Soccer Rules

ā€¨Soccer is a sport loved by millions of people around the world. Its popularity can be attributed to its simple yet strategic gameplay and the excitement it generates among fans. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the soccer rules that govern this beautiful game, ensuring that you have a thorough understanding of the sport.

Understanding the Soccer Field

Before diving into the soccer rules, it is essential to understand the layout of the soccer field. Soccer fields are rectangular and consist of various lines and markings that define different areas on the field.

Touchlines (Sidelines)

The touchlines, also known as sidelines, are the two lines that run the length of the field on its longer sides. According to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), touchlines must be between 100 and 130 yards in length.

Goal Lines (End Lines)

The goal lines, also referred to as end lines, are the shorter lines that complete the rectangle at either end of the field. Each team’s goal is positioned in the center of the end line. The ball must completely cross the goal line to count as a goal in soccer. The IFAB states that goal lines must be between 50 and 100 yards long.

Halfway Line and Center Circle

The halfway line, or center line, runs parallel with the goal lines at the exact midpoint of the field. At the exact middle of the halfway line is the center mark, a ball-sized circle. The center circle is a larger circle with a 10-yard radius, with the center point of the circle being the center mark.

Penalty Area and Goal Area

Around each set of goalposts, there are two boxes drawn: the goal area (also known as the six-yard box) and the penalty area (also known as the 18-yard box). The goal area is the smaller of the two boxes and measures 20 yards across and six yards deep, with the goal sitting in its middle. The penalty area is the larger box, measuring 44 yards wide and 18 yards deep.

Penalty Spot and Arc

On the top side of each penalty area is the penalty arc. Defending players during a penalty kick are not allowed to cross that line. Inside the penalty area, there is a spot 12 yards in front of the center of the goal, called the penalty spot. Penalty kicks are taken from this spot.

Corner Arc

Each of the four corners on the pitch is where corner kicks are taken. Each corner contains a corner arc, a quarter-circle arc that connects the goal lines and touch lines, with the connection points being one yard away from the corner.

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Foto de Ergyn Meshekran na Unsplash

The Objective of the Game

The primary objective of soccer is to score more goals than the opposing team by kicking the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net. Teams must achieve this within the allotted time of the match while adhering to the soccer rules regarding fouls and other regulations.

Moving the Ball and Basic Soccer Rules

In soccer, players can move the ball in any direction, but they can only use their feet, head, or chest to control and advance the ball. Players are not allowed to use their hands except for the goalkeeper, who is allowed to handle the ball inside their 18-yard box.

Players can run with the ball or pass to teammates to quickly move the ball around the field. The ball can be kicked into the air but cannot be carried with any body part. Defenders can attempt to take the ball from the opposition by properly tackling players with possession of the ball or by intercepting passes.

Game Format and Duration

Soccer matches last 90 minutes and are split into two 45-minute halves, with a halftime break lasting about 15 minutes. The referee can add time to the end of each half at their discretion. This additional time, known as stoppage time or injury time, is added for stoppages like injuries or other interruptions, as the clock never stops during a half.

Extra Time and Penalty Shootouts

If a match ends in a tie, one of two things will happen. In league play, where ties are accepted, the match ends in a draw. However, if the match is in a knockout tournament and a winner must be decided, the teams will play two periods of extra time, each lasting 15 minutes, with a five-minute break in between. If the match is still tied after extra time, a penalty shootout will decide the winner.

During a penalty shootout, each team is given five penalty kicks to score as many goals as they can. The two teams alternate taking shots. The team that scores the most goals after five penalty kicks wins the match. If the teams score the same number of penalties after the five, a sudden-death format follows, with each team taking one penalty kick until one team misses and the other scores.

Soccer Teams and Player Positions

There are 11 players on each soccer team at any given time. These players are divided into four main groups, each carrying specific responsibilities:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Defenders
  • Midfielders
  • Forwards


Each team has one goalkeeper on the pitch at a time. The goalkeeper’s primary responsibility is to defend their goal by stopping shots, communicating with defending teammates, and distributing the ball after an opposition attack. Goalkeepers are the only players who will not receive handball penalties, as they are allowed to touch the ball with their hands within their own 18-yard box.


Defenders’ main role is to stop the opposing team from scoring. They stay back near their goal and fill space to make attacking difficult for the other team. Common types of defenders include center backs, outside backs, and wing backs.


Midfielders are positioned near the middle of the field and are responsible for both playing defense and attacking offensively. They typically have the most touches on the team and facilitate control of the ball. Midfielders are also usually the best passers on the team and create scoring opportunities for their attackers. Types of midfielders include central midfielders, outside midfielders, attacking midfielders, and defensive midfielders.


Forwards play near the opposition’s goal and are responsible for creating chances for their team to score and scoring goals themselves. They rarely defend as far back as defenders and midfielders but can apply defensive pressure when needed. Other names for forward positions include striker, winger, and attacker.

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Formations and Substitutions

The choice a manager makes about the number of defenders, midfielders, and attackers on the field determines the team’s formation and style of play. Teams can also have substitutes, usually five or seven, depending on the league they play in. In high-level soccer matches, once a player is substituted off the pitch, they are not allowed to return to the game or participate in a potential penalty shootout.

Soccer Equipment

Various pieces of equipment are needed for soccer, including jerseys, shorts, socks, shin guards, cleats, gloves, and a soccer ball. Players must wear their team’s designated jersey and have matching socks. Goalkeepers wear different jerseys to be easily identified by other players and referees. Additionally, players must wear shorts, shin guards, and cleats while playing.

Fouls and Penalties

Soccer fouls can be any number of unfair advantages taken by a player that the referee calls. These can include tripping, pushing, and touching the ball with the hands. Free kicks or penalty kicks may be awarded to the opposing soccer team. Excessive unsportsmanlike behavior may result in a yellow card or a red card. Players who receive red cards are ejected from the game.

Offside Rule

The offside rule is a crucial aspect of soccer rules. An offensive player is considered offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal line than both the second and last opponent and the soccer ball when the ball is played to them. Offside is only called when the player is actively involved in the play or gains an advantage from their offside position.

Out of Bounds and Restarting Play

Out of bounds occurs when the ball completely crosses over the boundary line. When this happens, the team that last touched the ball loses possession, and the opposing team restarts play through one of the following methods:

  • Throw-in: If the ball goes out of bounds on the touchline, the opposing team throws in the ball from the point where the ball crossed the line.
  • Goal kick: If the offensive team last touches the ball before it crosses the goal line without scoring, the goalkeeper takes a goal kick from the goal box.
  • Corner kick: If the defending team last touches the ball, and it crosses the goal line without scoring, the opposing team takes a corner kick from the corner of the field.

Scoring Goals and Winning the Game

To score a goal, a team must put the ball into the opposition’s net, ensuring that the entire ball crosses the goal line between the goalposts. Teams can score by heading, chesting, or kicking the ball over the line while the ball is in play. They can also score on free kicks or penalties if awarded them.

In addition to scoring goals to take the lead, teams must also prevent their opponents from scoring on their goal. This can be achieved through effective tackling, strong communication between defenders, and a capable goalkeeper defending the goal.

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Imagem de ChaosSoccerGear por Pixabay

Soccer Rules Summary

In summary, soccer is a captivating sport governed by a set of rules that ensure fair play and excitement on the field. Here are some key points to remember about soccer rules:

  • A soccer match consists of two 45-minute halves, totaling 90 minutes of play.
  • The objective is to score more goals than the opposing team.
  • There are 11 players on each team, divided into goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards.
  • Players must adhere to the offside rule and avoid committing fouls.
  • Fouls can result in free kicks, penalty kicks, or disciplinary actions, such as yellow or red cards.
  • Teams can make substitutions during the match, but substituted players cannot return to the game.

By understanding and following these soccer rules, players can fully enjoy the beautiful game while ensuring fair competition and sportsmanship. So, whether you’re a seasoned player, a passionate fan, or new to the sport, this comprehensive guide will help you navigate the world of soccer with confidence.



As a soccer coach and graduate in Physical Education, I bring a wealth of expertise to the field. My coaching philosophy combines technical precision with a passion for player well-being. With a commitment to fostering both skill and sportsmanship, I aim to empower athletes, nurturing their growth not only as players but as individuals on the journey to success.

1 Comment

What Is The Role Of A Soccer Coach? - Top Soccer Coach · July 4, 2023 at 9:55 AM

[…] of their team and their opponents. This requires a coach to have a thorough knowledge of the rules of the game and to be able to analyze game film and make informed decisions about tactics and player positions. […]

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