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5v5+2+2 end bumpers

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5v5+2+2 end bumpers



The field is laid out as a small-sided game with goalkeepers. The game includes 4 field players and 2 “bumper” teammates, one on each side of the target goal. The bumpers could be on the edge of the penalty area, wider to the corner flags, or more narrow.

In possession, a team may play through one of the bumpers. The rules may require a bumper player to “unlock the goal” (a pass is needed to the bumper player before a goal may be scored), or the game may be allowed to flow freely.


The game can include an offside line at midfield or no offside line. The bumper players are always considered to be onside.


1 point is scored for each goal. A rule may include scoring 2 points if a bumper player is used in the build-up.


The rules associated with offside and the bumper players are two areas for progressions. The bumpers may be restricted to 1 or 2 touches.

The use of an offside line has two side effects. First, it forces the team out of possession to either be in its half of the field when gaining possession or to have at least one opponent between themself and the goal. Both situations present an opportunity to play through the bumper players to beat the opposition line.


Second, it incentivizes the team in possession to push its defensive lines forward when the ball moves into the attacking half of the field. This results in more opportunities for the team in possession—who number 6v4 in the attacking half of the field—and creates counterattacking opportunities for the defending team in transition.

An advanced progression is to allow the bumper player receiving a pass to switch into the field with the nearest teammate replacing the bumper player on the outside.


This progression can create some interesting scenarios, especially when the ball is played over distance into the bumper player, perhaps even from the defending half of the field. In this scenario, the bumper player receiving the ball and entering the field will be 1v1 on the opposing goalkeeper.

A necessary adjustment is the dimension of the field. The length should be sufficient to create the attacking opportunities and 3rd player movements we would look for in the actual game without being so long that the bumper player must wait to play a ball back to an attacking teammate.

The starting points of the bumper players can be moved closer to or farther from the goal. The latter adjustment can be interesting in combination with the progression of the bumper player entering the field. If, for example, the bumpers are at the corner flags, a ball played into the bumper requires them to take multiple touches to take on the goalkeeper rather than simply taking a touch and then a shot.

What we like about this game

The game encourages the team gaining possession in transition to immediately look forward and identify a high target to play into. When combined with aggressive 3rd player runs, the game will ideally turn into a series of quick counterattacks.


In response, the team losing possession must recognize when the ball has been played behind them, identify threats from 3rd players, and work hard to recover. The goalkeepers in this game must be alert to counterattacking threats and can also start attacking counters by playing through lines to bumper teammates.


In summary, the game rewards aggressive decisions and movements in attacking and defending roles.

Relationship to the game

Although the actual game does not include static targets behind defensive lines, we can identify two tactical elements that relate directly to the larger-sided game—the use of progressive passes to break lines and the coordinated movements of third players to provide options to switch points of attack and create numbers-up opportunities going forward.


In the defensive role, the game will create numbers-down situations (1v1 or 1v2) in which the players must make recovery runs at speed and identify angles and threats, and the goalkeeper must make decisions on managing space and time.


Coaching points

The activity is designed to focus on the moments of transition. Upon winning the ball, we want our players to look forward to the high-target option for the bumper. If there is pressure in front of the ball, a second option is to quickly play to a teammate who can make the penetrating pass. The trigger for the player on the ball is the availability of space between the opponent’s lines that allows a ball to be played into the bumpers.

In general, we want this pass played on the ground. Given the restriction on the location of the bumper player, it is difficult for a ball in the air to be received cleanly. Depending on the size of the field, this pass may need to be driven using a laces technique to get the required distance.

For the teammates of the player in possession, we look for runs forward to support the expected pass into the bumpers. The details of the run – direction, shape, speed – may require reading the player and the direction of the pass – in other words, understanding whether the pass will go into the right or left bumper. 


On loss of possession, the defending team’s first objective should be to cut off opportunities to play the penetrating pass – ideally by immediately pressing the ball. With an offside line, the entire team should be in their attacking end. As a coach, this can become a teachable moment for the players to understand the ideas behind implementing a high press.


When the ball is played behind the defending team into a bumper, and in recognition of attacking players breaking forward, the defending team must track back to pick up players. In this scenario, we will want the defenders to direct their runs to recover and prevent a rebound pass from the bumper into an attacker. In the progression with the bumper entering the field, the closest defender must also consider the threat posed by the bumper and attempt to get goalside to help the goalkeeper.


Adjust for numbers

The game is shown as a 5v5 (4v4 with goalkeepers) and 2 bumper players for a total of 12 players. The number of field players could be reduced to a 2v2 or increased to a 7v7 without altering the fundamentals of the game. In these cases, the field’s dimensions must be changed to allow for more or fewer players.

The goalkeepers could be eliminated in favor of mini-goals. Without goalkeepers and in the progression where bumpers enter the field, adjustments should be made to the positioning of the bumpers. Ideally, in this case, the bumpers would be far enough from the mini-goal so that a defender tracking back could reasonably challenge the ball instead of the bumper simply turning a pass into a 2-touch goal.

With an odd number of players, two options are possible. The simplest is to play the game with one team a player-up – for example, 6v5+2+2. Another option is to create a central zone with the neutral locked in this zone. This creates another bumper player, although this player cannot exit the zone.

A final option is to play the odd player as a true neutral within the game, able to move up and down the field with the team in possession.


The 5v5+2+2 end bumpers game provides opportunities for teams to recognize and execute penetrating passes, 3rd player runs, and counter-press on loss of possession. For the game to be successful, the field dimensions must consider the players’ age and abilities. Progressions create opportunities to alter the challenges for the players. The game can be adjusted for more or fewer players.