Best Attacking Strategies for Pickup Soccer

Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level. I’ve played countless pickup games in my free time, and have used many different strategies to win. So today, I will share the most effective attacking strategies for pickup games to help you outscore your opponents. 

Soccer Photo

Pickup soccer is a free form of soccer that anybody can play, anywhere. 

Yet, most games tend to be competitive, often with academy players, and occasionally even ex-pro players often join the fun. 

So these games tend to be very high-scoring, often reaching double digits. 

To keep matches close, teams need to be able to put the ball into the net consistently. 

To help you out, we put together a list of the most effective attacking strategies for pickup soccer, to make sure that you win the next time you play. 

Related article: Best Defensive Strategies for Pickup Soccer

Soccer Pickup Team Together
‘Pickup Team Group Stretch’ (#1 Envato – YuriArcursPeopleImages)

Top 3 Attacking Strategies for Pickup Soccer

There are several important aspects of attacking in soccer that is necessary to score consistently. 

Essentially, all of these aspects contribute to catching the opponents off guard. 

Such as the ability to create space in the attack, having numeric advantages up front, and always having passing options. 

Lucky for you, each of the strategies we are discussing today has these traits. 

They’ve been selected from personal experience to make sure that they can be replicated. 

When performed correctly, each strategy can be extremely effective against any team you may face. 

Soccer Team Pre-Game Walkout
‘Soccer Team Pre-Game Walkout’ (#2 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

#1: Possession

As the name suggests, this strategy mainly is based on keeping possession of the ball.

The idea is that circulating the ball quickly creates gaps between defenders, which can be used to create scoring opportunities. 

Keep in mind, however, that defenders need to keep a high line to help circulate the ball in the opponent team’s half.  

So counterattacks are a major threat because by keeping a high line, defenders put themselves into a vulnerable position. 

Soccer Player Preparing to Pass the Ball
‘Soccer Player Preparing to Pass the Ball’ (#3 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

When should you use it? 

One of the most important factors when deciding if your team should use the possession strategy is passing ability. 

The ability to make quick decisions, recognize attacking runs, and pass the ball accurately are all necessary for the success of this strategy. 

If your team has these traits, it may be a good idea to give this strategy a try. 

Otherwise, too many turnovers allow the opponents to counterattack, increasing the chances of conceding a goal. 

Not to mention how exhausting it is to keep tracking back to defend. 

So unless you know that you have solid teammates, it is better to use a different attacking strategy. 

Pros & Cons

The primary advantage of using possession in the attack is the ability to create gaps in the opponents’ defense.

Gaps between the defenders can be used to exploit the space in front of the goal and create scoring chances. 

Through passes will immediately set up the attackers for a goal, since it puts them right in front of the goalkeeper for a shot on target. 

But don’t worry if a pass is not on or the attackers can’t perform a shot in time, because they can just play the ball back where it came from. 

Circulating the ball in this way creates another advantage for the possession strategy. 

Opponents will be constantly chasing the ball as they try to prevent your team from scoring. 

This is can be used to fatigue opponents early on and create an easy endgame for your team. 

Advantages in short:

  • Gives the ability to create gaps between opponents
    • Used to exploit space behind opposing defenders
    • Through passes set teammates up for scoring
  • Circulating the ball will fatigue opponents
    • Creates an easy endgame for your team

The most significant disadvantage that comes with using possession is being prone to counterattacks. 

Circulating the ball in the opponent’s half requires defenders to hold a high line so that more players in the attack can be used as passing options. 

While this may be of great use in the attack, it is a huge drawback when it comes to defending. 

Being too high up the pitch makes the defense vulnerable because it takes less work for the opponents to beat them. 

Disadvantages in short:

  • Requires high defensive line
    • Makes the defense vulnerable
    • Prone to counterattacks

#2: Wing play 

The wing play is an effective attacking strategy used in pickup games, which relies on skillful wingers to do most of the attacking work. 

The core idea is that stretching the field as wide as possible creates space in the middle channel of the field, which forwards and midfielders can use to receive passes. 

Gaps between the defense allow the wingers to deliver passes to their teammates in front of the goal to score easy tap-in goals.

Since the field is generally smaller for pickup games, most of these passes will be on the ground, however, sometimes crosses can also be effective. 

Wingers must always be as wide as possible to make sure that they aren’t crowding any space in the middle. 

This ensures that the forwards and midfielders have the most attacking options possible. 

Skillful Player Beats Opponent
‘Skillful Player Beats Their Opponent’ (#4 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

When should you use it?

One of the key components of this strategy is having fast and skillful wingers. 

Including the ability to recognize when they should challenge a defender and when they should pass the ball. 

These traits will allow them to be unpredictable to keep defenders guessing, which contributes to the overall success of the strategy. 

Having midfielders and forwards with good tactical knowledge is also crucial to have when implementing the wing play into your team’s tactics. 

They should be able to recognize gaps that the wingers create, so they can use that open space to receive the ball.  

Last but not least, if your team tends to play forward passes often, then it could be very helpful to open gaps in the middle channel of the field. 

This will allow players to easily penetrate the opponent’s defense and create scoring chances. 

Pros & cons

The main advantage that the wing play provides is opening space in the middle channel of the field. 

As we said before, these gaps can be used by midfielders and attackers to penetrate the defense and create more scoring opportunities.

Additionally, by having wingers positioned as wide as possible, it allows players to use switch passes. 

Defenders tend to shift their positioning to the “ball side” side of the pitch to clog gaps between themselves and avoid being beaten. 

However, having another player out wide on the other side of the pitch allows attackers to pass the ball into open space and continue the attack. 

Advantages in short:

  • Opens space in the middle channel of the field
    • Helps midfielders & attackers to penetrate the defense
    • Helps create scoring opportunities
  • Allows for the use of switching passes
    • Creates space if opponents adjust their positioning

The most notable disadvantage to the wing play strategy is the lack of midfield control. 

Since this strategy heavily relies on the wingers to create attacking opportunities, the midfield is almost neglected. 

Wingers will be the first choice of attack, which leaves midfielders as sort of just a tool to circulate the ball when needed. 

This reduces midfield dominance and allows the opposing midfielders to possess the ball more. 

Another disadvantage that should be noted, is that scoring chances are overdependent on individual skill or brilliance. 

Wingers will often need to take on defenders by themselves to progress the attack forward. 

If the opponents can limit the wingers’ abilities, then attacking the wide areas can be ineffective. 

Disadvantages in short:

  • Lack of midfield control
    • Allows opposing midfield to dominate
    • This leads to less possession
  • Overdependent on individual ability
    • If wingers are ineffective, the strategy is ineffective

#3: Counter-attack

Counterattacking in soccer is a strategy that consists of quick transitions from defense to offense, to catch opponents out of position and score. 

The main concept of this strategy is that when the opponents are out of position, it is easier to score. 

Immediately after a turnover, the forwards create a fast-paced attack to outnumber the opposing defenders in front of the goal and score. 

What differentiates it from a normal attack is that counterattacks are performed during the transition phase of the opposing team. 

This is when they transition from an attacking shape to a defensive shape because they just lost the ball. 

During this time, their defenders are still adjusting their positions, which reduces their ability to defend. 

So it is important for attackers to quickly build momentum for their attack and take the ball down the field before the defenders can react. 

Soccer Player Uses Finishing Skills to Score
‘Soccer Player Uses Finishing Skills to Score’ (#5 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

When should you use it? 

The best time to use the counterattacking strategy is when the opponents are more skillful. 

Since it is difficult to score when they are organized, catching them out of position will level the playing field. 

During a match, there are a couple of signs that tell you that counterattacks can be effective. 

Firstly, if the opposing defenders keep a high line while their team attacks, it should tell you that they are in a vulnerable position. 

In the case of a turnover, your team can easily score a goal from a fast-paced counterattack. 

Secondly, when the opposing team plays in a possession-based system, defenders are often positioned far from each other which leaves a huge gap between them. 

By putting pressure on the defenders, it can create a dangerous turnover that is difficult for opponents to recover from. 

As long as the forwards act quickly, they should have a clear path to the goal and an almost certain goal scored. 

Pros & Cons

The counterattacking strategy is advantageous for several reasons. 

Firstly, it makes it easy for the defending team to catch the opposing team’s defense out of position.

This makes it easier to score on tough teams, as well as defend more effectively against tough teams. 

It helps defend because it complements the low-block strategy extremely well, which is often used against more skillful teams. 

Advantages in short: 

  • Makes it easy to catch opponents out of position
  • Helps manage tough teams
    • Easier to score
    • Easier to defend

The main disadvantage of the counterattacking strategy is its risky nature. 

Since it relies on dangerous turnovers, there will be fewer chances to score and the strategy will become predictable. 

It also means that the counterattacking team will have less possession throughout the game, which can be physically and mentally draining. 

Not to mention the pressure on the players to make the most of their chances. 

This can lead to rushed passes and wasted chances that ruin the purpose of the strategy. 

Disadvantages in short:

  • Risky strategy
    • Overreliance on turnovers
    • Fewer chances throughout the game 
    • Predictable
  • Physically & mentally draining
Soccer Team Celebrates a Goal
‘Soccer Team Celebrating a Goal Scored’ (#6 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)


The first attacking strategy, possession, is used to find gaps in the opponents’ defense that can be used to create scoring chances. 

By quickly circulating the ball in the opposing half, the defenders have to constantly adjust their positioning which creates gaps that forwards can use in their attack. 

A significant drawback to this strategy is the high line that defenders must hold to help their team circulate the ball because it makes them prone to counterattacks. 

Wing play is a strategy in which wingers stretch the field as wide as they can to create space in the middle channel of the field that midfielders and forwards can use in the attack. 

Wingers are given the responsibility of creating space for forwards in the attack and delivering passes to them in the box to create goal-scoring opportunities. 

Though, this tactic lacks midfield control which can have negative effects while defending, as it gives up midfield control and possession. 

Last but not least, counterattacking is the concept that when a team loses the ball, they need time to transition from defending to attacking, during which their defense is vulnerable. 

So this strategy capitalizes by creating a fast-paced attack that can beat the defenders to the goal before they can recover.

It is most commonly used against teams who are more skilled, as it can give the upper hand to the counterattacking team, and make it easier to score. 

Image Attribution & Licensing

Featured Image: ‘Soccer Tactics Board’ by jonathancant (Licensed via Envato Elements)

#1: ‘Pickup Team Group Stretch’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via Unsplash)

#2: ‘Soccer Team Pre-Game Walkout’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via Unsplash)

#3: ‘Soccer Player Preparing to Pass the Ball’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via Unsplash)

#4: ‘Skillful Player Beats Their Opponent’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via Unsplash)

#5: ‘Soccer Player Uses Finishing Skills to Score’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via Unsplash)

#6: ‘Soccer Team Celebrating a Goal Scored’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via Unsplash)