How to Coach a Sweeper/Stopper Defense in Soccer

The sweeper/stopper method of defending is a popular defensive system in youth soccer in America. Although zonal defending has become the more popular system worldwide, there are still some merits to this defensive strategy. As with all tactical plans, it is dependent on the strength of the players involved.

How to Coach a Sweeper/Stopper Defense in Soccer

Decide on the types of player for each position. The sweeper/stopper method utilizes two marking backs also. Ideally, the sweeper will be fast, a good organizer, and with a big foot; however, they should also be capable of bringing the ball out of defense. A good header of the ball is another quality of a good sweeper. The stopper should be a good solid tackler, and again, capable of heading the ball well defensively. The marking backs should be athletic enough to keep up with their marks.

Play games of 6v4, with the four defenders set up in a sweeper/stopper set up, and the six attackers utilized in various formations to reflect the possibilities that the sweeper stopper defense might face. These possibilities include facing one forward and wingers, two forwards, and three forwards.

Use zone games, where the field is divided into three horizontal zones, in order to work on the function of the sweeper. Have a sweeper in each end zone, and every other player in the midfield zone. No other player may enter the end zones until the ball does. The quicker the sweeper moves the ball out of the end zones and into the midfield zones, the less chance the opposition has of mounting an attack.

Use games of 4v4 for man-marking. Man-marking is a vital component of the sweeper/stopper defense. Play 4v4 with the condition that each player has a dedicated player to mark, and vice versa. This should then end up like "pairs" soccer. Next, progress this to having a situation where if one defender is beaten, the next nearest defender steps up to pressure the attacker on the ball, while the beaten defender recovers to take over the new pressuring player's mark.

Play a game of 11v11 in order to allow the defenders to see the bigger picture. Coach the defenders to stay with their marks, the sweeper to control things from the back, and the stopper to win headers and disrupt central attacks. Vary the attacking tactics of the attacking team in order to confront the sweeper/stopper defense with different scenarios that they might face.


While working on the sweeper/stopper defenders primarily, remember to also coach the midfield and forwards in their defensive duties


Always check safety equipment before practice Always ensure that players warm up properly before practicing