Understanding the Laws of Soccer

Understanding the Laws of Soccer

Although soccer is becoming more popular every year across the US, the casual fan is still a little unsure of some of the rules.

It may not be seen as a manly a sport, such as MMA, or American football are. But it’s certainly a gentleman’s sport with a high level of competition.

There are armies of passionate fans around the globe, and some seriously popular and eccentric star players.

When compared to the rules of other sports such as American football and basketball, soccer is actually quite simple to explain. There aren’t a lot of rules. However, understanding the game better will enhance your enjoyment.

Every season soccer’s governing body FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) publishes their ‘Laws of the Game’. This is an updated list of the general rules of the game.

There are 17 key laws that cover all the major aspects of soccer. Knowing these can help you hold your own in any rules disagreement with other soccer fans. Or help you understand why a play is happening. Either way, it’ll leave you sounding, and looking like a pro.

So if you need to brush up on the rules of the game, here is a breakdown of the FIFA’s 17 laws of the game.

1. Field of Play

This is an interest factor with professional soccer. There is some flexibility with the size of the pitch, even with the professional matches on the world level. The rules state that the pitch length is required to be between 100 and 130 yards. With the width being between 50 and 100 yards.

2. Soccer Ball

The law states that the circumference of the soccer ball being used cannot be greater than 28″, and no less than 27″. The ball is made from leather or other similar material. It cannot weigh more than 16 oz, or less than 14 oz at the kick-off of each match.

3. Number of Players

Each team are to field 11 players. With one player being the goalkeeper. Interestingly a match can start with less than 11 players, but not if a team only has 6 or fewer players.

4. Players’ Equipment

Players are equipped with a shirt, shorts, socks, shinpads, and soccer boots. Each team has their own color kit, and there is a reserve kit with a different color in the event they clash with the opposition. Players are not permitted to wear anything that can cause harm to others, like jewellery or extra padding.

5. Referee

There is always a referee on the field. The referee has full authority to command and enforce laws during the game. Their decisions are final, and must be adhered to by the players. There are two assistant referees, and a forth official. The referee is responsible for checking the player’s equipment, the ball, and watching the game activity closely.

6. Assistant Referee

There are two assistant referees in every match, one on either side of the field. They call offsides, throw-ins, and fouls. They use a flag to gain the attention of the referee, discussing and aiding the referee with decisions. Monitoring the goal and side lines, they flag when the ball goes out of play.

7. Match Duration

A professional soccer match is 90 minutes in duration, split into two 45 minutes halves. The half-time break is 15 minutes, and only the referee has the authority to change this. Time will be added to the end of the match to cover injuries, substitutions, and other stoppages at the discretion of the officials.

8. Start and Restart of Play

There are several instances that play will start, and be interrupted. These are:

– Starting a match.
– When a goal is scored.
– At the end and beginning of a half.
– When entering extra time.
– When the referee blows for a foul.

9. Ball going in and out of play

The ball has gone out of play when the following happens:

– When it crosses a line on the field parameter.
– When play is stopped by the referee.

The ball is in play otherwise, or when the following happens:

– It hits the frame of the goal and stays in play.
– It hits a corner flag and stays in play.
– It hits the referee or assistants and stays in play.

10. Scoring Goals

Goals are scored when the entire ball crosses the goal line fully. The goal is defined by the area between the frame of the goal. This is considering there has not been a foul called by the referee.

The winning team is the team with the most goals at the final whistle. Is the number of goals are equal, the match is declared a draw.

In some competitions a winner needs to be decided. The outcome can be decided on a number of factors, such as:

– Extra-time added.
– Penalty shootout.
– Away goals rule.

11. Offside Rule

The offside rule is confusing for new soccer fans. If a player is offside when they are played the ball, that person cannot be involved in the play.

Players are in an offside position when they are closer to the oppositions goal line that the last defending player and the soccer ball. This is applicably when they are in the oppositions half of the pitch.

12. Misconduct and Fouls

The referee has the authority to stop play for fouls and misconduct by players. Their decision is final during the match, disputes can be raised afterwards.

13. Free Kicks

Free kicks are awarded when fouls are called. They are either indirect or direct, and the ball must always be stationary when the kick is taken. The player taking the free kick cannot touch the ball again until another player has touched it.

14. Penalty Kicks

When a foul is committed in the marked goal area a penalty kick is awarded. Before the penalty kick is taken, the referee must make sure the following is in place.

– The nominated kicker is known.
– The ball is on the penalty spot.
– The goalkeeper is in position.
– All other on field players are outside of the penalty area.

15, 16 and 17. Throw Ins, Goal Kicks, and Corner Kicks

When the ball crosses the touchline and goes out of play, the referee calls a throw in. The team that did not play the ball out of play take a throw in.

When the ball crosses the goal line outside of the goal posts a goal kick or corner is awarded. The attacking team take a corner, while the defending team take a goal kick.

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