Football has a fairly long history, dating back to the original rules concocted in 1863. You would expect the basics to have always been the same, but the rule of how many players are on a football field at any given time does not exist. has not always been set in stone.
The original gambling laws written in 1863 consisted of a few quirks. On the one hand, there were no goal posts. These were not added until 1875.
Likewise, it was not until 1897 that official rules stated how many players on a soccer field are allowed at any one time.
How many players on a football field?
The answer, of course, is 22.
That is to say two teams with 11 players each, one of which per team is a goalkeeper.
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The rule is specified for the first time in 1897 at the same time as the duration of the match (90 minutes) is finalized and the median line instituted. Additionally, rule changes that year reduced the maximum field size from 200 meters to 130 meters.
The fewest players allowed on a soccer field at any one time is seven per team. If a team is reduced to less than seven, whether for red cards or injuries with no substitutes available, the team is forced to forfeit. In theory, the game could go on with 14 players on the pitch, seven for each team.
Note that football variants such as futsal and indoor football have fewer players on one pitch at a time, typically five and six, respectively.
This does not include substitutes, although substitutes were not always allowed. It wasn’t until 1970 that the first World Cup replacement was cleared, with Anatoliy Puzach of the USSR becoming the first such player to enter after the start of a World Cup match. For decades, three replacements have been allowed. However, from the 2018 World Cup, a fourth substitution was allowed for matches going into extra time, a rule adopted across much of the world.
The number of substitutes allowed on a bench for a given match varies between competitions. Most club competitions have a total of 18 players on the pitch, 11 on the pitch and seven substitutes. Most international competitions have 23 players, which means 12 substitutes are available. The Champions League final will allow 23 players instead of 18 to be available from the 2018-19 season.
In terms of tactics, there is no requirement for the location of players on the pitch, unlike American football, which has a lot of silly rules for where players can line up. Teams used to line up with seven or eight forwards and two or three players on defense, but over time the pyramid turned.
The question of how many players are on a soccer field hasn’t always been straightforward, but don’t expect it to change anytime soon.