Striving for excellence in all we do!


(Courtesy of Miles Ball)


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Following is a summary of soccer for the parent who wants to learn more. This is by no means all the rules listed in the three 100 plus page books a referee must study, but it will help.



(Soccer to us Americans)


Documented history of soccer’s roots goes back to China in the 3rd century BC. The game as we know it came from Britain in the 8th century, with formal rules drafted by England’s Eton College in 1815. 



(The Pitch)





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There are two types of referees, the Referee (center referee) and the Assistant Referee (sideline referee). 


The Center Referee (CR) is in charge and makes all final decisions. Unlike tackle football where calls are often black and white, many soccer calls are the Referee’s opinion and final. He or she controls the “tone” of the game with the use of foul calls along with their yellow and red cards. In addition, only the Center Referee will issue a yellow or red card. 


The Assistant Referee (AR) assists the Center Referee with his area of the field in calling out of bounds (play), offside and fouls. The Assistant Referee uses their flag to communicate with the Center Referee. Sometimes the Center Referee may see a call differently and decline the call by waving it off. 


Sometimes you may see the “dual system”, in essence two Center Referees, one on each side of the field. 




Most soccer is played in two 45-minute halves; Younger ages in 35 and 25; with a 10-minute halftime for all. In tournaments the halves are normally shortened 5 or 10 minutes in order to fit all the games into the time allowed. Plus, there are no timeouts in soccer. 


Unlike high school soccer, normal soccer does not have “stoppage or timeout” time except for injury or heat by order of the referee. Normally the referee will add some time at the end of the half, typically 2 or 3 minutes for injury stoppage time.



(Out of Bounds)


When a ball goes fully over the lines around the field it is “out of play” and needs to be brought “back into play”. The entire ball must be past the outer edge of the line to be out of play. A player may go off the field and kick the ball before it passes the edge of the line.


Depending on where it went out and who last touched the ball, “back into play” will be one of the three:


1 – Throw In


Ball is out over the touch line (side). Went out on the last player to touch the ball and given to the other team. The player doing the throw in must have both feet on the ground when the ball is released and use both hands to throw from behind and over the head. The player’s feet may be over the touch line but not totally over it.


The ball must pass over the plane of the outside edge of the touch line, if not, the ball is awarded to the opponent as a throw in.


2 – Goal Kick


Awarded when the ball goes out of bounds over the goal line (end) and an attacking player last touched it. Ball is put back into play by kicking from anywhere in the goal area and must pass outside the penalty area into the field before it is in play. The attacking team must stay out of the penalty area until the ball is in play. Once the ball is in play, the kicker may not touch the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player.


3 – Corner Kick


Awarded when the ball goes out of bounds over the goal line (end) and a defensive player last touched it. An attacking player will kick from the corner to the goal. The opposing team must remain at least 10 yards from the ball as it is kicked. A goal may be scored directly from this kick. The kicker may not touch the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player.






This is by far one of the least understood rules by parents and coaches alike.


First, it’s not offside if a player receives the ball directly from a corner kick, goal kick or throw-in at the point the ball is put back into play. But, once the ball is touched again you could be offside. Also, it is not offside for a player to simply be in the offside position; the player must be involved in active play as determined by the referee to be called offside. Plus, you cannot be offside if you are standing on your half of the field.

There are two parts to the rule:

1 – The player is in an offside position if they are nearer to his opponent’s goal line than the ball or the second to last opponent. In other words you must have the ball or two defenders (generally one is the keeper) between or even with you and the goal at the moment the ball is touched by one of your teammates.

2 – You must be actively involved in the play. This is determined by the Referee.

You will see the AR running up and down the field. He is in line with the second to last defender (not the keeper) or the ball. He is watching to see if an attacking player crosses over that line to the goal and at the same time listening for the ball being kicked. If an attacking player is between the last defender and keeper when the ball is touched the attacking player may become offside if the attacking player becomes involved in the play. Keep in mind the law applies when the ball is kicked, not when the player receives the ball. So, an attacking player can be onside when the ball is kicked, she beats the defender to the ball and goes to goal, this is not offside, she was onside when the ball was touched and simply out ran the defender to the ball. 



The easiest way to understand soccer's offside rule is to see it. Here, the attacking player in the red jersey on the left is offside because he is behind the defenders before the ball is played to him. Notice the ball kicked from his teammate on the far right. I know it's blurry but a good example. Now if the player plays the ball he will be called offside ... or at least should be.


Penalty for offside - Indirect Free Kick



(Hand Ball) 


Again, another rule that is sometimes hard to understand. A couple of points to clarify:

1 – The law for handling includes using any part of the body from the tips of the fingers to the shoulder.

2 – The proper way to look at the law is that a player cannot “handle” the ball. A ball that is kicked and hits a player’s hand or arm may not be handling. This means that the referee must use their judgment to determine if it’s accidental contact or if a purposeful attempt to “gain advantage” was used.
Put another way, the referee must determine if:
The ball hit the hand (legal)
The hand hit the ball (illegal)


The basic concept is “gain advantage” if the referee sees the player directing the ball with hand/arm movement it is handling. It is not handling if before the ball is put into play for girls using their arms to protect their chest or boys to protect their groin. In other words, if the player puts their arm to their chest or hands over groin after the ball has been played; the referee should call handling. 
Penalty for handling – Direct Free Kick
Keeper pass-back rule – a keeper cannot pick up a pass that was kicked directly from one of their teammates; they must use their feet.

Penalty for pass-back – Indirect Free Kick



Think of this as two parts – Fouls and then Misconduct.


Fouls - There are two categories of fouls, penal and technical. The penalties for fouls are awarding a Free Kick to the opposing team. A foul is awarded when the Referee feels it was done in a “careless” manner.


Misconduct - Can be an included part of some fouls, or can be unrelated to a foul. The Referee will issue a card when a foul was committed in a “reckless” (yellow) or “excessive” (red) manner. The penalties for misconduct are the issuing of a Caution (yellow card) or Disqualification or ejection (red card).




In general, a player cannot kick, trip, jump at, charge, strike, and push, hold, spit at a person or use foul language (attempts too many of these is just as bad). However, bumping or going shoulder-to-shoulder while competing for a ball is not a foul until the hands or elbows come up. This is a judgment call by the referees. If a player falls down in the process of going for the ball it may or may not be a foul, which is part of soccer, the Referee has to decide was it done in a “careless” manner, if so it’s a foul.


There are two types of Free Kicks:


Direct Free Kick – A player can score by kicking the ball directly into the goal.


Indirect Free Kick – The ball must be touched by another player before it can go into the goal. 


You can tell whether the Free Kick is direct or indirect by watching the Center Referee. For an Indirect Free Kick the Center Referee will hold one arm straight up in the air until the second person touches the ball. No arm up, it’s a Direct Free Kick. In general, a Direct Free Kick comes from a contact foul or handball, you could say if it ends in “ing” such as kicking, tripping, it’s usually a Direct Kick. Everything else is an Indirect Free Kick. With a Free Kick the opposing team must stay at least 10 yards away from the ball until it is kicked. Plus, any player may kick the ball.


Advantage -  A referee will often delay calling a foul to see if the fouled team maintains "advantage" by yelling "play on" and sweeping his hands forward. Basically saying I saw the foul but do not want to take away your advantage, if the advantage does not develop he can bring the ball back and award a free kick. 


PENAL FOUL – The referee awards a Direct Free Kick to the other team at the point of infraction. The first six are called only if the referee considers them done carelessly, recklessly or with excessive force. A Penalty Kick (PK) is awarded if any of these are committed in their own penalty area.

1 - Kicking

2 - Tripping

3 - Jumping at

4 - Charging

5 - Striking

6 - Pushing

7 - Holding

8 - Spitting on or at a person

9 - Deliberately handling ball (Hand Ball)

10 - Contacting opponent before the ball in slide tackling


TECHNICAL FOUL – The referee awards an Indirect Free Kick to the other team at the point of infraction.


1 - Offside

2 - Preventing the opposing keeper from releasing the ball

3 - Impeding an opponent

4 - Keeper taking more than 6 seconds to release control

5 - Wasting time

6 - Keeper handling ball intentionally played by teammate

7 - Dangerous play effecting opponent such as a high kick

8 - Any offense not mentioned above where play is stopped for a caution (yellow) or ejection (red), 




Yellow and red cards are used by the Center Referee to control the “tone” of the game. 


Cautions (yellow) and Disqualifications (ejections) (red) are issued (shown) in addition to the above listed fouls. A card can be issued if, in the opinion of the Referee, it was related to a foul that was committed in a “reckless” (yellow) or “excessive” (red) manner. A yellow card is referred to as a Caution; two yellow cards in the same game equals a red (Disqualification). A red card is a Disqualification (ejection) from the game without a replacement player. Additionally, coaches and bench players can be carded.


CAUTION (yellow card) OFFENCES:


1 - Unsporting behavior or conduct

2 - Showing dissent by word or action

3 - Persistently infringes the laws of the game

4 - Delays the restart of play

5 - Enters or leaves the field without refs permission

6 - Deliberately leaves field without refs permission

7 - Fails to respect the required distance in a corner kick, free kick or throw in


Penalty for Yellow Card depends on reason for card – Can be Indirect Free Kick or Direct Free Kick




1- Serious foul play

2 - Violent conduct

3 - Spits at a person

4 - A second Caution (Yellow Card)

5 - Denies a goal or obvious goal opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (hand ball)

6 - Denies an obvious goal opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or penalty kick

7 - Using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures


Penalty for Red – Ejection and Direct Free Kick 




A player can not touch the ball twice in a row when putting the ball in play. You may see it on kick-offs or free kicks where a player barely hits the ball and decides to take another swipe at it, that is a two-touch. 


This rule also applies to throw-ins. A player cannot throw the ball in and then kick it. 


Penalty for two-touch – Indirect Free Kick 




PK results from a penal “contact” foul or handball in the penalty area and is a type of Direct Free Kick. 


The ball is placed on the penalty spot, 12 yards from the goal. The keeper must not pass the goal line until the ball is kicked. 


After the ball is kicked, if it rebounds off the goal or keeper and stays on the field, the ball is “live”. Anyone can play it if off the keeper, if off the goal due to two-touch rule anyone but the kicker can play it.


 ** Typical Soccer Positions  **


FORWARDS ►   Left Wing                Striker               Right wing


MIDFIELDER ►  Left halfback   Center midfield     Right halfback


DEFENCE ►      Left fullback    Center defender   Right fullback



DEFENCE ►                                   Sweeper




Position strategies will vary but this will give you a general idea, the below line up strategy would be commonly referred to as a 4 3 3 line up.