Website Manager

Murrysville Area Soccer Association

Murrysville Area Soccer Association


The 3-2-1

Target Formation
The 11v11 formation that is mimicked by the 3-2-1 is the 4-4-2.

The 9v9 formation that is mimicked by the 3-2-1 is the 4-3-1.

The 3-2-1 features three fullbacks (a center half with outside fullbacks on the left and right), two central midfielders, and one forward in the most advanced position on the field.

Attacking Philosophy
The 3-2-1 is a conservative, ball possession-oriented formation. The two central midfielders are the primary ball possessors and distributors in the 3-2-1. The forward serves as the target player, making runs into attacking space in the opposing defense or checking to the ball to receive passes and become a distributor to onrushing midfielders and fullbacks. In the attack, the outside fullbacks move up the field along the wings, opening space for the midfielders and providing outside support for the attack. In the final third of the field, one of the midfielders often pushes high into the attack to create space with the forward, leaving the remaining midfielder as the primary distributor. In possession, the players in a 3-2-1 work to create triangle passing options. The objective of a triangle of players is to provide the player in possession of the ball with a minimum of two passing options at all times. For example, the left outside fullback, one of the midfielders, and the forward might be a triangle; another triangle might consist of the left outside fullback, one of the midfielders, and the center half; another triangle might be the center half and the two midfielders. The center half works to support the attack by drifting to the active side of the field and serving as the deepest point on a given triangle. The attack in a 3-2-1 generally is indirect, with players working to maintain possession in triangles until a strong run or a defensive lapse creates exploitable space. The 3-2-1 also features rapid back-and-forth passing from the center of the field to the wings.

When played well, the 3-2-1 dominates possession. The intentional creation of triangles often produces number advantages for the players in possession (three attacking players working against two defending players). The 3-2-1 also is fairly resistant to counterattacks because it relies on short passes; when possession is lost, it is usually lost in an area where there are several players who can recover quickly to prevent rapid counterattacking.

The 3-2-1 does not create the same number of goal scoring opportunities as more aggressive formations do. The 3-2-1 also demands a very high work rate from the midfielders, which can lead to fatigue and difficulty recovering once possession is lost.

When to Employ the 3-2-1
The 3-2-1 is an effective formation for teams with creative and intelligent players who are skilled in possession. Because any three players can comprise a triangle, creativity and quick thinking are necessary in a 3-2-1 to produce scoring opportunities. The reliance on short, rapid passing in a 3-2-1 means that ball control and creativity are valued above speed and athleticism. 


Murrysville Area Soccer Association
PO Box 494 
Murrysville, Pennsylvania 15668

Email: [email protected]

Copyright © 2024 Murrysville Area Soccer Association  |  Privacy Statement |  Terms Of Use |  License Agreement |  Children's Privacy Policy  Log In