What is the Penalty For Too Many Players on the Field in Soccer?

What is the Penalty For Too Many Players on the Field in Soccer?

In a soccer game, each team is allowed to have 11 players on the field at one time. This applies to most youth leagues U13 and up, middle school, high school, college, and professional soccer.

If a team has more than 11 players on the field, it can result in a penalty. The penalty for having too many players on the field in soccer is a usually direct free kick.

According to most soccer rule books, a team can be penalized for having too many players on the field if any of the following occur:

  • A team has more than 11 players on the field at the same time.
  • A team makes a substitution but has too many players on the field during the change.
  • A player who has been sent off (red-carded) but remains on the field.

If any of these situations occur, the referee will stop play and award a direct free kick to the opposing team from the spot where the ball was when play was stopped. If the ball wasn’t possessed by a team at the time of the whistle, a dropped ball would occur.

Subsequently, the offending team must remove one of its players from the field before play can resume.

What if a goal is scored and there are too many players on the field?

If a goal is scored while a team has too many players on the field in soccer, the goal will be disallowed.

This is only true if the referee catches it. Sometimes it’s overlooked and a team may immediately notice and sneak a player off. In this case, the goal would count since the referee did not notice that there were eleven players on the field.

Can you play with less than 11 players?

Absolutely (but with a caveat)! A team can play with less than eleven players. A match may start or continue if either team has a minimum of seven players. Anything less would result in a disqualification.

However, playing with fewer players can obviously put a team at a disadvantage, as there will be fewer players to defend, attack, and control the ball.

What it Takes to Be the Best

In some cases, teams may have to play with fewer players due to injuries, red cards, or other circumstances.

Final Thoughts

Having too many players on the field doesn’t happen often but it does happen. It is important for teams to keep track of the number of players on the field during a game to avoid this penalty.

Coaches and players should communicate clearly during substitutions to ensure that the right number of players are on the field at all times.

I’ve personally witnessed some youth games where there were twelve players but nobody noticed for a good 15 minutes. The coach was finally alerted by one of her players and they quickly pulled a player off.

A player coming on the field must wait until the substitution is off. If there are multiple players being subbed off, the best thing to do is exchange pinnies so the coach knows it’s an even one-on, one-off switch.

At the end of the day, having too many players on the field in soccer can result in a direct free kick for the opposing team.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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