Top Soccer Kickoff Set Plays & Strategies You Need to Know

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

You might be thinking to yourself:

It’s really HARD to make something out of kickoffs in soccer.

Are you sure?

To be true, you can achieve a lot from your kickoffs simply by learning the proper soccer kickoff plays…

…those that might even put you up for a scoring opportunity.

In this article, that’s precisely what I’ll be showing you! I’ll tell you what those strategies, tactics and plays are plus teach you how to make the most of out of them.

Let’s Kickoff!

Like so much in the game of soccer, the kickoff is so often a wasted opportunity for a team to take advantage of its opponents.

At the very least, the kickoff is a chance to figure out what your opposition plans to do and how they will set up.

At youth level this can be crucial, yet the opportunity to set up in a tactical manner is passed upon.

This is a big mistake and it’s one that we will fix in today’s article by going over various soccer kickoff set plays and strategies to help your team gain a leg up on the competition.

What Is a Kickoff in Soccer?

At its most elementary level, a kickoff is used to either start a period of play or to restart the game after a goal has been scored.

The team that has been scored on is the one that will take the kick and they are afforded some space as the opposition isn’t allowed to be inside the center circle when the match restarts.

Thanks to a rule change by FIFA in 2016, kickoffs can now be taken in any direction.

Meaning that the ball does not have to move forward first like it was required before the implementation of this new rule.

New Soccer Kickoff Strategies

As a coach or player, you might be wondering:

«What does this new soccer kickoff rule mean?»

Due to the fact that the ball no longer has to move forward first, we have a lot more room to maneuver and the ability to come up with new soccer kickoff strategies and tactics.

In the old days, a good chunk of the space afforded was cut down upon because of just that one mandatory forward touch.

Now, though, we have a chance to do a few things. Let’s begin looking.

Pin the Other Team In

This is my all-time favorite strategy from a kickoff.

What it does is signal to the other team that they are in for trouble and that you intend to win the game.

You can do any number of things to get the soccer ball into this area, but here is the best idea.

  1. When the whistle is blown, have your player pass the football backwards to someone that can kick a long distance.
  2. Line up several players to one side and tell him/her to kick it to that side of the field.
  3. The objective is to try and kick it to the corner of the field and pin the other team in.
  4. If they kick it out (or even if your team kicks it out), you can press them high and try to get the ball back closer to your goal.
  5. But if all works well, you could have a chance to shoot very early on!

Overloading a Side

Another strategy that can be very useful, especially in games where there are fewer players, is to overload one side of the field.

This is somewhat related to the above tactic, but it does not require the long ball or the high pressing that was mentioned, thus making it a little easier to pull off.

While it won’t be quite as effective, it could possibly lead to your team scoring if you can utilize a player to take up a position on the opposite side of the field.

Simply have your team get the soccer ball and cross it to them in order to take advantage of it.

Going Backward to Go Forward

There are a lot of things in soccer that don’t exactly match up with what you would assume.

Passing is one of them.

Of course everyone wants to score goals, but going backwards is sometimes the best option to take.

Possession is very important, especially as footballers progress and get older, so sometimes keeping the ball is favored over simply getting it forward.

Instead of going forward, you can go backwards in an attempt to pull out the other team.

Essentially, you are looking for them to press you (pressure heavily) so that you can then work around their edges (or kick it over the top) and then run in behind them for a chance to shoot.

This can confuse many teams depending on their level of experience, so this could be a way to score a lot of goals as disorganization is sure to be rampant!

Use Your Best Players

While I don’t condone a coach allowing someone to be a ball hog, sometimes the situation dictates that you need a goal.

A possible strategy is to touch the ball and allow him or her to dribble down the field with the soccer ball, drawing defenders to them.

From there, they can then pass.

If you have two or three great players, you can teach them to do give-and-go (or 1-2) passes back and forth to one another.

This should free them up, as well as other members of your team.

It also sends a message that your team is out to put the other side under pressure and that you intend to go out and win the match, or to go out and equalize it (tie it up)!

Wasted Kickoffs: My Personal Pet Peeve

One of the things that drive me crazy when watching youth soccer matches is when a team wastes a kickoff.

What I call “wasting a kickoff” is needlessly giving possession away to the other team.

It’s one thing to kick the ball out of bounds when you are trying to pin the other team in, as might be the case for our first strategy here…

…but it is inexcusable to just give them the football because you didn’t take the time to carefully study all of the options.

The most infuriating “tactic” (I don’t even think it truly qualifies as one) is to just kick it as far as you can from the whistle.

When you do this, it’s a waste of time because you aren’t allowing your teammates to have a chance to get down to it.

Instead of kicking it back and allowing time for them to run, you are needlessly ceding possession that you might never get back against a composed team.

This is the soccer equivalent of punching a brick wall.

It might look cool and feel good, but it doesn’t accomplish a single thing!


Kickoffs, like most set pieces in soccer, are a chance for you to once again make the most out of an opportunity to get into a scoring position.

In addition that they are a good way to make everyone on the team feel like an important part of the equation.

Very little skill and strength is needed to be effective at listening, therefore anyone can become a good player at pressing the ball along with teammates!

These soccer kickoff plays and strategies will help you think more clearly and better about what you are doing.

They will allow you to learn how your team and the opposition operate throughout the entirety of the match.

Take this chance and you will profit!

Keep on improving yourself and check our other blog posts!

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.