Rules of Soccer

The Rules of Soccer come in Seventeen basic parts. These were issued by FIFA, the head organization of professional soccer.

Law 1: The Field of Play

There are very few fixed dimensions for soccer fields, even at the highest level. FIFA only stipulates that for professional 11-versus-11 competition, the length must be between 100 yards and 130 yards and the width between 50 and 100 yards.

Law 2: The Soccer Ball

The circumference of a soccer ball must not be more than 28 inches (70 centimeters) and not less than 27 ins (68 cm). The size 5 ball, used by ages 12 and above, is spherical and made of leather or some other suitable material. It must not weigh more than 16 ounces (450 grams) and not less than 14 oz (410 g) at the start of a match. The ball must be of a pressure equal to 0.6 – 1.1 atmosphere (600 – 1,000 g/cm2) at sea level (8.5 Ibs/sq in – 15.6 Ibs/sq in).

Law 3: The Number of Players

A match is played by two teams, with each allowed no more than 11 players on the field at any one time, one of whom is a goalkeeper. A match may not start if either team has fewer than seven players.

Law 4: The Players' Equipment

The FIFA ‘Laws of the Game’ state that players are not allowed to use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or any other player (including any kind of jewellery). A player’s basic equipment consists of a jersey or shirt with sleeves, shorts, stockings, shinpads and footwear. The two teams must wear colors that distinguish themselves from the opponent, referee and assistant referees.

Law 5: The Referee

The referee has the full authority to enforce the laws of the game and his decision is final. He controls the match in cooperation with the assistant referees, and where applicable, the fourth official. The referee ensures that the ball and players' equipment meets the requirements, acts as timekeeper and stops play for infringement of the laws among several other duties.

Law 6: The Assistant Referee

In professional soccer there are two assistant referees whose job it is to call offsides and throw-ins, and help the referee make decisions. Carrying a flag to signal their observations, assistant referees, or linesmen as they are commonly known, must monitor the sidelines and goal lines and flag if the ball goes out of play, signaling which team the goal kick or throw-in should be awarded to.

Law 7: The Duration of the Match

Matches consist of two 45 minute halves, unless the two teams and referee agree otherwise before the start of play. The half-time interval must not exceed 15 minutes, and can only be altered upon consent of the referee. A referee may play added time because of substitutions, assessment of injuries, removal of injured players from the field of play, time wasting and any other cause. An abandoned match is replayed unless the competition rules state otherwise.

Law 8: The Start and Restart of Play

Kick-off is the way of starting or restarting play:

Law 9: The Ball in and out of Play

The ball is out of play when:

The ball is in play at all other times, including when:

Law 10: The Method of Scoring

A goal is scored when the whole of the ball crosses the whole of the goalline between the posts and crossbar, provided there is no infringement such as offside, a foul or handball. The team that scores the most goals wins the match. If the number of goals scored between the two sides is equal at the end of a match, it is a draw. When competition rules require that there must be a winner, the outcome will be decided by either:

Law 11: The Offside

The law states that if a player is in an offside position when the ball is played to him or touched by a teammate, he may not become actively involved in the play. A player is in an offside position if he is closer to the goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender, but only if he is in the opposition half of the field.

Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct

In the case of a foul or an action of misconduct on the field, the referee may blow the whistle and stop the play of the game at any time. For more serious fouls, a yellow or red card may be given out by the referee.

Law 13: Free Kicks

Free kicks are either direct or indirect, and the ball must be stationary when the kick is taken. The kicker must not touch the ball again until it has touched another player.

Law 14 : The Penalty Kick

Feinting in the run up to taking a penalty kick to confuse the goalkeeper is permitted. However, feinting to kick the ball once the player has completed his run up is considered an act of unsporting behavior for which the player must be cautioned by the referee. The referee must confirm the following before the kick is taken:

All other players on the field are:

Laws 15, 16 & 17: Throw Ins, Goal Kicks, and Corner Kicks

When the ball goes out of play over the touchline, a throw in will be taken by a player from the team who did not touch the ball last. When the whole of the ball goes over the goalline, a goal kick or corner is awarded, depending on which team touched the ball last. If the defending team touched it, a corner is awarded to the opposition. If the attacking team had the last touch, a goal kick is awarded.


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© Copyright 2012, Nicholas Zetzl, last updated October 2014