Can A Soccer Team Play Without A Goalkeeper?

There are many different roles that a soccer player can play on the field during a soccer match,  and one of these roles is the goalkeeper. 

While there is a lot of freedom for the coaches to choose what type of soccer players to use during a soccer game (defenders, midfielders…), do they have a say on whether they use a goalkeeper or not? 

The quick answer is: They don’t.

According to the rules, a soccer team is not allowed to play without a goalkeeper. At every single moment of the game, each soccer team must have exactly one goalkeeper. This goalkeeper usually wears a jersey with a different color than the rest of the team so that the referee and the players can distinguish them properly from the rest of the players.

Why can’t a soccer team play without a goalkeeper?

The main reason behind the rule that forces each team to have exactly one goalkeeper is that it doesn’t make sense at all for a team to not have any goalkeepers on the field.

Even if the rule did not exist, there is not a single professional soccer team on earth that will prefer not having a goalkeeper on the team.

The reason behind this is very simple, the goalkeeper’s job is vital and a team will simply receive a lot of goals without a goalkeeper no matter how good they are.

In addition to this, the soccer rules give the goalkeeper position some privileges that no other soccer player on the team has. These privileges will be useless if a goalkeeper is not present on the field for each team.

But what about not allowing more than 1 goalkeeper per a team? Well, the reasons behind this are also simple. 

Having 2 or more goalkeepers on the same team can be dangerous for these goalies because they might collide with each other whenever they are attempting to block a shot on target.

a goalkeeper blocking a ball

Also allowing more than one goalkeeper per team means that the teams will be able to abuse the privileges given to the goalkeeper position. More players will be able to touch the ball inside the penalty area of their respective team, and that in itself can ruin the whole game.

Can you substitute a goalkeeper?

A goalkeeper can definitely be substituted as long as another player on the team is assigned the goalkeeper role instead of them.

Here are the most common scenarios when it comes to substituting the goalkeeper:

1- The goalkeeper is substituted with another goalkeeper

If the goalkeeper gets substituted with another goalkeeper, then nothing really special happens. In other words, the substitution is treated like any other substitution.

This substitution usually takes place when the goalkeeper is injured and needs to be replaced.

2- Substituting a player with a goalkeeper

If the goalkeeper gets a red card and they are required to be sent off, then the coach will most probably substitute one of the outfield soccer players with a goalkeeper from the substitute players on the bench.

You can check this article if you want to learn more about what happens when a goalkeeper gets a red card

Can a regular player become the goalkeeper of their team?

Any soccer player can be the goalkeeper of the team during any time of the game even if they were playing as an outfield player during the game.

If a team wants to change their goalkeeper to be one of the outfield players, then all they have to do is to inform the referee of who is going to be the new goalkeeper and to make sure that the chosen player wears the keeper’s jersey because the keeper should always be distinguished from the other players on the field.


Exactly one goalkeeper is required per soccer team and no team can play a soccer game without assigning one of their players as a goalkeeper. Goalkeepers can be substituted as long as another player is assigned the goalkeeper rule. Any player on the field can be chosen as the goalkeeper as long as they inform the referee when the ball is out of play.