Soccer Rules Explained: A Complete Guide for Beginners (2024)

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What are the basic must-know soccer rules? Understanding the rules of the beautiful game is important for any coach, fan, or player, youth all the way up to the professional level.

Many variations of soccer have been played throughout history, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that the International Football Association Board of England established the official rules, or laws of the game.

FIFA, which was created in 1904, is the current governing body of soccer, and it is responsible for overseeing the game and establishing all of the rules. This blog will cover the most important soccer rules to know if you are a beginner or need a review of the soccer rules.

Soccer rules

Soccer Rules: Equipment

One of the reasons why soccer is the most popular sport in the world is because it is simple to play and hardly any equipment is needed to start enjoying it. All you really need to start playing is your bare feet and a ball.

However, if you are trying to join an official soccer team and want to play recreationally or competitively, there is specific equipment that you will need to start playing such as the following:

Soccer rules

Soccer Rules: The Field

Now that you know what equipment is needed for soccer, let’s talk about where all the magic happens, the soccer field. A soccer field is typically referred to as a football pitch and they have a lot of important markings to know about.

Most, if not all, professional soccer fields will follow FIFA’s rules and regulations, so they will all be around the same size although there are slight variations from time to time depending on the league, level of play, stadium size, etc. Here are the most important markings on the soccer field.

  • The center circle, which has the center spot in the middle of the field for kickoff, is at the center line of the field.
  • There is also a corner flag at each corner arc, which separates the goal line and the sidelines.
  • There is a penalty box on both sides of the field, and fouls committed inside this area may result in a penalty kick. Within each penalty box there is also a smaller rectangular area where the goalie takes goal kicks from.
  • The penalty kick is taken from the penalty spot, which is 12 yards away from the opponent’s goal line.
  • The long vertical lines are the sidelines, and the horizontal lines behind the goal boxes are called the goal lines.

Soccer rules

Soccer Rules: The Squad

A standard soccer squad has up to 23 players on game day, consisting of 11 starting players and 12 bench players. In the best leagues in the world, teams are only allowed up to five substitutions per game, but youth levels, college levels, and other levels may allow more than that.

Each player has a specific position on the field, each with unique roles, skills needed, and different placements. Depending on the team’s formation and tactics, the team’s starting XI will consist of one goalie and varying defenders, midfielders, and forwards.

  • Goalkeeper:
    • They are the only players allowed to grab the ball with their hands but only if they are inside their penalty area. Their primary role is to prevent opponents from scoring by blocking shots at goal.
  • Defenders:
    • The main job of defenders is to help the goalie and not allow the opposing team to score goals. The defenders are made up of center-backs and fullbacks, who can often play more as wing backs. The full backs are made up of the left and right full backs.
  • Midfielders:
  • Forwards:
    • The main job of forwards is to create goal scoring opportunities for their teammates as well as get assists and score goals themselves. The forwards are made up of center forwards, strikers and wingers, who are the left and right wingers.

A team must have at least seven players on the field to be eligible to play. This means if a team gets six red cards and cannot field at least seven players, they forfeit the match.

Soccer rulesSoccer Rules: Gameplay

To better understand the gameplay of soccer, it is important to go over some basic rules. In leagues governed by FIFA, and most other leagues around the world, a soccer match will last 90 minutes with two 45 minute halves separated by a 15 minute half-time break.

However, stoppage time may be added to compensate for delays caused by factors during a match, such as time wasted during substitutions, fouls, injuries, throw-ins, and celebrations. The referee gets to choose the amount of stoppage time added on after the 45 minutes based on how much time they believe was wasted.

One important thing to note is that stoppage time differs from extra time. Stoppage time, or injury time, is the time added on to a regular half after 45 minutes, and the referee determines this, while extra time signifies two more halves, which are 15 minutes each. Each extra time half will have stoppage time once the clock hits 15 minutes.

Here is a quick summary of all of the major gameplay rules of the game to remember.

  • Each team consists of 11 players on the field and bench players to be used as subs
  • substitution rules vary depending on the level and age group
  • Players must follow the kickoff rules
  • A simple coin toss between the two team captains will determine who kicks off
  • The game begins when the referee blows the whistle
  • The team with the most goals at the end of 90 minutes is the winner
  • If the match needs a winner and cannot end in a draw, such as during tournaments and play-offs, the match will go into extra time, a penalty shootout, or both.
  • Only the goalie can use their hands inside the goalie box
  • Fouls have specific consequences, including penalty kicks or free kicks.
  • A referee can give players a yellow or red card based on the severity of a foul that has been committed
  • Teams cannot break the offside rule

Soccer rulesSoccer Rules: Out-of-Bounds Scenarios

One important part of soccer gameplay is knowing what to do during out-of-bounds scenarios.

Ball Goes out-of-bounds through the Sideline

When players fly the ball beyond the sidelines, their opponents get a throw-in from that spot. This rule encourages participants to keep the ball in play whenever possible.

Here are the basic steps for taking proper throw-ins:

  • The thrower must have both feet firmly planted on or behind the touchline.
  • The ball must completely cross the boundary line before it’s considered out.
  • The thrower can only re-enter play once another player touches the thrown ball.

Goal Kicks versus Corner Kicks

When players fly the ball beyond the goal lines, there are multiple ways to restart play. A goal kick is given to the defending team when an attacking player is the last to touch the ball before it goes past the end line without scoring. The goal kick can be taken by the goalie or anyone else on the team.

On the flip side, a corner kick happens when the defensive team is the last to touch the ball before it goes past their goal line without scoring. These rules create exciting strategic opportunities for each team during a game. Also, there is usually a designated corner kick taker for the right and left sides, but it may be the same player.

  1. The goalkeeper usually takes the goal kicks and can place the ball anywhere within the six-yard box without the opponent pressing inside the penalty area. After the kick, the opposing team is allowed to enter the penalty area.
  2. Corner kicks, on the other hand, are a bit more complex as they’re often used as set pieces to score directly from inside the opponent’s penalty box. A play can score directly from a corner kick, but that is pretty rare.

Soccer rulesSoccer Rules: Fouls and Consequences

The FIFA Laws state that players cannot purposely foul others, but accidental fouls are part of the game. However, whether a foul is intentional or not, the severity of the foul will be determined by the referee, who can punish players for misconduct and foul play.

Kicking intentionally, punching intentionally, tripping opponents on purpose, and biting players will lead to you getting punished by the referee, so these are things that you want to make sure stay away from the beautiful game. Assistant referees are great at spotting these kinds of things that some main referees may miss sometimes.

When a foul is committed, depending on the severity of the foul, a referee can give a player a yellow or red card. A yellow card acts as a warning, and a red card means the player has to be sent off the field and leave their team down a man.

Also, depending on where the foul took place, a team can either get a penalty kick if the foul was committed inside the goalie box or a free kick if the foul was outside the goalie box.

There are two types of free kicks: indirect and direct free kicks, which also depend on the type of foul committed. A direct free kick means the team can shoot directly at goal from that kick, while an indirect free kick means another teammate must touch the ball before playing it forward.

Soccer rulesSoccer Rules: Goal Scoring Rules

The main goal of soccer is to score more goals than the opposing team, but how exactly does a soccer goal count?

In order for a goal to count the entire ball has to cross the opponent’s goal line between the posts and under the crossbar. It doesn’t matter if it rolls on the ground or flies through the air; if the ball has crossed the line without being touched by hand or arm, it counts as a legitimate goal.

The ball does not even have to hit the back of the net, but the entire ball does have to cross the goal line. This rule may seem simple enough, but there can be some confusion during heated matches, which is why nowadays referees use goal-line technology to make sure whether a ball crosses the goal line or not.

The soccer goal must also have specific dimensions, which will vary depending on the level and age of the group of players.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How do you get better at soccer?

To get better at soccer you have to play the game a lot in a team environment, play a lot of variations of soccer such as pickup games, play a lot of other sports, as well as take care of the following areas of your life:


In conclusion, understanding the rules of the game is important for any aspiring player, coach, or fan. In this blog, I covered everything that you need to know about the basic rules of soccer such as equipment needed, field layout, positions, gameplay rules, out-of-bounds scenarios, fouls and consequences, as well as the goal scoring rules.

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