How Many Soccer Players Are on a Field?

A soccer player extending and sliding to intercept the ball from the opposing team.

There is no fixed number of players in a casual soccer game. You can play with as many people as you like in a casual game of soccer as long as you’re evenly matched with your opponent. 

The same can’t be said for official games, though.

For official games, the rules are different. Rules are set to ensure the perfect balance of entertainment and fairness for each game. Official matches are regulated by the Laws of the Game (LOTG), which outlines the rules for the game.

What’s the Number?

Eleven players for each team, and that includes the goalkeeper.

There are certain cases where a team might have less than 11 players on field. In those rare cases, the team should not have fewer than 7 players or the game cannot take place.

Additionally, they must have a goalkeeper.

If you do find yourself several players short, you must play your best. You’re basically playing handicapped if this happens.

But how do these scenarios happen in the first place? We’ll look at different scenarios where the number of on-field players changes.

Minimum Number of Players on a Soccer Team

During a game, if the team gets reduced to less than 7 players, that would result in a game stoppage.

These things happen mostly because of injury or player emergencies.

The play should resume once both the teams have the 7-player minimum requirement met.

If by some chance, the team fails to produce at least 7 players, the match is forfeited

Number of Players Per Team for Each Group

A soccer goalkeeper in action, with a player from the opposing team lying prone on the ground.

The number of players per team varies by age, too.

It’s one of those old rules that’s still being used up to this day. This rule is set by IFAB.

Competition  Number of Players
Over 12’s 11 (1 goalkeeper)
Under 12’s 9 (1 goalkeeper)
Under 10’s 7 (1 goalkeeper)
Under 8’s 4 (no goalkeeper)
Under 6’s 3 (no goalkeeper)

How Do Substitutions Work?

Even before the game starts, the referee must be given the names of the substitutes or bench players in the game. This is usually given in the form of a list to know which players are active and which are not.

Before any substitution, the referee must be called into it. The referee must give permission before any substitution is made.

Substitutions are made during a stoppage or interval. The substituting players must be at the halfway line. The substituted players must go to the sanctioned area once they leave the field.

If the substitution is made because of injury, the referee would dictate the procedure for getting in a player.

How Do You Substitute a Goalkeeper?

The same substitution procedure is followed when substituting goalkeepers.

If by some chance, the coach wanted the substitute player to start instead of the starting player, it is allowed as long as they inform the referees.

How Many Substitutions Are Allowed Per Game?

A soccer player giving his colleague a high five at the substitution bench.

A grand total of 3 substitutions per game is allowed.

Before 1958, no substitutions were allowed. This means that the players you started with should be the ones finishing the game.

In 1958, the rules changed and allowed for one substitution. It saw an increase to two subs per game in 1988. In 1994, the rules allowed a ‘plus 1’ substitution for an injured goalkeeper. In 1995, the rules increased to 3 subs, and it’s the one we’ve been using since.

Total Number of Players in a Team

Since you need substitute players for your starting lineup, it always results in teams having more than 11 players.

In MLS and EPL, the limit is 18 players. In international matches, it’s up to 23.

However, the number of players on the roster is different from the number of players on the team. The roster players are almost always more than the team player limit. 

This number is not defined by the Laws of the Game but is regulated by the organizations the team is a part of.

It’s normal to see upwards of 25 players on a roster. Some teams even have a supplemental roster of up to 10 players, but most of them won’t see actual play unless there’s an injury in the main roster.

Number of Players Allowed Per League

Two soccer players in action, both fighting for the ball on the line.

The number of players allowed per game depends on the type of soccer game that is played. As shown in the table above, the younger the players, the lower the maximum player count is.

This is the reason for levels or categories for soccer.

Youth Soccer Team

A youth soccer team should have between 6 to 9 players on the field. It depends on the age of the players. The youngest youth player can only compete in teams of 6. 

High School Soccer Team

A high school soccer team consists of 11 players—the same as a professional soccer team. The size of a standard high school soccer field should be smaller but is big enough to allow for good player movement.

College Soccer Team

A college soccer game is played on a court that is the size of a professional one. They also have the same number of players which is 11.

A college game practically operates on the same rules as professional ones. The only difference is the number of substitutions allowed. A college soccer team has an unlimited number of substitutions.

This results in college teams sometimes having more than 30 players. That’s right, 30 players!

Two soccer players from opposing teams in action on the field.

7 Soccer Players with Number 12

A soccer player kicking the goal toward the goal during the first game at the start of the soccer season.

How Many Games are in a Soccer Season?