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Basic Rules of Soccer Every Beginner Should Know

Call it a cleat sheet: the basic rules of soccer made simple and easy so that every fan and player can understand.

By George HermanPublished 6 years ago 9 min read
Top Story - November 2017

A complete guide to understanding soccer is a challenge to grasp in of itself. Not everyone may know the rules and regulations behind the game. I would raise the argument that the only people in the world who truly know them at their deepest and most fundamental are the referees, and still I'm sure many would disagree with me. Still, it is an important concept that everyone willing to appreciate the sport, or learn it better, must follow if they want to play at their best. Integrating more of these rules into some of their best Xbox One games is just one way EA Sports intends on revolutionizing fitness and health to provide superior benefits to eSports.

FIFA calls them the Laws of the Game, which I find particularly too formal, so I've decided to call it a cleat sheet. Even before we get into these rules, one should know how soccer operates. Two teams of 11 players go head to head on a pitch, duking it out for goals, which are made by striking a ball with either one's foot, head, or chest into the opponent's net, all within at least 90 minutes of playtime, unless both teams are tied or haven't scored. The game is also divvied up into two 45 minute halves that are regulated by a central ref and two linesmen, who set penalties, give conduct cards, and basically set the atmosphere of that particular game. Once you've got all of that down, it's pretty much simple from here onward. Soon enough, you'll be playing for the American teams, even if USMNT didn't make it to the World Cup. The basic rules of soccer every beginner should know aren't as difficult to grasp as you might believe.

Regulation Equipment

Not many people would think that your attire really affects the game all that much, but you'd be surprised. As one of the basic rules of soccer, jerseys, shinguards, footwear, shorts, and stockings are the only things allowed to be on a player's body. While it may seem silly to require certain pieces of attire, it makes sense to limit the possibilities of an injury and an infraction.

Shinguards are required for any type of soccer play, even league practice is often obligated to be played with shinguards on. They must be covered by stockings at all times and be of ample protection. As for footwear, players are allowed practically anything, even tennis shoes are technically legal. However, cleats are most optimal, just keep note that FIFA calls for only one clause when it comes to attire in general: nothing can be dangerous to you or another player, which includes jewelry. Keep aware of your attire before jumping into play.

No Hands

This isn't handball, nor is it football. Well, some might consider it more football than the American version, but I digress. The most important of all regulations among these basic rules of soccer has to be no hands. No player is allowed to use their hands to touch the ball. At all. Period. Yes, while goalkeepers are the only ones with the ability to pick up the ball, they can't use this power any moment they wish. Goalies must use their feet, and only their feet, when a teammate passes directly to them.

In soccer, players will tribble, kick, pass, and score using nothing but their feet. If refs see something involving the hands, they must determine whether it was one of two things: ball to hand, which is allowed, or hand to ball, obviously illegal. If a player purposely touches the ball at any point during the game, the ref will whistle the penalty, wherein the opposing team is given an indirect kick from the infraction point.

Field of Play

Soccer can be played on either grass or turf, though the former is much more well-received, since injuries are common on faux grass fields. The surface must be green in color and rectangular in shape, with distinct markers for the two short goal lines and the two long-touch lines. Length of the touch-line must be greater than the goal line.

There should be a dividing point in the center of the soccer field, called the halfway line, accompanied by a center point, which has a circle with a radius of 10 yards. Anywhere outside of the main rectangular field is out of bounds. From there on, regulation lengths are pretty standard and must be followed if one truly wants to understand and play the game how it should be played. It's one of the basic rules of soccer, so don't ignore it.


These occur when the soccer ball goes out of bounds. Basic rules of soccer tend to require both feet on the ground and both hands over one's head when preforming a throw-in. This means that a player can practically do anything, such as hop or run, before the ball is actually thrown.

A common misunderstanding is that a proper throw-in should not display spin on the ball, yet this is incorrect. Really good players can preform a throw-in and add spin by giving one side of the ball more or less force, depending on how that player wants to spin it and where he is throwing it to. The only stipulation to a throw-in is that it must be over the player's head, not to the side.


This pertains to how games are started and restarted after stoppage. A kick-off will occur for a number of different reasons: start of game, after a scored goal, at the start of the second half, and following each period of extra time, if needed. This is one of the most simple of all in the basic rules of soccer.

To accurately preform a kick-off, the ref or player will place the ball in the center of the field, with both teams within their own divided section. The opponents of the kick-off team must be ten yards away from the ball. Refs will whistle to show the start of the kick-off and the game officially begins when the player first kicks the ball into play. Keep in mind the two-touch rule: players cannot touch the ball twice when putting it into play. This also applies for corners, direct, and indirect kicks.

Corners and Goals

In the basic rules of soccer, the most fun regulation of them all must be goal kicks and corners. These occur depending on the situation at hand, though both happen when the ball crosses the goal line, subsequently going off the field and out of bounds. When a defending player kicks the ball out, the game is restarted with a corner kick, but if an offensive player kicks it out, then what follows is a goal kick. It's a relatively simple concept to understand.

The corner is when a player throws the ball back into play nearest to where it left the field. A goal kick is often taken from anywhere within the goalie box and can be taken by any player, not just the goalkeeper. If any of the players on the field touch the ball before it crosses over the penalty area, then the kick must be retaken, which is the same outcome if the player does not kick it well enough to leave the area.

Free Kicks and Penalty Kicks

If the ref stops play for an infraction, restart of the game tends to happen with either a direct or indirect kick. A direct kick is when the player can score directly, however an indirect kick is obviously when the player cannot score and must be touched by another player before it counts as a goal. The ball must be stationary and opposing players need to be ten yards away. Direct kicks tend to follow infractions, like a hand ball, and fouls, while an indirect kick is pretty much everything else.

Penalty kicks, on the other hand, have a little bit more weight to them. Though most pretty much consider them direct kicks, a penalty kick is the consequence of a contact foul or hand ball within the penalty box. Until the ball is kicked, players must stay outside of the penalty area and penalty arc, plus the goalie must keep both feet on the goal line. The ball becomes live no matter the situation, however if the ball hits the goal post and bounces away, the penalty kicker cannot touch the ball until touched by another player. Otherwise, if the ball bounces off the goalie, then the penalty kicker is free to go for the ball.

Punishing Fouls

Fouls, obviously, are when a player incites an infraction of the rules, whether by injuring or getting in the way of an opposing player. Most tend to go by the cliche that if something looks like a foul, it probably is, however I disagree with that statement. Not all fouls look like fouls, and not all non-fouls look like non-fouls. Even the ref can get it wrong sometimes, so be aware of what you can and can't do. Knowing these basic rules of soccer will greatly enhance your game, so be sure to keep fouls in mind while you're playing.

Players must not spit, kick, trip, charge, strike, push, or hold their opponent. While the game may not be as physical as other sports, there is still a physical side to it. When a foul is called, depending on how bad the infraction was, the fouling player will either get a yellow or a red card. The yellow is a simple warning, but the red means you're out of the game, which also means your team is down a player, since ejected players cannot be substituted. Two yellows equal a red, but that doesn't mean a player can't be called out for red without a yellow already present. Most fouls tend to be followed by a direct kick from the opposing team.


This seems like one of the most difficult to grasp in the basic rules of soccer, since quite nearly every player seems to mess this one up, which happens practically all the time, too. Even some coaches seem to misunderstand how this rule is regulated, so please pay attention. It's simple, in theory, but most people don't actually grasp it, which infuriates most hardcore soccer fans.

The most simple way to understand this rule is to see it as goal tending. An offside penalty occurs when a player is too closer to the opposing goal line than the ball and his second last teammate. Confusing? Yeah, this is why so many players and coaches seem to misuse the call entirely. Let's simplify it: players must stay in line, or even with their second to last defender as they bring the ball towards the goal line. Offensive players cannot be ahead of the ball when attacking, unless a defensive player is between him and the goal. The ruling can only be called when the ball is kicked, not when the player receives the pass.

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About the Creator

George Herman

Call me a nerd, that’s what I am: Star Wars fanatic, Grand Theft Auto champion, comic book connoisseur, and a long-time lyricist. So, call me a nerd, but that’s not all I am!

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