What Is The Soccer 352 Formation?

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Soccer 352 Formation promotes beautiful soccer and when shooting on all cylinders can be some of the nicest things seen on a field. Teams such as Brazil, Argentina, and Barcelona have stepped on the field with much success in the past, with no pressure.

Ever wanted to play in a formation that highlighted your attacking qualities and also gave you flexibility in defense? Well, then you’ll love playing in the 3-5-2 soccer formation. Like all great formations having clear role identification and a selfless work rate is essential for this formation to work on both sides of the ball.

Now that you like this formation it’s time to dissect it and learn everything about it. From how your team shape should look in different situations to individual player assignments, it’s all here for you. Go on now, don’t be shy to learn something new.

3 5 2 formation


Set Up: 1 Goalkeeper (news flash), 3 Defenders, 5 Midfielders, 2 Strikers

Strategy: This is a setup that can play very effectively on the counterattack because of its numerical advantage in the front two lines once a team has committed numbers forward and left spaces behind their defense. High pressure is also something considered because of the formation of high concentration in the front two lines.

When To Use It: If this isn’t your typical team’s set up this is a formation you can go to when you want to outnumber a team in the middle of the park and apply pressure to their back line with two strikers. Also situationally during a match, if you need a goal this is a formation that is very much of the attacking mindset.


1. Flexible Formation In Defence

The beauty of a back three with a midfield five in front of them is the many ways you morph from one defensive setup to the other. If your wing backs are doing it right whenever the ball is on the strong side, the weak side wing backdrops in the back line making it into a back five. Also, you center midfielders can play one behind two in front or the opposite depending on the strategy for that particular game or opponent.

2. Numbers in Attack

Well, the formation says it all but the midfield and striker line really floods the front two lines and gives a team more options in possession to threaten the opponent. Whichever your style of play is having seven players in the front two lines allows you to possess, counter or play direct to unbalance the opponent’s defensive structure.

3. Two Strikers

Who doesn’t love a formation with a little punch up top, a one-two punch at that? Having twin strikers up top can have great benefits in attack allowing more options for midfielders, more combination play between the strikers, and giving depth in attack with runs in behind. Defensively having two strikers allows for a more aggressive presence and the option to high press with two frontmen leading it.

4. High Press Options

Moving your wingers up to form a front four to initiate a high press or just one of them on the strong side can really allow a team to play on the front foot and cause turnovers in dangerous positions. Without making any adjustments the fact that you have two strikers pressing their back four also just naturally is a setup that lends itself well to pressing the ball when the opponent is in possession.

5. Flexibility in Center Midfield

The ability to play with a center midfield with two attacking players and one sitting or vice versa allows a team to change the way they set up the heart of their team. As we all know like in chess establishing a strong presence in the middle of the playing field is important to control the rhythm of the game. With three center midfielders you can mix and max the types of players along with the way they set up at any moment during the match.


1. Holes In the Back Line

The obvious gaps exist in the wide areas of a back three defensive line. Whether it is the gaps between each player in the back three or the areas they leave open by not staying connected there are obvious holes that need to be filled as the ball changes from one side to the next. Communication, rotations, and no-nonsense decision-making on the ball will make the life of a back three significantly easier.

2. Vulnerable to Direct Diagonal Balls

Big balls over the top and especially diagonally can catch a back three sleeping at times. In this case, these direct balls are played quickly after the defending team loses possession which can be increasingly dangerous. The 3-5-2 soccer formation for all of its advantages has a clear challenge in defending wide areas in transition.

3. Need Two Way Wing Backs

Because of the work rate necessary to cover the back line and also create dangerous attacking options going forward this formation needs wing backs that can go up and down the line with ease. Whether it is sliding across the back line to sure up the defense or serving the ball to the strikers in the attacking third wing backs in a 3-5-2 soccer formation need to be fast, dynamic, and have good motor and discipline.

4. Vulnerable in Transition

It’s tough enough to try and defend a back line with 3 players imagine if your team just lost the ball and you’re not in a good defensive position and you need to recover. Trying to sprint back into position while facing your own goal and the opponent going at full speed can be a handful, add that to your wingbacks being caught up on the field, and having to recover 70 yards to help you out is a tall task. Transitions can be a killer for a formation that has low numbers in its backline.

5. Need Three Great Defenders With Pace

Because of the lack of numbers in the back line these three defenders need to have enough pace to cover wide areas and areas in behind if necessary. Any team that lines up with more than one player in their front line will cause issues for the back three if they aren’t organized, have great stand-up defenders, and have enough pace to track them down.

Too Much Offence in the Soccer 352 formation Maybe?

The longer you have the ball the less they do right? Sometimes the best defense is a strong offense and nothing brings heat to the net like a 3-5-2 soccer formation. It’s important to remain disciplined organize side even though it may seem like you’re only going for the goal in this setup.

Don’t be misled, although the best teams in the world that have strong offenses generally are disciplined and organized defensively even if their formation doesn’t exactly scream out the defense.

The key here is in the middle of the park. The fifth midfielder really gives the team flexibility to defend, possess and attack in numbers depending on the situation. When defending the central midfielder (also referred to as the defensive midfielder) plays a key role in maintaining a disciplined defensive unit in a vulnerable back line. This player alternates from their position to covering for center backs floating out of position as well as being the dominant figure in winning tackles in the middle of the park. Easily the most important figure for keeping this unit safe in terms of penetration down the middle.

If you want to read more about the 3-5-2 soccer formation and understand it on a deeper analytical level feel free to read this article that goes into more in-depth details. Read here for its importance and evolution over time, Tactical Analysis: The 3-5-2 Formation – Evolution and Importance.




-The goalkeeper needs to play higher up the pitch than usual and be connected to the back three in case they need extra coverage for direct balls over the top as well as in build-up play without that traditional back four.


-Organizing your back line and ensuring the wingbacks are rotating back into the defensive line.

-Communicating to all players on set pieces



The Defensive line can play:

-Flat back 3 (don’t get all fancy, keep the back 3 flat)


As a unit, the back three should:

Center Back

-Ability to cover lots of ground as there are only 3 in the back

-Very low rate of error (smart tackles, keeping the ball, etc)

-The most crucial organizer in the field

Outside Back

-Stay at home, play within the means of the formation

-Give the shape depth, especially when building from the back

-Provide a safety valve for the central midfielders



The Midfield line can play:

-“V Shape” 1 holding, two wide in front, 2 wider in front of them

-2 holding, 3 in front

-3 flat, 2 in front

-4 flat, 1 in front

-1 holding, 4 flat in front


As a unit the middle five should:

Center Midfielders

-Without question control, the middle from a possession standpoint and game flow point of view

-Have the freedom to go forward knowing there’s a cover

-Ability to be creative in the attacking third of the field

-Cover defensively not surrendering team shape over anything else

Outside Midfielders

-Large capacity for work, being able to play up and down for 90min

-Make selfless runs all game long

-Giving width to the formation trying to pull out opponents into 1v1 areas



The Forward line can play:

-2 flat (most common)

-1 behind, 1 in front (works best with a player who has strong posting abilities and a player with pace to play off of them)

-1 and 1 staggered in some variation or wide


-Keep the ball with their back to the goal

-Retain possession for the team for the attack of a number

-In a 3-5-2 strikers are counted on to put the team on the scoreboard

Got too many offensively talented players and you don’t know how to manage them all? Implementing the 3-5-2 might solve that problem allowing them all to express themselves freely. By freely I mean scoring goals and giving defenders nightmares. You need to be careful though, too much offense and too many players just looking to go forward can cause problems when hit on the counter, you’ll have your hands full on the days the ball just doesn’t seem to want to go in.

If you can’t win the middle of the park lining up this way then you’ve got bigger issues than formations and tactics. You play with five clouding up the middle for a reason, that part of the pitch should be a traffic jam where nobody gets through. You’ve given up your back four to win that part of the pitch so own it. Generally, teams combined with the five in the middle will push their opponents inside to stop them from exploiting them in wide areas of the field.

If it’s a relentless dynamic attacking and asking several defensive questions of your opponents then the 3-5-2 soccer formation is perfect for your style of play. This does not mean you don’t need to defend or you can be lazy on the other side of the ball. This formation takes a cohesive unit to be dynamic not only in attack but in defense as well.

Conclusion – Soccer 352 Formation

Soccer 352 formation is the most recent formation to pop on the scene. This formation is often used in higher levels of competition, such as collegiate or professional teams, but it is becoming more popular in the high school ranks.

To be successful with this formation, you must have exactly the right amount of talent. Because the talent is so precise to fit this formation, youth teams who randomly select members often don’t have the luxury and talent to use this formation.

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