Why Soccer Players Wear Vests/Pinnies On The Sidelines

By Alex Mercer

September 25, 2019

When looking at a soccer game, oftentimes players will be wearing green, red, or off-colored mesh vests. Players will wear these vests for a variety of reasons.

Soccer players will wear vests or pinnies on the sideline so the referee doesn’t mistake them for a live player. Often times players will go out of bounds to receive the ball, and the referee is able to keep track of active players without the pinnies.

We break down a few uses of the vests and how it helps both the referee and players in the game.

Why Soccer Players Wear Vests On The Sideline

Soccer is a game that requires consistent movement. This movement can happen anywhere on the field. Whether it be a cross that leaks to the sideline or passing from mid-field to mid-field, the ball is consistently in motion. When the ball is near the sideline, players are fighting for control for both a corner kick and sideline possession.

Avoiding Confusion Of Benched Players

Meanwhile, players on the sideline have to stay loose in case the coach calls for them to get into the game. It’s not like baseball or basketball where the player can sit the whole game, come off the bench and perform at maximum effort.

Players must consistently stay loose because, at a moment’s notice, they will have to be running full speed, oftentimes against a player who’s already been running the entire game.

Because players are loosening up on the sideline, it’s easy to mistake a player of your own team or the opposing player on the sideline as a live player. This is why soccer players will wear vests that are green or red, to stand out from players who are active in the game.

It’s a mandated rule by FIFA for players to wear a vest, like the one seen below, if they’re not active in the game. It’s becoming more common in both professional, college, and even some amateur leagues to distinguish between benched and active players.

soccer player wearing pinnies

On the other side, the opponent is able to distinguish between active and benched players as they try to protect the ball on the sidelines. The bright-colored vests make it easy for both parties to play a good clean game.

Substitution Rule

Sports like basketball, football, and baseball have unlimited substitutions. Take a player out and immediately put in another if it’s a favorable matchup or if a player is struggling.

Soccer, however, does not have unlimited substitutions. This is another reason why the vests are important. Coaches aren’t able to sneak players on and off the field to their advantage. Players wearing the vests stick out to both the other team and the crowd, so no sudden change can be made.

Teams may have different colors of pinnies to put them on players, so coaches can distinguish between who can substitute and who can not.

Often times when watching a soccer game, players will remove their pinnies before they enter the game, and give it to another player. This can be seen when there’s a break in the game for a substitution.

For the sake of no substitution infractions, teams must have their players that are being substituted out, completely leave the field before the other person comes in. For the sake of clarity, these vests help everyone keep track of the proper substitutions.

Teams will also hold a digital board, that has the numbers on it which signal to the referee who is coming out of the game and who is entering the game.

Teams will often have simple flip number boards, light up boards, or simple piece boards you see here. As you can see, the green numbers will signify that the number will enter the game. The red number signifies that a person is coming out of the game.

Helping The Referee

As mentioned, soccer players will warm up on the sideline to keep their bodies nice and loose. If the ball is in transition, and simultaneously, a player on the sideline is sprinting without a vest on, the referee may call offsides.

I know it seems odd, but a referee that is across the field and with possible poor eye sight may mistake a benched player for an active player. Wearing a bright color that is completely different from the jersey color can help the referee distinguish between the two types of players.

This will also help the referees determine if there’s offside from the players warming up from the sideline. Referees often have to make quick and concise calls, in order to properly keep fans, players, and coaches happy. Any delayed calls will typically make everyone more frustrated and complain.


The mesh vests or pinnies that teams can see be wearing are often to signify that they are out of the game, on the bench. Players wear these vests to help referees and active players determine who is life and who is not active.

These colored vests are typically a lime green or bright yellow color that is clearly visible to those playing.

Why does your team wear the vests/pinnies? Do you use them other than the reasons specified above? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Hey There! My Name is Alex and I run Get Hyped Sports. I created this platform to help people find their love for sports and gaming.

Our work has been featured on platforms like Mashable.com, SVG.com, and XXL.com.

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