Int'l Coaches Association
Soccer Coaching Int'l

Rules of the Game

Soccer is governed around the world by FIFA. There are 17 major rules, which are officially referred to as the Laws of the Game. Following is an adaptation of each law, modified by the Jackson Soccer Club for the youth game. Also refer to the Jackson Soccer Club Intramural Policies and Rules above for additional modifications. This document is intended to provide a common understanding of the rules and is in no way meant to represent the FIFA (official) laws. Where this description is unclear, the FIFA language should be used. For the complete and official Laws of the Game, visit

Law 1    The Field of Play. The field is a rectangle divided in half with a goal centered at each end. There is a circle surrounding the center of the field. At each goal, there exists a penalty area and a goal area, both of which are marked with lines. The penalty area represents space where if a nasty foul is committed or the ball is touched by a hand illegally, a penalty kick is taken. (See Law 14). The goal area represents the space in which the team taking a goal kick (Law 16) may place the ball when putting it back into play. The four corners of the field are marked with small arcs  used when taking a corner kick (Law 17).

Law 2      The Ball. The ball may not be changed during the match without approval of the referee.

Law 3      Number of Players. For any game each team will have 11 players on the field at one time, one of which is the goalkeeper.. In our intramural (rec) program, we play all games under the age of 11 with 8 players each.

Law 4      Player’s Equipment. Players must wear a shirt, shorts, shinguards, socks, and footwear. Players cannot use equipment or wear anything dangerous to themselves or another player (including jewelry). Referee has final authority on whether equipment is unsafe.

Law 5      The Referee. The referee controls the game and enforces the Laws of the Game.

Law 6       Assistant Referees. Sometimes there will be Assistant Referees at your game. They help the referee with indicating throw-ins, corner kicks, goal kicks and which team takes them as well as monitoring offside.

Law 7     Duration of Match. The length of the game will be 2 equal haves. See item 2 in the Rules and Policies.

Law 8      Start and Restart of Play. The game is started with a kick-off, which means a player touches the ball and then lets someone else touch it before he touches it again. If this doesn’t work out right, the ref lets the child try it again. Generally, you will have a coin toss before the game. The winner of the toss gets to choose which goal his team will attack. The other team gets to kick-off. To start the second half, the teams switch ends and the other team gets to kick-off. Keep in mind that all the players on the other team must wait outside the circle in the center of the field until the ball is touched. And players from both teams must be on their own half of the field before the ref will allow the kick-off, and they can’t cross the line until the ball is touched.  




 A drop ball is a method of restarting play after a stoppage that becomes necessary for any reason not covered
 by the Laws of the Game. The referee will drop then ball, usually between two players. The ball is in play after
 it touches the ground, and the ball cannot be touched by a player until after it touches the ground.

Law 9     The Ball In and Out of Play. The ball goes out of play when the whole ball crosses the imaginary plane that extends from the sideline or endline to the sky. On the ground or in the air, remember that the whole ball has to completely cross the line. This is the same for goals. Technically speaking, a ball that crosses into the goal is now out of play.

Law 10   Method of Scoring. A goal is scored when the whole ball has crossed the goal line and into the goal and no infringements to the Laws were committed by the scoring team.  The goalie could lie down on his belly inside the goal with his arms fully extended to hold the ball with 99% of the ball across the line, but this is not a goal. Refs are allowed to confer with their Assistants to make sure a goal is valid.

Law 11   Offside. This is the most difficult call in the game, it is certainly the most controversial call in the game, and as any ref will tell you, the most misunderstood rule in the world. But here it is: No player on the team trying to score is allowed to be closer to the goal than the ball or the second last defender on the other team when the ball is played to them by a teammate. A player could be in an offside position but not be called for offside if the ball was not played directly to them and the ref feels that the player wasn’t interfering with play or gaining an advantage. Offside doesn’t exist if you are in your own half of the field, and you can’t be offside from a throw-in or goal kick. See FIFA’s Laws of the Game for more explanations.

Law 12   Fouls and Misconduct. You can’t use your hands unless you’re the goalie. And you can’t be nasty to players on the other team. You can’t kick, hit, jump at, charge, spit at, swing at, trip, push, pull, or scream at the other team’s players. Any of these things may result in a player being sent off the field for the rest of the game (Red Card). There are lesser offenses that result in a Yellow Card. Two Yellow Cards in 1 game equals a Red Card.. 

 Law 13   Free Kicks. When play is stopped for a foul, the other team starts things back up with a free kick. A direct kick can be shot straight into the goal. An indirect kick must touch someone else first. Direct kicks are for fouls against people and a hand-ball. Indirect free kicks are for fouls against the rules of the game. The defending team cannot crowd the kick and must be at least 10 yards away from the ball (slightly less distance for the younger ages).

Law 14   The Penalty Kick. A direct kick given as a result of a foul inside the penalty area is called a penalty kick (PK). The kick is taken from the penalty spot, which officially is 12 yards from the goal line, though closer for our younger age groups. Only the goalie may try to defend the PK. All other players on both teams must be outside the penalty area and behind the penalty mark until the ball is touched. The ref signals and the shooter must take the shot. The goalie may move side to side but cannot come forward until the ball is touched. The ball must touch another player before the shooter can touch it again.

Law 15   The Throw In. If the ball goes out of bounds on the sidelines, a player from the other team must throw it back into play. Both feet must be touching the ground and part of each foot must be on or behind the sideline. The ball comes from behind and over the head with both hands and can be taken immediately. At this point it is important to note that only the kick-off and penalty kicks require a signal from the referee before being done.

Law 16   The Goal Kick. When a team kicks the ball over the other team’s endline, but not in the goal, a goal kick is used to get the ball back into play. The ball is placed anywhere inside the goal box. Once kicked, it must get outside the penalty area before anyone on either team may touch it. The ball is not in play until it has left the penalty area. It also must touch another player before the kicker goalie can touch it again. If it doesn’t clear the area, the kick must be retaken, no matter how many times it takes. Also, do not teach or allow your players to build a wall and defend the goal kick. This is an poor strategy to deploy at younger levels and it flat out wouldn’t work above the age of 10.

Law 17   The Corner Kick. If a team kicks a ball out across their own end line, the other team is given a corner kick from the corner nearest where the ball went out. One player kicks the ball into play and cannot touch it again until touched by another player. Again, allow room for the player to kick the corner kick. Defenders must allow the same space as for free kicks.

Special notes regarding goalkeepers. Goalkeepers are allowed to use any part of their bodies to play the ball while in the penalty area. Once outside it, they are treated the same as all other players. Once the goalie picks the ball up, he can move anywhere inside the penalty area to get rid of the ball, but must do so within 6 seconds. Once he releases the ball from his hands, he cannot pick it up again until touched by another player. AND HE CANNOT PICK THE BALL UP FROM AN INTENTIONAL PASS FROM HIS TEAMMATES. This last statement is not enforced at our younger levels.










The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of the hands or arms. He could have only one finger on the ball but is considered to have possession. Opponents cannot kick the ball away from the goaltender when they have possession, so instruct your players not to continue kicking at the ball or goalie in these situations. If, in the opinion of the ref, the ball rebounds from the goalie when attempting a save, there is no possession. However, in the youth game, for safety reasons, most refs will consider the goalie to have possession if the ball is close to the goalie even if the ball is loose from a rebound.

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