Soccer Rules

With soccer rules, You will know alot. They say: where there is no law, there is no sin. Countries, Institutions, Companies and Industries, even non-governmental organizations have rules. Games are not left out either as they have rules otherwise they wouldn’t be that much fun.

Soccer’s rules and regulations have been put in place since its conception in the nineteenth century. The rules were first published in 1845 with rather less restrictions. In 1847, it became more serious and with more restrictions. The rules were officially adopted in 1863 by the Football Association that was formed back then. As time went on, the rules or laws (whichever one you prefer to use), were constantly being amended. By 1886, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) held on to it and has, since then, been in charge of making sure that it is maintained, updated, and strictly observed. These laws are the only laws permitted by FIFA i.e. Fédération Internationale de Football Association otherwise known in English as in English, International Federation of Association Football.

IFAB consists of eight different members from different organizations. Four are from all the countries who banded together to contribute to soccer’s development. The countries are: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. The remaining four members of the board are from FIFA. Although the rules are bended a little for some minor football associations, almost all organized football associations worldwide follow these rules to the letter.

Presently, IFAB establishes and recognizes 17 rules which I’ll briefly list first and then go on to explain them one after the other. The rules are briefly summarized as: the field of play, the ball, the number of players, the players’ equipment, the referee, other match officials i.e. the assistant referee, the duration of the match, the start and restart of play, the ball in and out of play, the method of scoring, offside, fouls and misconduct, free kicks, the penalty kick, the throw-in, the goal kick and, last but not least, the corner kick.


Now, let’s look at them one after the other, shall we?

Rule Number 1: The Field of Play

This rule is concerning the soccer pitch i.e. the surface where the game of soccer is being played. The rule states that soccer can either be played on natural or artificial grass that must be green in color. Amateurs and recreational teams are known to customize their own field, however, playing on dirt fields. The field must be distinctly marked with short and long lines: the short lines must be two and they will serve as the goal line while the long lines are also two serving as the touch lines. The touchline must be longer in length than the goal line. The field is halved with a midway line separating both halves. The line runs from the midpoints of each of the touchlines. The center of the midway line is marked and then surrounded by a lined center circle of 10 yards in radius. When owning team kicks off, the opposing team must not enter the circle. Shape of the field must be rectangular. The postulated lengths for each of the lines are:

Touchline of at least 90m or 100 yards and at most 120m or 130 yards.

Goal line of at least 45m or 50 yards and at most 90m or 100 yards.

An 8yard wide goal line is at each end of the field.

The goal box is placed 6 yards from each of the goal posts along the goal line and 6 yards out into the field perpendicular to the goal line.

The penalty box must be 18 yards from each goal post along the goal line and 18 yards out into the field perpendicular to the goal line.

All lines on the ground must not exceed 12cm in width.

Each end of the field/pitch are marked by corner flags.

These field dimensions are higher when international matches are being held, however, where the goal lines are 64-75m wide and touchlines 100-120m long.

If the ball is still above the touchline, it is considered as still being in play and any foul committed will carry penalty. To be out of play, the ball must be completely off the touchline. For a goal to be counted, the ball must be exactly in the middle of the goal posts.

Rule Number 2: The Ball

This law is regarding the soccer or association ball to be played. The laws are generally maintained by IFAB but FIFA and other governing bodies added more rigorous standards. The sports used to be played with animal bladders or stomachs in the early days of the game’s conception. In nineteenth century, things changed and improved in that rubber was introduced by a man named Charles Goodyear. It started from being a 32-panel ball to 42-panel ball. Rubber was vulcanized – a treatment that improves its quality giving it strength, elasticity, and solvent-resistance ability. This treatment also made the ball able to bounce making its kick easier. As the years roll by, the ball’s quality gets better. Balls being used today are way more advanced and complex than those used back then. The ball’s outside is made of leather, synthetic leather, polyurethane or PVC panels while the inside if made of latex or butyl rubber that makes the ball able to be pressurized.

Now, the rule states that the ball must be spherical in shape with a circumference of 27-28 inches, must be made of leather or something akin to leather. The rule, however, is only functional when organizes or official matches are being played. Lesser matches or youth leagues unable to get the quality ball and so settle for much smaller balls that are even more suitable. The regulated size for a soccer ball of which both men and women aged 15 and above can play should weigh 410g-450g, circumference 68cm-70cm, and inflated pressure of 8.8-16.2psi at sea level.

soccer rules

Rule Number 3: The Number of Players

There’s always two separate teams competing with each other in the game of soccer. Each team consists of 11 members one of which is the goalkeeper. The 11 members is excluding substitutes. Sometimes, however, competition rules my give the minimum number of members in a team to be 7. That is, if the team is unable to produce at least 7 members by the time the match starts, they would forfeit the game.

There are a number of positions given to each non-goalkeeper player however, it is not based on any law i.e. any player can be asked to play any position. The decision is up to the team’s coach.

Substitutions are allowed but even that has a limit. Except in friendly matches, organized matches like that of FIFA allows a maximum of 3 substitutions per match although they are allowed to name up to 7 substitutes. Player substitutions, unlike that of the goalkeeper, can be made at any period in the match. They may only be allowed upon the referee’s approval, on the halfway line and after the substituted player has exited the field. Should it be that the maximum has of substitutions have been made already before the end of the match, the substituted player, though injured, will have to play and it will be without replacement. The goalkeeper can be substituted with a qualified candidate either on the field or on the bench and it must be done when the game is on break.

No player is allowed to touch the ball with their hands, only their feet can touch it. The only member of the team allowed to touch the ball is the goalkeeper and even that must be done within the penalty areas and no further. Otherwise, it would be foul and such is automatically served the yellow card. If repeated, he is out of the game.


Rule Number 4: The Players’ Equipment

Soccer, also referred to as association ball, has a standard uniform approved by the board and all the bodies concerned in the game. Also referred to as the kit and is worn by players. The minimum uniform each player must use is specified, whatever will be of danger to the player or his neighbor is rejected and prohibited. The major rules apply to all but the minor rules differ from one individual competition to another – minor rules such as the size of the logos being displayed on the players’ shirts. Should colors match, the away team is expected to choose another color. This other choice is termed the team’s “away kit”. Many professional clubs have third colors.

Every single player is expected to wear a jersey or shirt, shorts, shin guards/pads, socks, and cleats i.e. footwear. The rule states that the shin guards must be completely covered by the socks, made of plastic, rubber or something similar; shirts must be sleeved (short or long, both are accepted); goalkeepers wear distinctive shirts which are easily told apart from other players and the referees; undershorts may be worn but must tally in color with the shorts on top. Shirts are made of polyester mesh which does not absorb heat or sweat unlike shirts of natural fibre. Players’ dressings are vetted by the referee and if deemed inappropriate or lacking in one area, the player in question could be sent off and will only be allowed back if necessary corrections are done.

 Soccer players are given numbers but, professionally, players are allowed to choose names or nicknames which they put on their shirts.

Rule Number 5: The Referee

The referee is the boss, the man in charge, the final authority on the field. What he says goes and no one can turn it. His word on the field is law. He is the only one with the power to start or stop a play and to take disciplinary actions on any offending player. He is the person charged with the responsibility of ensuring that no single law of the game is broken. Questioning a referee’s decision could incur discipline on the offender.

The referee is usually assisted by a subordinate referred to as the assistant referee who serve as a personal adviser to the referee. However, they can only advise. It is still up to the referee to make the final decision. Sometimes, at higher levels in the game, there is a fourth official who oversees technicalities and also assists the referee with administrative tasks.

The worth of the referee is dependent on the caliber of his appointment. Most referees are just amateurs who will be paid a meager fee or compensated for whatever expenses. Very few are actually employed full-time by their country – and those are the ones who receive several remunerations.

Rule Number 6: Other Match Officials i.e. The Assistant Referee

The assistant referee’s job is just as the name implies – to assist the referee in his job which is making sure the rules of the game are followed. The ‘other match officials’ actually refer to the two officials in charge of touchline patrol.

The assistant referee judges when the ball has left the field of play, which team is to return the ball into play, when a law is broken or an offside offence is committed. He advises the referee when there is the breaking of a law and the referee is not aware. If the referee is unable to continue, he is replaced by one of the assistant referees or by the fourth official. There are also dormant assistant referees who basically have nothing to do unless they are called upon.

Rule Number 7: The Duration of the Match

Each soccer match holds for 1 hour 30 minutes in total, give or take. However, every match is typically divided into two halves of 45 minutes each in duration. Each halve is called the half-time and has a 15-minute rest in between them which must not exceed 15 minutes. Based on the referee’s decision, an extra time could be added. This extra time is based on how much time was spent on distractions such as injuries or substitutions which were taken up from the normal time expected to hold the match. It is then projected on the half line at the end of each half of the match. And, even though soccer has a postulated time limit, the rounding up of the match is basically up to the referee. If he doesn’t end it, it doesn’t end. In the long run, the game usually runs for more than the expected 1 hour 30 minutes.

Rule Number 8: The Start and Restart of Play

This is the 8th rule in the game of soccer and is all about the starting or restarting of play in the game. The start and restart of play is initiated with a kick-off. Kick-offs are decided upon by the toss of a coin. The winning team has the upper hand in that it would be the one to choose whether to start the ball or attack a chosen goal. The losing team is at the receiving end of whatever the winning team chooses i.e. they are left with the other choice not taken by the winning team. The team that scores the goal gives the next kick-off to the opposing team for a restart of the game. After each goal scored the kick-off takes place right at the center of the halfway line.

Rule Number 9: The Ball In and Out of Play

For a goal to be scored, “all of the ball must have crossed all of the line completely”. This rule basically describes the two states in which the game is played. The ball is said to remain in play from the beginning of one half of the match to the end of that half. The ball is out of play:

When the ball completely crosses a goal line or touchline and, by implication, leaves the field. This is including the scoring of a goal; or

When the referee has stopped a play perhaps when a rule has been broken or the half-time has ended or a player has been injured and needs medical attention; or

When a match official is hit by the ball, it is still said to be in play. However, if this causes answering attacks, the team holding the ball changes, or it goes straight into the goal post and a goal is scored, it is then said to be out of play. If it rebounds off the goal frame or corner field and back into the field, however, ball remains in play.

Rule Number 10: The Method of Scoring

Teams usually compete with each other to score goals, that’s the main essence of the soccer game. A goal is counted if the ball completely passes over the goal line between two upright goal posts that are centrally positioned and which must be 7.32m or 24ft apart being held by a horizontal crossbar that is 8ft high. Each team is allotted an end where they score their goals and prevent opposing teams from scoring at the other end. At the distal end, there is a net attached to hold the ball and keep it from going further than the field although it is not necessarily until the ball touches the net that a goal is counted. Regardless of which team played the ball that scored the goal, that team is accorded a point. When a player that is defending a goal from being scored ends up scoring the goal himself, this is referred to as an “own goal”.

Rule Number 11: Offside

This codified law of the association ball states that if any body part of a player except the arms and hands are in his opponent’s half of the field and close to the opponent’s goal line than the ball and the second to the last opponent, the player is in an offside position. This is not necessarily regarded as an infringement of the rule on its own. It only becomes an offence when any teammate of the player playing the ball becomes active in play, interferes with opponents or gains an advantage while the player is in that offside position. When this happens, the referee is forced to stop the play and give indirect free kick access to the defending team where the player offended. This offence is not a foul or a misconduct although any play carried out after the commission of the offence is useless – it is not counted. The offender is not penalized, only cautioned.

Rule Number 12: Fouls and Misconduct

When players are deemed unfair by the referee, they are said to have been engaged in fouls and misconduct and are therefore penalized. The offense may either be a foul, a misconduct or both. Fouls and misconduct can warrant granting of direct or indirect free kick to the opposing team, issuance of the yellow card, or issuance of the red card. Direct kicks are awarded if:

Player kicks or tries to kick a member of the opposing team,

Player makes or tries to make his opponent fall,

Attacks an opponent,

Hits or tries to hit his opponent, or

Basically humiliate an opponent.

Indirect kicks are awarded if:

Player plays in manner dangerous to himself or his neighbor,

Intentionally slows down his opponent, or

Stands in the way of the goalkeeper.

Yellow cards are given as a caution to player if offence has only been committed once. If repeated, he is given a red card and sent out of the field. Two yellow cards equal one red card.

Rule Number 13: Free Kicks

Free kick in soccer is one way to restart a match which is given to the appropriate team after a rule has been broken. It could be direct or indirect. The ball must not be in motion during both kicks. The direct kick is played directly into an opposing team’s goal post without one player touching another. For the indirect kick, however, the referee signals by the raising of his hand during the kick. Unlike the direct kick, the ball can only be a goal if it has been touch by another player before entering the goal post. The free kick is taken from the place where the rule was broken. Opponents must be at least 9m away from the ball. If the defending team forms a wall, the player must be at least 1m away from the wall. Walls are usually made of 3 or more players.

Rule Number 14: Penalty Kicks

A penalty kick is another method of restarting a match. A player is made to take one single shot while the opposing team defends the play from scoring a goal. The shot is made from the penalty spot which is 11m away from the goal line and in between the touchlines; all team players are expected to remain outside the penalty box during this period. After the shot is taken, however, they are allowed to enter the box. Goalkeeper can move along the horizontal line while the penalty kick is being played but he must not get off until after. Penalty kick is given when there’s a foul play on the part of a defensive player or when the ball is touched with the hand which is prohibited.

Rule Number 15: The Throw-In

This is the 15th law in the rules of the soccer game and it is put in motion when the ball has rolled off the side of the field of play. It is another method of restarting a game play. The throw-in is done at the point where the ball rolled off the touchline whether it was on the ground or in the air. The referee may decide to overlook it if the discrepancies is little though. The player doing the throw-in must do so with both hands and must be done simultaneously with both feet rooted firmly in the ground. If rules are flouted, they will lose that opportunity to the opposing team.

rules of soccer

Rule Number 16: The Goal Kick

This is the dictated law 16 of the rules of the game; also a method of restarting a play. A goal is counted when the ball rolls out of the pitch crossing the goal line, on the ground or in the air, when the last person to kicked the ball was in the opposition. After this, the goal keeper or the defender can kick the ball back into play placing the ball wherever they so desire but within the 6-yard goal box.

Rule Number 17: The Corner Kick

 The last but not least of the 17 rules of the soccer game. It is also a method of restarting a game play when the ball goes over the goal line thereby going out of play having been last touch by the defending team member; this corner kick honor is awarded to the offensive team. Soccer rules states that the ball is placed in the confines of the corner area and then kicked back into play by any member of the offensive team.