How Many Players on a Soccer Team? Laws of the Game

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

How many players are on a soccer team? The simple answer is that the beautiful game is played on a full sized soccer field with eleven on field players per team. The eleven soccer players take on a specific formation chosen by the coach and each player has their own position with unique traits and attributes needed.

The answer can get a bit more complicated when talking about different leagues and competitions which is why in this blog I will explain everything you need to know about a basic but important soccer rule, the amount of outfield players allowed per team.

How Many Players on a Soccer Team?

Understanding the Basic Team Composition in Soccer

A soccer game, or a football match, is played on a rectangular field called a pitch and with 11 on field players per team. There are a total of ten outfield players and one goalkeeper who is able to handle the soccer ball deliberately with their hands, but only if they are inside their own penalty area.

A full matchday squad can consist of anywhere from 18 to 25 players and from the remaining players coaches are allowed five substitutions per game. The rule used to be 3 substitutions per game, but during COVID the rules was changed to 5 subs per game and has stayed that way since.

A substitution can happen when the team’s staff, player, or coach notify the fourth official that they want a substitution who then signals the referee that a team is asking for a substitution. Also, if the game does not end in regulation time and goes into extra time both teams are given one extra substitution.

Understanding the Different Soccer Positions

Although there are four main positions on the soccer pitch, goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards, there are more positions within those four main positions. The number of players per main positions is going to vary depending on the team’s formation and tactics.

Goalkeeper:

Every soccer team needs one goalkeeper who is responsible for protecting the team’s goal and preventing the opposing team from scoring goals. The goalkeeper is the only player on the field who can use their hands, but only if they are inside their goalie box and if their teammates did not intentionally pass the ball back to them.

Defenders:

The defenders prevent opposition players from scoring goals by blocking shots, making tackles, interceptions, and clearing danger away from their penalty area. They are also responsible for building the play from the back line.

The defensive players are made up of central defenders called center backs and wide defenders called the full backs, or sometimes wing backs. The fullbacks are made up of the left and right full backs.

Midfielders:

The midfield is made up of central midfielders and wide midfielders and there are many different types of midfielders.

  • Center midfielders: Known as the CM and as a box to box midfielder
  • Center Defensive midfielders: Known as the CDM and as a holding midfielder
  • Center attacking midfielders: Known as the CAM and attacking midfielders

Midfielders link defense and attack and control the tempo of the game and typically, the team that wins the midfield wins the entire game. The midfield helps maintain possession of the ball, create scoring opportunities through accurate passes, and intercept opponent passes.

Forwards:

The forwards make up the attacking line and can be made up of a center forward, also known as a false 9, strikers, and/or wingers, which are the left and right wingers. Their main jobs include being dangerous in the attacking third by creating scoring opportunities and scoring goals.

A team may play with two strikers with one usually being the support striker, or second striker, that drops deeper to help the midfield, while the main striker focuses on scoring goals.

Size Variation Between Professional And Youth Teams

Most soccer games will usually be played with eleven players on the field per team, however there are variations across different levels, from youth all the way to the professional level. The following variations are rules that most places around the world follow but can vary depending on the league competitions and their rules.

Youth U6-U8

Youth soccer games for U6 to U8 will usually take place with anywhere from 4 to 6 players per team.

Youth U9-U10

Youth soccer games for U9 to U10 will usually take place with seven players per team

Youth U11-U12

Youth soccer games for U11 to U12 will usually take place with nine players per team

Youth U13 to older

Once players reach U13 they will play a full field 11v11 game which is what all the age groups afterwards follow as well all the way up to the professional level.

How Many Players on a Soccer Team? Laws of the Game

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Frequently Asked Question

How do injured players and a yellow or red card affect a team?

Injuries and yellow or red cards can affect a team in many ways. If a player commits a serious foul and gets a red card they will be ejected from the game leaving their team with one less outfield player. If the team gets another red card those players also have to be ejected from the game.

If teams are out of substitutions and one of their on field players gets injured, then the team will have to play with a man down unless that player is able to recover.

How many players are on a soccer team during major competitions like the World Cup?

During World Cup international matches, the national teams have to play with eleven players on the field and they are allowed to have a 26 man roster.

What happens if a team has fewer than seven players eligible to play?

The minimum number of players for a team to be allowed to play is seven. If a team has less than seven then by competition rules they cannot play and forfeit the match.

What are the different football associations in charge of international competitions and regions?

FIFA is in charge of six regional confederations:

  • AFC – Asian Football Confederation in Asia and Australia
  • CAF – Confédération Africaine de Football in Africa
  • CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football in North America and Central America
  • CONMEBOL – South American Football confederation
  • OFC – Oceania Football Confederation in Oceania
  • UEFA – Union of European Football Associations in Europe

Conclusion

In conclusion, knowing how many players on a soccer team are allowed is very important for all beginning players and fans. In modern football, both the attacking and defending teams play with eleven players on the field and they are allowed substitutions up to 5 substitutions.

A full roster of a team consists of 18 to 23 players, but only 11 make the starting line up and 5 more players are allowed to sub in. Once all eleven players of both teams take their positions on the soccer field and once the referee has finished the coin toss with the team captains kick off can begin.

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