How important soccer tactics are to the outcome of games remains open to debate. After all, players win soccer matches. However, good tactics can make some difference and in some games may decide the outcome. Some of the best soccer coaches in the sport make great use of tactics to their team's advantage.

To begin with, team formations are one of the most important parts of soccer tactics. Formations refer to how a team is organized in defense, midfield and attack. All sides need to have a goalkeeper, but then how the remaining ten players are organized can vary from team to team. Soccer formations have been tweaked by coaches, but today there are a few standard formations for coaches to use such as 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 3-5-2 and 4-5-1.

Generally, the trend has been for soccer formations to increasingly reduce the number of forward players, while adding more to the midfield and defense. The possible exception is 4-3-3 formation that Barcelona have used to good effect. Overall, the 4-4-2 formation is a more flexible formation. The 3-5-2 formation is one of the few that does not make use of full-backs, with three center-backs in defense.

Such soccer formations have certain playing positions. Playing positions include the likes of wingers, full-backs, strikers, and center-backs. The main distinction between the playing positions is that wingers and full-backs play on the left and right side of the pitch in midfield and defense, while center-backs and central midfield players play in the center.

Whichever formation that a soccer coach decides to go with, they can have their advantages and disadvantages. Overall, some formations put more emphasis on defending while others may put the preference on attacking play. The soccer coach will need to pick a formation that best suits the players he has.

Soccer tactics can also include various game plans. Teams can counter-attack, get men behind the ball, press or even play the off-side trap. Such tactics, if used effectively, can give sides an advantage during a game.

The first tactic mentioned here, that of counter-attack, involves teams turning defense into attack. Teams that can do this quickly, can then catch the other side 'on the break' and potentially score a goal. However, if a counter-attack is ineffective then it will likely result in the loss of the ball.

Getting men behind the ball is a tactic that involves defending in numbers. This is used by teams to defend leads toward the end of games, or perhaps even just to play for a draw. With a good number of players in defense, well-organized defenses are hard to break down. Of course, playing men behind the ball will not give many scoring chances either.

Pressing involves quickly closing down the other team and players, and winning the ball back. This denies the opposition possession and can be effective against short-passing teams. Although it does require good fitness and lots of running from the players.

The off-side ploy is one that involves teams aiming to catch forwards offside. Well organized defenses that quickly pull up when a ball is played can catch players offside. Then, the ball is given to their team to start play.

Coaches can use such soccer tactics in many games or when circumstances permit. Some coaches may not play any of these tactics during a game, recognizing that they can be ineffective against certain teams.

Overall, the formation that the coach selects for a team is most essential in relation to team tactics. An effective formation will ensure that a team is more likely to win games. Then there are a few tactics that can be used in matches which can give further advantages to teams. However, they may be more or less effective against certain teams. Great tactics do not necessarily guarantee that teams win games, but they can make some difference.