GENEVA (AP) — Soccer teams are going to get some extra help from the bench during a backlog of games caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The International Football Association Board agreed Friday to let teams use two extra substitutes per match when soccer resumes.
Leagues which typically end in May are preparing to restart and face a congested schedule into July and August to complete their season.
Italian champion Juventus could play 20 more games this season: 12 in Serie A, up to six in the Champions League and two in the Italian Cup.
“Matches may be played in a condensed period in different weather conditions, both of which could have impacts on player welfare,” IFAB said of the temporary rule.
Competition organizers can now approve teams making five changes in a 90-minute game, and a sixth in extra time. Teams can stop play only three times during the 90 minutes to make a change.
IFAB said the rule is available to “competitions which have either started or are intended to start, but are scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31.”
A further IFAB decision is needed to extend the rule into next season’s competitions and national team games through 2021.
Congestion is expected to spill over into next season. Club competitions such as domestic leagues and the Champions League are set to start later and lack the option of finishing beyond May because the European Championship and Copa America are due to start in mid-June 2021.
“Of course, we will be congesting a lot of games in a short period of time,” Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, general secretary of players’ union FIFPro, told The Associated Press. “And if we’re overloading the immune system of players because we’re putting them under a lot of load right now, that again increases the risk of an infection taking a more severe turn for an individual player.”