How many subs in the FA Cup this season?

The FA Cup is one of the most prestigious tournaments in English football. It is organized by the Football Association and features teams from multiple levels of the English football league system. This allows smaller clubs to go up against the big teams and possibly cause an upset. The FA Cup always brings a lot of excitement and unpredictability to the game.

One of the unique things about the FA Cup is the number of substitutions allowed. Most football leagues only allow 3 substitutions per game. But the rules are slightly different for the FA Cup. So how many subs are allowed in the FA Cup?

3 Substitutions in Normal Time

In normal time of an FA Cup match, each team is allowed to make up to 3 substitutions. This is the same rule that applies to Premier League and most other competitions. When a manager makes a substitution, they are replacing one player on the pitch with a substitute from the bench.

The manager can use these 3 substitutions at any point during normal time. The only restriction is that players who have been substituted off cannot return to the pitch later in the match. So the manager has to use his 3 subs strategically to impact the game.

This 3 substitution rule has been in place for the FA Cup for many years. It allows managers some flexibility to change their tactics and personnel during the 90 minutes. But they also have to be judicious with how they use their limited substitutions.

When Can Substitutions Be Made?

The FA Cup rules do not restrict when a manager can make a substitution, as long as it is within normal time. Substitutions can be made at any stoppage in play, whether it is for a throw-in, free kick, corner, injury or any other reason. The fourth official indicates when a substitution can be made.

Typically managers will make changes closer to the end of a half to use their fresh substitutes to influence the closing stages. But substitutions can also be made earlier if a player gets injured or is having a poor game. There is no limit on when the 3 subs can be used as long as it is within normal time.

4th Substitution in Extra Time

If an FA Cup match goes into extra time because it is tied after 90 minutes, then each team gets 1 additional substitution. So in extra time, each team can make up to 4 substitutions instead of 3.

This 4th sub can be a strategic decision by the manager to bring fresh legs on to change the dynamics of extra time. The teams have already played 90 minutes, so having an additional substitution gives the manager more flexibility in extra time.

So if an FA Cup match goes into extra time, each team will have 4 substitution opportunities instead of the normal 3. This rule only applies to extra time and does not affect the number of subs allowed in normal time.

When Was the 4th Sub Rule Introduced?

The rule allowing a 4th substitution in extra time was introduced for the FA Cup starting in the 2019-2020 season. It was brought in to give teams more options in the additional 30 minutes of extra time.

Previously only 3 substitutions were permitted even in extra time. But from the 2019-2020 edition onwards, this was increased to 4 subs with the additional one being allowed in extra time.

Some of the key reasons for introducing this rule were:

  • To help manage player fatigue in extra time
  • To give managers more tactical options as the game gets stretched
  • To potentially influence penalty shootouts with fresher players

This rule change for the FA Cup was in line with a similar change made by IFAB regarding substitutions in extra time. Overall it has been received positively by managers as it gives them more flexibility in the latter stages of a cup tie.

Does the 4th Substitution Rule Apply to Replays?

Yes, the rule allowing a 4th substitution in extra time also applies to any FA Cup replays. Replays occur when the first match between two teams ends in a draw after extra time.

In this case, the two teams will contest a replay at the ground of the team who originally played away. This replay also follows the same substitution rules as a normal FA Cup match.

Each team makes 3 normal substitutions in regular time. And if the replay goes to extra time again, then each team can make a 4th substitution just like in the first match.

So replays also provide each team with 4 opportunities to substitute players if the match goes beyond 90 minutes. This rule applies equally to replays as it does to the first game.

Substitution Rules in Other English Competitions

While the FA Cup has some unique substitution rules, most other English competitions follow the standard 3 substitutions rule. Here are some examples:

  • Premier League – 3 substitutions only
  • EFL Championship – 3 substitutions only
  • EFL Cup – 3 substitutions only
  • FA Community Shield – 3 substitutions only

The FA Cup stands out for having 4 substitutes in extra time instead of just 3. No other major English competition has this rule at the moment. It gives the FA Cup a slightly unique feel with managers having more flexibility in extra time situations.

Use of Substitutions in the 2022-2023 FA Cup

Now that we’ve covered the substitution rules for the FA Cup, let’s look at how teams have actually used their subs in the 2022-2023 edition of the tournament so far.

There have been some interesting substitution trends and stats from the matches played:

  • Outfield players have been substituted more than goalkeepers – only 1 goalkeeper substituted
  • Most managers have used 2-3 subs per match
  • Later subs are more common than early ones
  • No match has required the 4th extra time sub yet

Here is a more detailed look at substitution usage in some key matches so far:

Liverpool vs Wolves

  • Liverpool – 3 substitutions used
  • Wolves – 2 substitutions used

Liverpool brought on Joe Gomez, James Milner and Harvey Elliot around the 60th minute mark. Wolves brought on Hwang and Traore in the 2nd half.

Manchester City vs Arsenal

  • Man City – 1 substitution used
  • Arsenal – 3 substitutions used

Man City only made 1 sub, bringing De Bruyne on in the 2nd half. Arsenal used all 3 subs, including Tomiyasu, Saka and Nketiah.

Tottenham vs Portsmouth

  • Spurs – 3 substitutions used
  • Portsmouth – 3 substitutions used

Both managers utilized all 3 subs. Spurs brought on Richarlison, Lucas Moura and Skipp. Portsmouth subbed on Pigott, Morrison and Ryan Tunnicliffe.

These examples show most managers are actively using their allotted subs, but also keeping 1-2 in hand in case extra time comes into play.

Substitution Trends Over Time in the FA Cup

Looking at FA Cup substitution trends over a longer period of time also reveals some interesting insights:

  • Average subs per team per match has increased from ~1.5 to 2.5 over the past decade
  • Later substitutions are more common now than 10+ years back
  • 5th/6th subs in extra time are still rarely used

The increase in average substitutions seems to be influenced by:

  • Managers rotating squads more in early FA Cup rounds
  • Using subs tactically later in games
  • Quality of benches improving over the years

While the 4th and 5th sub options provide flexibility, most managers are still reluctant to use them. But as squad depth and congested fixtures continue, these extra sub options could become more meaningful.

Most Substitutions by a Team in an FA Cup Match

What is the most substitutions we have seen by a single team in an FA Cup match?

The record for most substitutions in an FA Cup game is 6. This has occurred in matches that have gone to extra time and penalties.

Here are some examples of teams using 6 subs in a single FA Cup tie:

  • Chelsea vs Man City in 2013 – Used 6 subs and won in a semi-final replay
  • Brighton vs West Brom in 2008 – Seagulls used 6 subs before losing on penalties
  • Barnsley vs Blackpool in 2011 – Barnsley utilized 6 subs but lost in a quarterfinal replay

Based on the current rules, 6 is the maximum number of changes a team can make in a single FA Cup match. This requires at least extra time and often a penalty shootout as well.

While some managers have made 6 changes, it is still very rare. In most games, 3-4 substitutions is the norm even if it goes to extra time.

Do Substitutes Have to Be Named Before the Match?

All subs must be named by the manager before an FA Cup match kicks off. The manager has to provide the referee with a list of the 7 potential substitutes from the squad.

Typically this subs list will contain:

  • 2nd and 3rd choice goalkeepers
  • Defensive cover
  • Midfield options
  • Attacking players

The manager can only bring on players from that pre-submitted list of 7 substitutes. No other players can be subbed on even if they are part of the matchday squad.

This rule prevents managers from sneaking extra “secret” subs onto the bench. Players must be named ahead of time if they are an option to come on.

How Are Substitutions Indicated to the Referee?

Managers have to follow specific procedures to make substitutions in an FA Cup match:

  1. Manager advises 4th official that he wants to make a sub
  2. 4th official communicates this to the referee
  3. Referee waits for next stoppage to allow the change
  4. Sub boards with numbers are held up indicating the change
  5. The new player enters while the replaced player exits

No substitutions can be made without the referee’s permission. This system ensures there is no confusion and the sub is made safely at an appropriate time.

Both the 4th official and referee play an important role in coordinating the substitutions and communicating with the respective team benches.

Does Extra Time Count Towards Suspensions?

Yes, any minutes played in extra time of an FA Cup match count towards accumulating suspensions for yellow and red cards.

These are the suspension rules:

  • 5 yellow cards = 1 match ban
  • 2 consecutive yellows in a game = 1 match ban
  • Straight red card = at least 1 match ban

So if a player gets a yellow or red card during extra time, it still counts as a normal booking. Extra time is considered an extension of the normal match.

This can influence managers’ decisions whether to substitute players on or off in extra time based on their accumulated card tally. No one wants to lose a player for the next round due to a suspension picked up in extra time.

Unlimited Substitutions for Concussion Replacements

While teams are limited to 4 substitutions max per match, there is an exception for concussion replacements.

If a player sustains a head injury during the match, they can be permanently substituted regardless of how many changes have been made already.

This is because concussions are so dangerous and need to be handled very carefully. So any player with even the slightest concussion symptoms will be taken off as a safety precaution.

The team can then bring on a concussion replacement from the bench. This does not count against their normal sub limits and they still retain all their regular subs if unused.

Player welfare is paramount and this rule ensures teams can give concussions the caution they require without arbitrarily limiting their remaining subs.

Who Can Be Brought On as a Substitute?

Any player named among the 7 substitutes before kickoff is eligible to come on as a replacement during FA Cup matches.

The only limitations are:

  • They must be named on the initial sub list given to the referee
  • Anyone substituted off cannot return
  • No more than 4 subs total per team

Within those constraints, managers have free choice over which subs to utilize. There are no restrictions based on player positions or experience levels.

Often managers will use a blend of youth and veteran subs to provide energy and leadership as needed. Who comes on can depend a lot on the context and flow of the game.

How Long Does a Substitution Take?

The actual substitution process typically takes 30-60 seconds from start to finish.

This includes the time for:

  • Manager to signal the change
  • 4th official to communicate it
  • Referee to stop play and allow it
  • Sub boards being held up
  • Player coming on and off the pitch

Delays or time wasting during subs can be yellow carded. So there is an expectation subs happen quickly to minimize disruption.

The fastest subs are often pre-planned with the player ready to jog on as soon as the number goes up. This can take as little as 30 seconds from start to finish.


To conclude, while 3 subs are permitted during normal time of FA Cup matches, a 4th extra substitute is allowed in extra time. Replays also allow the extra sub. So far this season, most managers have used 2-3 subs conservatively. The maximum number made in an FA Cup match historically is 6 in games that go to penalties.

Trends show subs are being made slightly later and average around 2-3 per team. All substitutes must be named beforehand on the official team sheet. Concussion replacements are unlimited and do not count against the sub limits.

Overall, the FA Cup’s unique substitution rules add more intrigue and options for managers during matches, especially when extra time is required.

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