I was watching the MLS All-Star vs. Tottenham match and noticed that there were substitutions made for more than 3 players during the game. Is this standard for exhibition games, All Star games etc?

  • Notice that, in friendlies, sometimes there is no restriction to the number of substitutes, but to the number of moments of substitution. This is done to force coaches to substitute more players at the same time to keep the game going. Aug 3, 2015 at 11:48

2 Answers 2


In official competitions, three substitues may be used. Anywhere from three to twelve may be nominated, depending on the competition rules.

In international friendlies between two top (ie. not under 21s, under 17s, reserves, etc.) national teams, up to six substitutes may be used.

In other friendlies, any number may be used, but if the referee is not informed before the match, only six substitues may be used.

In recreational and grassroots football, return substitutions are permitted, meaning there is no limit, and substituted players be be re-used as substitutes. What constitutes recreational / grassroots football is up to the national football association concerned.

The MLS All-Star match falls into the category of other friendlies, so the two teams would have come to an agreement on the number to be used before the match, and would have informed the referee.

The full text is on page 20 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of the Game.

Number of substitutions

Official competitions

Up to a maximum of three substitutes may be used in any match played in an official competition organised under the auspices of FIFA, the confederations or the member associations.

The rules of the competition must state how many substitutes may be nominated, from three up to a maximum of twelve.

Other matches

In national “A” team matches, up to a maximum of six substitutes may be used.

In all other matches, a greater number of substitutes may be used provided that:

  • the teams concerned reach agreement on a maximum number
  • the referee is informed before the match

If the referee is not informed, or if no agreement is reached before the match, no more than six substitutes are allowed.

Return Substitutions

The use of return substitutions is only permitted in the lowest levels grassroots/recreational) of football, subject to the agreement of the member association concerned.


The number of substitutions allowed during a friendly varies a lot,depending on the type of the friendly match. For example during a official friendly match for international teams there is a max of 6 subs.

The match you are referring too was a preseason friendly, during those matches the two teams most of the times just agree on a number of substitutes allowed.

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