Developing Movement Off the Ball: Third Player Movements

Developing third player movements can help add an extra dimension to your offense as you move toward the goal line.

In soccer, third player movements – or a third player run – refers to an offensive tactic where a player who is not the immediate passer or receiver joins the attack.

Third player movements can happen anywhere on the field – and on any line – whether it’s the defensive line, midfield line or forward line.

Division I Women’s Head Soccer Coach Randy Waldrum shares his tips on third player movements as they relate to the midfield or forward line.


The main purpose of implementing third player movements is to create more open space for an undetected player to receive a pass. Third player movements are an effective tactic because they operate on the element of surprise. To the opposing team, this type of attack appears to begin with a traditional passer and receiver.

The steps go as follows:

  1. The midfielder brings the ball toward the striker.
  1. The striker checks to the ball, which draws the defender out of position.
  1. The ball is then dropped back to the initial midfield player.
  1. The “third man” sprints into the open space that was vacated by the defender who was drawn out by the striker.

Once that third player is in position in the vacant space, they can then become a receiver and further the rush down the field. The original passer would then become the new third player.


To successfully execute third player runs, the angle and the distance of the movements are equally important. The longer the distance and the less of an angle, the more difficult it is to succeed in connecting these passes.

“The angle and the distance has to be very tight and precise to make sure that these movements work in cohesion,” Waldrum says.

When run properly, third player movements can be a great way to open space for your team on the field and move toward the goal line.

For more insight on how to move the ball closer to the goal, check out these soccer passing tips for long and short distances.