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The soccer positions of a team are an essential part of their planning, since a good soccer team is well organized and everyone has a complementary role that, when they are well allocated, make them play like one single player. Because good soccer is about good team play and coordination, too.

If you are a soccer trainer, or even if you are a soccer player who wants to know more about soccer, here is a concise article that will give you all the information you will ever need.

We will explain to you how are players allocated, their numbers, roles and the best formations that can be created with these.

Soccer position numbers

First, you should know that players have a player number assigned to their position. There’s almost always 11 players in the field, this is why since 1920 in U.S. Soccer we have position numbers, that makes the game easier to understand by youth players, developing a universal language to know how a soccer team must organize. This is useful to learn and remember. 

Here is an example of how most typical positions should be numbered and their respective roles:

1 – Goalkeeper (GK): The most obvious position, because of his special role. This is the last line of defense against the opponent’s score. Its only job is to protect the net, and is the only player allowed to use his hands and arms to pick up the ball or block the opponent’s shoot.

2 – Right Fullback (RB): Fullbacks are the rear defenders, helping the GK defend from his blind spots. They will move up and down the field, and will also help during offensive plays.

3 – Left Fullback (LB): Same as number 2.

4 – Center Back (CB): They are also known for being the central defender before the goalkeeper because they represent a second layer of defense, just in the middle of the defensive line.

5 – Center Back (CB) or Sweeper (SW): In some formations, like 4-4-2, you will find two CB, but there’s also the Sweeper role (SW). The SW is a person who stays behind the defensive line and is responsible for sweeping up the ball when the opponent team get past that line, before it arrives to the GK. They can also help in an offensive strategy.

6 – Defending Midfielder (DM): The DM is directly positioned in front of the defending line. He is responsible for intercepting passes and rebounds, and tries to keep the ball as much time as possible on the other’s team zone.

7 – Right Midfielder (RM): Both the RM and LM are referred also as wingers or outside midfielders. These two positions are allocated to pull the opponent’s defense and give more space to the team’s offensive line.

8 – Central Midfielder (CM): This is the most flexible role, since it can be both defensive (lining up with position 6) or offensive (lining up with position 10). He will adapt his role dynamically to the ball position, so he must have exceptional ball handling skills and speed.

9 – Striker (S): The striker is the player allocated to score on the other’s team goal, so it will almost always be the nearest player to the opponent’s GK. Strikers should be fast, have a nice footwork to evade the defense line and be precise when making the decisive shoot.

10 – Attacking Midfielder (AM): The AM is the player who normally leads the offensive plays, (which also gives their other name “playmakers”) even though he is positioned between the midfield players and the Striker.

11 – Left Midfielder (LM): Same as number 7.

Consider the fact that the position number begins at the most defensive side of the formation and ends generally in the attacking side. This fact will help you instantly know how aggressive or exposed a role is.

Take into account, also, that some soccer commentators will refer to some players and doing the role of a concrete number, like “this player behaves like a 10”. This is crucial to understand some references.

Soccer formation

After knowing the most usual soccer positions, it is interesting to explore also the soccer formations, since it gets that information to create a concrete allocation of player roles in a team. But you should know first how to interpret these numbers (4-3-3, 4-4-2…)

Here’s how formation numbers work:

  • Since the GK (Goalkeeper) is always in the same position, the formation only counts the other 10 players on the field. So, the numbers in the formation should always add up to 10.
  • The numbers are mainly referring to the number of players allocated in the defensive, midfield and offensive line, in that order. So, a 4-4-2 would mean we have:
    • 4 players in the defensive line.
    • 4 in the midfield line.
    • 2 in the offensive line
  • If a formation has 4 numbers, which is not very common, it will mean a line has been divided in two. Most usually, it happens with defensive or offensive lines.
  • Even with the same formation number, some formations can have a different shape, which is very relevant.
  • A team should adapt to new game situations in a creative form, so the formation should flow naturally with the responsibilities of the team players, and it is important to work as a unit.

Considering the abundant variation of formations that a team can use to play, you should know at least the three most recommended soccer formations, that could help you win a game:


alineación 4-4-2

This formation is one of the most popular in the world because it’s easy to understand and is very well-balanced. If you don’t know which formation to choose, play with this one. There’s also two strikers in the offensive line, which will have space also for interfering during the other team attacks.


alineación 4-3-3

The 4-3-3 formation is another great option for when you are not convinced on how to form your team. This excels for being very flexible and perfect to adapt to the most difficult situations in a game. The coach won’t need to change the formation shape if he wants to change the strategy, which is brilliant.


Alineación 4-2-3-1

We talked about how formations can divide up to 4 lines, and this is a great example. This is the formation that the great soccer manager José Mourinho used in countless games, that gave his team a high control of the ball in the middle of the field. It is composed of:

  • 1 striker
  • 3 attacking midfielders
  • 2 defensive midfielders
  • 4 players in the defensive line, composed by a RB, a LB and two CB.

Do you want to test out this new information and formations? Why not try it while doing a Soccer tour in Spain with your team, practicing the best soccer tactics with our personalized assistance?

If you want to go even further in the training of your team, you can also check out our soccer training camp in Spain, we can help you raise the level of your team! If you want, we can also organize a soccer tournament to test your new adquired skills.

We at CN Sports Tourism will be available for you, so be sure to fill the contact form in case you have any doubt. Be prepared to practice the best soccer positions and formations with us!

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