Basic Soccer Rules

Basic Soccer Rules
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Soccer: Different Name, Same Game

Whether you call it football, fussball, futebol, futbol, voetball, or just plain soccer, the basic rules of this beautiful game are the same. Now, if you are considering taking up beach soccer, street soccer, or freestyle, then the rules are quite different. For this article, however, we will not be discussing soccer hybrids, but rather the basic soccer rules of traditional soccer in America.

Key Rules of Soccer

Unlike sports such as American football, baseball, and even golf, soccer is a very simple, but intense game. The 17 laws of the game were first established in 1863, but they have been revised and updated to mesh with today’s modern soccer game. In short, a game lasts for 90 minutes. Two teams made up of eleven players each play the game. Both teams have a goalkeeper and a number of substitute players depending on the competition. Of the substitute players, named before each game, three can be brought onto the field during the course of the game with the referees consent. The referees decision is always final. The only way a referee can reverse a decision is immediately after a play or incident and if a play has not been restarted.

A goal is scored when the entire soccer ball crosses the goal line, between the goalposts and underneath the crossbar. As long as none of the Laws of the Game have been violated, the goal will give the scoring team a point. The winning team is the team that scores the most points. If there is a tie, the game is a “draw.” Overtime (extra time) is only played in a knock out competition, such as the World Cup, where a winner must be declared.


Basic Soccer Rules: Penalties and In and Out of Play

Penalties usually result in a penalty kick. What this means is, the offending team cannot interfere with a one-on-one shot (by a member of the violated team) with the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper must remain on the goal line as he faces the kicker. The other players will stand outside the penalty area behind the penalty spot. Once the penalty taker takes the shot, the ball is back in play. The player may not strike the ball again until another player has touched it.

A ball is out of play if it (the entire ball) has crossed a touchline (two lines running down the length of the field) or goal line. It does not matter if the ball is on the ground or in the air. A ball is in play if it rebounds off a crossbar, goal post, corner flag, or even a referee. As long as the ball lands on the field of play, it is fair game.


Cloake, Martin, et al. Soccer: The Ultimate Guide. New York: DK, 2010.

Crisfield, D.W. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Soccer. New York: Alpha, 1999.