There are many unique things about the 2022 World Cup and one of them is the increased number of substitutes. For the first time in World Cup history there is the possibility that more players from the bench will finish a game than actually started it.


Football’s substitution rules have undergone something of a transformation since COVID-19 and it looks like they’re here to stay.

In fact, critics argue the changes have only further aided the strongest club teams in the world, and are likely to benefit the big guns on the international stage this winter too.

So, what are the World Cup substitution rules all about? is here to bring you everything you need to know…

For more World Cup features check out: World Cup 2022 TV schedule | World Cup 2022 kits ranked | World Cup 2022 stadiums | Best players at the World Cup

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How many substitutes are allowed at World Cup 2022?

Teams will be able to make five substitutions at the 2022 World Cup. This is a step up from three permitted during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and falls in line with many European domestic leagues, as well as Euro 2020 and the UEFA Nations League.

However, managers will be restricted to when they can use their five subs. Each team will be given just three in-game opportunities to make changes, plus the chance to do so at half time. It means a manager cannot opt to make five separate substitutions over 90 minutes, but must at least combine two into one ‘break’ of play.

World Cup substitution rule change

There was once a time when substitutes weren’t permitted in World Cup games. In fact, England’s 1966 triumph was the last time teams couldn’t field any more than the XI they started with for a game.

Substitutions were permitted for the first time at a World Cup in 1970, and by the 1994 World Cup in the USA three subs were allowed. Having three permitted substitutions lasted for the next 26 years and it appeared as though FIFA wouldn’t budge on it.

Indeed, FIFA considered introducing a fourth sub in extra time for the 2014 World Cup but decided against it. In the end it was only with the introduction of COVID-19 measures in 2020 that football increased its three-sub rule.

Managers argued that they needed extra subs in order to balance the workload on players who were competing in a congested fixture schedule because of the COVID-19 hiatus. The Premier League and a number of European leagues accepted this as a temporary measure, but have since made it permanent.

How World Cup subs work in extra time

These days a manager has five substitutions available to them per World Cup game. But they also get an additional sixth option if the game goes to extra time.

Now, a team only gets one extra sub after 90 minutes. But they can still deploy any unused subs here too. IFAB’s rules state: “If a team has not used the maximum number of substitutes and/or substitution opportunities, any unused substitutes and substitution opportunities may be used in extra time.”

So, if England have only used three in a game against Argentina and it goes to extra time, they have three more available.

“The decision follows a global analysis of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on football,” IFAB said in a statement last year.

How many players on the bench at the World Cup?

While FIFA has permitted teams to use more subs during World Cup games for the first time, they have also expanded the squad size for games. Managers can now pick 26 players to fill their squad, rather than the previous limit of 23.

It means Gareth Southgate and co can test out a few more options before naming their starting XIs. Fifteen subs will fill each bench at the World Cup, with as many as 11 further seats available for team officials and staff members.

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