1. Home
  2. Soccer (Association Football)
  3. Soccer Substitution Rules

Soccer Substitution Rules


Soccer is a competitive game played between two teams, each team can have up to 11 players on the field during the run of play. What happens if a player gets injured or needs a break? Since soccer games last 90 minutes in professional leagues, it makes sense that these same 11 players don't play the entire game.

There are rules for how many players can remain on the field at one time. Typically a team has one goalkeeper, defenders, strikers and midfielders, but there are many players who play the same position, which makes substitutions a breeze.

What is a substitute in soccer?

A substitute is a player who is brought into the game from the bench sometime during the game. The substitute takes the place of one of the starting 11 players, while the subbed off player is removed from the rest of the game. Players who are about to come into the game via substitution may be found warming up along the touchlines out of the field of play.

How many substitutes are on a bench?

Substitute players are available on the bench, with the number of available subs ranging from 3-12 depending on the league or tournament rules. Can a substitute return to the game?

Except in the lowest levels of competition, once a player is substituted out of a game they may not return to play.

What is a substitution in soccer?

A substitution is the act when a coach formally alerts the official that he'd like to swap a player on the field for one on the bench. At professional levels, this is limited to a certain number per game. But in youth, collegiate or international friendly matches, coaches have as many substitutions as they have players on their bench. They are unlimited.

Soccer substitution

How does a substitution work?

At professional levels, the referee holds up a sign that has two numbers: the number of the player going in and coming off the field. The clock does not stop for substitutions.

When Does A Substitution Happen In Soccer?

In soccer, teams are allowed to only make substitutions when the ball is declared dead by officials or when the clock is stopped.

The ball is declared dead by officials for reasons like:

  • the ball goes out of bounds
  • a foul or violation is called
  • a player injury occurs on the field

During any of these instances, the coach can alert the official that he'd like to do substitutions.