A soccer match will start with 22 players on the pitch, 11 for each side.
However, it’s very uncommon that the same players who take to the pitch finish the game.
That is because of the addition of substitutes, which in soccer allows players to switch with those on the bench.
But one of the questions you may be wondering is can soccer players sub in and out?
So here in this post, I will be answering that question along with going over everything you need to know about soccer substitutions.
Table of Contents
What Are Soccer Subsitutions?
Soccer substitutions allow a team to swap out a player with another.
Because soccer is the type of game that can bring out some of the most unexpected moments, being able to sub in and sub out players becomes a crucial part of the game.
Why a team will choose to do subs can be for many reasons. But the main ones consist of:
- Someone is injured and can no longer play a part in the game
- For tactical reasons, whether that be a change in formation
- To replace someone tired and therefore replace that player with someone fresh
How Many Substitutions Are Allowed In Soccer?
Only three substitutions are allowed in soccer.
These don’t have to be used in one go and are also optional.
This means a manager could use all three at one go, use one at a time or none at all.
While that is normal and is the rule that has been followed for years through most leagues and competitions worldwide.
There have been changes made recently, due to the current situation around the world.
Because many leagues were delayed from 2020 through to 2021, the governing bodies in football decided to extend the amount from three to five on a temporary season basis.
This was done to help football clubs protect their players from injury and fatigue, with them needing to play many games in a short space of time.
The plan is for everything to go back to normal. However, some competitions are still using 5 subs, with Euro 2020 being the most recent example.
Why Are Soccer Substitutions Made?
When it comes to substitutions, there are many reasons for them to be made.
To start with, you have injuries. Now an injury can, unfortunately, happen to anyone on the pitch at any given time.
And from my experience, it’s common for a player on the pitch to get injured within the game, which is just because of the fast nature of the sport.
Therefore, it’s important to have players who can come on and replace a player if they cannot play.
I have seen games where all available substitutes have been used towards injured players, which does happen while uncommon.
Next up, we have tactical reasons.
Now the game of football is physical, but there is a mental side to it also.
That is why not only do you have footballers diving a lot, but in today’s game, more than ever, you have managers changing their systems frequently throughout a game.
If a game is either going or not going to plan, a manager will look to the bench to bring on a player in replacement for another.
For example, if a team has a slender lead and wants to protect what they have, then the coach may change the formation and tactics.
To do so, they might bring on a defensive player in for a midfield or attacking player to help see the game out.
Another common reason for subs to be made is due to tiredness.
While soccer players are physically fit and train most days a week, players will still get tired in games, typically towards the end of them.
If a manager recognises that a player is struggling to move around the pitch.
Then someone on the bench is a good option to freshen things up again.
To Waste Time
A type of substitute which drives some fans crazy, including me, when done against you, is with the sole purpose to waste time.
Just like watching footballers dive, it’s hard to watch if you are a fan of the opposing side.
What you will find from watching games is that if a team is winning, they will likely make a sub with only a few minutes to go.
I have even seen subs made with only a few seconds to go, meaning they aren’t even likely to get a kick.
As you would guess, these players aren’t brought on to impact the game.
Instead, it’s to waste time and break up play, to give the opponents less chance of scoring in the dying seconds.
To give you an example, if the fourth official signals 3 minutes of injury time at the end of the game, of which a sub is made by the current leaders in the game.
Then the next 20-30 odd seconds, depending on how ruthless the referee is, will waste the added time.
This, therefore, knocks precious time off the clock and kills the tempo of the game in the process.
Can Soccer Players Sub In And Out?
For your typical soccer match, if you sub out a player, they can’t go back to the field.
So while substitutions are, of course, allowed to be made, a manager can’t make unlimited subs.
If we used the above example, of only three subs being allowed.
It means that if a manager wants to, they can replace three different players on the field with three players on the bench.
This can also be done at any point during the game too.
Now while rare, especially in competitive levels, there are exceptions to this.
It’s called ‘rolling subs, ‘ allowing a manager to make unlimited subs during the game.
So if the coach decides to bring off a player, they could then opt to bring them back on.
Thes rolling sub rule is common with children’s football leagues, 6 and 7 aside, and friendlies.