How many players in football? Know all positions

Football is one of the most popular sports in the world. With an estimated fan base of about 3.5 billion persons, it beats every other sporting activity in popularity. For a sport that has almost half of the planet as active followers, you want to have some of its basics at your fingertips, and a good place to start is by knowing how many players are on a football team.

A standard football team has a maximum of eleven players and must never be fewer than seven players to qualify for a match. This includes 10 outfield players and a goalkeeper, which amounts to 22 players on the football pitch when the ball is in play. There are also substitute players, and only 5 substitutions can be made per match. 

Telling how many players are in a football is just one of the many facts about the game to have at your fingertips, even if you don’t play football. Here’s more in-depth information on their roles and the significance of their positions.

Also Read:

What Are The 11 Players In Football?

The 11 players in football include a goalkeeper, center backs, full backs, central midfielders, attacking midfielders, wingers, right forwards, left forwards, and center forwards. Although they are broadly grouped into the four major positions of goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and forward. Also, these player positions vary based on the formation a team uses.

A Goalkeeper

Every football team has a player who mans the goalpost and serves as his team’s last line of defense. This player is called the goalkeeper. It’s typical to find goalkeepers in their team’s penalty area and poised to ward off incoming goal attempts, and their jersey numbers are usually either 1, 12, or 13.

Goalkeepers’ roles require using their hands, and that’s why the rules of the games allow a goalkeeper to prevent goals using their hands. The rules say they can only do this in their team’s penalty box.

Leaving the penalty box subjects a goalkeeper to play by the same rules as the other outfield players- avoiding making hand contact with the ball or risking a foul.

The Defenders 

Immediately following the goalkeeper in any team lineup are the defenders. Defenders constitute the line of defense right before the goalkeeper and have the primary responsibility of pinning down attacks to ensure they end futile and yield no goals for the opposition. They usually wear jerseys with numbers ranging anywhere from 2 to 5.

In general, many teams feature as many as 5 defenders in heavily defensive cases and 3 or 4 defenders in more common scenarios.

Additionally, the position of a team’s defenders could vary based on the team’s formation, but defenders generally fall into the following categories based on their roles.

Full Backs 

The defenders on either end of the field are referred to as full-backs. They are also referred to as side backs, straight backs, or left backs because they man the right and left flanks on their team’s half of the field.

Full-backs are primarily stationed in their positions to ward off incoming attacks from the opposition. However, this is more than just a defensive position, as full-backs regularly charge forward offensively toward the opposition. Full-backs are usually fast on their feet with making moves and good sprinters.

Center Backs or central defenders

As the name implies, you’ll find center backs or central defenders positioned at the center of their team’s defensive line. Players fit for this position are usually those with good vision and an imposing stature to match.

It’s common to see football teams assign three players to this position when using three or five players in the backline and two when using four defenders.

The Midfielders

Between the players at the forefront launching attacks at the opposition and those at the back warding off attacks is this critical set of players called the midfielders.

Midfielders usually have jersey numbers ranging from 6 to 10 and are saddled with the responsibility of linking the defense line to the front-line players or forwards. Like defenders, midfielders’ roles depend on the team’s formation and positions.

The midfield typically consists of the following players.

The central midfielders

A central midfielder could either be defensive or offensive, depending on where they are positioned. A central midfielder that plays the defensive role is referred to as a central defensive midfielder, while one that plays the offensive is called a central attacking midfielder.

These midfielders mount the center of the football field. They are either tasked with defending their team through tackles and interceptions while staying just before the team’s defensive line or providing support for the forward players through long and short-range passes.

The Wingers

The wingers are midfielders who play at the flanks on the football pitch. They are positioned just after the full-backs, and just like there are left and right backs, there are also left-wingers and right-wingers. Wingers are responsible for wading through the opposition’s defensive forte and supplying crosses to the forward players to finish.

While wingers primarily operate from the flanks and have to send in crosses from these corners of the football field to the forward players. In essence, they create goal scoring opportunities. They are also at liberty to cut in from the flanks and make goal attempts or assists from a more central position.

Winger’s savvy at doing this are called inverted wingers. Generally, wingers are fast players with good dribbling skills up their sleeves and the ability to dish out powerful shots. On the other hand, inverted wingers need more than just this, and perfect inverted wingers are typically players manning wings that are the opposite of their strong foot.

The Forwards

The forwards in football are among the most important players on the pitch and are more commonly called strikers. They crown the efforts of the remainder of the team by finishing their team’s offensive moves with goals. Forwards usually have their jerseys numbered either 7, 9, 10, or 11.

Forwards are generally very skillful with the ball and are also required to be great finishers. Again, based on the formation of a team and the position occupied by a forward player, they could either be center forwards, right forwards, or left forwards.

The Right Forwards

Right forwards occupy the right wing nearest to the opposition’s goalpost. They score goals and create assists. Right forwards are generally good at placing balls in the back of the net from the right side of the field.

The Left Forwards   

Left forwards man the left wing closest to the opposition’s goalpost and are typically great at scoring goals from the left end of the field and cutting into the center to supply assists.

The Center Forwards

Center forwards occupy the center of the forward position, as their name implies. Great center forwards capitalize on this position to execute killer finishes and are generally good with their feet as well as their heads.

How Many Substitute Players

In modern football, each football team consists of at least seven players and no more than eleven players, with room for substitute players. The number of substitute players allowed by football rules was initially three per football team in a football match. However, this number was recently increased to five because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Substitute players are needed for many reasons, and it’s just wise for teams to be prepared for events like sudden injuries or an underperforming player having to be replaced. However, the bulk of the substitution process depends on the match referee.

The match referee strictly monitors substitutions. Substitute players are regarded as a part of the football team, and their names must be given to the referee before the match kicks off, whether or not they eventually play a match. The rules make all players subject to the referee’s authority, so every substitution is subject to the referee’s permission.

Why Does Football Only Have 11 Players?

Football has only 11 players because this number gives good spacing on the field and optimal player positioning. Teams haven’t always had 11 players on both sides in a football match neither has the rule to have football teams consist of at least seven players. In fact, earlier teams had up to 15 players.

However, the decision to limit the number to 11 took effect in 1870, more than a decade before the establishment of the International Football Association Board in 1886.

While there is no particular reason why this change had to be effected, there is a high chance that the team managers of the sport copied the pattern from the most popular sport at the time, Cricket.

Others assume that this number was arrived at after a series of trials with other numbers. This eventually led to the conclusion that 20 players on the field of play per time are less congested and just balanced enough for the pitch to be covered optimally.

However, this number has proved to be just perfect, especially considering the football field of play is not occupied by only players. The match referee and other match officials also take up part of the soccer field.

Another reason could be that club managers were searching for the perfect number of players they could manage effectively to reduce the expenses on players’ kits.

Who Is The 12 Player In Football?

Jersey number 12 belongs to the second-choice goalkeeper. And that’s because he’s the first player on the second squad. However, the 12 player designation is also fondly used to refer to football fans or team managers on other occasions. Aston Villa is notably the most popular team designating this number to its fans.

Other top European football clubs like Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich, PSV, Rangers, Lazio, FC Red Star, and others have officially parted with this number, dedicating it exclusively to their fans.


There are 11 players on the football pitch, and we cannot tell exactly why it has to be this number. But two goalkeepers and 20 outfield players battling for dominance on a football pitch that affords them good spacing and positioning is a good enough reason to leave it this way.

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