Distribution, or passing the ball, is one of the most important skills for players of every position in soccer.
Whether you’re a defender making a pass to start an offensive play. A midfielder setting up a forward for a shot. Or a goalkeeper distributing the ball far upfield. Having well developed distribution skills will improve your performance in games.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s only defenders and keepers who need to be good at long-range passing.
Midfielders and forwards might not routinely be called on to distribute the ball over longer distances. However, without a doubt—all soccer players will need to make a long pass at pivotal moments in certain games. And success will depend on whether you did the work in practice beforehand.
Distribution is commonly misunderstood as simply getting the ball from A to B. But this simplistic view neglects several essential skills involved in passing, like:
To truly master distribution, an athlete must fine-tune all of these skills. And to achieve this, you will need someone experienced to guide your training.
Fortunately, Versus has just the person to help out—U.S. soccer legend, Ali Krieger. In this article, we’ll cover the main points from Ali’s exclusive training video on improving distribution and passing range in soccer.
If you want to access Krieger’s full video session on this topic, all you need to do is choose a plan and download the Versus app.
At Versus, we’ve been developing a comprehensive training system for players of any level to get better, by partnering with some of the most talented names in U.S. soccer.
We’ve got exclusive videos from superstars like Kelly O’Hara, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris. In terms of coaches, David Copeland-Smith, an internationally recognized leader in individual technical development, covers everything players need to know about mindset and skills training.
Just some of the topics already covered by our soccer roster include:
If you don’t already know about Ali Krieger’s background, she started in all seven matches of the championship winning team in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Then in 2019, she played a pivotal role in the U.S. winning the championship again. Ali has been a leading figure in women’s soccer for almost two decades, earning over 100 international caps in her career. She currently plays as a defender for Gotham FC.
When you sign up to Versus, our free subscription gives you access to one training video of your choice. While the standard and premium options include unlimited access to video sessions from our entire roster of elite athletes and world-class coaches.
All plans also let you utilize our conversational AI-based technology. Through the Versus app, you can ask questions from our whole team on any aspect of training, mindset, and skill development. For example, you could be watching Ali’s video on The Mental Game, then ask her, “How do you handle opponents trash talking?” Or, “How did you develop confidence?” Just seconds later, you’ll get a pre-recorded answer from Krieger herself.
Until then, let’s return to Ali Krieger’s training session on distribution and passing range in soccer.
The key to getting better at distribution is to understand the different types of passes—then practice them all.
In the video, Krieger explains that as a defender who mostly plays center back, some of the main passes she focuses on are:
A long pass to the forward through the middle.
Chipping the ball to a number 10 or a withdrawn forward.
A diagonal pass that can be played short to a midfielder or long to a wide forward.
Start by considering the 3 - 5 passes that are most important for your position. Understand what you are trying to achieve with each pass, then aim to simulate this in the drill outlined in the following section.
However, remember that no matter what position you play—a well-rounded soccer player must be able to execute short, medium, and long-range passes. So even if your focus is on passes closer in, don’t neglect the long-range passing covered in Ali’s drill.
This drill enables players to practice distributing the ball across the range of distances that will be encountered during a soccer game. Ali demonstrates with a partner, but explains that it can also be performed against a wall.
Krieger states that there are four elements players need to be aware of during each pass:
Each of these aspects needs to be considered to make the correct choice when distributing the ball. Try to vary them all during practice, as this will improve your flexibility in games.
Finally, as repeated in almost every training session we’ve produced for soccer—make sure to practice with both feet. Unless you can use both feet for every type of pass, your distribution options in game will be severely limited.
Start the drill 10 - 15 yards away from your partner (or the wall) to practice short-range passing.
“I’m just going to play the ball on the inside of my foot,” demonstrates Ali.
“You have to focus on where your plant foot is,” she explains. “This is a really big factor in passing. Because where you have your plant foot is the direction you will play the ball.”
As you approach the ball, point your plant foot to where you want the ball to travel, like this:
“Follow through of the pass is very important,” states Krieger. “You have to follow through and connect to your partner.”
Once you’ve done some short-range passing with both feet, move back a bit further to practice mid-range distribution.
“When you’re playing mid-range passes, you’re going to be using different surfaces of your foot, different power, and different pace,” states Ali. “But the plant foot still stays in the same direction of where you’re playing the ball and you still have a follow through.”
“Next, try working on a more textured pass,” suggests Krieger. “Like a chip ball where you’re playing into a midfielder.”
To get the elevation for a chip pass, you’ll need to get under the ball a little more with a different surface of your foot. For most players, this will be closer to the front of your foot, as Ali demonstrates below.
Now let’s take a look at long-range passing.
Try pushing yourself with long-range passing. Go back as far as you can maintain reasonable accuracy and speed, increasing the distance as you improve.
“When you’re playing a diagonal ball in behind. Or swinging it out wide to one of your teammates and you want to get it there quickly—you’re going to need a little more pace and power behind the ball,” states Ali.
“So it’s going to be the same approach [as with mid-range],” she explains. “Plant your foot in the direction you’re playing the ball. Use the same surface as you did for the textured ball. But put more power underneath the pass.”
Being able to effectively distribute the ball across a range of distances is an essential skill for all soccer players.
No matter what position you play—you must be able to make high-quality short, medium, and long-range passes.
Improving distribution skills requires mastery of four elements of passing:
The best soccer players understand and practice every type of pass (with both feet), so that in high-pressure game situations, they have the flexibility to make the ideal play.
To improve your passing skills across all distances, regularly incorporate Ali Krieger’s distribution drill into your training.
To watch Ali Krieger’s exclusive training video on improving distribution and passing range—simply select a plan, download the Versus app, and start learning.
If you want to learn more about passing skills in soccer, how to develop a winning mindset, and drills to improve speed and agility, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to our videos, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.
Enter your email and get weekly updates to your inbox.