The governing body of football, FIFA has announced a change to the team roster rule for the soccer event at Tokyo 2020 Olympics, allowing teams to list 22 players.

FIFA has brought this change in light of the challenges teams faced due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While FIFA has confirmed that rosters can include 22 players, only 18 can be available for individual matches. Of these 18 players, seven players will be substitutes.

Previously, team rosters for Olympic events would include four players on standby in case of any injury, illness and so on. Once a player is replaced, there is no room for a possible return.

Furthermore, coaches will now have more flexibility to operate during the Olympic schedule as their players would have limited rest time between matches and have to sustain themselves with the searing weather in Japan.

One of the prominent advocates for the Olympic Games roster expansion was Sarina Wiegman, the Netherlands women’s football team manager who will take over as England coach after the Tokyo Olympics. Her efforts paid off as FIFA acknowledged the proposal to expand the roster limit from 18 to 22.

The International Olympic Council has not yet formally announced the change, but an unnamed source confirmed to The Associated Press that the IOC would implement the change.

On Wednesday, US women’s football team coach Vlatko Andonovski said he is awaiting additional guidance from the IOC.

“We’re getting word from the IOC that we will have a little flexibility on the roster. We’re very happy about it, and as of right now, we’re just waiting to see a little more details on what all the rules and regulations are going to look like,” Andonovski said.

“Obviously, we thought about it (possibility of roster expansion), we were preparing in some ways for it if it happened, so we’re hoping to be ready if the changes are in place,” he added.

The last day for participating teams to finalize their rosters for Tokyo 2020 Olympics was Wednesday, June 30.

Tokyo 2020 starts on July 23 but the football tournament kicks off on July 21 with the women’s group matches.

Feature photo: AFP / Evaristo Sa