The Laws of Soccer
There are 18 laws (well, 17, actually) that govern the play of soccer. These laws are summarized below. For the complete laws, read the FIFA Laws of the Game. Provided the principles of the laws are maintained, some of the laws may be modified for use in recreational and junior leagues. These modifications are detailed on the GEYA Soccer Rules page.
Law 1 – The Field of Play
Law 2 – The Ball
Regulation is circumference 27-28", weight 14-16 oz. In youth soccer, ball size is adapted by age group (size 3 for U6-U8, size 4 for U9-12, and size 5 for U13 and up).
Law 3 – Number of Players
Normally 11, but may be as few as 5 at the younger levels.
Law 4 – The Players’ Equipment
Five "S"s – shirt, shorts, shin guards, socks and shoes. Shin guards are required. Shoes may not contain metal spikes/cleats. Goalkeeper must wear a different color shirt. No jewelry (ear rings, necklaces, rings) or hard hair clips of any sort can be worn. Referees (coaches in K-3) will not allow players to participate if they are wearing jewelry of any sort.
Law 5 – The Referee
One per game. Controls the game. All referee decisions are final.
Law 6 – The Assistant Referees (Linesmen)
Two linesmen assist referee by indicating offsides, which team receives possession when ball is out of play, and which team is entitled to a corner kick.
Law 7 – The Duration of the Match
A regulation game consists of two 45-minute halves. In youth soccer the game times are adapted by age.
Law 8 – The Start and Restart of Play
A flip of a coin decides which team will choose which goal to attack. The team that loses the coin-flip kicks off. Each team must be in its own half of the field during kick-off and defending players must be at least ten yards from ball (outside of center circle) until it is kicked. After a goal, the team scored upon kicks off. After halftime, teams change ends and the kick-off is taken by the team that did not kick off at the start of the game. A goal can be scored directly from a kick-off, i.e., kick-offs are direct kicks.
Law 9 – The Ball In and Out of Play
The ball is only out of play when: a) it has wholly crossed the goal line or touchline on the ground or in the air; b) when the game is stopped by the referee.
Law 10 – The Method of Scoring
A goal is scored when the whole ball has completely crossed the goal line between the goal posts and under the cross bar.
Law 11 – Offside
A player is offside when they are nearer the opponent’s goal line than the ball unless: a) the player is in their own half of the field, or b) there are at least two opponents (including the goalkeeper) between them and the opposing team’s goal. If a player is declared offside, the referee will award an indirect free kick (see Law 13) to the opposing team at the point where the infraction occurred.
Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct
A player who intentionally attempts to, or actually: a) kicks, b) trips, c) jumps at, d) charges violently, e) charges from behind, f) strikes, g) holds, h) pushes, or i) intentionally touches the ball with their hands or arms shall be penalized by the awarding of a direct free kick (see Law 13) to the opposing team. Any one of these nine offenses committed in the penalty area will result in a penalty kick (see Law 14) being awarded. Less flagrant offenses, such as offsides, dangerous play, obstruction, or unsportsmanlike conduct, will result in an indirect free kick.
Law 13 – Free Kicks
Free kicks are awarded for violations cited in rule 12. They are classified in two categories: a) direct free kicks, from which a goal can be scored directly against the offending team, and b) indirect free kicks, from which the ball must touch another player other than the kicker before entering the goal. The offending team must be at least 10 yards from the ball on all free kicks.
Law 14 – The Penalty Kick
A direct free kick is taken at the penalty mark in front of the goal. It is a one-on-one situation with the kick against the goalkeeper. Everyone else must stay outside the penalty area and at least 10 yards from the ball (the reason for the arc at the top of the penalty area) until it is kicked. The goalkeeper must remain on the goal line facing the kicker until the ball is touched, although the goalkeeper may move sideways along the goal line prior to the kick.
Law 15 – The Throw-In
When the ball has wholly crossed the touchline, it is put back into play at the spot it crossed by a player from the opposite team that last touched the ball. The player throws the ball over their head, with equal force from both hands. The player must have both feet touching the ground, and be on or behind the touchline. When throwing the ball in, the thrower must loft the ball in the air (not spike it). A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in. There is no offsides on a throw-in.
Law 16 – The Goal Kick
When the ball has wholly crossed the goal line after last being touched by a player from the attacking team, it is put back into play by a kick from the goal area of the defending team. The attacking team must stay outside of the penalty area before the kick. The ball may not be touched by another player until it has exited the penalty area, or it will be rekicked.
Law 17 – The Corner Kick
When the ball has wholly crossed the goal line after last being touched by a player from the defending team, it is put back into play by a kick by the attacking team from the corner on the side that the ball went out. The ball is placed on the ground anywhere over or within the corner-arc, and the kick is taken by a member of the attacking team. The defending team must be at least 10 yards from the ball until it is kicked. There is no offsides on a corner kick.
Law 18 – Use Common Sense!