Please let me know that what do you normally call a bench player who is stand-by for playing whenever the coach finds them needed? Let's say soccer in American English.

I know three options:

I would be grateful if you could let me know what is the difference between these three choices.

  • Which sport, and which nationality? Terminology varies quite a bit between British / USA / Antipodean teams, and also between sports.
    – MikeB
    Sep 19, 2019 at 15:59
  • I did not know that the field of sport can make any difference @Mike Brockington! Let's say soccer in American English.
    – A-friend
    Sep 20, 2019 at 4:01
  • The dictionary explanations are good, why the question? CD explains that in the US backup is more common: a player who plays when the person who usually plays is not available and see also benchwarmer
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 22, 2019 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


The technical term for someone who is actually "on the bench" for a football (soccer) match in the UK is "a substitute". A "reserve" may commonly be used to describe the same person, but is more correctly used to describe someone who is 'owned' by the same team, but isn't on the team-sheet that day, so isn't officially allowed to play - part of 'the squad' but not part of the official team. To use a current example, at the Rugby World Cup, a squad will contain approx 30 players; the starting line-up will be just 15, but there will be another 5 on the bench - these are the official substitutes, while the other ten or so that are sitting in the stands are technically 'reserves'.

"Someteam Reserves" is a name that you will often come across, which refers to a 'second level' team, that (as a team) plays at a lower level, but whose players occasionally 'step up' to the main team when injuries occur.

As I said above, all of this is a little fluid, so I would expect other people can come up with contradictory examples, from other sports or other countries.

  • What about its adjective form? I need to say: "a _____ player" or "a _______ goalie." But can "substitute" work in this sense?
    – A-friend
    Sep 23, 2019 at 9:50
  • 1
    Yes. ..........
    – MikeB
    Sep 23, 2019 at 11:33

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