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Soccer Position by Number: Ultimate Guide to Soccer Formation

Soccer positions refer to the specific role and area of the field where a player is assigned to play during a match. Some common positions include forwards, midfielders, defenders, and goalkeepers. Each position has its own set of responsibilities, skills, and attributes for success in its own role.

Why the Soccer Numbering System is Used?

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, played by millions of people in hundreds of countries. People of all ages and genders across the globe love and play this sport in all corners of the world. One of the most distinctive features of soccer is the numbering system used to identify players on the field. In this article, we will explore why the soccer numbering system is used and how it can vary by team or league.

What is the Soccer Numbering System?

The soccer numbering system identifies players on the field. Each player receives a number from 1 to 11, depending on their position and role in the team. The goalkeeper always wears the number 1 shirt, while the other players wear numbers 2 through 11. In some cases, teams may also assign numbers to substitutes who are not on the field, typically in sequential order starting from number 12.

How Soccer Numbering System Vary by Team or League?

The soccer numbering system is used to help players and officials identify each player on the field. This is especially important in professional soccer, where teams often have large rosters and it can be difficult to keep track of all the players. The numbering system also helps to communicate information about a player’s position and role on the field. For example, a player wearing number 9 is typically a striker, while a player wearing number 10 is often a playmaker or attacking midfielder.

How Does the Soccer Numbering System Vary by Team or League?

The basic numbering system in soccer leagues remains the same. However, different teams and leagues have variations in their usage. For instance, some teams use non-standard numbering systems. These systems assign specific numbers to players regardless of their position or role. On the other hand, some teams use a rotating numbering system. Players are assigned numbers based on their performance or position in a game or tournament.

In addition, different leagues may have their own rules and conventions regarding the soccer numbering system.

Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States and Canada, players must wear numbers 1 through 99. Other leagues usually limit numbers to 1 through 23. In international competitions like the World Cup, players must wear numbers 1 through 23, except for the goalkeeper, who wears number 1.

Must Read: How many players are on a soccer field 

For example, 

  • Forwards or strikers are the primary goal scorers. 
  • Midfielders control the flow of the game. 
  • Defenders prevent the opposing team from scoring a goal. 
  • Goalkeepers are responsible for protecting the goal.
Soccer Position by number

In soccer, the soccer positions by numbers on the pitch as follows:

  1. Goalkeeper
  2. Right Fullback
  3. Left Fullback
  4. Center Back
  5. Center Back
  6. Defensive Midfield
  7. Right Winger
  8. Right Midfield
  9. Striker
  10. Attacking Midfield
  11. Left Winger

This numbering system can vary by team or league. Some teams may use different numbers for certain positions. Additionally, some teams may use different soccer formation that does not include these positions.

Soccer Formation

There are many different soccer formations that teams can use to play soccer, but some of the most common include:

  • 4-4-2 formation made up of four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. Teams that prioritize defense and midfield play often utilize this balanced formation.
  • The 4-3-3 formation is the same as 4-4-2 but with three midfielders instead of four. Teams that prioritize attacking play often utilize this formation, which allows for more attacking players on the field.
  • The 3-5-2 formation is three defenders, five midfielders, and two forwards. It is a more defensive formation that is often used by teams that want to control midfield play and maintain possession of the ball.
  • The 5-3-2 formation is five defenders, three midfielders, and two forwards. This formation is often used by teams that want to defend deep and rely on counter-attacks.
  • The 5-4-1 formation includes five defenders, four midfielders, and one forward. it is a defensive formation that allows teams to defend deep with a high number of defenders. Also to counter-attack with the four midfielders.

The Best Soccer Formation

There are many different formations that teams can use. The best formation will depend on the team’s strengths, weaknesses, and playing style.

The soccer formation 4-3-3 is one of the most popular formations in soccer. It is a balanced formation that allows for a good mix of defense, midfield, and attacking play. The 4-3-3 formation includes four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. This formation is often used by teams that focus on attacking play.

The 4-4-2 formation is also popular. It provides a good balance between defense and attack.  The soccer formation 4 4 2 has four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. This formation is often used by teams that focus on defense and midfield play.

Teams and coaches can adapt these two formations to their playing styles, despite their widespread use. They can modify them based on the players they have. That’s why other formations such as 3-5-2, 5-3-2, and 5-4-1 are also utilized.

How do you create a team formation?

Creating team formation involves several factors, including the team’s strengths and weaknesses. It also considers playing style, the players’ positions and abilities, and the tactical objectives of the game. 

Here are some general steps that can be followed when creating a team formation:

Identify the team’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider the team’s strengths and weaknesses in defense, midfield, and attack. If the team has strong defenders and midfielders but lacks attacking options. A more defensive formation such as a 5-4-1 might be appropriate for that team.

Consider the playing style: Think about the team’s preferred playing style. Whether it’s more defensive or attacking-oriented.

For Example, A team that prefers to attack might use a formation like 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, while a team that prefers to defend might use a formation like 5-3-2.

Assign players to positions 

Based on the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and playing style, assign players to positions that best suit their abilities. 

For example: A player with good ball control and passing skills suited to playing in the midfield. A player with speed and finishing ability suits playing as a forward.

Assess the opposing team: Analyze the opposing team’s formation, strengths and weaknesses, and playing style. This will help you to understand their tactics and will allow you to make adjustments to your formation to counter theirs.

Think about tactical objectives: Consider the tactical objectives for the game. Controlling possession, maintaining a high defensive line, or creating scoring opportunities. When selecting the formation and assigning players to positions, it is crucial to consider these objectives.

Test and adjust: Once a formation is chosen, practice and test it in training. Make adjustments as necessary, based on the team’s performance and the opposing team’s tactics.

The formation and tactics can change depending on the situation of the game. Teams should be able to adapt to different scenarios and be flexible in their approach.

Who started 3 at the back?

The use of a three-at-the-back formation in soccer has been around for quite some time. The origins of the formation can be attributed to several different teams and coaches.

One of the earliest examples of a three-at-the-back formation was the WM formation. Created by the English coach Charles Reep in the 1930s. The WM formation featured three center-backs, with the two outside defenders playing as wing-backs. It was used by several English teams during that era.

Another coach who used a three-at-the-back formation was the Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi. He used it with great success in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the Italian National team and AC Milan. Sacchi’s teams have gained recognition for their high-pressing and counterattacking style. The use of three center-backs in the formation allowed for more defensive stability and flexibility in transition.

In recent years, the use of a three-at-the-back formation has become more popular. Many teams and coaches implement it in their playing style. 

Some examples: Italian coach Antonio Conte used the 3-5-2 formation with great success with the Italian National team. 

Spanish coach Pep Guardiola used it at Manchester City FC.

The three-at-the-back formation is not a new invention. Many teams and coaches have used it in different ways throughout history.

What was Cruyff’s formation?

Johan Cruyff popularized the Cruyff formation, which is a variation of the 4-3-3 formation. A fluid style of play characterizes the formation. The attacking style of play emphasizes ball control, passing, and movement.

The Cruyff formation typically consists of three players in the midfield. One defensive midfielder, one central midfielder, and one attacking midfielder. The defensive midfielder is for protecting the defense. The central midfielder is for controlling the tempo of the game and distributing the ball to the attacking players. The attacking midfielder is for creating scoring opportunities and supporting the forwards.

The forwards in the Cruyff formation are typically fast. Skillful players with good ball control and passing abilities. They expected to move around the field, creating space for their teammates and getting into scoring positions.

Cruyff himself used this formation as a player and coach, and he was one of the main exponents of the Dutch “Total Football” philosophy. A style of play characterized by fluid movement, ball control, and positional interchange of players. He used the formation with great success with the Dutch national team and with FC Barcelona, where he was both a player and coach.

The soccer formation is not limited to only 4-3-3. Other variations like 3-4-3, 3-5-2, 4-2-3-1, and 4-4-2 can also be considered as a variation of the Cruyff soccer formations. They all share the same principles of ball control, passing, and movement.

What is a false 9 position in soccer?

In soccer, teams use the false 9 position as a variation of the traditional center forward or striker position. The False 9 is a player who drops deep into midfield, instead of playing as an out-and-out striker. This allows the team to create space for other attacking players. This can confuse the opposing defenders, as they may not know who to mark or follow.

The false 9 has alternate names, such as “deep-lying forward” or “withdrawn striker”. It is often a player with good ball control, passing, and vision, as well as the ability to create opportunities for teammates. The false 9 is not a fixed position. The player has the ability to move around the field and actively engage in midfield play. He can also drop back to receive the ball from the defenders.

The role of the soccer False 9 became popularized by FC Barcelona during the era of Lionel Messi. The team utilized Messi as a false 9 and achieved great success. Other examples of players who have played in the False 9 position are Sergio Aguero, Karim Benzema, and Francesco Totti.


The soccer numbering system is a crucial aspect of the game, used to identify each player on the field and their position. The system has evolved over the years, with different teams and leagues adopting their unique numbering conventions. Understanding the numbering system can help fans follow the game more closely and appreciate the different roles and responsibilities of each player.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can players change their numbers during a game or tournament?

Typically, officials assign players a specific number for the entire game or tournament.

Are there any restrictions on which numbers players can wear?

In most leagues and competitions, there are no restrictions on which numbers players can wear, although some teams may reserve certain numbers for specific players.

Can a team have more than one player wear the same number?

No, each player on the field must have a unique number.

What happens if a player is sent off during a game?

The soccer numbering system identifies players and positions on the field, evolving across teams and leagues. Understanding it enhances fans’ appreciation of the game.

Can goalkeepers wear numbers other than 1?

While it is rare, some goalkeepers may wear numbers other than 1, although this is not common.

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