Laws of the Game
For information about heading the ball, please go to Heading the Ball
Goodness, it is impossible to cover this briefly. This page is meant to serve as a resource and guide. It is our hope that coaches and referees could be on the same page and same level of understanding on the pitch. This is near to impossible. It is also our hope that parents could have a high level of understanding of the laws as well. Same scenario. Nevertheless, this is a good place to come to get a handle on part of the laws and the spirit of the laws... and some additional resources to check out.
Some Divisional Rules
U6: does not use corner kicks, goal kicks or goal areas. If the ball crosses the goal line without a goal being scored within five yards of the goal, the kick-in should be made from the goal line five yards from the goal. Defenders should all be at least six yards away from the ball upon the placement of the ball for the kick-in, free kicks and kick offs. A goal may not be scored directly from a kick-in. If a throw-in is done improperly, the Referee allows play to continue, under the principle that the important thing here is just to get the game restarted. Half time would be a good opportunity to demonstrate to the players and the coaches what constitutes a proper throw-in.
U7 and U8: goal areas extend from the goal line to four yards out, and should be marked with cones on the touch line. The goal area should be approximately 10 yards wide, centered on the center of the goal, and can again be marked with cones. Goal kicks have to take place from within (or on the theoretical lines of) the goal area. Defenders should all be at least six yards away from the ball upon the placement of the ball for the kick off, free kicks, goal kicks and corner kicks. Throw-ins, corner kicks and goal kicks are used to restart play after the ball entirely leaves the field without a goal having been scored. If a throw-in is done improperly, the Referee allows a "do-over"; if it is done improperly the second time, play is allowed to continue.
U9 to U11: Same as U7 and U8, except that:
- Goal area is wider - approximately 12 yards wide
- The penalty mark is eight yards from the goal line (used for penalty shots)
- The penalty area extends to 12 yards from the goal line and is approximately 25 yards wide. In the penalty area the keeper can use his hands to touch the ball, and penal fouls on the defending team result in a penalty kick. On goal kicks, the ball must leave both the goal area and the penalty area before the ball is properly restarted.
- The goal area, penalty area and halfway lines should both be marked with cones.
- No "do-overs" on throw-ins
- Defenders should maintain a distance of at least eight yards from the ball on kick offs, free kicks, goal kicks and corner kicks
U12 to U19: Same as U9-U11, except that:
- Fields are generally larger and the goal area, penalty mark and penalty areas are clearly marked at larger dimensions that are generally proportionate with the larger fields. Note that when we play sideways across turf fields, cones will need to be used to indicate the goal area and penalty area, as well as the halfway line.
- The penalty mark is 12 yards from the goal line
- Defenders should maintain a distance of at least 10 yards from the ball on kick offs, free kicks, goal kicks and corner kicks.
- The goal keeper is permitted to play more than a half in goal, as much as the entire game if they wish.
- Substitutions ONLY at quarter breaks, half time, or in response to an injury. In WSSL and in organized soccer elsewhere we NEVER substitute "on the fly" - only upon a stoppage of play and with the Referee's consent.
Exceptions to the Substitution Rule:
- Note: This is still NOT substituting "on the fly".
- In very cold weather, substitutes can get very uncomfortable if they are sitting for extended stretches of time. Neither team is allowed to play more players than their division rules permit, but before the game the Referee may consult with the coaches and permit more frequent substitutions in that game, but only on stoppage of play and with the Referee's consent.
- If the ratio of a team's attendees ten minutes before the game is scheduled to start to the number of permitted players for that game is greater than 4:3, the Referee may consult with the coaches and permit more frequent substitutions in that game, but only on stoppage of play and with the Referee's consent.
- In U19 games, teams may use monitored substitutions under the following circumstances:
- A coach, assistant coach or other volunteer tracks how much time each
player on a team is on or off the field with an objective of evening
out each player's time.
- Substitutions are only allowed immediately before a goal kick or kick-off,
before a team that wants to substitute takes a throw in, or if an injury
causes a stoppage in play (the objectives being not to waste time
during the process and not to disadvantage the attacking team).
- A "fourth official", wearing a pinnie or Referee shirt,
is available to indicate substitutions are desired. This fourth
official does not need to be a certified Referee and they can be
trained in about 30 seconds before the game.
- Both teams position their substitutes near the halfway line on the
same side of the field, and indicate to the fourth official (or in
the absence of a fourth official, the Assistant Referee on that
side of the field) that they wish to make a substitution at the
next available opportunity. The fourth official (or in the absence
of a fourth official, the Assistant Referee on that side of the field)
signals to the Referee that a substitution is desired by either or both of the teams.
- After the center Referee signals to permit the substitutes, the
substituted players quickly leave the field of play, the substitutes
then quickly enter the field of play, and the fourth official (or in
the absence of a fourth official, the Assistant Referee on that side
of the field) lowers the flag to indicate that the substitution is completed.
- If it is not too hot, there are enough substitutes for each team,
the center Referee does not need a quarter break, and the keepers
are not expected to change positions at a quarter break, the Referee
should consider before each half to allow each team to play through the quarter break.
- U9 to U11 - Goalkeepers may play no more than 1/2 of a game in goal. U12 and older, they may play up to the entire game in goal.
- Goalkeepers may change positions at a substitution break, or with another player already on the field at any stoppage in the game, with permission of the Referee; both the incoming and outgoing keeper must be dressed for their new position (contrasting shirt for keeper, uniform shirt for player).
- Games should start and MUST END at the scheduled times - no exceptions.
- No team should be required to play short handed if it will mean that a child on a fully staffed team does not get his/her full three quarters of playing time.
FIFA Laws of the Game
The FIFA Laws of the Game are updated once a year. The 2013-2014 version consists of 17 Laws which are covered in the first 51 pages of the Law Book. The balance of the Law Book (through page 131) are primarily Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees. We have provided questions and answers to items relevant to each Law below:
Law 1: Field of play
- Why is the center circle 10 yards in radius? (to enforce the 10 yard distance on a kick off)
- What is the minimum and maximum width of a regulation field (50 / 100 yards)
- What is the minimum and maximum length of a regulation field (100 / 130 yards)
- Knowing that the penalty area is 18 yards from front to back, take a guess at how many yards from the near goal post to the side line of the penalty area? (18!)
- Bonus question -- the goal area is 6 yards from front to back, and how many yards might the side of the goal area be from the near goal post? (also 6 yards)
- What is the size of a regulation goal? (8 feet high and 8 yards wide)
- So what is the width of a regulation penalty area? (44 yards - 18+8+18)
- And what is the width of a regulation goal area? (20 yards - 6+8+6)
- Lines on the field are part of the area they enclose, so if a tiny bit of the ball is hanging over the line, is the ball in or out of play? (In play)
- How about placement for goal kicks and corner kicks? (On or within the lines that enclose these areas is a legal placement)
Law 2: Ball
- If the ball explodes after a kick is taken, but before it passes into the goal, what happens? Match is stopped, restarted based on where the ball was when it was a ball, with a dropped (new) ball.
Law 3: Players
- Minimum of ___ in a full sided match? (7)
- Can a field player change places with the goalkeeper? Yes, if ref is properly informed before, it is done at a stoppage in play, and the players "are properly dressed" -- ie, switch jerseys.
- If a player is sent off in the first half, can his team go back to playing full strength in the 2nd half? No.
- The goalkeeper may play anywhere on the field.
Law 4: Player equipment
- What are the 5 "S's"? -- shirt, shorts, shoes, shinguards, socks
- Are shinguards mandatory? Yes, and must be covered with socks.
- Knee brace okay? Yes, if properly covered by the manufacturer-supplied padding and ITOOTR ? not a danger to the player or others.
- Modern protective equipment such as headgear, facemasks and knee and arm protectors made of soft, lightweight padded material are not considered dangerous and are therefore permitted. However, protective headgear has NOT been shown to prevent concussion, and if fact, may encourage players to play more aggressively. Protective headgear for goalkeepers to reduce impact injuries is acceptable.
Law 5: Referee
- Can the ref change his mind? Yes, as long as play has not restarted.
- Can the ref stop the match for any reason? Yes
- What might some of those reasons be? Weather (e.g. thunder or lightning), spectators, player behavior.
- What happens if the referee blows his whistle by mistake? Play stops when the referee makes his decision, which is shortly before blowing the whistle.
- May the referee award advantage rather than stopping the play for a foul? Yes, as long as it is a real advantage -- must judge distance to goal, alternative (PK or advantage?).
- Must the referee award advantage? No -- it is his/her judgment.
- If the referee issues a card, what do they need to do after the match? Indicate such to the appropriate authority in a match report afterwards.
- If a player is injured, when may the referee stop play? Immediately.
Law 6: Assistant Referee
- Assists, doesn't insist.
- Verbs for ARs - signals, indicates.
- Verbs for CRs - "penalize", "stop play".
- Pages 90-91 of the Law Book show basic signals for indicating
- Throw in
- Goal kick
- Corner kick
- Should the AR give a loud pop with the flag? For purposes of an exam, no. In real life, it depends on whether the AR needs to attract the attention of the referee with his signal (e.g. to indicate injury or foul).
- How does the AR indicate to the CR that a goal was scored legally? Make eye contact with the CR, then run quickly along the touch line towards the halfway line four to six strides without raising his flag.
- How many signals does a club linesman have? One - straight up for ball out of play.
- May the AR be dismissed by the CR? Yes, but then the referee team has been broken. So work with your AR/CR team just like any other professional team.
Law 7: Duration of the match
- If time expires when the ball is not in play, does the game end? Yes, even if a free kick was about to be taken. Penalty Kick does take place, however.
- What are some of the reasons a referee might add on time? Time lost during substitutions, injuries, etc.
- In WSSL with the limited time available for each game slot, the ref manages the time by making sure that the available time is divided in 4 equal slices.
- If a match stops before time expires, can the ref declare a winner? No the referee does not declare winners.
Law 8: Start and restart of play
- 2 restarts must be played in a forward direction, what are they? Kick-off and Penalty Kick.
- Can a kick-off be a restart? Yes, after a goal.
- Should the referee whistle immediately prior to a kick-off? Yes.
- What happens if just before a kick-off an opponent enters the center circle? The referee reminds the player to remain outside the circle until the kick is taken and restarts with a kick-off. If it's doubtful or trifling, allow play to continue.
- Why would you restart with a dropped ball? If the referee is required to stop play temporarily for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game, a dropped ball is the method of restarting play.
- How many players are required to be present at a dropped ball? None.
- Is a second touch permissible on a dropped ball? Yes, this is the only restart for which a second touch is permissible (it is the referee who actually puts the ball into play).
- "what are the special circumstances of law 8"
- Free kick awarded to defending team within goal area may be placed anywhere within goal area.
- IFK awarded to attacking team within goal area is pulled out to long edge of goal area.
- Dropped ball is pulled out to long edge of goal area.
Law 9: Ball in and out of play
- Remembering that lines are part of the area they enclose - what does a ball have to do to go out of play? Pass wholly over the line, either on the ground or in the air.
- If a ball hits the corner flag and bounces back, is it in play? Yes
- If a ball hits the ref while in the field of play, is it in play? Yes
- If the AR is standing on the touch line rather than behind it (spectators too close to the line!) and the ball hits him/her and bounces back into the field of play, is it in play? Yes
- If on a windy day, the ball completely passes the touch line in the air, and then it lands on the other side of the line, is it in or out? It is out (this scenario would apply equally to a ball played on the pitch or to a throw in).
Law 10: Method of scoring
- Remembering that lines are part of the area they enclose, what does a ball have to do to score a goal? Pass wholly over the line, either in the air or on the ground, between the goal posts and under the cross bar.
- If a ball hits the goal post, hits the cross bar, hits the other goal post, bounces on the line, and then back in to the field, has a goal been scored? No.
- If a shot is taken, and it hits a dog which has wandered across the goal mouth, can the ref award the goal anyhow? No. The Referee may only award a goal that has entirely passed over the goal line, between the goal posts and under the cross bar.
- What would you do instead? Restart with a dropped ball.
- Where would it be taken? Moved out to the edge of the goal area, parallel to where the dog was when the ball hit it.
Law 11: Offside
- What constitutes being in the offside position? Ahead of the ball, in the attacking half, and ahead of the second to last defender ("level with" or "even with" is permissible).
- Is it a violation of the offside law for an attacking player to be in an offside position? No, unless the position is accompanied by the other necessary elements.
- Each time the ball is played by an attacker, the Referee (or Assistant Referee) should take a new view of the field to determine whether offside position exists.
- If the ball is played by an attacker and deflects off a defender, for purposes of determining an offside infraction it is as though the defender did not touch the ball.
- If a player steals the ball from an opponent who has control of the ball, might there be an offside violation? No.
- A player in the offside position who becomes involved in active play does not need to actually touch the ball to give rise to an offside penalty.
- What constitutes becoming involved in active play? One of:
- Interfering with play
- Interfering with an opponent
- Gaining an advantage by being in that position
- There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:
- A goal kick
- A throw in
- A corner kick
Law 12: Fouls and Misconducts
- In order to be a foul, the incident must be committed:
- By a player
- Against an opposing player
- On the field of play
- While the ball is in play
- Deliberate handling questions
- If a player's hands are in a normal position, and a point blank shot hits his hands, is that considered deliberate handling? No, as long as the ball plays the hand and the hand does not play the ball.
- If a player's hands are in a normal position, and a long, looping kick hits the player in the hands, is that considered deliberate handling? Yes, if the player has ample opportunity to move out of the way or to play the ball with a legal body part.
- If a player is guilty of deliberate handling, are they also guilty of a misconduct? Possibly. The Referee may determine that the handling is sufficiently egregious to warrant a caution for unsporting behavior.
- If a game is stopped for a misconduct (but not a foul), how is play restarted? In general, if the misconduct occurred on the field, an IFK, otherwise a Dropped Ball.
- Identify the seven reasons for which a player may be cautioned (yellow card):
- Persistent infringement
- Unsporting behavior (this is a catch all category)
- Delay restart of game
- Leave field of play without referee permission
- Enter field of play without referee permission
- Distance, failure to respect
- Identify the seven reasons for which a player may be sent off (red card):
- Serious foul play
- Abusive, offensive, insulting language or gesture
- Violent conduct
- Spits at anyone
- 2nd caution in the same match
- DOGSOH (denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity) by deliberately handling the ball
- DOGSO (denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity) by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
- If a player is under 12, should they be carded for a misconduct violation? Generally not. A "time out" is generally a preferred way to deal with the problem.
Laws 13-17 are about restarting the game.
Law 13: Free Kicks
- How far away must the players of the defending team be? 10 yards OR on their own goal line between the goal posts.
- If the players from the defending team are closer than 10 yards (and not on their own goal line between the goal posts), but the attacking team doesn't ask for 10 yards, should the ref get involved? The referee should spot the ball and allow a quick kick to occur. If no quick kick occurs, the referee should indicate to the defenders that they should move back if they are significantly closer than 10 yards, and may ask the kicker if he wants the referee to move the defenders back. If the kicker says no, allow him kick the ball when he is ready to do so. If he says yes, tell him to wait for your whistle, move the defenders back, then assume your preferred position before blowing your whistle.
- If a defending team is awarded a free kick - either IFK or DFK, in its own penalty area, when is the ball in play? When it exits the penalty area, into the field of play.
- What about a free kick taken from within the goal area? The ball still has to exit the penalty area to be in play.
- While we're on the subject of free kicks, what would the special circumstances of law 8 say about an IFK awarded to the attacking team within the goal area? The ball is pulled out to the 6 yard line (edge of goal area).
Law 14: Penalty Kick
- When is the ball in play on a penalty kick? When it is kicked and moves forward (remember it's one of the two restarts that must be played forward).
- If the penalty kick rebounds back towards the kicker, may the kicker play it a second time?
- Yes, if the keeper has deflected or parried the ball (assuming time has not expired).
- No, if it hits the post and has not yet been touched by another player, or time has expired.
- What is encroachment? Moving into the penalty area before the penalty kick has been taken.
- Who is most likely to do it? Goalkeeper moving off his line early.
- Who else can encroach? Any of the up to 20 players who are not kicking the ball or playing goalkeeper against the kick.
- What do we do about it - hint - "with one exception, stacked for the attackers"
- Defender's team encroaches
- Goal is scored - goal stands, restart with? KO
- Goal is not scored - retake the kick
- Kicker's team encroaches
- Goal is scored? - retake the kick.
- Goal is not scored? - IFK for defenders.
- Both teams encroach - retake the kick.
Law 15: Throw In
- At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower:
- Faces the field of play
- Has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line
- Holds the ball with both hands
- Delivers the ball from behind and over his head
- Delivers the ball from the point where it left the field of play
- Is spin on the ball thrown in illegal? No.
Law 16: Goal Kick
- Ball exits over goal line, attacker touched it last.
- When is the ball in play? When it exits the penalty area into the field of play.
- Where may the ball be placed? Anywhere in the goal area or above the line enclosing the goal area -- doesn't have to be on one side or the other .
- Remembering that lines are part of the area they enclose, if 2 mm of ball is hanging over the line at the edge of the goal area, is it okay? Yes.
Law 17: Corner Kick
- Ball exits over goal line, defender touched it last.
- When is the ball in play? When it is kicked and moves - doesn't have to exit the corner arc.
- Where can the ball be placed? Anywhere in the corner arc area or above the line enclosing the corner arc - doesn't have to be on one side or the other.
- Remembering that lines are part of the area they enclose, if 2mm of ball is hanging over the line at the edge of the corner area, is it okay? Yes
Law 18: (this is an unwritten law)
- Don't over think the game. You are an educator, you are a parent, you have been trained, you have experience -- so at this point, your first response has a good chance of being right.
- If you don't know exactly what to do when something happens on the pitch, come back to "safe, fair and fun" as your guiding principles.
Links & Other Resources
AYSO is not currently permitted to publish an electronic copy of the laws of the game, but hard copies are available at referee training classes, or by contacting the Referee Administrator. The laws can be found on the International Football Association Board website.
The Laws of the Game are reprinted each summer. The first section identifies and sets forth the 17 Laws; the balance of the book interprets the laws and provides guidelines to apply them.The AYSO Guidance for Referees & Coaches is a 56 page, 2013 publication which is a great recap of most things you want and need to know about as a WSSL Referee or Coach.