What is Marking in Soccer?

This is a defensive tactic that a team uses to try and prevent the offensive team from making or receiving a pass or most importantly being involved in a goal-scoring opportunity.

What are the different types of marking?

In soccer, there are two main marking tactics used and they are known as ‘man to man’ and ‘zonal’ marking. These different tactics can be used depending on the manager in charge of the team or the quality of the team’s defense. They are primarily used for defending set-pieces but can be used throughout the full match.

  • Man-to-man marking is a defensive tactic where the defenders are given specific opposition players to mark. This essentially means the defensive player must stay with the attacking player wherever they are on the pitch.
  • Zonal marking, or ‘zone defense’ is a defensive tactic where the defenders are not given a specific player to mark but instead are given a specific area on the pitch. This tactic means that when an attacking player enters the defensive player’s area, they are now responsible for marking this player. However, when the attacking player leaves this area, the responsibility is given to another defensive player.

Nowadays the tactic of marking has become very flexible and can change from game to game. Sometimes a team can use the man-to-man and zonal marking together in the same match.

This can depend on a few factors, for example:

  • The manager in charge: Most managers have their own way of setting up a team so they will choose the marking tactic they a comfortable with and that suits the team’s style of play.
  • Quality of the team: In soccer, it is normal to have some very strong teams and much weaker teams playing against each other. This can affect how the team chooses to mark the opposition players.
  • Opposition’s key players: Most teams usually have a key player they use to be the focal point of their offensive play. This gives the defensive team a decision to make over what marking strategy to use.