Small-Sided Soccer Games

Although seen by many as a modern approach, small-sided games have been used since the 1960s as the best way to coach key skills and tactics to your players. The articles in this section tell you why small sided games will help you, your players and your team to be better. We also show you some of our favourite small sided games and explain how they work.



    • Why 4v4 is good for youth soccer coaching – It should be government policy that soccer coaches use small-sided games before the age of 13. The 4v4 system accelerates development of technical ability and game intelligence. Dave Clarke looks at how 4v4 works.


    • Soccer problem solving using changing pitch dimensions – The 4v4 system is about solving problems, the players respond to the area you have marked out for them, all the elements of a real game are there for them to understand. However, sometimes the correct pitch layout is not enough, your team has a problem but you are not creating a situation to solve it. This is where changing the pitch dimensions helps.


    • Put 4v4 soccer coaching into action – Based on the central ideas behind Dutch Vision, 4v4 is a soccer coaching system dramatically different from most other systems. Created by the Dutch Soccer Association, its success is evident in the number of world-class players produced by such a small country.



    • Use small sided games to score – Use this fast, small-sided game to practise turning defence into attack and boost your goal-scoring opportunities.


    • 2v2 Small sided game to maintain possession – In this small-sided game from Michael Beale, Chelsea FC Academy Coach, players have to keep possession for their team and pass the ball to a team-mate standing outside the pitch.






    • Ball control and shielding skills soccer game – This is a great small-sided soccer game to get players used to playing against more or less players. It gives them a chance to use their shielding and ball-control skills and it’s a fun game with a competitive edge.



    • Small sided soccer game to help players get back to basics – If your team hasn’t won a match for a while, you need to get your players back to basics and working on their core soccer skills. The best way to get them playing with confidence again is to use small-sided games and fun drills. Don’t preach at your team or lose your temper with them, simply get them working on passing, tackling and shooting skills.


    • Close down space with this 4v2 small sided soccer game – If you watch the best defenders, they don’t give away space easily. Space is an attacker’s friend but it’s a defender’s enemy. This small-sided soccer defence game is a good one to work on with your defenders, but all players should be able to close down space when an opponent is receiving the ball.



    • Attack and cover the goal soccer coaching game – This is a good small-sided game to use at the end of one of your soccer training sessions to encourage players to shoot at the empty goals. It is played along the lines of how youngsters play in the playground with the player nearest to the goal becoming the goalkeeper.


    • Three in one soccer coaching session – This is a transition soccer game which gives your players an excellent workout at 1v1, 2v2 and 4v4. It’s three games on the same pitch. The emphasis moves from individual skills to team work and communication.


    • Small sided soccer games for keeping possession under pressure – Getting players to keep the ball is a vital soccer skill. But if you’re coaching this technique, different age groups will need different levels to work at. Here are three games pitched at different levels to practise possession soccer skills.





    • Small sided soccer game for possession skills – Try this fun, fast possession game with your young soccer players. The aim of the game is for the passing team to keep possession of the ball, away from the pressuring team. They have 30 seconds to score a goal…





    • Playground style small sided game – Playground-style soccer is typically tackles flying in from all angles and playing that is quick and in control. It’s a great way to learn! This small-sided game recreates this so that all the players are involved, and sometimes one side is heavily stacked against the other.



    • Small sided game to score from every attack – In this small-sided soccer game you’ve got ten attacks to score as many goals as possible against your defenders. You’ve got to be right on top of coaching this game. Halt the game if your young soccer players are not doing what you want them to do, then show them what you want.



    • Small sided soccer game to get past defenders – Soccer is similar to a chess game sometimes when the opposition’s pawns are in front of your team and your players have to get past the pawns to their king (the goalie). In chess, you entice your opponent to move their pawns and in soccer you have to apply pressure in the right way to force those defenders apart and give your players goal-scoring opportunities.



    • Small sided game for quick feet – If you are coaching quick feet in your soccer (football) training session, this is a good small-sided game to use at the end of the session to hammer home the skills and techniques you’ve been coaching. It is simple to set up and gives you the chance to see if what you’ve been coaching is having an effect.


    • Soccer game to put defenders under pressure – You often see a defence under pressure in youth soccer (football) games. The opposition make all the right decisions and create goal-scoring opportunities because your defenders do not know what to do when they are outnumbered.

      Use this small-sided game to coach your defenders how to organise when they have more attackers running at them than they have defenders.



    • Drill for defensive soccer strategies – Setting up a coaching drill where you have different numbers of players on each side is a great way of boosting defensive soccer strategies and getting your players taking advantage of match-like situations.




    • Fun indoor coaching game – When you are coaching your young soccer (football) players, there are often times when the players start to lose concentration and the session becomes a bit ragged or unfocused. Use this fun game to get players back on track. It’s a good exercise to use when weather conditions mean indoor play is necessary.





    • Small sided soccer drill with touchdown twist – This small-sided soccer game encourages soccer (football) players to use the full width of the pitch because they are not focused on scoring in a goal. It’s like scoring a touchdown in American football or a try in rugby except that players have to work on their dribbling skills and keep the ball at their feet.














    • Two goal small sided soccer game – This simple small-sided game is a good way to end your soccer coaching session. You can watch your players in attacking and defending situations and see if you’ve got your soccer coaching points across.



    • Round off football training with multi ball game – This is a great game to end one of your football (soccer) training sessions. I often use it with my U9s team when they have been training hard. Your players won’t know there’s a coaching element to this game and will be learning without realising it. Another bonus is your training session will end on a high note.


    • Robocop soccer coaching game – In this game players move at walking pace, like Robocop – but with a ball. The main soccer skills objectives are to improve communication, co-ordination and getting a feel for distances.



    • Zonal soccer coaching game – Taking opportunities is important when your soccer players are in match situations – they need to recognise the opportunity and take it. I like this zonal soccer coaching game that allows players to score at every opportunity. My players love it – one slip and the other team has a chance to score a goal. A game where quick thinking, technique and taking every chance that comes their way is vital.




    • Soccer coaching game for switching play – When one side of the pitch is blocked by the opposition it is vital to “switch play” and move the attack to the opposite side of the field. A switch of play is used to create space to attack on the wings and may involve a 1v1 or 2v1 situation on that side of the pitch.


    • Fast-paced, multi-position game to get soccer players moving – This is a brilliant fast-paced, multi-skilled game called “Two-man crossing tournament”. It sees teams adopt a number of different roles. For one team, the pressure is on to make the most of goalscoring situations, while two other teams must show solid defensive thinking if they are to get a chance to attack.



    • Soccer coaching game with positive passing and movement – I love setting up new challenges in small-sided games for my players – the emphasis in this game, “4v4 ice hockey style”, is on positive passing and determined movement. And while quite basic, this is a clever set-up that tests players’ ability to think “outside the box”, or rather “inside it”!


    • Soccer coaching game to win the ball back – A good defence will be able to pressure its opponent into making a mistake. The rule of this session is that the nearest player to the ball must go to pressure the player in possession.



    • Soccer coaching game using a sweeper role for defence – The role of a sweeper is given to a player that plays behind the line of defenders. It is that player’s duty to cover the space behind the defence and in front of the keeper, and sweep across to remove the danger of the opponent’s attacks. This is how you can develop the use of a “minesweeper” in your team.






    • Cut out the pass – One of the things the modern greats like Xavi, Lionel Messi and Yaya Toure have is the ability to receive a ball under the pressure of onrushing opponents; it seems to me they don’t need any space at all to control the ball and keep it away from an opponent.


    • Defend and attack, from front to back – This is a brilliant attack v defense game that keeps players on their toes. Not only must they work together to fashion chances or protect their goal, but the rotation of players on and off the pitch means play stays fresh and committed.


    • Patterns of playPatterns of play are essential to the game. They can begin with any player on the pitch, and range from extremely simple to frighteningly complex! But the more players practise them and understand their effectiveness, the better the rewards for your team.


    • Use the neutral – The attacking team in this game always has a numerical advantage because it can use neutral attackers to set up chances of scoring goals.



    • Play forward, score goals! – If you want your players to create more goalscoring chances in matches then getting them to move the ball forward quickly is a great way to start.This session combines good passing and movement from a base of intelligent defending. Why not try it out and see how quickly your team can improve its goal tally?


    • Captains of communication – Communication is the buzzword here and you may well discover your next club captain through this simple game!


    • Five-goal decisions – Many of us feel our teams can become rigid and predictable. In contrast, all great sides have flexibility in the way they play, so here’s a practice that offers just that.


    • Cone call – This a reaction game that gets players on the move.


    • A game of handball – Few sports grabbed the public’s imagination at the London Olympics last year like handball. It’s a quick-paced, high-scoring, all-action sport, and your players can really benefit from what it offers in terms of teamwork, vision and positional awareness.


    • Cut out the pass – One of the things the modern greats like Xavi, Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane have is the ability to receive a ball under the pressure of onrushing opponents – it seems to me they don’t need any space at all to control the ball and keep it away from an opponent.
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