Benefits of a 5 3 2 Soccer Formation

By Vince •  Updated: 07/08/22 •  8 min read

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With so many different formations to choose from, it can be hard to know which one best suits your team. However, there is no one set answer; the perfect formation for your team depends on many factors. Read on to discover why a 5 3 2 Soccer formation can help your team and why you should consider implementing it in your own games. The 5-3-2 soccer formation is also known as a hybrid defense or floating defenders’ strategy. It is an offensive alignment that combines the defensive security of the 5-man backline with the attack-minded outside backs and wingers like in a 3-5-2 setup.

The Basics

The first step to using any soccer formation is to get to know the basics. In a 5-3-2 soccer formation, there are 5 defenders, 3 midfielders, and 2 forwards. The defenders are your team’s last line of defense and include your goalkeeper as well as the two center backs and two full backs. Midfielders include the two center midfielders and the two wide midfielders. Forwards include your center forward and the two wingers. The goalkeeper, center backs, and full backs are defenders who play in the back line. The center midfielders are players who are in the middle of the field and help with both attacking and defending. The wide midfielders are players who play on the “wings” of the field and are responsible for attacking the goal and keeping the ball away from their own goal. The center forward is your team’s main goal-scorer and lines up at the top of your formation. The wingers are your fastest players and are responsible for scoring goals and assisting others with scoring.

Defend with a Low Block and Counter Attack

One of the most common formations for defending with a low block is the 5-3-2. This setup naturally looks to sit back and defend with a low block, which is often referred to as a reactive strategy. This means your team reacts to the other team’s possession in a very passive way by focusing on being compact and protecting the spaces in between your players. If the opposing team manages to break down your low block and is threatening to score, your team will likely restructure their defensive shape into what’s called a counterattack. In a 5-3-2 formation, the defending team will drop back and defend inside their own box while looking to catch the opposing team off guard with a quick transition and counter-attack. This is one of the main advantages of the low block, as it can be used to counter-attack with quick and aggressive numbers going forward.

Possession Game and Passing Game

The 5-3-2 formation is one of the most defensive setups, but it can also be one of the best for ball retention. Defending a low block, your team will have numbers behind the ball and a majority of your center backs will be comfortable playing out of the back. Adding wingbacks to the mix, who are often more comfortable receiving the ball in wide areas, can help your team find easy ways to progress the ball up the field with passing. The key here is to ensure that you keep the ball between the center-backs and the wide midfielders. From there, your central midfielders can use their passing skills to move the ball up to your attacking players. The passing game from a 5-3-2 formation is also aided by the fact that your wingbacks can get into very advanced positions. This can create width, which can help stretch a defense and create more passing lanes for your center-backs to find an advancing midfielder. A wingback’s wide positioning can also be a key component in an effective possession game, as it can help create a wide overload, which can create more space for your wide midfielders.

Offensive flexibility of width and depth

The versatility of a 5-3-2 formation can be found in its ability to play both inside and outside of the final third. With three central midfielders and two forwards, the 5-3-2 formation has the ability to sit deep and control a match in the opponent’s half and then quickly transition and attack in the final third. By simply adding one or two extra passes, your team can move the ball from the back line to the forwards in a matter of seconds. The 5-3-2 formation has the ability to stretch out the opposition defense with both width and depth. The wingbacks are always positioned high up the pitch and are the main source of width, while the two forwards can drop into the midfield to offer depth in the final third. In order to stretch the opposing defense, you need to add width and depth to your attack.

Solidity in central areas, especially the center-back position

The 5-3-2 formation is great for defending in central areas and relies heavily on a strong central defensive partnership. Setting up your defensive line with three center-backs can help give you a numerical advantage in key areas of the pitch. One important thing to note about the 5-3-2 is that one of the center-backs will often be tasked with the job of being a sweeper. The sweeper will stay behind his other two central defenders and be responsible for being the last line of defense. The other two central defenders will be responsible for managing one side of the pitch each, while the sweeper will be responsible for managing the middle of the pitch and covering the inside backs. This setup gives the central defenders on the pitch a great deal of responsibility. They have to be able to handle both sides of the pitch by marking the opposition attackers, while also being prepared to step up and intercept the ball if their teammates are out of position. This inside responsibility is especially important, as the inside backs will often be facing the opposing team’s most creative player.

3 Striker Options With 2 Wide Players

A 5-3-2 formation allows you to employ three strikers, who will be responsible for scoring all of the goals for your team. The third “striker” comes from one of your midfield three or a wing back who makes a late run into the attacking third. This can be advantageous for a number of reasons. If the opposing team employs a defensive formation, you can play a 5-3-2 and have three strikers who will be looking to break the net for your team. If the opposing team plays an attacking formation, you can match them with a 5-3-2, using three strikers to counter their offensive threats and put the ball in the net. If you are using three strikers, you will need to make sure that you have enough width on the pitch to stretch the opposition defense and create more space for your strikers. The two wide midfielders can provide that width and can also be responsible for creating chances and shooting on goal. Three strikers can be effective, but they can also be difficult to manage on the pitch if you don’t have enough width.

Limitations of the 5-3-2 Soccer Formation Team

Some considerations you may want to keep in mind if you’re thinking about using this formation include the following. The 5-3-2 formation doesn’t really have any weak points unless you play it extremely defensively and allow your opponents too much space in the middle of the field. In that case, the formation can turn into a 5-3-0 formation. The 5-3-2 formation is somewhat predictable, but with a good midfielder and a creative center forward, you can overcome this.

You’ll also need fit wing-backs as they provide all the width for the team – both in attack and defense.

Things to Remember When Using the 5-3-2 Formation

If you decide to use a 5-3-2 soccer formation, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is that your team should have strong defenders. Having more defenders on the field is great, but if they can’t defend, it won’t matter. The second thing to remember is that you have to have enough midfielders. You need to have at least 3 good midfielders, but ideally, you should have 4. The third thing to remember is that you have to have players who are comfortable playing in different positions. If you have these things, you’ll be able to use a 5-3-2 formation and benefit from its many benefits.


I'm a qualified soccer coach, who has been involved with the sport for most of my life. I started Woodland Soccer to talk about the game I love.