How many subs can you use in FA Cup?

The FA Cup is one of the most prestigious football competitions in England. It is open to all clubs on the English football league system, giving amateur and smaller professional clubs the chance to play against teams in the top tiers. The FA Cup has a rich history dating back to 1871, making it the oldest national football competition in the world.

With the large number of teams taking part, ranging from non-league to Premier League giants, the rules around player usage are important. One of the key regulations surrounds how many substitutes each team can use in an FA Cup match.

Quick Answer: How many subs in FA Cup?

In the FA Cup, teams are allowed to name up to nine substitutes on the bench and use a maximum of three of these during the game. This rule applies to all rounds of the competition, from the early qualifying rounds to the final at Wembley.

How many substitutes are allowed in football?

The number of substitutes permitted during a football match can vary depending on the competition and governing body. Here is a quick overview of the main substitute allowances:

  • Premier League – 3 substitutes from a bench of 9
  • English Football League (Championship, League 1, League 2) – 3 substitutes from a bench of 7
  • FA Cup – 3 substitutes from a bench of 9
  • EFL Cup – 3 substitutes from a bench of 7
  • UEFA Champions League – 3 substitutes from a bench of 12
  • UEFA Europa League – 3 substitutes from a bench of 12
  • FIFA World Cup – 3 substitutes from a bench of 12

So in most major domestic club competitions, including the FA Cup, teams can make a maximum of 3 substitutions per match. The allowance of 9 players on the bench in FA Cup and other cup competitions provides managers with some additional flexibility compared to league games.

What are the substitution rules in the FA Cup?

The official rules around player substitutions in the FA Cup are as follows:

  • Each team is permitted a maximum of nine substitutes on the bench.
  • Teams can make up to three substitutions from these nine players during the game.
  • A player who has been substituted off can not be brought back on to the field later in the match.
  • Substitutions can only be made when play is stopped and the referee has given permission.
  • Additional stoppage time can be added at the end of each half to make up for time lost through substitutions.

These FA Cup substitution rules apply across every round of the competition, from extra preliminary qualifying through to the final. Both teams competing in an FA Cup match have the same allowances.

It is worth noting that if a cup match goes to extra time after finishing level in normal time, teams are permitted one additional substitution in extra time. So in extra time, a team could potentially make up to four substitutions if they hadn’t already used all three in normal time.

When was the 3 substitute rule introduced?

The rule permitting up to 3 substitutions per team in a football match was first introduced by FIFA in 1995. This replaced the previous limit of 2 substitutions per team.

When first introduced, managers were only allowed to make the 3 substitutions at specific times – at half time or during a stoppage in play. This was intended to prevent unnecessary stoppages.

The current law, where a manager can make a substitution at any point (with the referee’s permission), came into effect in 2008. This gave managers more tactical flexibility during the game.

Here is a brief history of the 3 substitute rule:

  • 1958 – Substitutions first permitted, but only for injured players
  • 1967 – Limit increased to 2 substitutes per match
  • 1995 – 3 substitutes now allowed per team
  • 2008 – Subs permitted at any stoppage rather than specific times

So the protocol of 3 substitutes being permitted per team has been in place for over 25 years. When first introduced it was a controversial change, but is now an established part of the modern game.

Why are 9 substitutes allowed on the bench in the FA Cup?

While teams can only use 3 of their 9 named substitutes, being able to name a larger bench provides managers with more options. Here are some of the reasons why up to 9 subs are permitted in the FA Cup:

  • Squad rotation – The FA Cup schedule can be congested for teams still competing in multiple competitions. A larger bench facilitates rotation of the squad.
  • Injury cover – With the risk of injuries, having backup players ready on the bench provides security and potential replacement options.
  • Tactical flexibility – More players on the bench allows managers to react and alter tactics with different substitutions as the game evolves.
  • Youth player exposure – Extra spots on the bench can be used to provide experience to young prospects at the club.

The rule is consistent across all rounds of the FA Cup. Having up to 9 substitutes available caters to the unpredictable nature of cup competitions and gives managers more tools to influence the game from the sideline as required.

Do all competitions allow 9 substitutes on the bench?

No, the allowance of 9 substitutes is specific to cup competitions in English football. In league competitions across Europe, most governing bodies only permit between 5-7 substitutes to be named on the team sheet.

Here are the substitute bench allowances for some major leagues and tournaments:

Competition Number of substitutes permitted on bench
Premier League 7
La Liga (Spain) 7
Bundesliga (Germany) 7
Serie A (Italy) 7
Ligue 1 (France) 7
FA Cup 9
EFL Cup 7
UEFA Champions League 12
UEFA Europa League 12
World Cup 12

The exception is in UEFA tournaments like the Champions League and Europa League. The expanded benches of 12 players provides even more flexibility for managers, likely due to the packed schedules and high stakes of European cup competitions.

Has the number of substitutes always been 3?

No, when substitution rules were first introduced in 1958, only injured players could be replaced and there was no limit on the number of subs. Over time, the rules gradually evolved to the current system:

  • 1958 – Only injured players could be substituted
  • 1965 – Limit of 1 substitute per match introduced
  • 1967 – Limit increased to 2 substitutes per match
  • 1995 – Increase to 3 substitutes allowed

The switch from 2 to 3 substitutes in 1995 under FIFA was a major change at the time. There was debate around whether it would disrupt the flow of matches by encouraging managers to make too many tactical changes.

However, the system bedded in quickly and is now an established part of the modern game. Most within football now feel the 3 substitute rule gets the balance right between keeping matches competitive but also giving managers some ability to change things if needed.

Why are only 3 substitutes allowed during the match?

FIFA and other governing bodies settled on 3 as the maximum number of substitutes to balance several factors:

  • Competitive integrity – Too many live substitutions could overly disrupt the flow of a match.
  • Injury prevention – Making fewer substitutions reduces the risk of muscular injuries from players suddenly entering the game.
  • Tactical impact – 3 subs allows for some tactical flexibility but prevents managers completely reshaping a team.
  • Timekeeping – More substitutions leads to more delays so 3 is a compromise.

There are still occasional calls within football to further increase the number of subs allowed mid-match. But most governing bodies feel 3 substitutes finds the right balance for now. It prevents excessive stoppages while still giving managers tactical options to change the game from the bench.

When can substitutions be made?

Under the current rules, substitutions can be made at any point in the match, provided the ball is out of play and the referee grants permission. This allows managers tactical flexibility to make changes:

  • During stoppages for injuries
  • At half time
  • After goals have been scored
  • During natural stoppages like throw ins, goal kicks etc

Previously, substitutions could only be made at specific break points in the game. Since 2008, the rules have been relaxed to let subs occur at any stoppage. But the referee still has the final say on when they can happen.

Managers might receive advice from their coaching staff during a match about the right time to make a tactical change based on how the game is unfolding.

What happens if extra time is played?

In cup competitions like the FA Cup, if matches are tied after 90 minutes then an additional 30 minutes of extra time can be played (two 15 minute halves).

During extra time, teams are permitted one additional substitution, taking the total allowed in the match to 4 substitutions. This rule accounts for player fatigue over 120+ minutes.

So the full sequence around subs in an FA Cup match going to extra time is:

  • Up to 3 substitutes during normal time
  • 1 additional sub permitted in extra time
  • Total of 4 substitutions allowed across match

If a match goes to extra time, managers will likely save at least one substitution to make a fresh change heading into the additional 30 minutes.

What happens if the match goes to penalties?

If an FA Cup match is still tied after extra time, it will go to a penalty shootout. No additional substitutes are permitted at this point – teams only have access to players left on the pitch after 120 minutes.

However, managers can make tactical changes ahead of the shootout like bringing on a substitute goalkeeper specifically for penalties. This doesn’t count as an additional substitution.

Some key penalty shootout rules:

  • Each team takes 5 penalties alternately
  • If still tied after 5 penalties, sudden death penalties continue
  • Any eligible player can take a penalty, including subs brought on during the match

So while no new subs are allowed at the point of moving to penalties, managers do have some flexibility in deciding their best penalty takers during the shootout.


To summarize the key points:

  • Teams can name up to 9 substitutes on the bench for FA Cup matches
  • A maximum of 3 of these players can be brought on during normal time
  • An additional 4th sub is allowed during extra time periods
  • Subs can be made at any point as long as the referee permits it
  • No additional subs are allowed for penalty shootouts

The rules around substitutes are consistent across the FA Cup. While teams have plenty of options named on the bench, managers must still use their three in-game changes wisely based on injuries, fatigue and tactical considerations.

The sub rules help strike a good balance between giving managers options to impact the game, while retaining competitive integrity and keeping unnecessary stoppages to a minimum across a cup tie.

With the prestige and history surrounding the FA Cup, every manager wants to ensure they use their available substitutes effectively as they strive to guide their team towards Cup glory.

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