Soccer Laws Explained

The International Football Association Board maintains and updates soccer’s rules and regulations on a yearly basis (IFAB). The board of directors is made up of eight members, four of whom are from FIFA and the other four from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, all of which have contributed to the sport’s development. The most recent edition of FIFA’s rule book is 140 pages lengthy, which is a bit much for a casual player who is just learning the game. As a result, we’ve put together a simplified version below that should help you understand the fundamentals of soccer. It’s also worth mentioning that, while FIFA provides a set of rules, national and regional leagues and organisations frequently alter them. As a result, you should always check with your coach, fellow players, or league manager if any rules differ from the norm.•

The Rules of the Game

IFAB presently recognises 17 soccer laws as the minimum requirements for every professional or international match. The following are the details:

Law 1: The Playing Field

Soccer can be played on grass or artificial turf, as long as the surface is green. The field must be rectangular in shape, with two short goal lines and two long-touch lines clearly indicated. The halfway line, which runs from the midpoints of each touchline, divides the field into two halves. A defined centre point is located at the midway point of the halfway line and is encircled by a 10-yard radius lined centre circle. During the possession team’s kick-off, opposing players are not permitted to join this circle. The touch line’s length must be bigger than the goal line’s length.

The following are the lengths of the regulations:

Touch line: 90 metres (100 yards) minimum, 120 metres maximum (130 yards)
Width (goal line): 45 m (50 yds) minimum, 90 m maximum (100 yds).
An eight-yard-wide goal is located along the goal line at each end of the field.
The goal box is six yards out into the field (perpendicular to the goal line) from each goal post along the goal line.
The penalty box extends 18 yards along the goal line and 18 yards out into the field (perpendicular to the goal line) from each goal post.
A five-foot-high corner flag is placed in each of the field’s four corners.

The Ball (Law 2)

A soccer ball must have a spherical form and be made of leather or a similar material. Its circumference should be between 27 and 28 inches. Because youth leagues frequently use a smaller ball that is better suited to children, this restriction only applies to properly sanctioned matches.

The Number of Players (Law 3)

Matches are usually contested between two 11-player teams. The goalkeeper is counted among the 11 players. The game is a forfeit if a team cannot field at least seven players at the start of the match. Smaller teams are frequently seen in youth leagues, where smaller teams are employed as a developmental aid. With the exception of friendly matches, FIFA-sanctioned matches are normally limited to three substitutes per match. Most young leagues allow an unlimited number of substitutes, but those players must be mentioned on the game card prior to the start of the game, otherwise they will be ineligible. Substitutions are allowed only at the halfway line, with the referee’s permission, and after the subbed-out player has exited the field. During a game stoppage, the goalie may be replaced by anyone on the field or any eligible substitute on the bench.

The Players’ Equipment (Law 4)

A shirt, shorts, shin guards, socks, and cleats are necessary for all players. The socks must completely cover the shin protectors. If a player’s equipment is deemed inadequate by the referee, the player may be sent off until the problem is resolved.

The Referee (Law 5)

On the pitch, the referee is the final authority, and his word is law. If you disagree with a referee’s judgement, you could be punished even more.

Assistant Referees (Law 6)

The assistant referees’ primary responsibility is to assist the referee in carrying out his duties, which includes signalling with a flag when a ball is out of play, a player is fouled, or a player is offside.

The Match’s Duration (Law 7)
A soccer match consists of two 45-minute halves, with extra time added at the discretion of the referee for each half. A half-time period of no more than 15 minutes separates the halves. Extra time is usually calculated by the referee based on how much time was lost due to substitutions and injuries. At the end of each 45-minute quarter, the amount of additional time is proclaimed and shown on the half line. Although soccer has a set time restriction, the decision to end a game is ultimately up to the referee.

The Start and Restart of Play (Law 8)

Kick-off is usually decided by a coin toss, with the winning team having the option of starting with the ball or attacking one of the goals. The losing team is then given the option that the winner does not choose. Kick-off occurs at the middle of the midway line at the start of each half and after each goal scored. If a team scores a goal, the kick-off is given to the opposite team to resume the game.

The Ball in and Out of Play (Law 9)

When the ball fully crosses either the goal line or the touch line, it is out of play. If the referee pauses play for any reason, it is also out of play. The ball remains in play if it contacts the goal frame or the referee for whatever reason and remains within the goal and touch lines.

The Method of Scoring (Law 10)

When the entire ball crosses the goal line within the goal frame, a goal is scored. Unless there is a compelling reason for extra time, the team with the most goals at the end of the game is declared the winner.

Offside (Law 11)

When receiving the ball in his opponent’s half, an attacking player must be level with or behind the second-to-last defender (the last typically being the goalkeeper). This regulation, however, only applies if he is actively engaging in the game. Please check the guide section for a more complete explanation of the offside rule.