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9v9 4 zone game

I recently played this game with my high school team. We often play too many passes in a small space, drawing defenders who then try to press. This game encourages moving the ball forward through the thirds and attempting to combine within a zone on the field to break down an opponent. Allowing the passer to move into the attack creates a numbers-up situation for the attacking team and an opportunity to quickly break down the opponent and move into the final attacking zone. A touch limit (I’ve used 3-touch max) creates purpose to player involvement on the ball.


Team play 9v9 with goalkeepers. The field is divided into four zones. In this diagram, the red team is attacking into zone 4 and the blue team is attacking into zone 1. Each team plays 4v4 in each of the two middle zones. The “A” lines are offside lines – the ball must enter the attacking zone before the players. The “B” line is the midfield line – the ball must be passed (not dribbled) over this line. At first players must stay only in their assigned zone. As the game progresses, the passer may be allowed to join into the next attacking zone. For example, if red player 1 passes to red player 2, he can advance into zone 3. When the ball is played into the final attacking zone (for red, zone 5; for blue, zone 1), all players in the attacking half can go in. The ball cannot be played back across the midfield line once it goes forward.

Coaching Points 

Players in the defending half (red, zone 2; blue, zone 3) should be looking to play direct balls into the next zone. Players in the attacking half should be looking for pockets of space and timed runs to receive the ball. Players in both zones 2 and 3 should be looking for diagonal supporting positions behind the ball – the ball can be played backward within a zone, and players should be looking to combine a back pass with a pass going forward.


Neutral players can be added to facilitate movement of the ball and create overloads. Limit touch counts to improve pace of play and speed of thought.