When you join any football club or watch a match on TV you will notice on the back of each shirt there is a number.
Every whether they are on the field, on the bench or even sitting at home each will have a number assigned to them.
However, you may be wondering why does each player have a number and do soccer players choose their numbers.
Now having worn several numbers on the back of my jerseys for the many clubs I have played for in my career, I thought it would be fitting to write a post on them and give you the answers to your questions.
Table of Contents
Why Do Soccer Players Have Numbers On Their Jerseys?
Numbers are assigned to players to help officials identify players and manage the game.
To start with referee’s will receive a team sheet with each player who is playing along with their shirt numbers too before the game starts.
Once the game kicks off, these numbers will be crucial, as the ref will need to note down the numbers of certain players as it unfolds.
For instance, if a bad tackle is made, and the ref decides to yellow card a player, they will then need to note down the number on the back of the jersey.
This will then be included in the match reports that will be sent of to the governing bodies and in this instance will be used so that player who got a yellow card gets fined.
You may also have noticed from watching a soccer match, that when substitutions are made, a forth official holds up a board with two numbers.
These will be the numbers of the players coming off and going on, again this is something that the ref will jot down and include in the match report as an event from the game.
Can Soccer Players Choose Their Numbers?
Whether a soccer player can choose their number depends on how the club sorts them out.
For example for someone like me who plays at a semi-pro level, numbers aren’t taken too seriously.
Of course, everyone will be assigned a number, but apart from the odd player who demands a certain number, most players will just take whatever there is/given.
I also wouldn’t be able to request a high number like 99 for example, because when my club orders kits for the new season they will only purchase 18 or so kits.
That is for the lower levels but when/if you play higher up at a professional level, each shirt number is decided before a season even kicks off.
So since that is the case, players will be able to decide what number.
Since clubs in the top divisions have bigger squads, they will also be able to choose from 1-99 if they like to.
However, they will only be able to take one from what hasn’t been taken already.
A good example would be Jadon Sancho’s recent transfer from Dortmund to Manchester United.
The player originally wanted the number seven however because Edinson Cavani currently has it, he is likely going to need to pick another number.
The only other exception to choosing numbers that you like, if a club has decided to retire a certain number in honour of someone who played for them before.
For instance, over at West Ham, the number 6 is not held by anybody, however, in honour of Bobby Moore, nobody will be allowed to choose 6 to have on the back of their jersey.
What Do Soccer Numbers Mean?
Years ago soccer numbers used to mean more they do now.
Before numbers were assigned in correlation with a players position on the pitch.
However nowadays it is freer and not important, so soccer players will typically just wear the number they prefer.
Now the original idea is that you have numbers 1-18, which covers the 11 starting players and the 7 subs.
The first 11 numbers would go to the positions on the pitch, with as you guessed it the other seven going to those on the bench.
How it was originally set up to look like on the pitch was like this:
- Right Back
- Centre Back
- Centre Back
- Left Back
- Defensive Midfield
- Right Wing
- Center Midfield
- Center Forward
- Attacking Midfielder/Playmaker
- Left Winger
So before the current times, if you were playing a certain position you would have the number of that role.
However it’s not as strictly followed these days, and while you will still hear references towards these positions like ‘your classic number 9’ and ‘the number 10 picking up pockets of space’ anyone can play these positions with different numbers.
At the end of the day, while soccer players can choose their numbers, the freedom and choice you get will depend on the level you are playing at.
With professional soccer clubs, like MLS and Premier League, as long as a number hasn’t been taken or retired you will be able to choose it.
However, the lower down the pyramids, not only are the funds less meaning you normally can’t pick a big number but the number selection as a whole isn’t as big of a deal from my experience.
I have personally gone from playing with the number 10 shirt one week to then having the number 18 the following week.
If you do have any questions or thoughts you would like to leave on soccer players shirt numbers then by all means get involved by leaving your say down below 🙂