Lacrosse Substitution Rules

This article will cover the substitution procedures in lacrosse. A substitution is when a player in the starting lineup is replaced by a teammate on the bench. Substitutions are an effective game tactic for several reasons. A well-timed substitution can allow a player to rest and recover before going back on the field, create an offensive or defensive advantage and increase specialization at certain positions, particularly in men’s lacrosse. Lacrosse allows for unlimited substitutions during regulation play and overtime.

Substitution Area

The substitution area in lacrosse is a 10-yard long rectangular-shaped area located at the midfield line on the team sideline. It is also called the substitution box or change area. The substitution area is located at midfield to prevent offensive or defensive players from being able to run straight into the attacking or defensive zones near the goal. The player coming off the field must be within ten yards of the sideline before their teammate is allowed to run on the field.

Substitution Timing

Lacrosse substitutions are often made on-the-fly, meaning they occur during the run of play. Substitutions can also be made during certain stoppages of play, such as after a goal, end of the period, an equipment change or a man-up situation. Substitutions are not permitted to directly replace a player who is serving a penalty in the penalty box. Substitutions are not allowed during a team timeout. To signal a bench player to be substituted, coaches will sometimes call “on the hop” to indicate a quick change. Substitution players on the bench must be ready and prepared to enter the game on short notice.

Illegal Substitution

An illegal substitution results when a team has more than the maximum number of players on the field. It is considered a technical foul and the team in violation of the rules serves a two-minute penalty. In men’s lacrosse, there is a maximum of ten players per team on the field. In women’s lacrosse, there is a maximum of twelve players per team on the field. Finally, in indoor lacrosse, there is a maximum of six players per team on the field.

Special Teams Substitutions

In men’s lacrosse, coaches will often use strategic substitutions to create offensive or defensive mismatches. For example, a “fogo” substitution is when a face-off specialist is immediately substituted after the faceoff. Fogo stands for “faceoff, get off.” Additionally, it is common for a long-stick midfielder to be substituted for an attacker after the defense has gained possession and moved the ball into the attacking area.

Indoor Lacrosse Substitution Rules

Substitution tactics for indoor lacrosse are slightly different than field lacrosse. Because all five field players - known collectively as a line - play both offense and defense, the coach may call for a line change. In a line change, some or all of members of the current line are exchanged for teammates on the bench, passing through the change area. Players hop over the boards to enter the field of play after their teammate has exited the field.


How do substitutions work in lacrosse?

Substitutions are “on the fly” in lacrosse, meaning that they are done during play and without the clock stopping. Teams can make substitutions at their own discretion as long as they follow a few simple rules. All substitutions are done through the substitution box, which is a 20-yard-long box located between the two team’s benches. The player leaving the field must enter the substitution box before their replacement steps on the field. Players can use the entire substitution box and are not required to only use the side of the box on their end of the field.