Are 5 subs allowed in FA Cup?

Quick Answer

Yes, teams are now allowed to make 5 substitutions in FA Cup matches. This rule was introduced for the 2020/21 FA Cup competition and has been retained for subsequent seasons.

The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world, having been contested since 1871. As the premier knockout tournament in English football, the FA Cup has a rich history and tradition associated with it. Like many aspects of football, the rules and regulations governing the FA Cup have evolved over time. One of the more recent changes has been around the number of substitutions permitted during matches.

For many years, teams were restricted to just 3 substitutions per match in the FA Cup. However, when football resumed after the Covid-19 hiatus in 2020, temporary rule changes were introduced, including allowing 5 substitutions per team. The International Football Association Board (IFAB), who are responsible for determining the Laws of the Game, initially approved the use of 5 substitutes on a temporary basis to help manage player workload as competitions resumed following the pandemic.

This temporary rule change was subsequently extended, and then made permanent by IFAB in June 2022. The FA chose to also adopt the new rules around 5 substitutes for FA Cup matches from the 2020/21 season onwards.


Here is some further background information on substitutions in football:

  • Substitutions were first permitted in English league football in the 1965/66 season, with each team allowed 1 substitution
  • The number of subs was increased to 2 per match in 1967
  • 3 substitutions per team became the standard in English football from the 1994/95 season
  • The option to use 5 substitutes was introduced on a temporary basis by IFAB in May 2020 after the Covid-19 disruption, initially just until the end of 2020/21
  • The FA introduced the 5 substitutes rule for the 2020/21 FA Cup
  • IFAB extended the option to use 5 substitutes multiple times before making it permanent in June 2022

The introduction of 5 substitutes has been a significant change to the norms of the game. Some argue that being able to make more substitutions benefits bigger clubs with larger squads. However, coaches have highlighted benefits such as greater opportunity to give playtime to fringe players, and the ability to better manage player fatigue and fitness.

Current FA Cup Rules

The current rules around substitutes for FA Cup matches are:

  • Each team can name up to 9 substitutes on the team sheet for a game
  • A maximum of 5 of the named substitutes can be used during the game
  • Players who have been substituted off cannot be substituted back on
  • Each team has 3 opportunities to make a substitution during normal time
  • If a match goes to extra time, each team gets an additional opportunity to make a substitution (taking the total subs up to 5)

These FA Cup rules around 5 substitutes align with the Laws of the Game as set out by IFAB. The temporary change has now become the new normal.

As well as the FA Cup, the Premier League and English Football League also allow up to 5 substitutes to be used. So the approach is now consistent across the top levels of English domestic football.

Why 5 Subs?

Expanding on some of the reasons why the temporary change to 5 substitutes was introduced:

  • Player welfare – More subs allows greater squad rotation to manage player workload and reduce injury risk. Important after condensed fixture schedules post-Covid.
  • Game tempo – Allowing 5 subs maintains intensity as fresh legs can be introduced more often.
  • Youth development – Increased substitutions gives more game time to fringe and younger squad players.
  • Competition integrity – Squads were impacted by Covid cases/isolation. More subs helps teams field stronger lineups.

The congested calendar arising from the pandemic suspension of play inevitably led to player fatigue and a crowded schedule. Introducing two additional substitutes was seen as an appropriate temporary measure to help address these issues.

While Covid disruption is now receding, the 5 substitutes rule has been retained as it is still deemed beneficial for player welfare. Extra subs also change the tactical dynamics during games which some see as a positive evolution.

Opposition to 5 Subs

The adoption of 5 substitutes has not been without its critics though. Key counter arguments include:

  • Benefits bigger clubs – those with larger squads can bring on more high quality players.
  • Disrupts flow of the game with so many changes.
  • Unfair advantage by freshening up the team more than opponents.

Some of the opposition was from smaller clubs in the English Football League. The Premier League also held a vote early in the 2020/21 season with the proposal to continue with 5 subs being rejected at that stage. However, the Premier League clubs later reversed this decision and from February 2021 adopted the IFAB rule change.

There were some memorable FA Cup matches during 2020/21 which saw managers utilize their full 5 substitutes. This included Tuchel making 5 second half changes as Chelsea came from behind to defeat Manchester City in the semi-final.

Looking Ahead

With 5 substitutes now established as the new normal, don’t expect the rules to change any time soon. IFAB has stated this amendment will stay in place until at least the end of the 2022/23 season and be reviewed again next year.

Given the positive impact on player welfare, most observers expect 5 subs to remain indefinitely rather than reverting to 3 substitutes per match. This should provide managers greater flexibility with their tactics and squad selection when planning for FA Cup matches in the coming seasons.

The FA Cup has evolved continuously over its 150+ year history. The adoption of 5 substitutes is one of the more sizable changes in recent decades and has brought the competition into line with other major tournaments around the world.


To conclude, yes teams are permitted up to 5 substitutions in FA Cup matches. This temporary rule introduced in 2020/21 has now been made permanent.

The change brings the FA Cup in line with Premier League and EFL rules. It should enable greater squad rotation, maintain high tempo games, and is seen as beneficial for player welfare amid congested fixtures.

Some argue smaller clubs are disadvantaged, but on balance most stakeholders are in favor. Don’t expect the FA Cup to revert to 3 substitutes any time soon, as 5 subs appear here to stay.

Season Max Subs Allowed
Up to 1993/94 1
1994/95 to 2019/20 3
From 2020/21 5

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