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4v5+3 zone-14

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4v5+3 zone-14



The attacking team of 7 players is arranged with the 3 midfielders inside a grid marked off by cones with 4 supporting players on the outside. The activity is located in the central channel of the final third – “zone-14”. The grid should be sized based on age, ability, and objectives. A smaller grid will result in a higher technical challenge due to tighter spaces. An opposing team of 5 players is located in the zone to challenge the 3 midfielders.

The activity proceeds as a possession game – the 4 attacking players with 3 midfielders trying to keep the ball versus the 5 defending midfielders. If the defending team gains possession, they will attempt to keep the ball versus the 3 midfielders.
The game can be progressed to include goals and countergoals as described below.


There are a variety of scoring methods in the activity.
In the base version of the activity, points can be scored for consecutive passes with different point values for consecutive passes by the attacking team or the defending team.

An alternative is to modify the system to create scoring for specific tactical movements of the ball. For example, a point may be scored when the ball is played from one wing to the other (7 to 11 or 11 to 7) through the midfield.


Or, a point may be scored when played from a back to the striker (5 to 9) through the midfield.

In a progression using goals or countergoals (see below), points can be awarded to an appropriate target goal.


The game can be progressed by including the full-size goal and, optionally, countergoals for the defenders. In this progression, the full-size goal is “unlocked” after specific tactical objectives are achieved. Examples might include consecutive passes or the tactical movements (side-to-side, back-to-front) described earlier. The countergoals may require a certain number of passes or can be live if the defending team gains possession.

When playing out of the grid – to the full-size goal or the countergoals – all players are live until the action is completed. The restart begins back in the grid.


What we like about this activity

The activity reflects the types of challenges that we would expect our midfield to face in the final third against an overloaded defense. The nature of the activity and the scoring methods encourage a purposeful movement of the ball, combinations of play, 3rd player runs, and environmental awareness. With the addition of goals and countergoals, the activity adds progression, counterpressing, and finishing.

The activity can be used in training sessions as a standalone or as part of a pre-game preparation prior to kickoff.

Relationship to the game

The activity is designed to be a subset of the full-sized game in a specific phase of play – possession in the final third, focusing on the actions of the midfield. A countertheme of shape and organization for the defenders can also be developed.

The positioning of the outside 4 players is designed to mimic how we would expect our players to be organized – options back, wide, and a striker.

The use of the full-size goal is designed to simulate the actions after the ball is played either to the wide spaces or into a striker who must turn and attack goal. When the defenders gain possession, their objectives can be modified to either retain possession and build out or to immediately attack the countergoals depending on the game model.

Coaching points

Although the activity focuses on the actions of the attacking midfielders, there are opportunities to train the supporting attacking players and the defending midfielders.

With the attacking midfielders, we are looking for them to work as a unit. A challenge when outnumbered 3v5 is for each player to avoid “chasing” the ball as individuals rather than looking to find spaces to receive and act as a 3rd player in a combination. For these players, a pair of top-level coaching points can be “scanning” and “communication”. When we talk about the “3rd midfielder”, we are referring to the midfielder farthest from the ball, with vision on the other 2 midfielders and the ball.


As the game shifts around the field, the identity of the 3rd midfielder will shift – for example, when the ball swings from left to right, the 3rd midfielder will change from the right side midfielder to the left side midfielder.

In general, we look for the midfielders to have a sense of shape and responsibilities rather than simply running after the ball. Ideally, we want to encourage the fundamentals of body shape, playing the way you face, anticipating the next action, and other fundamentals that we have developed in other small-sized activities (rondos, positional play, etc). The progression in this activity is the introduction of goals and the tactical objectives of moving the ball with purpose.


For the supporting players, we focus on three phases. In the possession phase, we want to encourage them to be prepared to play a new pass before receiving the ball – scanning the field, continually evaluating options, and playing relatively quickly. We want to encourage them to slide along their line to simplify the task of the midfielders to play out of pressure. In the transition to goal phase (7v5), the objective is to score with a minimal number of passes, taking into account the numerical advantage to prevent the defenders from organizing. In the transition to defend phase (the defenders have won the ball), we are looking to close off any options to score on the countergoals, press to regain the ball, then score.

For the defenders, we are looking for them to deny tactical objectives, prevent passes into the grid where possible, and expand in possession. The defenders should be assigned functional roles (defending mids, wide players, advanced mid) in order to simulate a game organization. In possession, we want to encourage patience (if consecutive passes are required to score points or play out to the countergoals), use the entire space, and play within their assignments rather than chase the ball.

Adjust for numbers

As shown with 12 field players, the game can be adjusted for more or fewer players either based on squad size or for smaller-sided (7v7 or 9v9) games.

Eliminating 1 player can be achieved by removing a defender (4 defenders instead of 5).


To remove 2 players, eliminate both a midfielder and a defender from the middle.


Adding players can be achieved by playing 2 strikers instead of 1 or by adding fullbacks to the wings.



The 4v5+3 zone-14 game is a useful activity for pre-game or as part of a standalone session prior to a scrimmage. The game encourages positional-specific player development and can be modified to a variety of game models. The use of progressions through point scoring and goals allows the activity to transition to a game-like conclusion for each bout.