Skip to content


3 Second Soccer

3 Second Soccer is an approach to soccer that emphasizes ball possession and quick passes.

This style of play is called 3 Second Soccer because any player shouldn’t have the ball at his feet for any longer than three seconds. He must clear, pass or shoot within three seconds.

Soccer is like chess. To win, you need to built up small advantages.

These small advantages can be time, space or numerical superiority.

Let me explain 3 Second Offense first, and later 3 Second Defense will make sense intuitively.

3 Second Offense

An advantage in time means being earlier than your opponent. Your ball carrier is in space before opponents, and your teammates without the ball make runs to get into space before opponents. They can catch up to you only if you hold the ball on your feet longer than 3 seconds.

The paradigm example is a team passing around its opponents and maintaining possession while opponents struggle to follow the ball.

An advantage in space is the fact of having plenty of space for the ball carrier or his teammates. It’s tightly correlated to an advantage in time, because being earlier means owning space; owning space means the opponents have to race to catch up.

One such example is a breakaway.

An advantage in numbers means relative numeric superiority on part of the field, not trying to get opponents sent off with a red or two yellow cards. This typically arises from advantages in time/space where a teammate is supporting the ball carrier by making a run.

Picture this as a 2-on-1.

When these advantages build up enough, the pressure boils over and results in a goal.

A defender gets too tired from constantly chasing his opponents. He can’t keep up with another run off the ball, and that unmarked runner scores off the cross.

The midfield is late changing sides and a hole opens up. The through ball gets to a striker with an extra second to control and shoot.

FFshhhhhhhhht. The ball whooshes into the netting.

What does 3 Second Offense require?

  • One-touch passing, with both feet
  • Positional knowledge so you can skip thinking where to pass, because you know where teammates will be or where you need to be.
  • Strong receiving skills to control the ball quickly
  • Endurance and cardio
  • Practice

3 Second Defense

The same ideas of space, time and numerical advantage apply on defense.

The ball carrier must be faced in three seconds or less.

This does NOT mean a defender must tackle the ball – rather, the defense just needs to get in his way and cut off his space.

This pressure is the essential starting point of the defense. Thanks to it, the ball carrier is more likely to make a bad pass, dribble needlessly (losing his time advantage), or even lose the tackled

The runners off the ball need to be marked in three seconds.

Any space available for passing/dribbling into should feature a defender waiting there.

(Marking opponents takes priority over having a presence in open space. Otherwise, opponents could just congregate on one side and overwhelm that defender.)

Defense have to cover for one another.

That way, a central defender (e.g. sweeper/stopper) can feel comfortable supporting his right side defender, because the other central defender or left defender will take his place.

As soon as the need passes, defense should return to their initial positions.

Naturally, the midfield need to support the defense in this and mark a man, too.

What it takes to play 3 Second Defense?

  • Communication: Who will challenge the ball carrier? (The closest defense or the first to call it if two are equally distant)
  • Communication: Who will switch into the other defense’s position? Who will cover the runners?
  • Endurance to keep marking players and not let up
  • Running speed
  • Patience to not make the first move
  • Physical strength to win 1-on-1 battles for 50-50 balls

Posted in Soccer.


0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.



Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.