams to bully more skillful teams that will often be playing with more fluid attacking formations such as the two above.
  • Teaches forwards to defend from the front.

CONS

  • Central midfielder is required to do a lot of running. If they fail in that quest, the other team will dominate.
  • Can become overly defensive if fullbacks don’t push up with the play.
  • Not naturally rooted in a possession-based style of play (but this can be mitigated with fluidity in the fullbacks).

3-1-1-1

3-1-1-1 7v7 formation

One of the best formations for teaching 7v7 players the tactics of the game, the 3-1-1-1 is a great formation to switch to when protecting a lead or trying to hold on, but can also offer greater midfield support for teams who desire to play with a back three than the 3-1-2. The 3-1-1-1 is best when you have specific players who can clearly fit into those defined roles or when you have a real lack of wide midfielders. The formation is very narrow and so keeping possession in central areas may be critical. However, it can also be used in an attempt to make the wing-backs the most important players in the game.

ADAPTABLE FORMATIONS FOR 9v9

  • 3-1-3-1
  • 4-3-1
  • 4-2-2

PROS

  • With three strong defenders, teams can be indestructible in defense.
  • More midfield support than the 3-1-2 but without taking away the attacking threat of the second striker.
  • Easy for strong, less skillful teams to bully more skillful teams that will often be playing with more fluid attacking formations.

CONS

  • Can become very narrow and width must be provided at the right moments by fullbacks.
  • Teams might struggle against opponents that overload in wide areas.
  • Can become overly defensive if fullbacks don’t push up with the play.
  • Not rooted in a possession-based style of play.

3-2-1

3-2-1 7v7 Formation.JPG

The 3-2-1 is an increasingly popular choice for teams that wish to adopt a less attacking- based style of play. It allows teams to play a solid defensive back-line of three players without negating too much control in midfield areas.

You’ll notice that in this diagram, the central defender is higher than the two fullbacks, as opposed to the picture for the 3-1-2 and 3-1-1-1. This is to emphasize how crucial it is for the central defender to step up in central areas when required as there is no ‘central midfielder’ in this formation. As such, the 3-2-1 can sometimes resemble the 2-1-2-1. The main distinction is that in the 3-2-1, the central defender is often a libero or ball-playing centre half, while in the 2-1-2-1, it’s often a midfield destroyer, tasked with winning the ball for their team and distributing it to more attacking talents.

ADAPTABLE FORMATIONS FOR 9v9

  • 4-3-1
  • 3-2-3
  • 3-3-2

PROS

  • With three strong defenders, teams can be indestructible in defense.
  • More midfield support than the 3-1-2 and better suited to a possession-based style.
  • Easy for strong, less skillful teams to bully more skillful teams that will often be playing with more fluid attacking formations.

CONS

  • Wide midfielders may become confused as to how and when to come central as opposed to staying wide.
  • Width can also be lacking if wide midfielders stay too central.
  • Although it looks very balanced, it’s easy for the formation to upset the rhythm of a team as roles are less well-defined.
  • Central defender required to step up into midfield when the time is right.

CONCLUSION 

So there it is! Some of the best and most common formations for 7v7 soccer around the world. Will your team take a more defensive approach like the 3-1-2, or play a more expansive style such as that of the 2-1-2-1? Comment below to share your thoughts, suggestions and opinions. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

For the best 9v9 formations, click here.

18 thoughts on “Best Formations for 7v7

    1. A 3-1-2 when played like that can often look like a 1-3-2, which means that there is space in behind to exploit…but this also sounds like a team who dominates posession, given the high line. The best way to counter-act their high press would be to match them with the same system and play the same way…wing-backs playing high, central midfielder probably mobile in behind and willing to cover the necessary space when required in the same 3-1-2 system. However any system with wide midfielders or fullbacks could be adapted to cover the other team’s outside backs. I’d take a 2-3-1 for example and play the wide midfielders to cover their outside defenders. You could then push your central midfielder higher to exploit central areas, particularly on the counter-attack. In 7v7, assuming there are no offsides, I would play the striker in behind their high line. The more inglorious approach would be to then play the long-ball game. With a striker cherry picking in behind their back three, the defenders will be forced to stop their game. If they don’t, the midfielders and defenders can always play a long-ball in behind and take advantage. So long-story short – match them in formation, cover their fullbacks, play the striker high and play a long-ball game.

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      1. If I match systems with a 3-1-2 do you recommend both strikers play behind their high line? If so, positioned centrally together or high and wide spread apart? Or maybe something else? The long ball game is not good under normal circumstances, but to have one game I agree it may be the best option given how aggressively this opponents defenders sprint up to the half line. We play a 2-1-2-1 normally and have lost just once…to this team.

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      2. Another good question. If you have two up top I wouldn’t personally play them side by side. When out of possession and the other team’s defenders are on the ball, I would have 1 pressure the ball and the other more free and either in behind their defense or covering. I could see it working both ways but I would personally think you’d have more success with the two strikers playing high and wide with the midfielder pushing up when the opportunity is right and providing that balance in central areas. It also depends how high their outside defenders are pushing up the field because you wouldn’t want to tell two strikers to follow them all the way back into your 18. In that case it would definitely be the fullbacks who would take on the role of covering, with your strikers in wide areas ready to exploit the space left in behind. That being said the attacking 2 in the 2-1-2-1 could do a similar job to what we are talking about with 2 strikers right now. In that formation, there is no issue with those 2 tracking back and sticking close to their fullbacks. If your players know the system better, it may be worth just adjusting it so that the 2 are on their fullbacks, the defensive mid is keeping close to their centre-mid and the striker can put some pressure in behind their back three and keeper. I think the benefit of a 2-1-2-1 is how conducive it is to counter-attacking play which in this scenario sounds very necessary.

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  1. I like it. My 2-1-2-1 almost becomes a man-to-man coverage game all across the pitch. I feel I have the CDM, backs and outside mids to match up with. My issue is their center defender is all world with 6’3” height and loads of speed. He would win any 1v1 battle with my striker. However, I can see my striker holding a long ball up and laying it off to my Wong attackers who can run past the opponents high pressing wingbacks. If I use wrongfooted outside attackers, they should get off shots. Overall, should we play pressing up, sitting back, or just something in between. Thank you, by the way, for all your help.

    GW

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    1. Yeah no problem! This has been an interesting thought experiment. I think that by taking out their full-backs with your front two you can at least mitigate the central defender’s ability when they are in possession. But I think if the centre back is superior to your striker the best thing is just to make sure the striker keeps on fighting and doesn’t get frustrated if he starts losing battles. It’s all about confidence and belief as much as ability sometimes. As far as sitting back or pressing, I wouldn’t personally sit back…especially not in a 2-1-2-1. I’d play fast pace and get right up on them with a high press, especially if you have hard workers and can counter-act their possession. If their possession is too much and a high press can’t be maintained then some positional awareness from the players and sticking rigidly man to man should help.

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  2. My formation is 2-1-1-2,its a risky formation but if you have the right defenders and 1 help attack and defense ,you be none stopable.

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  3. I favour the 2-1-2-1 for a few reasons…. I’m finding it’s a much more natural progression from the commonly used 1-2-1 (diamond) in 5v5. It also allows for a very natural progression into all of today’s more commonly used formations such as 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 and even 3-4-3. I’m also finding wingers these days very rarely want to defend, so pushing them higher gives them more license to express themselves in attack! Interesting to hear different ideas 🙂

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  4. Hello mate ,
    I am just moving up to 7v7 and I played 1-2-1 diamond on 5v5 because I like to press high with the defender at the half line and keep the possession as had little quick players with very good abilities . Moving to 7v7 I am very interested in 3-1-2 as that could be a 3-3 when defending as a unit , sitting deep leaving no space to explore , but also on attacking will use the DL and DR as a wingers as they quick and love a tackle , this way will have a overload and could use lots of crosses in the box becoming more an 1-3-2 . As i mentioned like to keep the possession and have the players using theirs abilities on tight spaces and 1v1 . What would you think will be the best formation for me team style ??? Thank you

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    1. For the progression from 1-2-1 in 5v5 to 7v7, I personally like the 2-1-2-1. This creates lots of natural diamonds and expands on all the same principles learned in 5v5, just bigger field size. Given that your defender played on the half way line,
      essentially your 1-2-1 would be expanded on to add 2 defenders in behind. Comparing this to a 3-1-2, the progression from 1 defender to 3 may be a lot especially if your team was playing high and keeping possession as in 7v7 you don’t really need a natural 3-1-2 when playing that kind of style. If the fullbacks play high and more like a 1-3-2 I think this can be a great option to maintain width and create those diamonds. With two natural strikers who understand when to drop, when to stay high and how to balance each other’s movements, this could be very effective for your playing style. The problem with two-striker systems these days is just finding two strikers who can actually play off of each other and provide balance. I think when considering your style of play described and what is an easier progression for your players that the 2-1-2-1 may be a more natural fit. I would say in the 2-1-2-1 you are also creating more opportunities for the AM’s to go 1v1 whereas in the 3-1-2 you would maybe be more often utilizing the wing-backs to maintain width and look to provide crosses or chances for the strikers. However, the 3-1-2/1-3-2 option could be a very good fit if you have the players for it (i.e. wingers who can defend well and get up & down + two natural strikers) and if you have the tactical knowledge of how to coach the wing-backs and strikers to balance each other and how to operate in this formation. Thanks for the question and cheers! Happy to discuss further if more questions come up.
      – TMS Coaching

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      1. Hi again ,
        I do like the idea of 1-3-2( as sometimes becoming 1-1-3-1) as I think that got the players with the abilities for the style I am trying to implement at this level . When played 1-2-1 my striker was my 1st defender and he usually liked to drop a lot of times and playing compact with the 2 mid more like a 1 – 3 as the 2 boys on the left and right have very good vision and control on the ball , also they use both feet . They used to swap sides every time the ball was out of the game or when they scoring goals . that way was creating confusion to the other team and more opportunities in the front of the goal .. The only thing about 2-1-2-1 is that my 2 defender will have to balance each other and play quite deep as sometimes leaving a big gap between them and the mid , creating space opportunity as 1-3-2 gives my CM the opportunity to drop in the front of the def because got 1 of the striker dropping deep to cover and take the ball ..I call him the destroyer as is more a free roll because of his abilities and resistance of effort .. Also , the CM has got the skills to be a holding defender and gives him the opportunity to develop better than having him stuck as a defender ,,that way he will be a restricted player not using his abilities to the full potential , so I like him to be the 1 in the front of the def ,, Also my keeper is getting there with using his feet a lot and been more a defender than a goalkeeper as he was originally defender but discover that he has got better goalkeeping abilities .. Also , like the possession game as give the boys time to the ball and thinking/react quick in a dangerous situations ..I am trying to teach them that having the possession is about moving the other team players out of theirs positions creating that space and opportunity to explore .Thinking of 3-3 when is a tight game and I am 1 or 2 goals up thought that will give the boys the opportunity to break out quick on the counter attack and surprise the other team also not leaving spaces to the other team to explore or coming to the middle .Also as my team is pretty much short not tall players in 3-3 less crossing coming in as the other teams have tried to use lots of crosses against my 1-2-1 formation last year as at times we weren’t dropping back as quick as we wanted ( at the end of the day they are young and they learning and developing ) also pretty much everyone use a 2-3-1 system these days and will give me the opportunity to have a 4v3 in the middle of the filed ….

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      2. That’s very valid! I see all of your points. It’s always good to have a Plan A to enhance the players’ learning and help them understand how to work together as a unit. The 1-3-2 idea is a really interesting one, especially considering as you said you’ll match the 2-3-1 player for player. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things out too, especially considering all the variations you could have with this particular formation! Best of luck with the season and adapting the 5v5 game to 7v7.

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