The X Files

If you want to see how your players could perform in a midfield sweeper role, use this realistic session to help them become comfortable playing in tight areas.

Possession is a vital part of youth soccer and having players who can win the ball in midfield or create space when it is in short supply is the best way to ensure your team has more of the ball.

Set up

Set up an area of 20×20 yards and mark out a four-yard wide X across the centre. We’ve used nine players. You will need balls, bibs and cones.

How to play it

Split your nine players into three teams of three. Team 1 has a ball in one of the squares, Team 2 has a player in each of the vacant squares, and Team 3 is inside the X. Team 1 keeps the ball in the square and tries to make three passes, but a player from Team 3 goes into the square to stop them.
When three passes have been made the ball is passed to a Team 2 player in one of the other squares. When this happens the other members of Team 2 go into that square and the Team 1 players go in each of the vacant squares. A different member of Team 3 tries to win the ball. If Team 3 intercept and pass it into the X, they swap places with the team that lost the ball.


The game requires quick movement and good reactions to keep possession and for individuals to press play and win the ball for their team.

    1. One team occupies a square and attempts to make three passes to score a point
    2. One member from the defending team in the middle of the X must try to prevent the team making three passes

    3. If three passes are made the team must pass the ball to a player in one of the other squares
    4. When a player from the team in the other squares receives the ball, the other two members enter that square and a defender from the X goes to try to win the ball

    5. If the defender wins the ball he must pass out to one of his team in the centre of the X and they then swap places with the team that lost the ball
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