10 Soccer Spacing Drills The Best Coaches Are Keeping Secret

One of the biggest challenges of a coach is trying to stop your soccer players from bunching especially when they are at a younger age. As a coach you want to try and encourage your players to spread out and find space so that they can support their teammates on the ball. These are the best soccer drills that teach spacing that I have used and seen great results with.

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Why is spacing important in soccer?

In soccer, you must encourage your team to spread out and find space when in possession of the ball, this makes it very hard for the other team to try and steal the ball back as your team will always have a teammate to pass to if they are closed down.

Your team will create more attacking opportunities if players maintain their spacing as the other team will be dragged out of position, this will allow space for your players to attack and to try to score goals.

How do you teach soccer players to spread out?

Teaching a soccer player to spread out and stop bunching cannot be taught during one session, it must be continuously taught throughout the soccer season.

A coaching point that I have found successful is to remind players that if their teammate has the ball and they move toward them their teammate will have less space and if they pass to you, you will have less space.

But if you move away from your teammate, you give them more space and you are in a fantastic position to receive the ball if they are closed down by defenders.

Other coaching points that can help players spread out is to encourage them to scan the area so they can find a space to receive the ball, receive the ball in an open body position so they can see the whole area in front of them, and communicate with their teammates when they are in space.

Giving players positions, even during small-sided games can be very beneficial as it helps give them a better understanding of where they should be in relation to pitch

Ultimately consistency with your coaching is key, you must continuously reinforce these coaching points throughout your soccer seasons if you wish to teach your soccer player to spread out. These soccer drills that teach spacing can help.

10 Soccer drills to teach spacing

1. 4-goal soccer game for spacing

There are 3 soccer players and 3 red soccer players on a green soccer pitch, this is an example of a soccer spacing drill. The blue team have the ball and there are arrows showing how the blue team can spread out and find to space and score in the goal that the red team is not blocking
The 4 goal game soccer spacing drill

Set up:

  • 10 x 15-yard area
  • 4 goals
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 2 teams of 3 or 4

Instructions:

This is one of my favorite soccer games to play to encourage players to spread out.

Instead of trying to score and defend 1 goal the teams must defend and score in the 2 goals that are placed on opposite corners.

This encourages players to constantly think about where space is, if the defenders are blocking 1 goal the attacking team must work together to move the ball across to the other goal where there is space.

All the corners and goal-kicks will be taken in the middle of the two goals.

Coaching points:

  • Constantly keep your head up so you can see where space is
  • If you do not have the ball find a position where you can help support your teammate
  • Your passes and the first touch should always take you away from the pressure

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What should you be constantly doing?
  • If you don’t have the ball what should you be finding?
  • Where should your passes/ first touch take you away from?

2. Soccer Spacing Rondo Drill

There are 2  rondo squares on a green soccer pitch. The rondo square on the left has 4 blue players on the outside keeping the ball away from the red player in the middle of the square. The rondo square on the right has 4 red players on the outside keeping the ball away from the blue player in the middle of the square. This is an example of a soccer spacing drill
Rondo soccer drill to help teach spacing

Set up:

  • 2, 5 x 5-yard areas
  • Two soccer balls
  • 2 teams of 4

Instructions:

This gives a more competitive twist on a basic rondo soccer drill, create your 2 areas for your 2 teams each team will send 1 player over to the other teams’ area to become the defender.

The winning team for that round will be the team that puts together the most passes in a row. The overall winner will be decided by whoever wins the most rounds.

This soccer drill for spacing is great to use as a stepping stone because of the numerical advantage.

Coaching points:

  • Scan the area before receiving the pass so you know which teammates are in space
  • You should be receiving the ball in an open body position so you can see all the options you can pass to
  • Create passing angles for your teammates by moving up and down your side

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What should you be doing before you receive the ball?
  • What position should you be receiving the ball in?
  • How can you help support your teammate on the ball?

3. Vertical thirds small-sided spacing game

This shows 6 soccer players on a green soccer pitch split into 3 equal vertical thirds. There are 3 red players and 3 blue players. There are 2 players in each vertical third, one from the blue team and one from thee red team. The soccer spacing drill shows that the red team has the ball and there are arrows showing the positioning and passes of the red teams players so that they can find space
The vertical thirds soccer game that helps teach spacing

Set up:

  • 10 x 15-yard area (divided into vertical thirds 5 yards wide)
  • 2 goals
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 2 teams of 3

Instructions:

Divide your players into 2 teams of 3 and assign each of them a position, (left midfield, right midfield, central midfielder.

Each player or player must stay in their respected vertical section. by splitting the field in vertical 3rds players can still go forward and attack as well as defend.

However, once a player receives the ball in their vertical section they can choose to dribble out of their section but once they pass the ball to a teammate or lose possession they must return to their section.

Make sure you rotate players around into different positions.

If a player receives the ball while out of their respective area then it will be a free kick to the other team.

Coaching points:

  • Stay in your space/ position to make the pitch as big as you can when you are in possession of the ball
  • Find a space to help support your teammate on the ball in your position
  • Recover quickly back into your position after losing the ball.

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • When we have the ball do we want to make the pitch as big or small as possible?
  • If you don’t have the ball what should you be thinking and doing?
  • If you lose the ball what do we have to do?

4. 2v1 soccer drill for teaching spacing

For this soccer spacing drill there are 3 players, a blue player, a red player and a yellow player on a green soccer pitch. The blue player has the ball and there are arrows showing how the blue player can either dribble past the defending red player or pass to the yellow player
2v1 soccer spacing drill

Set up:

  • 5 x 10-yard area
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 2 goals
  • 3 players

Instructions:

This will be a fun 1v1 soccer drill with 1 magic player, the magic player will be on the team with the player that has possession of the ball.

The magic player will always create a 2v1 situation which will provide lots of opportunities for players to spread out and find space to help support their teammate on the ball.

A good rule to add to this game is to say if players can combine passes with the magic player then that goal will be worth double.

Coaching points:

  • The magic player should always keep his head up and look to move into space to support the other players
  • Communicate with your teammates and let them know where you are

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • If you are the magic player what should you be always looking for and why?
  • What else can you do to let teammates know where you are?

5. Keep the ball away 4 v 2 soccer drill to teach spacing

There are 6 players, 2 goals and 2 soccer balls on a green soccer pitch. 4 of the players are blue and 2 of the players are red. There arrows to show how the soccer spacing drill works. The blue players are trying to keep the balls away from the red players. The red player scores in a goal if they win the ball back
4v2 possession game to stop players bunching

Set up:

  • 10 x 15-yard area
  • 2 soccer balls
  • 6 players (2 defenders)
  • 2 goals

Instructions:

There will be 4 players whose aim is to keep possession of the 2 soccer balls, the 2 defenders must steal the soccer balls and work together to score as many goals as they.

As there will be 2 soccer balls in play players must constantly scan the area and communicate with their teams to successfully keep the ball away from the defenders.

By spreading out and finding space the possessing team can make it very hard for the defending team to steal the ball.

If the possessing team stands next to each other and bunch up it becomes very easy for the defenders to steal the ball.

Coaching points:

  • Communicate with your teammates
  • Scan the area so you already know what you are going to do with the ball once you get it
  • If you don’t have the ball move away from your teams and find a space where they can pass to

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • How can you let your teammates know you are in space?
  • What should you be doing before you receive the ball so you know where everyone is?
  • How can you support your teammates?

6. 3 teams keep the ball away to teach spacing

There are 9 soccer players on the green soccer pitch, with 2 goals. There are 3 blue soccer players, 3 red soccer players and 3 yellow soccer players. There are arrows showing how the soccer spacing drill works.
3 team possession spacing drill

Set up:

  • 10 x 15-yard area
  • 3 soccer balls
  • 3 teams of 3 (1 defending team at a time)
  • 2 goals

Instructions:

Set up your area and divide your players into 3 teams of 3, with one of the teams being the defending team. The teams that have the ball can only pass to those players who are on their team.

Their goal is to try and get as many passes in a row as they can in that round, if they get the most passes in a row they will win the round.

The defending team must try and steal the ball of the possessing teams and score as many goals as they can in the round.

At the end of this soccer drill that teaches spacing, there will be 2 winners, the team that got the most consecutive passes and the team that scored the most goals as the defending team.

This is a great drill that promotes spreading out and finding space as players are constantly scanning the area and supporting their teammates as there are lots of things going on in this soccer drill.

Coaching points:

  • Keep checking your shoulder and looking up because they’re a lot of things going on at once
  • Communicate with your teammates
  • The more you spread out the harder it is for the defenders to win the ball

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What should you be constantly doing so you know what’s happening around you?
  • How else can you help your teammates on the ball?
  • Will it be easier or harder for the defenders to win the ball if you are standing next to each other?

7. 3v3 transition soccer game that teaches spacing

There are 9 soccer players on the green soccer pitch, with 2 goals. In the middle they are 3 blue defending soccer players. The 3 red and yellow soccer players are waiting to attack and score on the blue soccer players. There are arrows showing how the soccer spacing drill works
3v3 soccer spacing transition game

Set up:

  • 10 x 15-yard area
  • 3 soccer balls
  • 3 teams of 3 (4 teams will work too)
  • 1 goal

Instructions:

This is a fun attacking drill that will also help players to stop bunching and spread.

First of all, divide your players into 4 teams of 3 starting at one side of the area facing towards the goal with each of them having a specific position.

To begin this soccer drill the first team will combine passes going towards the goal and take a shot.

As soon as the shot is taken they will become the defenders.

If the defending team wins the ball back they can attempt to score on the goal where the attackers are starting from.

However, the attacking team will always become the defenders regardless of how the phase of play ends.

The teams must attack quickly and find space in their position if they want to be able to successfully score goals against the that is trying to reorganize as defenders.

the defending team will then collect a soccer ball and join the attackers’ line once the phase of play has ended.

Coaching points:

  • Stay in your position or space to help support your teammate if they cannot go forward
  • Attack the space quickly
  • When you are dribbling keep your head up so you can make the best possible decision on the ball

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • Where can you go to help support your teammate on the ball?
  • As a team does you want to attack fast or slow if a team is unorganized?
  • Where should be looking when we are dribbling the ball?

8. Get it wide soccer drill to teach spacing

On this green soccer pitch with 2 goals there are 2 teams with 4 players on each team. The pitch shows how the set up will help teach soccer spacing and stop players bunching up.
4v4 small-sided game to help to teach spacing by getting the ball wide

Set up:

  • 20 x 15-yard area ( create two 3 yards vertical channel that runs parallel to the 20-yard lines)
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 2 equal teams of 4 (CM, LM, RM, ST)
  • 2 goals

Instructions:

For this soccer spacing drill, it will be like a normal scrimmage however if a player can receive the ball in either other wide channel and the team can score in that passage of play the goal will be worth 3 goals instead of one.

This gives an incentive for the wide players to spread and stay in their positions instead of coming into central areas to get involved with the play.

When the wide players do this, it takes away space from players in the central areas.

So when central players have the ball they have less time to make a decision and cannot play in the wide areas because their wide player is right next to them.

Coaching points:

  • When in possession of the ball the wide players should be in these channels
  • If the ball is in the wide area the wide player needs support going forward and going backward
  • Remember even if the wide player does not receive the ball, by staying wide they are creating space for other players in the middle

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • Where should wide players be when their team has possession?
  • How can we help support the wide player?
  • How else does the team benefit from the wide player staying wide?

9. Pass through the cones soccer drill for spacing

There are 3 blue soccer players on a green soccer pitch with no goals. On the green soccer pitch there are 10 yellow circles. The blue soccer team is passing the soccer ball through the yellow circles to score points. There are arrows showing how the players can spread out and pass to each other in this soccer spacing drill
Passing through the circles’ soccer drill to stop players bunching

Set up:

  • 15 x 20-yard area
  • 1 soccer ball per team
  • 7 small circles made up of cones
  • 3 players per team

Instructions:

This is a very easy soccer drill to set up and explain, within the area space out your 7 circles and give 1 soccer ball to each team of 3.

The team that can pass the ball through the most circles is the winner, however, teams must not pass through the same circle consecutively.

This will help players think 1 or 2 passes ahead to help support their teammates by finding a space where they can receive a ball that travels through a circle.

Players must also scan the area and communicate with their teammates to decide which circle they are going to pass the ball through.

Coaching points:

  • Once you have passed the ball you should be thinking about where you should be moving next
  • Receive the ball in an open body position to keep as many options open to you as possible
  • Communicate with your teammates to decide which circle you want to pass through next

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What should be doing/ thinking after you have passed the ball to a teammate?
  • What position should you be receiving a ball in?
  • How else can you help your teammates make better decisions on the ball?

10. 4 square player positioning rondo soccer drill to stop players from bunching

Set up:

  • 5 x 5-yard area divided into quarters
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 5 players (1 defender)

Instructions:

With this rondo, players must keep the ball away from the defender in the middle however the team in possession must stay in their quarter, the will to players running to the ball and bunching up.

This will allow players to get an understanding of how spreading out and moving away from the ball is a lot more effective in helping the teammate than running toward them and closing their space down.

Coaching points:

  • Create an angle to help support you, teammate, on the ball
  • Receive the ball in an open-body position
  • Your first touch should take you away from the pressure

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What can you do to make it easier for your teammate to pass to you?
  • What body position should you be in to receive the ball?
  • Where should your first touch take you?

Spacing soccer drills to teach players not to bunch conclusion

Teaching players how to spread out and find space is something you must consistently encourage as a coach and you must have patience in the process.

You must allow players to make mistakes and highlight how they can improve next time, this will promote independent thinking skills in the players.

The coaching points and spacing soccer drills will provide a good foundation on how you can teach your players to find space and spread out as they are very game-oriented and have a lot of game relevance.

Let me know how you get on if you have used these soccer drills to teach spacing and let me know if you have any other spacing soccer drills that stop players from bunching you have used that have worked to help soccer players spread out in the comments below!

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Thank you,

Toby

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