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Could five substitutes per game return to USL in 2020?

Not confirmed, but seems quite possible.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The group which decides and mandates the laws of the game in soccer, IFAB, approved a temporary provision to allow competitive soccer games to legally include up to five substitutes per team, through the end of 2020.

The rule was changed in order to allow for more flexibility for competitions that are likely to play more compressed schedules in the coming months after coming out of (hopefully) the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. In order to preserve player health beyond merely coronavirus protections, allowing two additional substitutes per match will hopefully allow players to stay fresh and not suffer injuries as a result of overwork in a short amount of time.

The rule is intended for competitions that plan to wrap up before the end of the year, although there is discretion this five-sub rule could be extended. But competitions are given the choice whether to implement five subs per team each game or if they’ll stick to the usual three substitutes.

Interestingly, if the USL Championship allowed five subs per team per game, it would be a return to the rules before the 2017 season. Back in those days, schedule considerations and the development aspect of the league meant teams, like Sacramento Republic FC, could use five subs in a game, because on road trips teams would sometimes play two games in three days. In the meantime, the vastly improved professionalization and more reasonable scheduling meant the league switched to a standard three substitutes per team per match starting in 2017, but hey, what’s old is new again, perhaps.

We’ll have to see if USL adopts it, but MLS is planning to adopt it and often if MLS does something, USL follows suit. And if that’s the case, then it’s back to the future for Sac Republic and the rest of the old guard USL teams, going back to five subs a game for a short time.

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