Can soccer players change numbers?

If you’re new to playing soccer, you’re probably wondering if you’ll be able to change numbers or not. That’s where we come in.

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Players can choose any number they please, from 1 to 99. Numbers 1 to 11 pertain to particular positions on the field, but any number can represent these positions. It’s strongly encouraged that players choose a position based on their strengths, as they won’t be able to change numbers during a season.

For all the information regarding the numbers in soccer, we’ve got you covered.

Why players can’t change numbers

Once a player has chosen a jersey number to be associated with, they should expect to play that number for the rest of the season. Most team managers will allow players to change numbers within the first few weeks, so long as that number is available, but after that point, their number is permanent. (Source)

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This is why it’s essential that players choose wisely, especially when it comes to choosing a position that pertains to that number. Remember that numbers 1 through 11 generally corresponds with a particular position, but players can choose a number up to 99, the latter of which (12 to 99) doesn’t pertain to any particular position but can represent that position until the end of that season. In the past, players could only choose numbers 1 through 11, but in recent years they’ve been granted the ability to choose any number, yet the positions remain limited.

The number you choose will depend on availability, meaning it hasn’t yet been used by another player, and your coach has that number (if it’s a number higher than 11). Choosing your position is a whole other story. Typically, if you choose a number 1 through 11, you’re choosing that position number.

Once a player chooses a number, they’re expected to keep that number for the entire season. Generally, players will hold onto their numbers for several consecutive seasons, so long as they are still playing for the same team, but they are allowed to change their numbers between seasons, so long as the number they want is available.

Keep in mind that more often than not, the number on the back of a soccer player’s shirt does not correlate with their position. This is more likely if the number is less than 12, but a player can choose a jersey with any number and have it represent any position they play. The reason these numbers are meant to be permanent throughout the season is that it helps the coach and other officials, as well as the fans, to help identify each player. If your number was assigned to you, assume that you won’t be able to choose a different one.

It also helps the referee keep track of their players, especially when a player does something that could result in a foul. For example, if number 17 elbows number 23 on the other team, the referee will be able to call out his number, give them a red card, and make sure that the player leaves the field by tracking their number. (Source)

Plus, for more professional teams, jerseys are printed specifically with the number you choose and your last name, so if you change numbers, then your team manager will have to order another jersey reprint with your new number and your last name.

The positions in soccer and their numbers

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Soccer positions are typically numbered 1 through 11, and sometimes players will choose a jersey that corresponds with their position number but remember that the jersey numbers rarely have anything to do with their position.

The jersey number just represents that player and the position they play. Each team has these numbered positions in the same order, but they may take different formations on the field, meaning where they are placed throughout the field at the start of the game. (Source)

Position NumberPosition NamePosition Responsibilities
1Goalie/GoalkeeperDirectly defends and protects the goal from offensive players of the opposing team
2Right Fullback/WingbackDefends the right side of the field at the back, blocks the opposing team’s right midfielder/winger from striking a goal
3Left Fullback/WingbackDefends the left side of the field at the back, blocks the opposing team’s left midfielder/winger from striking a goal
4Center BackPrevents the ball and the opposing team from reaching the goalkeeper. Defends the center of the field right in front of the goal
5Center Back / SweeperThis is a second center back, but can often be referred to as the sweeper when given additional sweeper responsibilities. Sweepers defend the goal by filling in the gaps left by the other players on their team
6Defending/Center MidfielderAlso referred to as the holding midfielder or halfback, they run up and down the middle of the field to connect the team’s defenders and forwards and transport the ball between them
7Right Midfielder/WingerPlays on the right edge of the field to draw out the opposing team’s defense. Often has one-on-one encounters against the other team’s right fullback while they transport the ball to their team’s center players. They dribble and pass the ball while helping to make scores.
8Center MidfielderPlays both offense and defense, help other teammates, makes long shots to the goal, sets up plays for their team
9Center Forward / StrikerPosition number 9 can be referred to as either the center forward or the striker. Their main objective is to score goals and they are constantly looking for teammates to pass the ball to them
10Attacking Midfielder / Center ForwardThe attacking midfielder focuses on shooting goals and assisting the forwards while taking control of offensive plays
11Left Midfielder/WingerPlays on the left edge of the field to draw out the opposing team’s defense. Often has one-on-one encounters against the other team’s left fullback while they transport the ball to their team’s center players. They dribble and pass the ball while helping to make scores.

How to choose a number in soccer

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Choosing a number in soccer is easy. Find out which numbers are available or haven’t already been chosen, and choose a number from that selection that speaks to you, matches your lucky number, or you simply just like that number. You can also choose a number at random.

Choosing your position in soccer is another story. If you’re unsure which position to choose, research (or ask your coach) what skills each position requires, and choose a position where your best qualities can shine. Your coach can also help you choose a position based on the skills and qualities he or she notices in you.

If your coach encourages a particular position, but you really want to play a different position, then it’s best to just go with what your coach suggests because they see where you will be the best fit in the team so that you can better help the team win games.