Simplified Laws of the Game

There are a couple of different publications that seek to simplify the rules or Laws of the Game (LOTG) for soccer. I am going to share simplified LOTG one at a time. This may sound like a daunting task, but there are only 17 LOTG total. We will review them at a rate of approximately one a day, give or take.

The first six Laws of the Game (LOTG) deal with the playing environment. The field, the ball, players, player equipment, Referees and Assisant Referees.

Law #1: The Field of Play

Goal (Box) Area  is the small rectangle nearest the goal and is sometimes referred to as "the six".

Penalty (Box) Area is the larger rectangle that surrounds the and includes the Goal Box. It is often referred to as "the 18".

Penalty Mark is the hash mark or small circle located half way between the top of the Goal Box and the Penalty Box directly in front of the goal. This is where Penalty Kicks are taken from.

The "D" or Penalty Arc is the small semi-circle that sits atop of the Penalty Box and is used only on Penalty Kicks to restrain players at 10 yards from the penalty Mark.

Corner Arcs are 1 yd semi-circles found at each corner of a field. Corner kicks originate from within these arcs.

Goal Lines are the lines marking the ends of the field

Touch Lines are the lines marking the sides of the field

Center Circle is the large circle in the center of the field.

The size of a field or "pitch" vary in size dependent on age and number of participants. Typical guidelines are as follows:

6 v 6 play on a field between 35 to 45 yds by 45 to 60 yds

8 v 8 play on a field between 45 - 55 yds by 70 - 80 yds

11 v 11 play on a field between 50-80 yds by 100 - 130 yds

Law #2 The Ball

Soccer balls come in 3 basic sizes. Typical guidelines are as follows.

U4 - U7 often use a size 3 soccer ball

U8 - U12 use a size 4 soccer ball

U13 - Adult use a size 5 soccer ball

Law #3 Number of Players

General Guidelines

U8 - U10 play 6 v 6

U11 - U12 play 8 v 8

U13 and above play 11 v 11

I state these are general guidelines. Most "states" within USYSA have adopted these guidelines but not all governing bodies have. Some organizations prefer to play 11 v 11 at all ages. Other's use 4 v 4 at the youngest ages. Check with your local organization to verify the number of players allowed for a specific age group younger than U13.

Law # 4 Players equipment

Everyone on a soccer team must wear matching jerseys each with a different number

The Goalkeeper must wear a jersey that contrasts in color with those worn by his teammates and the opponents jerseys as well.

All players must wear shin guards.

*** In most instances a team will be required to wear matching shorts and socks as well.

*** Many organizing authorities are requiring the GK's jersey to be numbered as well.

*** The home team typically wears white with the visitors wearing a colored jersey.

*** In the event the two teams have jerseys of the same color, the home team is required to change.

Law #5 The Referee

The Referee,usually referred to as the Center Referee, is the official on the field.

Sometimes there are 2 Referees on the field. See this often in high school soccer.

The Referee is in charge of all game related matters including enforcement of the Laws of the Game and keeping the official game clock.

The Referee's decisions are final.

Law # 6 The Assistant Referees

Assistant Referees are often refereed to as AR's

There is a Senior AR or SAR and a Junior AR or JAR

Assistant Referees are the people carrying flags along the sidelines

They aid the Center Referee by using the flags to signal out of bounds, infractions of the rules and substitutions.

Laws of the Game 7 - 10 deal with dynamics of the game such as length of game, start of play, ball in and out of play and method of scoring.

Law # 7 Duration of Game

I encourage you to check with your local organizing authority for specific length of game regulations as these can vary widely dependent on age. What I provide below are general guidelines from USSF.

U7 and younger often play 4 quarters of 10 minutes each
U8 - U10 play two 25 minutes halves
U11 - U12 play two 30 minute halves
U13 - U14 play two 35 minute halves
U15 - U16 play two 40 minute halves
U17 and above play two 45 minute halves

In Ohio High School soccer a Junior Varsity contest consists of two 36 minute halves while a varsity contest consists of two 40 minute halves.

Law #8 The Start of Play

The game begins with a kickoff.

The ball is placed in the excat center of the center circle.

One player must move the ball forward to initiate play. This player may not touch the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player on the field.

Unless otherwise specified by league or tournament rules a coin toss is used to determine which of the two teams will kickoff to begin a game.

The team that did not kick off to begin the game will take the kick off to begin play in the second half.

Law #9 The Ball In and Out of Play

The entire ball must cross a sideline or an endline before the ball is deemed to be out of play.

This is different than American football where the point of the ball merely needs to break the plane of the goal line for a score to be made. In soccer the entire ball must cross the goal line fora goal to be scored.

Law #10 Method of Scoring

A goal is scored when the entire ball completely crosses the endline between the goal posts and under the cross bar.

This must be accomplished by legal means. With the exception of the arms and hands, any part of the body may be used to score the soccer ball.

A foul or infraction may not be committed in scoring a goal.

Laws # 11 - 14 deal with misconduct and penalties.

Law #11 Offside

First of all a clarification for American's. The correct term is offside, with no "s" on the end. Offsides occurs in American football, not soccer. Offside is probably the most difficult LOTG of soccer for spectatos to understand and interpret.

1) An attacking player must be behind the ball OR have two defending players between him and the goal when the ball is played to him.

2) A player cannot be offside on his own half of the field.

That's the simplest explanation I can give.


Offside does not have to be called on a player in an offside position. A determination is made by the referee crew if that player is involved with play.

The call of offside is NOT always made immediately upon the ball being played forward to a teammate. The proper technique for the AR and CR is to wait until a play is made on the ball by a player in an offside position. If no play is made on the ball by an atacking player in an offside position, play is not stopped and continues with a defender playing the ball.

Furthermore, you cannot be offside when receiving the ball directly from a thrown-in , on a goal kick in your favor or if you receive a ball directly from a corner kick.

This is a link to an excellent animated explanation of offside. It does a far better job than my written word can do.

Law # 12 Fouls and Misconduct.

Many people new to the game are surprised to learn there are only 17 Laws of the Game.

They tend to be just as surprised there are only 10 fouls in the game of soccer and another 8 misconduct violations all contained in one LOTG. We will look at the 10 fouls of the game today and take on the misconducts tomorrow.

The 10 basic fouls in soccer

1) Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
2) Trips or attempts to trip an opponent
3) Jumps at an opponents
4) Charges an opponent
5) Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
6) Pushes an opponent
7) Tackles an opponent
8) Holds an opponent
9) Spits at an opponent
10 Handles the bal deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area.

The consequence for each of these 10 "major" fouls is the awarding of a DIRECT Free Kick, from the spot of the foul, to the opposing team. If the foul was committed in the inside the players own Penalty Area, a Penalty Kick is awarded.

Direct Free Kicks will be covered in LOTG #13

Penalty Kicks will be covered in LOTG #14

In addition to the 10 fouls that can result in a Direct Free Kick there are "Miscounduct Fouls" that result in an Indirect Free Kick.

The first 4 apply to the GK within his own Penalty Area.

If the GK controls the ball with his hands for more than 6 seconds before releasing it from his possession. (This is rarely enforced unless the time limit is seriously abused)

If the GK touches the ball again after releasing it fron his possession. ( Again rarely enforced in the sense CR's allow GKer's to bounce the ball.

Touches the ball with his hands after a teammates has deliberately kicked the ball to him.

Touches the ball with his hands after having received it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate.


An Indirect Free kick is also awarded for any of the following:

If in the opinion of the referee, a player plays in a dangrous manner

If in the opinion of the referee, a player impedes the progress on an opponent

If in the opinion of the referee, a player prevents the goalkepper from releasing the ball from his hands.

If in the opinion of the referee, a player commits any other offence, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or send of a player.


Indirect Free Kicks are taken from the spot where the offence occurred,


Disciplinary Sanctions (issuance of Yellow or Red cards) are also covered under Law 12

A yellow card is shown to communicate a player has been cautioned.

A red card is shown to communicate a player has been sent off or "kicked out of the game"

Cautionable Offences:

Unsporting behavior
Dissent by word or action
Persistent Infringement of the LOTG.
Delaying restart of play
Failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted

Sending Off Offences:

Serious foul play
Violent Conduct
Spitting at any person
Denying a goal by deliberately handling the ball. GK's exepted, obviously.
Denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity by an offence punishable by a Free Kick or a Penalty Kick.
Use of offensive, insulting or abusive language and /or gestures
Receiving a second yellow card caution in the same match.

Law 13 Free Kicks

The ball must be stationary when the kick is taken

Opponents must be 10 yards from the ball when the kick is taken. One exception to this rule is if the team taking the kick chooses to go with a quick restart.

On a Direct Free Kick the ball may be played directly into the goal without another player touching it.

On an Indirect Free Kick the ball may not be played directly into the goal.

The referee will signal an Indirect Free Kick by bove his head and leaving it in that position until the kick has been taken and the ball has been touched by another player or goes out of play.

Law # 14 Penalty Kick

A Penalty Kick is awarded when a foul that would normally result in a Direct Free Kick is committed in the fouling teams own penalty area.

The ball is placed on the penalty mark which is located 12 yards from the goal line and directly in front of the goal.

Only the kicker, goalkeeper and the referee are allowed inside the penalty area including the arcfor the taking of the penalty kick.

No other player may enter the penalty area until the ball has been struck.

Laws 15-17 deal with restarting play after the ball has been played out of bounds.

Law #15 The Throw-in

A throw-in is used to restart the game after the ball has been played out of bounds over an sideline.

The team that did not play the ball out of bounds takes the throw-in.

The ball must be held in both hands

The ball must go behind thehead and come directly over the head to the point of release.

Both feet must remain in contact with the ground on or outside of the sideline until after the ball is released.

Law #16 The Goal Kick

If the attacking team plays the ball over the end line, the defnding team restarts the game with a goal kick.

The ball may be placed anywhere within the goal area (goal box).

The ball must clear the Panalty Area before it may be touched a second time.

If a goal kick fails to clear the Penalty Area, the goal kick is retaken.

Law #17 The Corner Kick

If the defending team plays the ball over the endline the attacking team is awarded a corner kick.

There is no offside on a corner kick.

This is a direct free kick meaning it is possible to score directly from the corner kick.

Corner kicks are taken from the 1 yd quarter arc located at the junction of the endline and sideline.

This concludes our presentation of Simplified Laws of the Game. We hope you have found this helpful and useful. If you have any questions, please ask. In fact, I have asked my son Grant to contribute to the sight. He is quickly moving up the referee ranks, already instructs, and I believe he will become an assessor and an assignor here shortly if this has not already taken place. When those odd situations arise and you are not quite sure if the referees got it right, Grant may be able to provide some in sight. Direct those questions to and we will present them here on C.B.A. Soccer.

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