Soccer Rules & Terms

There are regional and league rules that you will have to adhere by that are based on Federetion Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) rules and regulations. FIFA is the international governing body of soccer. This organization updates rules annually and all leagues generally follow suit and enforce rules based on the age appropriateness of the players.  


The number of players on the field for a team will depend on the age  of the players and size of the field.  An official  game has 11 players for each team.  The number of players on your child’s team will depend on your league. However, here is a general guideline:

  • U6 and below may be played with three players on each team; no goalie.
  • U8 may be played with five players on each team; no goalie.
  • U10 may be played with seven players and one of those players will than likely have a goalie.
  • U12 may be played with 9 players and one of the nine will be a goalie.
  • U14 and above will be played with 11 players.


Most leagues will have an official ball. For example, many states require that you purchase an official ball through the state athletic association and it will have a special stamp on it. The league your child is in will also make the official decision on what size your of ball your child uses. Here is a guideline:

  • U9 players and below will use a size 3 ball.
  • U10 – U13 players will use a size 4 ball.
  • U14 players and above will use a size 5 ball.

Game Time

Again, your child’s league will dictate the length of the game based on their age group.  An official professional soccer game is 90 minutes in length and consists of a one half time.  Like most sports though the game takes longer than 90 minutes between stoppage of play for injuries and the half time. One big difference is that the referee keeps track of the official time on his watch.  And he is the only one that will stop the watch to accommodate for injuries or interruptions. The referee might also add minutes to each half especially if there was an interruption and the clock was not stopped.


Shin gaurds and socks

Kids either like shin guards or they don’t. Some feel that shin guards are too bulky on their legs. Shin guards, however, are a mandatory piece of equipment both at practices and games. They provide great protection when other players are kicking at a moving ball being dribbled. By requiring them in practice, players are kept safe and learn to adjust to how they feel. Shin guards either have straps to around the calf and foot and others are simply placed in the socks. Either are fine and they player usually likes to choose the one that’s best. Socks that cover the shin guards are important in keeping the guards in place. Shin guards are inexpensive and can be purchased at just about any sporting goods store.

Appropriate shoes. 

Although cleats are recommended, they’re usually not required in most leagues. Sneaks or tennis shoes will work but don’t provide much traction on a field that might be muddy. When trying on a new pair of shoes, players should wear a thick pair of socks to ensure a proper fit. Keep in mind that baseball and softball cleats are typically not legal for use in soccer games!

Comfortable clothes

Players should wear comfortable play clothes to practice that are non-restrictive. Clothing will certainly get dirty, so school uniforms are probably a bad idea. Leagues will usually supply the jersey with the sign-up registration fee to be used in games. Sometimes the league will only supply the shirt and the parents will need to supply the shorts and socks. Players should always be prepared for bad weather during practices and keep extra warm clothing and a wool hat in their bag. Also, all jewelry, necklaces, and rings will need to be removed for the player’s own safety as well as for the safety of the other players.

Water bottle

Players should be encouraged to bring a full water bottle labeled with their name on it to practice and all games.


If your child wears eyeglasses, be certain that the lenses are shatterproof or plastic. If they’re not, have your child wear an eyeglass protective mask.

Basic Rules

No Hands

Most people realize that players cannot use their hands to control the ball on the playing field. Please keep in mind that the no hands rule, actually includes the whole arm. So for example, a player cannot touch the ball with his bicep or forearm to control the ball either. The only player on the field that can use his hands to control the ball is the goalie. The goalie can only use his hands inside his team’s penalty area.

If a player touches the ball with his hands and it is to his to his team’s advantage or it’s intentional use his hand, a foul is called and the other team gets a Direct Free Kick where the foul was committed. 

If a player touches the ball with his hands inside the penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded to the other team and he is given a red card.

Often times a player will touch the ball with his hand or arm and there is no advantage. In this instance, no foul will be called because there was no advantage.

Stop When The Whistle Blows

A whistle is used as a tool to help keep order on the field. Recreational soccer can be chaotic. It’s helpful to use a whistle to get player attention without yelling. Once you have their attention, then the rule violation can be explained.

Ball out of Play
Soccer differs slightly from other popular American sports when it comes to the rule of out of play. The sideline and goal line are considered In Play. The ball is considered in play until it has completely crossed one of these lines. 

  • A player standing out of bounds may make contact with the ball, as long as the ball is still in play.
  • A throw in that does not cross the sideline doesn’t count and gets to be rethrown.
  • However, a corner kick that lands out of play, does not get to be rekicked. The defensive team gets a goal kick. The reason for this is because the ball is in play at the time of a corner kick.


Kickoffs are used to start a game or after a team scores. A coin toss can decide which team kicks off in the first period, and then the teams alternate who kicks off next. For a kickoff, the ball is placed on the center mark, which is in the middle of the halfway line, inside the center circle. All players must be on their own half of the field at the start of the kickoff, and the team who is receiving the ball must be outside the center circle. The ball must be kicked onto the other team’s half, and the kicker cannot touch the ball a second time until it is touched by someone else.


The offsides rule can be confusing for even the most advanced player. It was a rule instituted to avoid “cherry picking” or to prevent all of the offensive players to stand by the goal and wait for a pass to score. By definition, a player is in an offside position if he is nearer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second to last opponent. A player is not in an offside position if he is in his own half of the field of play or he is level with the second last opponent o he is level with the last two opponents. In plain English, a player can’t run behind the defense towards the goal until his team passes the ball. If the defense has “pulled up” in an “offsides trap” then the offensive player must wait and can only run at the moment his teammate passes the ball.

Yellow & Red Cards

Yellow Cards are often referred to as “cautionable offenses” while the more serious Red Cards are referred to as “sending-off offenses.” A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if the player shows unsportsmanlike behavior, shows dissent to a referee, delays the restart of play, enters the field without the referee’s permission, or deliberately leaves the field without the referee’s permission. A player is sent off the field and shown the red card if that player is guilty of serious foul play with an intent to injure another player, spits at an opponent, deliberately handles the ball, uses bad language, or receives a second yellow card.

Free Kicks

There are 2 types of free kicks, direct and indirect. A direct kick is one in which a goal can be scored and an indirect kick must be touched by another player before scoring. For both types, the ball must be stationary when the kick is taken, and the kicker doesn’t touch the ball a second time until it has touched another player. When a player is taking a free kick, all opposing players must remain 10 yards from the ball.

Penalty Kicks

A penalty kick is awarded against a team that commits an offense inside its own penalty area and while a ball is in play. A goal may be scored directly from a penalty kick. Additional tim is allowed for a penalty kick to be taken at the end of each half. The ball is placed on the penalty mark and the player taking the kick is identified.


A throw-in is a way of restarting play, usually when the ball goes out of bounds. The ball is thrown in from the point where is crossed the line by a player of the team opposing that of the person who last touched the ball. A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in. At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower faces the field of play with part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line, uses both hands and delivers the ball from behind and over the head. The thrower may not touch the ball again until it has been touched by another player.

Goal Kicks

A goal kick is awarded when the ball (the entire ball), having last touched a player of the attacking team, passes over the goal line, either on the ground or in the air. The ball is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team. Opponents remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play. The kicker does not play the ball a second time until it has touched another player. The ball is in play when it is kicked directly beyond the penalty area. A goal may be scored directly from a goal kick, but only against the opposing team. If the ball is not kicked directly into play beyond the penalty area, the kick is retaken.

Corner Kicks

A corner kick is awarded when the ball (the entire ball), having last touched a player of the defending team, passes over the goal line, either on the ground or in the air. A goal may be scored directly from a corner kick, but only against the opposing team. The ball is placed inside the corner arc at the nearest corner flag post. The corner flag post is not moved. Opponents remain at least 10 yards from teh corner arc until the ball is in play. Teh ball is kicked by a player of the attacking team, and is in play when it’s kicked and moves. The kicker does not play the ball a second time until it’s touched another player.


  • The goalkeepers are the only players on the field who can legally use their hands, but only inside the penalty box.
  • Goalie’s should wear colors that distinguish him or her from the other players and from the referee.
  • Goalkeepers cannot use their hands if the ball was intentionally passed back to them by a teammate with the feet.
  • Goalkeepers have 6 seconds to put the ball in play after picking it up in the penalty box.
  • Once the goalkeeper has control of the ball with one or both hands, other players may not kick the ball.

20 Responses to Soccer Rules & Terms

  1. Abraham Daniel Cayetano February 10, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Thank You,
    This will help me along the way to keep children busy in there spare time and make them progressive and useful citizens.

  2. peter mdaki April 3, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    Thank You,
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  3. Lucas Mahlngu May 14, 2010 at 5:47 am #

    I am proud to have this information. It is the first time I have such information. I hope to be the best coach of the Juniors.


  4. moamed sidig omer June 13, 2010 at 3:04 am #

    thank you very much sure fire soccer i am very happy from sending to me all these information and i hope more progression to you.

  5. sandile oageng July 13, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    thanks very much.u have made soccer easy for me!

  6. sandile oageng July 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    thanks very much.u have made soccer very easy for me! i now understand the rules much better

  7. lawal sulaimon June 7, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    This is fantastic you guys are giving me what i needed for my growth as a sound soccer coach with this rules all other things to
    teach the players will be perfect

  8. Kelly February 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm #


  9. kyoma marvin February 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Thanx 2 u guys 4 making soccer easier 4 me

  10. masaba March 31, 2013 at 4:19 am #

    Thxs i am very grateful for your tutorial drills.

  11. carter April 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    hey…. can i flick the ball up and do a neck stall and run down the field like that and slide if off my neck and take a shot

  12. Helioprime September 11, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    I love this site, how can sprinkle it on my wheaties?

  13. Blake Ablitt March 6, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    Thank you so much. I knew nothing about soccer, but now i feel i could go pro with your help.

  14. Ref101 February 22, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    Sure fire your are incorrect when you state “If a player touches the ball with his hands inside the penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded to the other team and he is given a red card.”. A player is not always given a red only unless he or she a defensive player who is not the goal keeper touches the ball with their hands and are the last line of defense. Only when the player is the last defender will he receive a ref card for hands.

  15. solomon February 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

    thanks for the help and support

  16. DudePerpect# May 1, 2017 at 1:01 am #

    thanks this helped with my research

  17. Princesslouie427 May 27, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    Can you do a diamond defence for soccer.

  18. Lindsey Jackson February 4, 2018 at 5:50 pm #

    I will find this very helpful. I am trying to become a soccer player but we cannot afford to be on a team or have a coach. And if we did my parents wouldn’t let me, they think soccer is a waste of time. So i have been trying to teach myself how to play. And I will go to a field and play games with my friends. I’m the only one who knows how to play, so this information will be very useful.

  19. Phyllis June 20, 2019 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you for your information. It is helping me enjoy the women’s world cup.


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