Is “Total Football” Effective?

soccer game chalkboard diagram

Total Football is the formation on the soccer field where all players are interchangeable, meaning that when one player moves out of position then another player fills in their place to ensure that the field is still balanced.

This form of soccer saw a lot of success in the 1970’s when the Dutch club, Ajax went 46-0 under this innovative system.

Abbey Villa SC and Kings FC are the only soccer clubs in Massachusetts to offer the total football techniques.

Diverse Skill Sets among Athletes is Essential in Making the System Work

The key for Total Football success is the ability for all the players to be able to easily adapt to different positions on the field. It is one of the most essential requirements that all players are able to interchange positions. In this type of soccer training each player must be able to know the role of the different positions on a soccer field and be able to competently fill that role whenever a switch is called for.

In many cases this switch can involve a midfielder moving up to a forward position or for them to move back to a full back position, requiring them to use different fundamental skills to execute each role effectively.

If players are able to make this adaptation, the runs that each player can make up the field can confuse their opponents as they try and matchup giving players, especially outside wings, an increased amount of space to operate. This in essence is what it’s all about: confusing the opponent to the point where a defensive lapse occurs.

Beyond Skill Set All Players Need to be Conditioned Like Midfielders

It takes a very fit player to be able to run the midfield effectively. If a team adapts this type of youth soccer training approach the need for highly fit players is increased as each player will need to make runs to different parts of the field on a regular basis.

If total football is to be implemented, practice sessions should take on an added fitness approach to ensure that all players are able to get up and down the soccer field like midfielders.


Probably the most critical aspect of total football is player’s ability to communicate with each other. This may not seem like a difficult task, but it does take practice and is the most essential ingredient in ensuring that the field remains balanced.

Is Total Football Right for My Team?

It may take several practices and even a few games to determine whether the team has the depth, skill, fitness and ability to communicate to effectively implement this strategy. However, if the system is disciplined and the players are comfortable, the Total Football system can cause opposing teams fits in trying to figure out how to defend against it and, as a result, can be highly effective in Massachusetts youth league matches.

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One Comment

  1. John Souza says:

    Great article for older children who have the tools like skills, stamina etc.

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