Laws of the Game

FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, publishes and updates the official rules of the game. There are seventeen official Laws of the Game. Below is a summarized version of each of the laws.


Law 1 - The Field of Play
Law 2 - The Ball
Law 3 - The Number of Players
Law 4 - The Player’s Equipment
Law 5 - The Referee
Law 6 - The Assistant Referees
Law 7 - The Duration of the Match
Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play
Law 9 - The Ball In and Out of Play
Law 10 - The Method of Scoring
Law 11 - Offside
Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 
Law 13 - Free Kicks
Law 14 - The Penalty Kick
Law 15 - The Throw-In
Law 16 - The Goal Kick
Law 17 - The Corner Kick

Law 1 - The Field of Play

This law regulates the field surface, dimensions, markings and goals. The field of play must be rectangular and marked with boundary lines. The two longer boundary lines are called touch lines and the two shorter boundary lines are called goal lines. It is important to note that the touch lines must be longer than the goal lines.

Dimensions 
Standard matches: 
Length (touch line): minimum 100 yds (90 m) -- maximum 130 yds (120 m)
Width (goal line): minimum 50 yds (45 m) - maximum 100 yds (90 m) 

International matches: 
Length (touch line): minimum 110 yds (100 m) -- maximum 120 yds (110 m)
Width (goal line): minimum 70 yds (64 m) - maximum 80 yds (75 m) 


Goals
The goals must be placed on the center of each goal line. The dimensions of the goal are 8 yds (7.32 m) wide by 8 ft (2.44 m) high. 

Law 2 - The Ball

The ball: 
1) Made of leather or "other suitable material"
2) Spherical
3) Circumference measurement between 27 inches (68 cm) and 28 inches (70 cm)
4) Weight of between 14 oz (410 g) and 16 oz (450 g)

Law 3 - The Number of Players

Each team consists of eleven players, including one goalkeeper. A match cannot start unless each team consists of at least seven players. 
In international competitions under the control of FIFA, a maximum of three substitutions are allowed during a match (including any overtime period). Once a player has been removed, he may not reenter the game at a later point. Most domestic leagues throughout the world conform to these FIFA guidelines.
In many lower-level games throughout the world, substitution policies are much more relaxed. There are usually no limits to the number of substitutes allowed, and a player is free to enter and leave the game multiple times.

Law 4 - The Player’s Equipment

The basic equipment consists of: 
1) Jersey
2) Socks
3) Shorts
4) Shin guards
5) Shoes

The only major guidelines are that the teams must wear colors that distinguish them from the other team, and that the players cannot wear any equipment that might be dangerous to them or another player.

Law 5 - The Referee

A single on-field referee controls each match. That referee has full power to enforce the Laws of the Game; the decision-making authority is completely vested with the referee. His many duties include: determining when the match starts and stops, awarding ’red’ and ’yellow’ cards for cautionable offenses, and calling free kicks and penalties for fouls and misconduct.

Law 6 - The Assistant Referees

Two assistant referees may be appointed to help the referee officiate the match. The final decisions are ultimately up to the referee, but the assistant referees (who stand on the touch lines) aid the referee in determining such items as whether the ball left the field of play, offside, and fouls committed.

Law 7 - The Duration of the Match

A regulation match consists of two equal periods of 45 minutes, unless otherwise agreed upon before the start of play. This change must be agreed by the referee and the two teams. 
The referee generally adds "stoppage time" for time lost throughout the period due to items such as substitutions, injuries and time wasting. This extra time is completely at the discretion of the referee.

Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play

This is a general rule that governs the procedure for starting each half and after a goal is scored. Before the match, a coin toss occurs and the winner decides which goal it will defend in the first half. The other team gets to kick off to start the match. The original coin toss winner kicks off the second half and the teams switch sides.
The procedure for a restart is that all players must be in their half of the field, and all opposing players must be at least ten yards from the ball. Once the ball is stationary on the center mark and the referee gives the appropriate signal, the ball can be kicked forward to restart play.

Law 9 - The Ball In and Out of Play

The ball is considered out of play when it has completely crossed the goal or touch line, regardless of whether it is in the air or the ground, or when play has been stopped by the referee.

The ball is considered in play at all other times.

Law 10 - The Method of Scoring

A goal is scored when the entirety of the ball crosses the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar. A goal can be erased by the referee when he determines that a foul or infringement of the rules was committed by the team scoring the goal.

This Law also prescribes the methods for breaking a tie in a competition where a winner is necessary. The three methods are the away goals rule, extra time and penalty kicks.

Law 11 - Offside

The first point to establishing an understanding of offside is to learn the definition of an offside position. A player is in an offside position if he is closer to the opposing goal than both the ball and two opponents (in general terms this means the goalkeeper and one defender). He is not in an offside position if he is on the exact level as the second to last opponent. It is also impossible to be in an offside position in your own half of the field.

It is important to remember that just because the player is in an offside position, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be penalized. The key is that the referee must decide whether he is actively involved in the play by either interfering with the play or an opponent or by gaining an advantage by being in that position. Even if a player is in an offside position, no foul will be called if the player receives the ball from a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in. If the referee decides to whistle an offside offense, an indirect free kick is awarded at the spot the infringement occurred.

Please note that offside is only considered at the instant the ball is played from a teammate. So at the instant the ball is passed, was the player in an offside position? That is the key question. It isn’t relevant if he is in what would be considered an offside position when he receives the ball; it is only relevant at the instant the ball was played.

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Direct Free Kicks
A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits one of the following ten offenses: 1-9) Kicking (or attempt), tripping (or attempt), jumping at, charging, striking (or attempt), pushing, tackling, holding, or spitting at an opponent
10) Deliberately handling the soccer ball

The direct free kick is taken at the exact spot the offense occurred. 
If one of the ten direct kick offenses is committed by a player inside his own penalty area (regardless of where the ball is located), a penalty kick is awarded.

Indirect Free Kicks
An indirect free kick, also taken at the spot of the foul, is awarded for more general reasons such as dangerous play, or impeding the progress of an opponent. It is also awarded against a team if their goalkeeper: controls the ball with his hands for more than six seconds, touches the ball with his hands after a teammate deliberately kicks the ball back to him (same goes for a throw-in), or touches the ball after he had already handled it and put it on the ground.

Yellow and Red Cards

A yellow card indicates that a player has been cautioned. A red card indicates that the player has been sent off or expelled from the game. If a player receives two yellow cards in one match, the effect is that of a red card. A player that has been sent off is not allowed to play for the remainder of that match (and often the subsequent match), and it is important to note that his team must play the remainder of the match a player down.

Yellow card offenses include items such as unsportsmanlike behavior, dissent and delaying the restart of play. Red card offenses include items such as violent conduct, foul play, abusive language, and denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity for the other team.

Law 13 - Free Kicks

As mentioned in Law 12, there are indirect and direct free kicks. A direct kick can be played directly into the opponents’ goal without it touching another player. An indirect kick must touch another player before a goal can be scored. In both cases, when the ball is placed at the spot of the foul by the referee, the opposing team must stand at least 10 yards from the ball. Once the ball is played, that 10-yard boundary is no longer in effect.

Law 14 - The Penalty Kick

A penalty kick is awarded against a team that commits a direct kick offense (see Law 12) inside its own penalty area while the ball is in play. 
The ball is placed on the penalty mark (12 yds) and one person is identified as the player taking the penalty kick. The goalkeeper must stay on his goal line until the ball has been kicked. The ball is in play once the ball is kicked forward and the kicker may not touch the ball again until another player touches it.

Law 15 - The Throw-In

A throw-in is the method of restarting play after the ball completely crosses the touch line and is out of bounds. The opponent of the team who last touched the ball is awarded the throw-in. 
The thrower must have both feet on the ground, both hands on the ball and must deliver the ball from behind and over his head. 
The closest member of the opposing team cannot be within 2 yards from the point of the throw-in. The ball is considered in play when it enters the field.

Law 16 - The Goal Kick

A goal kick is the method of restarting play after the ball has completely crossed the goal line, having been last touched by a member of the attacking team. 
A goal kick is taken from any point within the goal area (commonly referred to as the 6-yard box) by a member of the defending team. All opponents must remain outside the penalty area (18-yard box) until the ball is in play.

Law 17 - The Corner Kick

A corner kick is the method of restarting play after the ball has completely crossed the goal line, having been last touched by a member of the defending team. A goal may be scored directly from a corner kick. 
The ball is placed inside the corner arc markings near the corner flag. All opponents must stand at least 10 yards from the ball until it is back in play.