Rules Of Soccer
Copyright 1999-2009, David and Kay Huddleston
The official soccer rules are often difficult to understand. Following are simplified soccer rules and links to the complete soccer rules. The official soccer rules are often modified for recreational, youth and indoor soccer leagues.
There are links below to over 70 soccer rules, official soccer rules and soccer rules-related definitions.
Who makes the rules? The official soccer rules are called the "Laws of the Game" and are revised annually (usually in July) by FIFA (pronounced "FEE' fuh"), the world soccer governing body, but youth organizations usually adjust the rules to fit children. Typical adjustments are field sizes, game lengths, number of players per team, the number and frequency of substitutions, "offside" is sometimes not called, and slide tackling is sometimes not allowed. Field sizes, ball sizes, length of games & rules vary by age group. The FIFA rules do not require separate teams for girls and boys, but many soccer clubs and associations have separate leagues for boys and girls. Discuss the rule variations with an official of your league. You can find the "Laws of the Game" at www.fifa.com (on the FIFA Home Page enter "Laws" in the search feature).
Why is it necessary to simplify and interpret the rules? In brief, the "Laws of the Game" are not simple and can be difficult to understand. The official FIFA rules have 17 sections and the rule book is about 70 pages long. There are also an additional 44 pages titled "Questions and Answers". In addition, how to interpret the rules is discussed in referee clinics, special memos, videos for referees, and a guidebook for soccer officials that is over 300 pages long. There is also the problem that the rules use many soccer terms that are not defined in the rules (we try to define all of these terms in the SoccerHelp Dictionary) and there are quirks, such as the fact that terms which are commonly used such as "Hand Ball", "obstruction", and "Linesmen" are not defined in the official rules. Another confusing aspect of the rules is the way "Fouls" are defined; basically, they are defined not only as "Fouls" but also in the rules regarding "Cards". For this reason, to understand "Fouls" you must also read "Cards". One of the biggest problems is that the official rules don't have a good index and there aren't good cross-links to related topics. At SoccerHelp we have tried to solve these problems by simplifying the rules and providing easy to use the links so you can go from one topic to another. In some cases, such as for "offside", we have even provided a simplified explanation and a more detailed definition.
Specific questions or topics: If you have a specific question, we suggest you start below. For example, if you want to read about fouls, start at "Fouls" and then read "Cards" and follow the links. Keep in mind that many of the rules are designed to promote Fair Play and to prevent players from being hurt.
For an overview of the official rules: If you want an overview of the official rules, we suggest you go to www.fifa.com and review the Table of Contents of the "Laws of the Game" (on the FIFA Home Page enter "Laws" in the search feature).
Keep in mind that most youth leagues, women's leagues and adult recreational leagues modify the rules: In the topics listed below we mention the typical modifications to the rules that are made by most youth leagues. The modifications that are made are usually to make matches more fun (e.g., smaller fields), safer (e.g., no slide tackling), more evenly matched or to promote a better learning environment (for example, by playing "small sided").
Links To Simplified Soccer Rules:
Soccer field diagram
Soccer field size
Soccer advantage clause
Soccer age rules (U-6, U-8, etc.)
Soccer assistant referee
Soccer ball (sizes and selecting a ball)
Soccer "box" (aka the Penalty Box)
Soccer center circle
Soccer center mark
Soccer coaching Do's and Don'ts
Soccer coaching during games
Soccer corner flags
Soccer corner kick
Soccer dangerous play
Soccer direct free kick
Soccer end line (aka the goal line)
Soccer "fair charging" (see shoulder charge)
Soccer field "center" (see "middle" below)
Soccer field corner arc
Soccer field lines
Soccer field "middle" (the terms "middle" and "center" are often misused)
Soccer Forwards ("F's")
Soccer free kick
Soccer Fullbacks ("FB's")
Soccer goal, when scored?
Soccer goal area (aka the "Goal Box)
Soccer goal kick
Soccer goal line (aka the "end line")
Soccer goalkeeper (GK or goalie or Keeper)
Soccer halfway line
Soccer hand ball
Soccer impeding (see "obstruction")
Soccer indirect free kick
Soccer injuries (expected behavior)
Soccer injury time
Soccer kick off
Soccer late tackle
Soccer "Laws of the Game"
Soccer lines (rules relating to stepping on lines and the ball crossing the line)
Soccer Midfielders ("MF's")
Soccer number of players
Soccer offside rule (simplified and detailed versions)
Soccer penalty area (aka the "Penalty Box" or "Box")
Soccer penalty box arc
Soccer penalty kick ("PK")
Soccer playing time
Soccer red card
Soccer serious foul play
Soccer shoulder charge
Soccer side line (aka the "touch line")
Soccer slide tackle
Soccer small sided
Soccer stoppage time
Soccer throw in
Soccer touch line
Soccer Unsporting Behavior
Soccer worrying the goalkeeper
Soccer yellow card