Friday, 12 Jul 2024

Soccer Substitution Rules: Everything You Need To Know

Soccer substitution rules have evolved significantly in recent years, with changes in the number of allowed substitutions and the timing of these changes. It can be challenging to keep track of these rules, especially with the multitude of competitions being televised each week. In this article, we will provide you with all the essential information about soccer substitution rules, including the number of substitutions allowed, the times these changes can be made, and any additional rules that affect a substitute’s impact on the game.

What Is A Substitution?

In association football, a substitution occurs when a player is brought onto the field to replace a teammate during a match. Substitutions can happen at halftime or during the first or second half, causing a stoppage in play as the referee allows the substitution when the ball is off the field. Substitutes can be brought on for tactical reasons, to replace an injured player, or to provide resting time for a fatigued player. Substitutions were introduced to the Laws of the Game in 1958 to manage injuries and team composition.

How Many Substitutions Are You Allowed In Soccer?

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on soccer, resulting in various long-term consequences and changes to the sport. One such change was the increase in the number of allowed substitutions during a game. In most elite soccer competitions, teams are now allowed to make five substitutions instead of the previous three. This change was made to address fixture congestion and alleviate the physical burden on players. Although this change has split opinions, it is now the standard in most top leagues.

When Can You Sub In Soccer?

Substitutions in soccer can be made at any time during the game, which lasts for 90 minutes. Coaches can decide to bring on a player at any point during this period. However, coaches are limited to three windows in which they can make substitutions. For example, if a substitution is made at halftime and another after 75 minutes, the coach can only make one more substitution window during the match, even though the five-subs rule allows for up to three players to be brought on at this point. In matches that go into extra time, additional substitution opportunities may be allowed to prevent injury and fatigue.

Can A Substituted Player Come Back On?

At the professional level, once a player has been substituted, they cannot return to the field of play. This rule differs from amateur and youth level soccer, where rolling substitutes are allowed. Substituted players join their teammates and coaching staff on the bench, observing the rest of the game.

Premier League Substitution Rules

The start of the 2022/23 season brought about a major substitution rule change in the Premier League. The number of permitted substitutions increased from three to five per game. This change was initially introduced during Project Restart in 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on player fitness and the extended break. Although the rule reverted to three subs afterward, the 2022 Qatar World Cup and its effect on the European playing schedule prompted the reintroduction of the five-sub rule in the Premier League. However, all substitutions must still be made within three windows to avoid additional wasted time.

World Cup Substitution Rules

In the World Cup, teams are now permitted to make five substitutions during matches. This rule change was initiated by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 2022, turning the temporary Covid-enforced measure into a permanent law. The change had a significant impact on the tournament, with substitutes scoring more frequently than in previous editions.

FIFA Substitution Rules

The FIFA World Cup follows the same substitution rules as the World Cup. Coaches are allowed to make five substitutions per game within three separate windows. If a match goes into extra time, one additional substitution can be made, allowing for a maximum of six player changes throughout the 120 minutes.

Champions League Substitution Rules

During the group stages of the Champions League, coaches are allowed to make five substitutions per match. However, once the knockout stages commence, an additional substitution is permitted if a second-leg match goes into extra time.

MLS Substitution Rules

In Major League Soccer (MLS), a maximum of five substitutions is allowed in league matches. Teams can select a maximum of 20 players for their official match roster, including 11 starters and nine substitutes. The five substitutions can be used during three opportunities, excluding halftime and match delays, but including cooling and drink breaks.

Concussion Substitute Soccer Rules

Football has faced criticism for its response to player head injuries, prompting calls for the introduction of concussion substitutions. While concussion substitution trials have been ongoing since 2021, the current protocols state that if a player leaves the pitch for a concussion assessment, they must be permanently replaced or reserved on the sidelines with their team playing at a numerical disadvantage. Pressure from individuals and campaign groups may lead to the widespread introduction of concussion substitutes in the professional game.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many substitutions are allowed in soccer?
A: In most elite soccer competitions, teams are now allowed to make five substitutions per game.

Q: When can substitutions be made in soccer?
A: Substitutions can be made at any time during the game, but coaches are restricted to three windows in which to make substitutions.

Q: Can a substituted player come back on in soccer?
A: No, once a player has been substituted, they cannot return to the field of play.


Understanding soccer substitution rules is crucial for both players and fans alike. The number of allowed substitutions, the timing of these changes, and the impact on the game can greatly influence a team’s strategy and performance. From the Premier League to the World Cup, each competition has its own specific substitution rules. Stay informed and enjoy the beautiful game!

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