What Are The Basic Rules of Soccer?

Soccer or Football, whatever you name it, is one of the oldest sports in the history and also the most loved one. The rules and regulations of soccer are revised and updated every year by the IFAB – International Football Association Board. The committee consists of eight team members, in which four of them are from FIFA and the rest belongs to Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The recent rule book published by FIFA is around 140 pages long, which might be too lengthy for a player who is just about to enter the World of Football. Fret not! We have made this chore easier for you by writing down some basic yet highly significant rules that need to be followed while playing soccer.

17 Basic Soccer Rules Every Player Needs To Follow

The official rules of soccer are also termed as the Laws of the Game. Usually, these regulations are a bit modified or adjusted to cater the young or underage players. For example, ball sizes, field sizes, duration of games may vary as per age.

Basically, there are 17 key items that help in determining soccer rules, including:

  1. Field of Play
  2. Number of players
  3. The ball
  4. Player’s equipment
  5. Duration of the match
  6. The Referee
  7. Assistant referees
  8. Start and restart of play
  9. Scoring
  10. Ball in and out of play
  11. Offside rules
  12. Free kicks
  13. Penalty kicks
  14. Foul and Misconduct
  15. Throw in
  16. Corner kick
  17. Goal kick

Let’s dig a bit into the detail explanation of each for a better understanding.

Rule No. 1 – The Field of Play

First things first, the field or the ground is the foundation of soccer, and there are some regulations regarding the size, surface, construction, goal position and markings of the area. For instance:

  • Matches need to be played either on natural or artificial grass/green surfaces.
  • The field should be rectangular in shape with particular line marks to set boundaries. The longer lines are known as touch lines, while the shorter ones are referred to as goal lines.
  • The field is divided into two halves with the help of a halfway line that combines two touch lines from the midpoints.

Have a look at the measurements as per rules:

  • Touch line – 90 meters minimum (100 yards) and 120 meters maximum (130 yards).
  • Goal line (width) – 45 meters minimum (50 yards) and 90m maximum (100 yards).
  • Besides, these field rules are reduced for under 16, over 35 years, women or players with disabilities.

Here is a chart showing varied field lengths as per age

Field Length  Field Width
 U6 25 to 30 yards  15 to 20 yards
 U8 30 to 40 yards  20 to 25 yards
 U9 40 to 50 yards  30 to 35 yards
 U10 60 to 70 yards  40 to 50 yards
 U11 70 to 80 yards  40 to 50 yards
 U12 100 to 105 yards  40 to 55 yards
 U13 100 to 110 yards  50 to 60 yards
 Adult 110 to 120 yards  65 to 80 yards

Rule No. 2 – The Number of Players

According to the official soccer rules:

  • Two teams should be playing a match, and each team will have maximum eleven players and minimum seven, including the goalkeeper.
  • Until age 12 or 14; youth leagues can be played with less than 11 team members.
  • A team is allowed to have substitute players, but the frequency and number of substitutions may vary depending on the type of game being played.
  • For example, only three substitutions are allowed in official matches with 9, 7 or 5 players on the bench. Before any proposal, the referee needs to be informed by the coach.

Rule No. 3 – The Ball

Ball is certainly the most important part of a ball game. So, below are some rules for that:

  • The ball should be stitched and spherical, which is either made of leather or any other suitable material.
  • Its size needs to be proper; the circumference of ball should not be more than 28 inches (70 cm) nor less than 27 inches (68 cm)
  • While the weight of ball has to be 16 oz. (450 g) maximum and 14 oz. (410g) minimum.

However, the rules for the youngsters are a bit different for the size and dimensions of the ball.

Soccer ball is available in 3 sizes: 3, 4 and 5, and the sizes are usually mentioned on it.

  • U-6 and U-8 can use size 3 ball.
  • Size 4 is suitable for U-10 and U-12.
  • While, U-13 and above can play with size 5 ball.

Before buying a ball, don’t forget to check for a stamp showing the tag ‘FIFA Approved’ or displaying ‘official weight and size’.

Rule No. 4 – Players Equipment

The basic equipment of a soccer player should have the following items:

  • A shirt or jersey with sleeves, stocks, shin guards, shorts and footwear.
  • Socks should be covering the shin guards properly.
  • Both teams must be wearing a different uniform with distinctive colors to make it easier for the viewers to differentiate between them on the ground.
  • On the other hand, goalkeepers should be wearing a contrasting color as well to stand out among the other team members.
  • The badge or club name has to be written on the front of a jersey, while the name and number of a player must be printed at the back.

Rule No. 5 – Duration of the Match

The official soccer rules have limited the adult games to two halves; each lasts for 45 minutes with a 15-minutes break. On the other hand, youth leagues can either reduce the timing to two 20 minutes halves or play for the usual 45 minutes halves, depending on the age group.

In some soccer tournaments, if a tie occurs and a winner is yet to be chosen, then two extra halves of 15 minutes each are added with no break. In case, the match is still tied after the extra periods; the players are allowed to go for a penalty-shootout to decide the winner.

Rule No. 6 – The Referee

The duty of a referee in any game is to enforce the Laws of the Game and control the happenings of the match. The same role is performed by the referee of soccer game. In addition, he is entitled to following responsibilities:

  • Making sure that the players are obeying all the regulations and penalizing them for breaking any.
  • Deciding whether the player has scored a goal or not. Their decision is considered final.
  • The job of a center referee is toughest of all as he has to mostly run on the field to have a clear picture of the happenings. However, he is helped by the assistant referee.
  • Most of the time, the 3v3 leagues don’t have a referee.

Rule No. 7 – Assistant Referees

As the name suggests, assistant referees are there to assist or help the main referee as per soccer rules.

  • Two assistant referees are positioned on each side of the field.
  • Their main job is to indicate offsides.
  • They are allowed to interrupt in case of any offense happening near their side of the field.
  • The main referee can consult the assistant referee for his/her opinion related to the match. However, an assistant referee can’t make any decision on his own.

Rule No. 8 – The Restart of the Game

Each session needs to be started with a toss, which is done at the center spot of the playground with a coin. The game also restarts if a team secures a goal; the ball is then moved forward in order to start the period.

  • Game is paused if the ball is thrown out of the boundary or if it goes away from the sidelines. In this scenario, a throw-in is needed to continue the match.
  • Then the ball goes to the opposite team who was not involved in throwing it away.
  • In case the attacking team kicks the ball over the goal line of defending team, then the defenders are awarded with a goal kick and the game restarts.
  • If the ball is thrown in team’s own goal line, then a corner kick is awarded to the other team and the game is restarted from the nearest corner from where the ball crossed the line.
  • Besides, some other penalties include handball (use of arms and hands in the game), charging from behind, kicking, holding, tripping, hitting, pushing or trying to kick the ball when it is still held by the goalkeeper.
  • Violating these rules means that the opposite team will be offered a free kick, either direct or indirect. An indirect kick means the ball is passed to another player, so he can set a goal. On the other hand, direct kick is scored by a single player without him involving any other team member. A free kick occurs where the penalty happened.
  • A penalty kick is a free kick awarded at the spot of penalty and usually it occurs after a handball or major foul committed by the opposition team. Once the attacking team are done with the action, the game is restarted.
  • A drop ball also becomes a reason of restarting the game. For those who don’t know, drop ball happens when the game is stopped by a referee for a special reason, such as the ball becomes defective or the player is injured, etc. If a referee needs to call for a drop ball; he will just drop the ball from his shoulders in front of the players. The game is then restarted after the ball hits the ground.

Rule No. 9 – Methods of Scoring

A goal is considered when the soccer ball completely goes across the line, either from direct kick or penalty kick, ensuring that the team has not committed infringement of the rules previously.

Rule No. 10 – Ball In and Out of Play

According to the ruling, the ball needs to be in the play at all time except:

  • When it crosses the goal line.
  • When it crosses the touch line.

In both the cases, the match needs to be paused.

Rule No. 11 – The Offsides Rule

This is one of the trickiest and complicated rules of soccer game. Offsides rules mean that the player should have one defender between him and the goal when he is on the opponent side or when the ball is thrown to him.

Rule No. 12 – Free Kicks

As mentioned earlier, there are two kinds of free kicks, direct and indirect. If the goal is scored directly from a player, then it is a direct kick. Whereas, if the player chooses to pass it to another player in order to make a goal, then you name it an indirect kick.

A free kick has to be taken at the spot of the penalty. At the youth level, mostly free kicks are analyzed as indirect.

Rule No. 13 – Penalty Kicks

A direct free kick right from the penalty spot is know as penalty kick. It is awarded as a result of either handball or major foul by a defensive player.

  • A player from the attacking team can shoot the goal from the penalty spot that has to be 12 yards away from the aim with a goalkeeper at the defense.
  • Every other player has to stay still outside the box during the penalty kick, and they are only allowed to move once it’s done.
  • This way, if the goalkeeper is able to save the ball; a player can move forward to take the possession.

Rule No. 14 – Fouls and Misconduct

When any player deliberately targets another player by pushing, kicking or holding, then it is a misconduct that calls for a foul.

  • Foul also occurs even if the action is accidental.
  • At the youth level, mostly fouls happen because of tripping, pushing, or holding. As a result, free kick is offered to the opposition.
  • If the player has been warned for the offenses beforehand or in case of serious foul; the referee has all rights to penalize with a penalty or free kicks along with red or yellow card.

Rule No. 15 – The Throw In

If the ball goes over the side lines and out of the play; a throw in occurs.

  • The opposite player to touch the ball for the last time before the action will get the throw in, and the game will restart.
  • Throw should come behind the head of the player, and his feet must be on the ground and both hands need to be on the ball.
  • If these rules are not followed; the opposing time will get the ball.

Some leagues don’t include this rule to give the player at least two chances.

Rule No. 16 – The Corner Kick

A corner kick is rewarded in case the defending team throws the ball above the goal line of their own.

  • The goal can be scored by a corner kick directly.
  • If the ball is passed from the left side of the goal, then the corner should be taken from left corner and vice versa.

Rule No. 17 – The Goal Kick

The goal kick is offered to the defending team when the opposition team throws ball over the goal line of defenders.

  • The goalkeeper places the ball inside the goal box so that the player can kick and continue.
  • The goal kick needs to be powerful enough to cross the penalty area.
  • Kicker is not allowed to touch the ball again until it is used by another player.
  • If the goal kick is high enough to reach the goal of the opposing team, then score would be counted.


Playing soccer is all fun but without rules; it can’t be enjoyed properly. In addition to this, rules and regulations are made to maintain the uniformity of the sports throughout the world.

International Football Association Board updates and revise the official rules of soccer every year according to the latest challenges. In this post, we have discussed 17 basic regulations that every player on the ground need to know and follow religiously. The set of ruling is a bit different for women and youngsters for their ease. Hope you will get benefited from the information. Happy playing!

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