Soccer Substitution Rules: Laws of the Game

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

What are the soccer substitution rules? Understanding the soccer, or association football, substitution rules is crucial for every player, youth or professional, coach, and sports fan. Throughout the years, the rules of the beautiful game have changed and so have the rules for the number of substitutes allowed.

In soccer, substitutions play a huge role in influencing the team’s formation, tactics, and strategies as well as play an important role in injury prevention. In this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about one of the most basic soccer rules, the substitution rules.

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What is a Substitution?

A standard soccer game is played with eleven players on the field, in different positions, per team. The substitution rule allows players that started the match on the bench to be brought into the field by replacing one of the on-field players.

Soccer players on the bench can be substituted for any of the outfield players for many reasons such as to replace an injured player, a tired player, or to simply mix up the team’s tactics and dynamics. Substitutions can only be made if a team notifies the referee and they get the referee’s permission to do so.

How many Substitutions are Allowed in Soccer?

In the world of soccer, substitution rules have evolved since their introduction by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 1958. Initially, only one substitute per team was allowed, however FIFA upped the limit to three in 1995 to help prevent fatigue and injuries while adding tactical excitement.

More recently due to the COVID 19 pandemic the number of substitutions allowed was moved up from three to five substitutions per team and it has stayed that way since. Also, if a game goes into extra time, both teams will get one additional substitute whether they have used their initial five substitutions or not.

When can you make a substitution in soccer?

Teams can make substitutions for any outfield player or goalkeeper only during substitution opportunities and only if they have unused substitutes. Substitution opportunities can happen at any time during the match, regulation time, injury time, extra time, and half time, but teams only get three windowns to make their five substitutions.

Once the team has notified the referee that they want a sub, and the referee approves it, the team can make the substitution and continue playing.

Can A Substituted Player Come Back On the Field of Play?

A “rolling substitution” is a substitution that allows players to come on and off the field of play repeatedly. This type of substitution is not allowed in professional soccer games, but it is allowed in some amateur and youth leagues, which sometimes have unlimited substitutions.

Unlimited substitutions are not allowed in professional soccer games, such as games played in the World Cup, La Liga, or the Premier League and these types of games have a maximum number of substitutions allowed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Number of Substitutes are allowed during regular time of soccer matches?

During regular time of soccer games both teams get five substitutions. If the match goes into extra time, then both teams get an additional substitution. Teams can only bring in an eligible substitute that is on the bench personnel of the team.

How many substitutions do other sports have compared to soccer?

In American football, and different competitions around the world, teams are sometimes allowed unlimited substitutions.


In conclusion, soccer substitution rules are some of the most important rules for all players, coaches, and fans to understand. Soccer is a very physically and mentally demanding sport and even at the highest level, teams need substitutions, not only to let players rest, but also to mix up the team’s tactics.

In this blog, I covered everything you need to know about the soccer substitution rules.

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