The 17 Soccer Rules Explained (Laws of the Game)

Whether you're on the field participating, coaching, or simply spectating... To grasp what is happening during a match, you must be aware of the fundamental soccer regulations. And fortunately, soccer's rules are rather straightforward! I'll go over each of the 17 basic "Laws of the Game" below. You'll know what a red card is, why a player was called offside, why a team was given a penalty kick and much more by the time you've finished reading this blog post. In order to make this post easier to explore, here is a clickable table of contents

The 17 Soccer Rules Explained (Laws of the Game)

Whether you're on the field participating, coaching, or simply spectating...

To grasp what is happening during a match, you must be aware of the fundamental soccer regulations.

And fortunately, soccer's rules are rather straightforward!

I'll go over each of the 17 basic "Laws of the Game" below.

You'll know what a red card is, why a player was called offside, why a team was given a penalty kick and much more by the time you've finished reading this blog post.

In order to make this post easier to explore, here is a clickable table of contents:

The 17 Soccer Rules - “Laws of the Game”

Rule #1 - The Field of Play

The field's layout is examined in the first rule.

The pitch for an 11-a-side game must be between 90 and 120 meters long and 45 to 90 meters wide, with the touchlines being farther apart than the goal lines.

The playing area is surrounded by white lines that run parallel to the goal lines, and it is divided in half by a line that runs through the middle of the pitch.

The center circle, where the game begins, is situated at the intersection of this line.

A flag post can be found in each corner of the field, and it can be used to determine whether a ball has left the field for a throw-in, corner, or goal kick.

There is a goal in the center of the goal line at each end of the field. There is a small goal area in front of each goal, and a larger penalty area surrounds it.

The goalkeeper may pick up the ball anywhere in this region with their hands.

The penalty area has a specified spot for the penalty, which is located 11 meters from the goal line.

Although all of these lines and areas may seem complicated, after watching just one soccer match, you'll have a clear understanding of how the field should be laid out for a game.

soccer stadium air view

Rule #2 - The Ball

A soccer ball must weigh between 410 and 450 grams and be spherical to be considered legal.

The ball should also be inflated to 0.6 to 1.1 standard atmospheres in addition to these requirements.

Even though it may sound very scientific, all soccer balls, after being inflated to a reasonable pressure, will in fact weigh about that much.

Soccer balls of size 5 are used for adult and teenage play, size 4 for U12 age groups, and size 3 for U4 (infant) age groups.

Rule #3 - The Number of Players

The two sides competing in standard soccer each have 10 outfield players and a goalie on the pitch, in accordance with the game's official rules.

Therefore, each team shall begin to play with 11 players.

In spite of this, you can play with virtually any number of players while having fun with friends.

The number of substitutes varies according to the competition...

Teams are only permitted to use three substitutes every game, according to the normal substitution rules.

The team must continue playing with just 10 players if a player receives a red card and is removed from the field because they are unable to be substituted.

Rule #4 - The Player’s Equipment

Players are not permitted to wear anything that could endanger their health or the health of any other players.

Watches and jewelry, for instance, are prohibited.

As for their fundamental tools...

The shirt, shorts, and socks of the player's team are required.

They must also put on shin guards, which must be hidden by their socks, as well as soccer boots with the proper studs.

Goalkeepers are required to wear a team jersey that is a different color than their teammates, as well as goalkeeper gloves, at all times during the game.

Rule #5 - The Referee

An official referee oversees the soccer game to maintain fairness.

They are responsible for directing the game's actions and maintaining order among the players.

The referee is assisted by two assistant referees who patrol the touchlines and wear jerseys that are different from those of the two teams involved in the game.

The match's referee is responsible for inspecting the ball and making sure that everyone is sporting the proper gear before the game starts.

Following that, the referee will blow their whistle to signal the start of the game. They will also serve as the game's timekeeper and official recorder of events. Like the cards they distributed and the goals they set.

Anytime they believe there has been a foul, the referee has the authority to stop the game. When to award penalties, fouls, goal kicks, free kicks, corners, and throw-ins are all decisions made by them.

They are also responsible for booking players who have engaged in excessive aggression or dangerous tackles.

Since the referee's decision is final, they play a crucial part in ensuring that the game flows smoothly, is balanced, and that the right calls are made.

Rule #6 - The Assistant Referees

The two assisting referees to run up and down either touchline.

They are tasked with signaling when the ball has been declared out of bounds and indicating which team should receive the goal kick, corner, or throw-in.

They also alert the referee when a player has been caught offside or when a foul has occurred nearby.

Furthermore, they inform the referee when a side wants to make a substitute.

Although the assistant referees aid the primary referee in officiating the game, the main referee is ultimately in charge of all judgment calls.

soccer assistant referee holding flag

Rule #7 - The Duration of the Match

Soccer matches often last 90 minutes.

The game will be split into two 45-minute halves.

There is a 15-minute halftime break between these two halves, during which play is paused and the two sides take a break before continuing.

The referee has the discretion to add extra time if necessary at the conclusion of each half of the game.

Any in-game substitutions, injuries, the amount of time it took for injured players to leave the field of play, and in some cases, time-wasting can all result in the game being extended.

Rule #8 - The Beginning and Continuation of the Play

Depending on which team starts the game, the coin toss winner chooses whether their team will open the game's first or second half with a kickoff.

Teams switch ends during the second half, attacking the opposing goals.

A kickoff can happen at different times during a game.

  • To start the match
  • After a goal has been scored
  • To start the second half
  • To start extra time

Both teams' players must be on the field in their respective halves prior to a kickoff.

Once the first player kicks the ball, it must advance and cannot be touched again until a second player has touched it.

In addition, following a goal, the subsequent kickoff goes to the opposing team.

Rule #9 - The Ball enters and exits of Play

The ball is no longer in play when it fully crosses the touchline or goal line.

In addition, the ball is considered out of play when the referee blows their whistle to end the game.

Aside from these two instances, the ball is always regarded as being in play, which includes instances where it bounces off a goalpost, official, or corner flag and remains on the field.

soccer assistant referee holding flag high

Rule #10 - Determining the Outcome of the Match

So how does a soccer team win a match?


The winner of a game is the team with the most goals scored throughout the contest.

It's a tie and neither team wins if there are no goals or an even number of goals scored.

While this is the typical procedure, in some competitions, there may be distinct soccer regulations that require a team to win even if a match is tied after regular time.

For example, deciding the winner through extra time or penalty kicks

What really constitutes a goal?

A goal is considered to have been scored when the entire ball passes through the goal line, which is defined as the space between the goalposts and beneath the crossbar.

It only counts if no fouls or violations were made during the play leading up to the goal.

Rule #11 - Offside

The offside regulation is regarded by many as the game's most challenging.

But don't be alarmed.

Once you've read the definition and seen a few games, it's not that difficult to understand.

A brief summary is provided below.

When a player impacts the play, if they are closer to the opposing goal line than the ball and the second-to-last player on the other team, they are deemed to be offside.

Isn't that easy?

It can be challenging for the referee and assistant referees to make the right decision because the game moves at a breakneck pace.

What is known, however, is that a player cannot be adjudged to be offside if they are in their own half, if they are level with their last opponent when the ball is played to them, or if the ball is played back towards them while they are in the opposition's half.

Additionally, a player is only punished for being offside if they are gaining an advantage from their position, interfering with play, or interfering with an opponent.

A player is not regarded as being offside when they receive the ball from a throw-in, corner, or goal kick.

Probably easier!


Rule #12 - Errors and Immorality

Soccer is a combat sport, but there are several rules that must be followed.

A player may receive a direct free kick, an indirect free kick, a penalty, or both if the referee believes that they have been fouled during play.

Let's investigate each of these scenarios.

a) Direct Free Kick

One of the following may have been done to a player on the opposing team for a direct free kick to be given to that team.

pushed, kicked, tripped over, charged, struck, jumped into, etc.

As an alternative, they might have illegally held onto them, fouled them while attempting to tackle, or handled the ball on purpose.

In each of these scenarios, a direct free kick is awarded and is taken from the location on the pitch where the offense occurred.

b) Penalty Kick

A player who commits one of the aforementioned crimes inside their own penalty box will result in a penalty kick for their team.

c) An indirect free kick

A goalkeeper is awarded an indirect free kick if they touch the ball with their hands after receiving a direct throw-in from a teammate.

This occurs when they have possession of the ball for longer than six seconds.

If a player behaves dangerously, interferes with an opponent's fair play, or prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from their hands, they may also be given an indirect free kick.

The foul is assessed where the infraction was committed, just like with a direct free kick.

A player may receive a yellow or red card as a warning in addition to being penalized and giving away a free kick or penalty.

More information about these soccer regulations:

A player may receive a yellow card for:

  • Poor sportsmanship conduct
  • Dissidence
  • Continual misconduct
  • Waste of time
  • Disregarding the minimum distance to take a free kick or corner
  • Intentionally departing the field without the referee's consent. Joining or rejoining the field without the official's authorization.

A red card indicates that a player has been sent off and must leave the field, whereas a yellow card (until it is a second one) allows them to continue the game.

To get a red card, a player could have:

  • Been guilty of serious foul play
  • Acted violently
  • Spat at a player
  • Illegally prevented the opposition from attaining an obvious goalscoring opportunity
  • Deliberately handled the ball in a dangerous area of the pitch
  • Used offensive or abusive language
  • Received a second yellow card

Rule #13 - Free Kicks

Free kicks can be either direct or indirect, as we've already discussed. The ball is positioned where the offense took place for both of them, and it must be motionless before the player strikes it. They are then forbidden from touching the ball again until another player does so after the kick has been made.

With a direct free kick, a player may choose to aim toward the goal, and if the ball crosses the line, it counts as a goal.

If an indirect free kick touched another player before crossing the goal line, it would count as having done so.

The opposing team is permitted to construct a wall to impede the ball for all sorts of free kicks, although this wall must be placed at least 9.15 meters from the free kick.

Rule #14 - The Penalty Kick

Only when one of a team's players engages in one of the aforementioned offenses inside their team's penalty area will a team be assessed a penalty.

The referee decides whether to give the penalty, and the player who receives it may score right away.

There are a few rules:

a. The ball must be placed on the spot and the penalty taker clearly identified.

b. The goalkeeper must remain on their goal line and between the goalposts until the penalty taker strikes the ball.

c. Other than the defending goalkeeper and the penalty taker, no other players are allowed in the box.

d. The player must kick the ball forwards and cannot touch the ball after striking it until another player has touched it.

Having struck the ball, it is now considered to be back in play.

A penalty that has been scored may be ruled out if an infraction has been committed either by the penalty taker or from one of their teammates running into the box too early.

If the penalty has been missed, it may still be taken again if the defending goalkeeper committed an infraction or if one of their teammates enters the box too early.

Rule #15 - The Throw In

The opponent of the player who last touched the ball when it went out of play anywhere along the touchlines receives a throw-in to restart play.

The throwing player must have both feet on the ground, face the pitch, and toss the ball above their head with both hands in order to throw it back into play properly.

If the player does anything wrong, the referee may declare a foul throw, in which case the throw may be given to the opposition.

Additionally, a player cannot directly score after a throw-in.

Rule #16 - The Goal Kick

When the ball is removed from play by the attacking team behind the goal line but before it has gone between the goal posts, a goal kick is given.

To restart play, the opposing team kicks the still ball from anywhere in the goal area.

In order for the kick to be valid, the ball must leave the penalty area, and the kicker is not permitted to touch the ball again until another player does.

No opponent may enter the penalty area while the goal kick is being taken.


soccer corner kick

Rule #17 - The Corner Kick

When the opposing team's goal line is crossed without the ball passing through the goalposts, a corner kick is given.

The ball is set up next to the corner flag and kicked by a member of the attacking team to score a corner kick.

All opposing players must stay at least 9.15 meters away from the corner until the ball resumes play.

A goal is scored when the ball is placed from a corner kick directly into the goal of the opposition (although this is very difficult to do!).

In a few instances, an infringement during corner-taking may be deemed to have occurred. The referee might ask for it to be taken again if there is a lot of shoving, for instance, in the penalty area.

If the player taking the corner unintentionally kicks the ball out of play, the opposing team may instead be given a goal kick.


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