We have all seen substitutions being made in soccer matches and the immense impact they can have on a match.
What makes substitutions essential for teams to deliver their best?
The fact is, not even the best soccer players can endure the stress of a game at all times. On top of that, there are chances of a player getting injured and tactical requirements depending on game scenarios.
The maximum number of substitutions allowed for each team during a soccer match is five. Once a player is substituted, they cannot return to the game.
But can a team make substitutions in extra time?
To understand that, let’s discuss the rules of player substitutions and substitution during extra time.
Basic Rules of Soccer Substitution
Before an official soccer match starts, the names of all the players and substitutes are submitted to the officials. The substitutions can only be made based on the names on this list. As per the laws of the game, the maximum number of substitutes on the list for senior ‘A’ international team matches is fifteen.
Anyone not mentioned in this list as a player, substitute, or team official, but present in the field of play, is considered an outside agent. The referee can have that person removed from the field and take disciplinary action if needed.
For the clubs in the top division or senior ‘A’ international teams, the maximum number of substitutes is limited to five. The number can be less than five for a specific tournament depending on the directives from FIFA or the national football association.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar was the first one in which the five substitutions per game rule got introduced. The previous World Cup allowed three substitutions in a game.
The main reason for limiting the number of substitutions is to reduce breaks and maintain the flow of the game. A high number of substitutions can interfere with the progress of the game and also be disadvantageous for smaller teams.
Take the example of some of the richest soccer clubs in the world like Manchester City and Real Madrid. With the best players in the world in their team, such teams have the ability to replace their 11 top players with 11 players of equal ability.
In comparison, a financially weaker team will struggle to replace the main players with substitutes of similar skill levels.
A substitution can only take place during stoppages in the play or in the half-time interval. In each case, the referee is informed, and the player being substituted gets the referee’s permission to leave the field.
Once the player leaves the field, the substitute can enter. Once substituted, the player can sit in the technical area or head back to the dressing room.
In friendly matches played with a non-competitive spirit, the number can be more than five. The teams can discuss and set the maximum number of substitutes allowed. They should inform the referee about the number before the match starts.
More than five substitutions are also made during youth soccer games since the young players may not be physically capable of meeting the demands of a full game. In many cases, return substitutions are also allowed in such games.
The process of substitution is usually initiated by the coach, based on the match requirements. The timing of the substitution and the skills of the substituted player are the two important factors that are considered.
However, a player can disagree with the coach’s decision and refuse to be substituted. As per the rules, the game will continue in such situations.
Actually, some of the top players like Lionel Mess, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Carlos Tevez have refused to be substituted. While some of these incidents made headlines, others did not as the team managers acknowledged the players’ zeal to stay on the field and perform.
Keep in mind that the clock does not stop during any substitution. Also, a player who has been issued a red card cannot be substituted back into the game.
This can be a tricky situation in case the goalkeeper is sent off. In that case, the coach will have to replace an outfield player with a substitute goalkeeper.
Can Substitutions be Made in Extra Time?
The current rules of soccer allow an additional substitution beyond the standard five during extra time. However, this may vary depending on the rules of the specific competitions. A fresh pair of legs can be a big advantage when it comes to scoring in the last minutes of a game.
The general rules of soccer substitution are the same for substitutions during the extra time and the substituted players follow the same rules. Apart from the standard rules, there are a few other points that need to be kept in mind.
- Some competition rules including the FIFA World Cup permit one additional substitution in the extra time period. The teams can use that as needed. This means more than half the team can be substituted if the game extends beyond standard playing time.
- All unused substitution opportunities can be used by a team during the extra time period.
- Substitutions can take place at half-time in extra time and also in the period between the end of the full-time play and the start of extra time.
The number of substitute players allowed in soccer has increased steadily from zero in the past century to the current number of five. With an increase in the number of substitutions allowed, the factors influencing the game have also increased.
Surely, we can expect some exciting matches ahead of us in the future.