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Rules of Soccer

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Rules of the Game


This soccer constitution that is the Laws of the Game now holds 17 specific key points that determine the rules of soccer. Many of those deal with the field, the match officials, the ball and uniforms.  The rest of the rules control the details of the play on the field.  We will focus on the rules related to play.


The Field of Play - The field of play is the surface on which the game of soccer is played. This law regulates everything regarding line markings, soccer pitch dimensions and how to use them properly.



How Many Players? - According to the official soccer rules, a team can bring in 10 players plus one goalkeeper on the field.  At younger ages teams will field smaller numbers on the field since the field is smaller.  The team can also have several substitutes on the bench. The numbers of benched subs as well as the actual number of substitutions that are allowed in a match vary with the type of the game played.


Starting and Restarting the Match - There are 8 ways a soccer match can be stopped and restarted.


1st way - Each half of the match starts with a kick-off. The game is also restarted with a kick-off if a team scores a goal.


2nd way - If the ball goes out on the side lines, the player who last touched the ball gives up a throw-in. The match is restarted by the other team throwing the ball back into play.


3rd way - The goal kick is awarded to the defending team, when the attacking team plays the ball out of play on the defending team's goal line. The game is restarted with a player kicking it from within the goal box.


4th way - If the defending team touches the ball last and it goes over their own goal line, outside of the goal itself, then the opposing team earns a corner kick and they will be required to restart the match from the corner nearest to where the ball went out.


5th way - An indirect free kick is awarded when a team causes a foul (dangerous play, offside, touching the ball a second time following a restart, or the keeper touching the ball with his hands when a teammate has used his foot to pass it back to the keeper for example) and the game is restarted with a kick that cannot be taken on goal (if a player scores directly from an indirect free kick, without another player touching the ball, the goal will not count).


6th way - A direct free kick is caused by a foul or handball and unlike the indirect free kick it can be struck directly into the goal.


7th way - A penalty kick is similar to a direct free kick in that it is caused by a foul or handball, but the offence occurs inside the defending team's penalty area. The game is restarted with one of the attacking team's players shooting for goal from the penalty spot, with nothing but a goalkeeper to beat.


8th way - The last way play is started is a more infrequently.  It is called a dropped ball. The dropped ball occurs when the referee stops play for a special reason (an injured player, ball becoming defective or the interference of an external factor) and the game is restarted with the referee dropping the ball from shoulder height in front of two players who will battle for possession.


A Goal - is scored when … the ball is in play and no rule infringements are being made and the ball crosses one of the goal areas with its entire circumference. Goals can be scored from action, from penalty spots and direct free kicks.


Offsides - what is it really … A player is called offside when he/she is:


  • in the other team’s half of the field and
  • closer to the other team's goal than both the ball and the last two opposing players
  • as measured at the time when the ball is passed to the player in the offside position.


The second last opponent usually is the last defender from the opposing team (assuming the goalkeeper is the last opposing team player). If the offensive player is level with the second to last defender (level means on an imaginary line drawn parallel to the goal line across the field where the offensive player is located) when the ball is passed to the player (that means as the ball leaves the foot of player making the pass).


One more thing to look for related to offside: it doesn't matter if the offensive team’s player receiving the ball is over this line when he receives the ball. The moment to look for is the moment the other player passes the ball.


Finally, what if the player is in an offside position but the ball is not played to that player? A player is in "passive offside" if he's in an offside position but doesn't play the ball, in which case the referee doesn't call the offside. Obviously, what "playing the ball" means is subject to interpretation. Even if the player in the offside position doesn't touch the ball, but influences the play otherwise (runs towards the ball, covers the goalkeeper's view or does anything to influence the play) he comes out of passive offside and the referee will make the call of offside.



Is it a Foul or Misconduct – There is a basic difference between fouls and misconduct. A foul can occur when a player tries to get the ball from his opponent and kicks him or pushes him away accidentally. Misconduct means that a player willfully targets his opponent and punches, kicks or pushes him or her.


A foul can only occur when the ball is in play. Misconduct can occur anytime during the match. Depending on the seriousness of the foul or misconduct, the referee can penalize it with a yellow or red card in addition to a free kick or penalty kick.


Penalty Kicks - Penalty kicks are conceded when a defending player fouls or commits handball inside the penalty box. It's important to know that not all offences inside the penalty box are punished with a penalty kick. For example, if a player commits dangerous play inside his own penalty box, the referee will award an indirect free kick from the place that the offence occurred.


When the penalty kick is taken, the only two players in the 18 yard box are the penalty taker and the defending team's goalkeeper. Everyone else must sit outside the box and can only move towards the ball once it is kicked. So if the penalty is saved by the goalkeeper or strikes the bar, an offensive player could run from the edge of the box, gain possession and score.  Likewise, a defender can move the ball to safety.


The Throw In - When the ball goes out of play on the side lines, the opponent of the player who last touched the ball will take a throw in. The throwing method has to follow some rather strict rules; otherwise the referee might dictate a throw in for the other team. The player taking the throw must:


  • keep both feet outside the side line,
  • with both feet touching the ground (don’t raise one foot) and
  • the actual throw must be executed with the ball over the thrower's head.


The Goal Kick - The goal kick restarts play after the attacking team takes the ball over the defending team's end line. The goal kick acts as a direct free kick, so if a player would kick the ball so hard that it would reach the opposing team's goal and score, the goal would count.


The goal kick must be powerful enough to pass out of the penalty area. If the goalkeeper executes the goal kick and passes the ball to a teammate in his own penalty box, the goal kick is re-taken.


The Corner Kick - Occurs when the ball passes over the defending player's goal line, with a defender having touched the ball last. The corner kick acts as a direct free kick taken from the corner of the pitch (if the ball passes the line on the left of the goal, the corner is taken from the left corner and if it passes on the right, the corner is taken from the right corner).

The same rules as for a direct free kick apply, in that opposing players must be at least 9.15 meters away from the corner, the corner taker may score directly from the corner kick and the kicker can't play the ball a second time until it's touched by another player. The only additional thing is that the ball be placed in the corner arc.


Some Final Thoughts ...


Goalkeeping - Several things a Goalkeeper must know:


  • You can pick the ball up in the penalty area if it has not been kicked to you by a player on your team.  If your player kicks it to you must use your feet to play the ball.
  • Once you drop the ball you CANNOT pick it up again until another player has kicked it.  So if you drop it, kick the ball to one of your players.
  • On a penalty kick, you cannot move off the goal line until the player taking the penalty kick touches the ball.
  • Punch it, grab it or kick it but do your best to keep the ball from going into your goal

No Rules Does NOT Equal a Fair Game


The game of soccer would be a disaster if there were no rules for the match. That’s why players, coaches and soccer associations around the world have decided on the rules of the game of soccer. The referee’s job is to make sure that you and other players are following the soccer rules.


But what if you get angry at the referee if he/she makes a wrong decision? Well, keep in mind always that it is the referee who decides if it is a foul or not. Don’t ever get angry at a referee as a result of his/her decision about some particular situation on the soccer pitch. The referee is a human being who will make mistakes and despite that he/she knows all the soccer rules perfectly he/she will still make mistakes. So, spare yourself unnecessary arguing and focus on your game. Use your energy to performing well and push yourself to work harder on the soccer field instead.