How Many Players In A Football Team?

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Football or soccer is arguably the most followed sport in the world. So, how many players in a football teamEvery top-level competition in football, be it international or club-level, follows the 11-a-side format. A few cut-down variations like five-a-side and seven-a-side also exist but aren’t quite mainstream.

Let’s keep reading to know more about the number of players in football!

How many football players in a team?

how many players on a soccer team?

Well, there are 11 players on each team. It stands to reason that there should be 22 players on a soccer field when a match starts.

If you look more closely at Law 3 however you will see that it states that a minimum of seven players must be present to not only start the game but for the game to continue to a finish. Now you may be wondering why and how a team might start or even end up with less than seven players. Well here are some reasons that have caused this to happen.

  • Illness. Somewhat topically CoVid19 has seen quite a few games recently called off because a team could not field seven healthy players.
  • Injuries & red cards. Though it doesn’t occur often how many players in a football team relate to this.For example, if one side for some reason decides to use all its three substitutes early in the game then receives two red cards and has three injured players to the extent they can’t take the pitch. It would mean they would have fewer than the seven required players. So the game can not happen.
  • Mass brawls. Occasionally a mass brawl or fights have occurred in soccer leading to not enough players left on the pitch to continue the game. In this Brazilian derby for example between Vitoria and Bahia, ten players had to send off and 8 players got yellow-carded that forcing the abandonment of the game.

Other reasons outside of the above have also resulted in not enough players being present on the soccer field for the game to continue and/or the referee calling the game off. These have included:

  • Some teams actually walk off the field of play and refuse to carry on for such things as racist abuse. See this recent game Champions League game between PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir in 2020.
  • The referee (under his discretion) declares the pitch or other factors too dangerous to carry on.

Indeed two infamous tragedies Heysel and Hillsborough illustrate examples of when how many players are on a soccer team made absolutely no difference to whether the game even started let alone finished. Such was the seriousness of the circumstances that surrounded the events in question. The games did not even start let alone finish and you can view why in the previous hyperlinks.

How many players in a football team are allowed on the bench?

Traditionally only three players, under the laws of the game, can substitute with three players on the pitch. With the advent of CoVid19 though, FIFA temporarily allowed to change this to five players. And most countries and leagues around the world voted to adopt the change.

The English Premier League however was the exception for not enough sides voted for its implementation. The poorer sides argued it gave an advantage to the richer sides with bigger and better squads. To this date, this has not changed and only three players are allowed to be substituted in the English Premier League.

However, the outlook globally is that five players will continue to be allowed (due to increasing strains on a player’s health) and that the English Premier League will eventually gain enough votes also to affect this

Football positions

how many players in a football team?

As said on the question of how many players in a football team, there are 11 players on the pitch. They can be broadly divided into four positions – goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and forwards.

The latter three – defenders, midfielders, and forwards, can be further divided into multiple positions.

While the one goalkeeper per team is a constant, the number of defenders, midfielders, and forwards and their starting positions on the football pitch can vary according to the team’s formation or tactics.

Here’s a breakdown of all football positions and their roles.


A goalkeeper (GK) is essentially a team’s last line of defense. Generally seen in a different colored jersey than the rest of the team, a goalkeeper usually stays in his own team’s penalty area, usually under the goalpost, to protect the goal. Goalkeepers are the only player on the football team who can use their hands to catch or control the ball, but only if they are in their own penalty box.

Goalkeepers can to leave their respective penalty boxes but once they do, they will need to abide by the rules applicable to regular outfield players, i.e no using of hands.


Defenders are usually the players in the playing XI, whose primary task is to defend their goal from opposition attacks. In modern football, though, even defenders tend to participate heavily in their team’s build-up play to initiate offensive moves.

Teams mostly play three to five players as defenders in a match. However, four at the back is the most commonly used tactic in modern football. There are two main categories of defenders according to their roles.

  • Center-backs: Center-backs (CB) or central defenders are players who stand just in front of the team’s goal. In a four-defender formation, teams generally utilize two centers backs while a three or five-player backline involves three center-backs. Center-backs are usually tall and physically imposing players with good aerial ability.
  • Full backs: The defenders who operate from either side of their center backs are termed full backs or side backs. Depending on which flank they operate in, they can be a left back (LB) or a right back (RB). Besides defense, fullbacks often contribute offensively by charging up the pitch with overlapping runs to stretch the opposition’s defense.

If a team plays three center-backs and has two highly offensive full-backs operating in the formation, they are also wing-backs. Fullbacks are mostly quick with good positional sense.


As the name suggests, midfielders occupy the middle area of the football pitch and their role is to act as the link between defense and attack. Midfielders also have specialized roles and their position varies according to formations.

  • Central midfielders: Midfielders located centrally on the pitch are central midfielders (CM). The number of central midfielders mostly depends on the team’s strategy.

If a central midfielder is responsible for primarily defending by staying in front of their backline, they are central defensive midfielders (CDM). Players specializing as CDMs mostly have a high work rate and are good at tackling and interceptions.

More attack-minded central midfielders who prioritize supporting the forwards in attack rather than defense are central attacking midfielders (CAM). CAMs generally possess the ability to play killer final passes and can shoot well from distance.

Central midfielders can also be neutral and try to contribute both defensively and offensively.

  • Wingers: Midfielders who operate from the flanks just ahead of the fullbacks are wingers. They are left-wingers (LW) or right-wingers (RW) according to their position on the pitch. While they do help their fullbacks defensively, a winger’s primary task is to attack and take on opposition defenders.

Traditionally wingers stay out wide and send in crosses into the opposition box for their forwards to finish.

In modern-day football, however, the concept of inverted wingers also exists. Inverted wingers are players who tend to cut in from wide and shoot at a goal or assist a team-mate from a more central position. A left-footed player playing on the right wing or vice versa is ideal for inverted wingers.

Wingers are generally pacy, have good dribbling ability, can cross the ball well, and are good shooters of the ball.


Forwards or strikers are the team’s most advanced players on the pitch, whose job is exclusively to score goals. Hence, all forwards are great at finishing and often possess very good positional sense to find space for themselves in the opposition box. They can also be skillful, physically imposing, or both, according to their style of play.

A forward who plays more centrally just in front of the opposition goal is center-forward (CF). More often than not, center-forwards are physically imposing and can both head and shoot the ball well. They are also good at holding the ball up by evading pressure from opposition defenders to allow their teammates to run up and support in attack.

Sometimes center-forwards need to drop deep to receive the ball and create goal-scoring chances for their teammates instead of operating near the opposition box. In such cases, the center-forwards are just like False 9s. It’s rare but some famous coaches like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have utilized the False9 in certain big match scenarios.

Some teams often deploy forwards in the lane between the wingers and the center-forwards. These strikers can be right forwards (RF) or left forwards (LF) according to which side they are playing from. Generally fleet-footed, right forwards and left forwards can drift out wide or cut back into trouble the opposition backline.


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