Basic rules of soccer

By Rebecca Trumbo
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Soccer is a game of skill of which players use their feet to move a ball down the field (roughly the size of a football field) and kick it into the other team's goal. A soccer game consists of two 45-minute halves. Any time used to treat injured players or issue penalties gets added to the end of the game. Each team needs seven players, including the goalkeeper, to play, but usually each team usually plays 11 players at a time. While some positions vary and get a bit fancy, soccer players cover for basic positions.


The goalkeeper (also called goalie, keeper or goal tender) is the only player allowed to touch the ball with his/her hands while the ball is in play. S/he stays near the goal and may use his/her hands within the penalty box, which is the larger of the two boxes drawn on the field that extend from the goal. His/her main duty is to stop every shot from entering the goal.


The defenders play in front of the goalie and defend the goal. They usually pass the ball to players farther up the field rather than dribble the ball toward the opponent's goal themselves.


The midfielders (also called half-backs) usually run more than the other players. They move the ball between the defensive and offensive ends of the field with a combination of dribbling and passing. While they play the entire length of the field, they often position themselves between the defenders and the forwards.


The forwards are the players who score the most goals. They usually play between the midfielders and the other team's goal. Most of the forwards' game is to dribble briefly and shoot the ball to try to score.

The basic rules of soccer mostly deal with putting the ball into play.

Kick off

Before the game, a coin toss determines which team gets to choose between picking which goal they'll defend and kicking off to start the game. To kick off, one of the forward players kicks the ball off the center line, usually to a teammate.

Throw in

When the ball goes out of bounds on either side of the field, which ever team did not touch the ball last gets to throw the ball back into play. The throw in takes place at the point where the ball left the field and requires a player to throw the ball with both hands extending from behind his head while keeping his feet on the ground.

Goal kick

When the offensive team makes the ball goes out of bounds at the end of the field (aptly called an end line), the defensive team gets a goal kick. A player from that team may kick the ball from the ground anywhere within the goal area. The ball cannot be touched again until it leaves the penalty box.

Corner kick

When the defensive team makes the ball go out of bounds at the end of the field, the offensive team gets a corner kick. A player from that team kicks the ball into play from either corner of that end of the field. The other players may touch the ball as soon as it's kicked.

Some of the basic rules of soccer gives penalties to teams and players who break them. Those rules include players using their hands and any action the referees deem dangerous play and inappropriate play.

Hand infractions and other not-so-serious fouls give indirect free kicks to the other team. The player to kicks during the free kick may do so from the point of the infraction, as determined by the ref. The ball must touch one other player before going into the goal.

Dangerous plays and other physical contact infractions lead to direct free kicks for the other team. During a direct free kick, the ball may go directly into the goal for a score, without touching any other players first.

Penalty kick

If an infraction occurs within the penalty box (or penalty area), the other team gets to kick the ball directly at the goal from a point 12 feet away, with no players other than the goalkeeper in the way. During a penalty kick, the goalkeeper must not move until the ref blows his whistle to start the kick.

Yellow card

If a player violates the rules or shows unsportsmanlike conduct, the referee can issue a caution. The caution is called a yellow card, which is the color of the card he shows the player as a warning.

Red card

If a player makes an extreme infraction, the referee can kick that player out of the game by showing her a red card. A player can also receive a red card by getting two yellow cards during one game.

If a player passes the ball to a teammate who has moved into the defensive team's end of the field ahead of the ball, the team would be called off-sides. The other team would then get an indirect kick. Players cannot be called off-sides during goal kicks, corner kicks and throw ins. Off-sides is usually the most confusing rule.

Now that you're familiar with how soccer works, you can play games with your friends or even get ready for the World Cup Madness in 2010 - until then, you can find a favorite team so you can cheer them on.

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