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FIFA extends five-substitute rule through July 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic

We could see five substitutes in MLS games for a while longer, with the IFAB Board of Directors voting to extend the option through games until July 31, 2021. The five-sub rule will also apply to international competitions scheduled in July and August of 2021.

The rule was initially adopted for the remainder of 2020 on May 8 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing the minutes load for players during a condensed match period. As 2019-20 seasons around the world end, players could also face a compressed recovery period before the next season begins. There’s also the looming possibility of international tournaments forcing seasons to end earlier than usual.

“The recent review has shown that the reasons for the temporary amendment remain valid and the impact on player welfare is likely to continue into 2021 due to various factors,” FIFA wrote in a release.

The five-sub rule remains temporary, and national bodies must determine whether or not they’ll implement it. Under the current rule, teams have three opportunities to make substitutions but those made at halftime don't count among those three opportunities.

FIFA said the decision arose after stakeholder feedback and an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on competition calendars.