I’ve been enforcing the no substitution after the 2 minute warning has surpassed. I was question by a U-15 coach of why I do that and ask if he could see it in black and white. Can you assist me please? I’ve searched the “Guide to Procedures”, “Laws of the Game” and FIFA’s website and still have nothing to show. If I’m wrong then I’m wrong but I know I’ve seen it before in writing but can’t seem to remember where I saw it. Can you please assist?

USSF answer (March 30, 2009):
We are unaware of any rules that do not allow substitution in the last two minutes of any game. Several possibilities come to mind that may have confused you on this matter:

1. Could this be a local rule of competition, something imposed by the league or local association?

2. Are you thinking of the instruction in high school soccer for a “two minute warning” prior to the end of each half (and before the halftime break is over) to mean that no substitution can take place? This rule does not forbid substitution during that period of time.

3. Are you thinking of the requirement in college soccer that the clock be stopped for any substitution occurring within the last five minutes of play in the second half but only if the substitution is being made by the team winning at the time? Even that rule does not forbid substitution during the period in question.

None of those rules except, perhaps, your local rules of competition, forbids substitution in the waning minutes of play.

4. Or, most likely of all, have you fallen for the myth propagated by many older referees — those people who always tell you how the game should “really” be refereed, because “We don’t follow the Laws of the Game, which are dead wrong” — that referees should prevent substitutions during the last “x” (usually 2) minutes of play because, by their definition at least, this is being done solely to waste time? That, too, is wrong, and we deal with that in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

Referees should prevent unnecessary delays due to the substitution process. One source of delay is a request for a substitution that occurs just as a player starts to put the ball back into play. This often (incorrectly) results in the restart being called back and retaken. Another common source of delay is a substitute player who is not prepared to take the field when the request to substitute is made. In each case, the referee should order play to be restarted despite the request and inform the coach that the substitution can be made at the next opportunity.

The referee shall not prevent a team from restarting play if the substitute had not reported to the appropriate official before play stopped.

During the pregame discussion, the role of each official in managing the substitution process should be discussed in detail. Every effort should made to ensure awareness of local substitution rules, to follow procedures which facilitate substitutions with a minimum of delay, to avoid overlooking valid substitution requests, and to prevent the substitution process from being abused by teams seeking to gain an unfair advantage.

Except for situations described in 3.5, referees may not ignore or deny permission for a legal substitution that is properly requested. Although Law 3 requires that the referee be “informed before any proposed substitution is made,” this does not mean that the referee can deny permission for any reason other than to ensure that the substitution conforms to the Law. Even if it seems that the purpose is to waste time, the referee cannot deny the request, but should exercise the power granted in Law 7 to add time lost through “any other cause.” (Rules of those competitions that permit multiple substitutions and re-entries can sometimes lead to confusion. Study the Advice under 8.3 regarding the start of the second half.)

If, before the start of a match played under the rules of a competition, a player is replaced by a named substitute without the referee having been notified, this substitute, now a player, is permitted to play, but should be cautioned for entering the field of play without the permission of the referee. This is considered to be an improper manipulation of the roster, rather than a substitution, and does not count against the number of substitutions the team is permitted to use.

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