Soccer By The Rules – Efficient Substitution Procedures

Soccer by the Rules – Efficient Substitution Procedures By Joe Manjone, Ed. D.

Because the clock continues to run during substitutions, it is essential that officials follow high school soccer rules and expedite getting players in and out of the game.  The following are principles that you should adhere to during substitutions.

  • During all opportunities to substitute, the referee should look at the official area to look for substitutes wanting to enter the match.
  • The scorer and assistant referees, especially the one on the same side as the scorer can assist the referee in determining that there is a substitute waiting to enter.
  • As soon as the referee determines that a substitution opportunity exists and there is a substitute(s) eligible to enter, the referee should beckon the substitute(s) to enter and replace a field player.
  • When a substitute is beckoned in by the referee, the player that is being replaced is no longer considered a player. Replaced players are considered bench personnel.
  • The scorer or assistant referee should make certain that the substitute enters the field when beckoned in.
  • As bench personnel, replaced players are to leave the field at mid-field or their team area and are to immediately enter their team area.
  • The referee and the assistant referee should make eye contact and agree that all replaced players have departed the field and are in the team area.
  • The referee should sound the whistle and start play.

Errors in substitution procedure that have been recently reported by coaches, players, spectators and officials include:

  • Officials forgetting to look for substitutes during substitution opportunities and in some instances even disregarding coach, assistant referee and/or scorer notification substitutes are waiting to come in. Again, as indicated above, the referee should look to the official area on every substitution opportunity.
  • Not beckoning the substitute to enter the game until the player that is being replaced leaves the field.  This wastes much time when the clock is running. Some referees wait for the replaced player to leave the field in order to have better control and not end up with too many players on the field especially when there are multiple substitutes.  However, with the assistant referee helping with the substitution procedure, the counting of players and making certain the proper number of players have exited can be efficiently and effectively controlled.
  • Allowing replaced players to exit the field at other points than as indicated above. Replaced players become bench personnel and must, therefore, be in the team area. The game cannot be restarted until all bench personnel are in the team area.  Thus, nothing is gained by letting players exit other than in the official area or the team area.
  • Employing a hand signal rather than sounding a whistle to start play after a substitution. Doing this creates an advantage for the team that sees the hand signal, as players know the play-by-the-start-with-a-whistle rule and, thus, may not be ready to start play.

Follow the above procedures in every high school game you work, make certain your partners do the same. Help teams know and get used to substitution by the rule.

If you would like to suggest a high school soccer rules change or if you have any questions about this rule or any high school rule, please e-mail me.