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What Is a 3-5-2 Formation in Soccer? 3-5-2 Soccer Formation

3-5-2 Soccer Formation

There are many different ways to position soccer players on the field. Some formations are more defensive than others, while others have a heavy focus on offense. Some might even be a balance of both, like the 3-5-2 formation.

What Is a 3-5-2 Formation in Soccer?

A 3-5-2 formation is a positional shape in soccer with three backs, five midfielders, and two forwards. The 3-5-2 formation is mostly considered a defensive formation, as the three defenders and three central midfielders carry strength on the defensive side of the field. However, power is easily transferred to the offensive side of the ball, especially with the use of speedy wingbacks.

3-5-2 Formation Roles and Responsibilities


The three defenders will mostly stay on their half of the field to ensure no goals are scored in their net. In a 3-5-2 formation, three central defenders are used, with two midfielders dropping back as wingbacks in defensive situations. This allows the defense to provide five-wide coverage in front of their goal.


This is a midfielder-heavy formation, meaning that the five midfielders are required to jump from offense to defense throughout the game as the ball moves between teams. In a 3-5-2 formation, the midfielders consist of three central midfielders, a left wingback, and a right wingback. The central midfielders focus on offense while the wingbacks drop back to the corners to provide wing support on defense.


The forwards typically stay in the attacking half of the field. The two forwards work closely with the attacking midfielders to wear down and defeat the opposing defense. In this formation, the striker must be physical and excellent at pressing, as part of their duties is drawing in defenders to create openings for other attackers.

Pros of the 3-5-2 Formation

The 3-5-2 formation is known for its strong midfield, which is heavily defended by five midfielders. This means that a team using the 3-5-2 formation can easily dominate in possessions, enhancing the likelihood of scoring and stealing possessions from the opponent. The five-midfielder format also means that the two midfielders on the ends of the line can easily swing forward to support the strikers, giving their team what essentially amounts to four strikers in total. These two midfielders can also easily fall back and join the defenders to strengthen their line.

Cons of the 3-5-2 Formation

Since there are only three defenders, the opposing team can often find gaps to dribble through. Be sure to properly space yourselves out and help out the midfielders as the ball is moved around the field to prevent the ball from going too close to your net. The biggest weakness of the 3-5-2 formation is the strain it puts on defenders, as they must fill the traditional roles of both center backs and fullbacks.


There are a few different variations of the 3-5-2 formation. One popular variation is the Flat 3-5-2, in which the central midfielder of the five-midfielder line drops back slightly to provide a buffer between the midfielders and defenders. This is slightly similar to the 3-1-4-2 formation, which is another variant of the 3-5-2. Finally, the 3-4-1-2 formation is another popular transformation of the 3-5-2.