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2 girls play football

Graduating from smaller-sided formats to 7v7 lets coaches introduce the idea of a formation and helps players work on the skills required in the 11-sided game.  

To find out exactly what 7v7 involves, we counted every action in a 20-minute game played on a 60x40 metre pitch by U9s. Standard rules were applied, and the ball was in play 55% of the time (11 minutes).  

Here’s what the game looked like: 

A summary of the 7v7 game we observed.
A summary of the 7v7 game we observed.

7v7 is a fast-paced game, with a total of 462 touches across the 20 minutes. At 37 per outfielder and 11 per goalkeeper, average touches for each player were lower than in 5v5 and 3v3 formats. But while there were fewer on-the-ball actions, 7v7 called for more of specific skills.  

For instance, communication and interaction with teammates featured heavily in the 7v7 format. There was more decision-making required too. Positioning became important with extra players on the pitch, giving outfielders practise in this area as well.  

For goalkeepers, 7v7 gave them the most chances to practise facing crossed and aerial balls, averaging three times per keeper. It’s not the best format for facing shots, sweeper-keeper actions or 1v1s, though. The opportunities for keepers to join in attacks were also fewer than in smaller-sided formats.


Tweaking your game’s set up can change the skills that players work on. For example, a bigger 7v7 pitch would encourage more ball striking and moving with the ball over long distances. In contrast, a smaller pitch would create even more opportunities for challenging and intercepting.  

As a coach, it’s your job to think about how the environment and rules will affect players’ actions. For instance, try working out the relative pitch area (RPA) to see how much space each player has. Just multiply the length of the pitch by its width and divide the result by the total number of players.  

Other things to consider:

  • Is the pitch within ‘walls’, or can the ball go out of play?  
  • Are goalkeepers allowed out of the box?  
  • Do players roll or throw the ball in from the sidelines?  
  • Must corners be taken short?  
  • What actions do you expect from the age group that’s playing?  

Remember, any decision on how a game’s set up will influence it in some way.  


Check out our articles on 3v3 and futsal to help you pick the best format for your coaching needs.