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Bethlehem Steel FC will have fewer subs to work with next season

USL reducing the number of substitutes from five to three

Anthony Fontana

Regular reminders about the five-substitute rule on Bethlehem Steel FC match days will no longer be necessary.

USL is reducing the number of substitutes to three for the 2017 season, according to an announcement made by the league office Saturday.

“The five-substitute rule for the USL is a legacy rule that goes back for many years when the league was a shorter season,” USL President Jake Edwards stated in a news release. “Teams were therefore playing multiple games on a road trip, perhaps even back-to-back, and for all the right reasons the league has moved away from that and the structure has changed.”

Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke took advantage of the rule in just 13 of 30 games in the club’s inaugural season, using all five subs only six times. The schedule will expand to 32 games in 2017.

Theoretically, the rule could have allowed more opportunities for Academy players to see the field, but that wasn’t really the case for the Philadelphia Union Academy players who made the game day 18 last season for Bethlehem.

Academy players earned minutes because of the rule in just four games. Anthony Fontana twice came on as the fourth sub and Justin McMaster and Matthew Real were each the fourth sub in a game once.

By contrast, Academy players were used as one of the first three subs 16 times.