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Question Number: 29399

Law 3 - Number of Players 5/11/2015

RE: Rec. Under 14

Michael Premus of Scottdale, Pennsylvania usa asks...

Starting a game short-handed???
If one team has less than 11 players show up for game day; do they play short-handed?


are both teams forced to play with the lesser number?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Michael
The team that does not have enough players before kick off plays short handed. The team can add to the number with late arriving players which is not considered substitutions and the team must have a minimum of seven players to start unless the competition rules says otherwise which is extremely rare
It is of no concern to the opposition so they play with the regular number of players usually eleven.

I recall in one game both coaches agreed to play 9v9 because one team did not have the full eleven. That though was agreed between the teams and it was of no concern to me as I simply refereed as per the Laws. Both team played 11 v 11 in the second half. That though would be unusual with teams taking whatever advantage is offered and giving game time to its players.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Michael,
as long as they have the ...MINIMUM ... number of players 7 they can take the field at the kick off against the full 11 aside squad of the other team. There is no law that the other team must reduce to equate. It is possible if the match is not a factor in standings or advancement the coaches could agree to field equal numbers or even have players switch sides for a time. The late players can be allowed onto the field to make up a starting 11 once they arrive provided they are properly checked . This duty can fall to the AR or the referee can do so at a stoppage. The only critical player is there MUST be a keeper at the start of play.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

League rules will determine the minimum number of players needed to begin. Absent any such rule, then we fall back on the Laws of the Game which require at least 7 players.

Sometimes the other team will voluntarily play down to the same number of players. But they don't have to do that. Why should some players be deprived of playing time, just because their opponents can't get enough people to the field on time?

Of course playing a game 7 v 11 or 9 v 11 often isn't a very good game, and the team with the full complement might consider reducing the numbers to make it a worthwhile experience for both teams. But again, that's their choice.

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