Match duration: the impact of 5 substitutes

In modern football, data-driven insights have become paramount in optimizing players’ performance and maximizing team success. With teams playing an average of 40-60 matches per season and the allowance of five substitutes per match, match intensity has significantly increased. Fresh players can have a profound impact on the game, leading to a growing trend among coaches to utilize all five substitutes strategically. To effectively measure match intensity and tailor training and recovery plans, automatically determining players’ match duration has become a crucial aspect of performance analysis.

Calculating the match duration

In an 11 vs. 11 football match with five substitutes, six players typically play the full 90 minutes, while the remaining five players have varying playing times due to substitutions. For example, let’s consider a match where three players played 60 minutes each, and two players played 80 minutes (three substitutions resulted in 20 minutes of play for each replacement and two substitutions led to 10 minutes of play for each replacement). The match duration breakdown would be as follows:


Calculating the match intensity

The more substitutes are allowed, the more likely it is that the intensity of the match increases as well. The availability of fresh substitutes can lead to a more intense and dynamic game. Players are more likely to maintain a higher work rate and perform at their best, knowing they can be replaced if needed. The match intensity can be calculated by dividing the load with the amount of minutes played.


Impact on match (intensity)

Allowing 5 substitutions lead to a higher overall match intensity. A study from the Rey Juan Carlos University and the Miguel Hernandez University of Elche showed that the change in the number substitutions rule increases performance at high intensity (1). Fresh players can be substituted more frequently, ensuring that players maintain a high work rate. The study showed there was an increase in sprints over 21 km/h in matches. With the increase of performance, it will also be visually more exciting to watch the physical battle.

Next to the increase of performance, it will also lead to more dynamic changes in tactics (for example pressing) and strategy (changing formats). The fact that more players will be available to substitute is a big advantage for coaches to change the tactics and strategy during the game.

Impact on fatigue levels

There are multiple benefits on having 2 extra substitutions. First of all: fatigue levels can be reduced, especially during congested fixture schedules or in matches with a lot of extra time (this is already happening in football). Also the recovery of players will be better. More players will have the chance to rest and recover during the match, which can help to maintain energy levels and reduce cumulative fatigue effects.

Impact on injury prevention

With the 5 substitutions rule, coaches can distribute physical load better over the week. It’s easier to substitute the players that are fatigued and need extra rest. Especially with the busy match schedule with over 50+ games per season. Load distribution can be better applied and helps clubs to make informed decisions on the physical status of players. According to a study conducted by LaLiga Sports on the impact of injuries during the periods before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that the rule allowing 5 substitutions likely played a direct role in preventing a rise in injury rates.

Post match automatic calculation with JOHAN webapp

Step 4 of the uploading process coaches and analysts have the opportunity press the “predict exercises” button. This feature automatically calculates the duration of each player’s participation in matches. By seamlessly processing the GPS data and match events, the system accurately determines the exact minutes each player spends on the field. This efficient and reliable method eliminates the need for manual calculations and ensures that coaches receive precise match duration data, enabling them to make data-driven decisions that can significantly impact team performance and success on the pitch.




  1. The Five-substitution Option Enhances Teams’ Running Performance at High Speed in Football:
  2. Effect of Increasing the Number of Substitutions on Physical Performance during Periods of Congested Fixtures in Football-
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