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West Jackson County Soccer Club


This is designed to introduce volunteer and youth coaches to the basics of coaching soccer. 

Introduction to Laws of the Game

Knowledge of the Laws of the Game is the responsibility of every coach, but the coach also needs to understand the intent of the Laws of the Game. It should be noted that there are only 17 Laws, which is an indication that soccer was created to be a free-flowing game with limited stoppages. The developers of the original Laws wanted soccer to be primarily a players' game with little interference by the referee and/or the coach.  This should be primary in the mind of any coach, who also should communicate this to spectators and team supporters.

The coach must teach the players to know the Laws and play within them. Constantly stopping for infringements destroys the enjoyment of the players and spectators. The coach also has a responsibility to help improve the player’s skills and understanding of the game, as it is generally conceded that poorly-skilled players cause more fouls than highly-skilled players, thereby causing more stoppages.

We hope this section helps coaches in their understanding of the Laws of the Game.

About the Laws of the Game

  • The Laws of the Game were written in 1863.
  • The Laws were written as a players' game.
  • The “spirit” of the Laws supports the idea that soccer is a players' game.
  • Emphasis is on nonstop play and minimum interference from coaches.
  • Coaches must know the Laws and educate their players regarding the Laws so they play the game in a fair manner.
  • Local associations may modify the Laws depending on the nature of the competition and the age of the competitors.

The Laws of the Game

1. The field of play must be no longer than 120 yards and no wider than 100 yards. The field may be smaller for younger players, but must be rectangular, with the length always being greater than the width.

2. The ball should be between 14 and 16 ounces in weight. Balls come in different sizes for different age groups. A size 5 ball should have a circumference of 27 inches. The NSCAA suggests size 3’s for 5- to 8-year-olds and size 4 for 9- to 12-year-olds.

3. The internationally approved maximum number of players on the field is 11, with a minimum number of substitutes specified by the rules of the competition. It is strongly recommended that the number of players on the field be modified at lower age levels. Ages 5-6 should play 3 v. 3; 7- to 8-year-olds should play 4 v. 4; and 9- to 10-year-olds should play 8 v. 8, including a goalkeeper.

4. Equipment: Players must wear uniforms which distinguish them from the competition.  Goalkeepers must wear a color distinguishable from the outfield players (rest of his/her team). Shinguards are mandatory, and wearing jewelry usually is prohibited. Leagues have various rules regarding the size of cleats, and FIFA has an established cleat size. One of the best parts about playing soccer is the minimal amount of equipment needed by the participants.

5. Referees: The referee is the ultimate authority in a soccer match, with their authority beginning when they arrive at the playing facility and ending when they leave. The referee has the power to caution or eject any player or coach.

6. Assistant Referees - Normally there are two, one on each touchline. Their primary duties are to advise the referee of an offside violation and to signal when the ball goes out of play. They also may advise the referee of fouls they have observed. The Referee can and sometimes does overrule the Assistant Referee.

7. Duration of the Game - The game is played for a total of 90 minutes in two 45-minute halves. The halftime break is between 10 and 15 minutes. Younger players may play shorter games, and some leagues play quarters.

8. Starting and Restarting Play - The kick-off in soccer occurs at the beginning of the match, to start the second half and after a goal is scored. Possession is determined prior to the game by a coin toss. When play is stopped during the course of the match, throw-ins, goalkicks, corner kicks, free kicks and drop balls are used to restart play.

9. Ball out of play (into touch) - The ball must be completely over the line, either on the ground or in the air, for it to be out of play, also known as "into touch" (because it can be legally touched with the hands). The position of the player(s) touching the ball is irrelevant in determining whether a ball is in or out of play. The restart begins with possession against the team that played the ball out of bounds.

10. Method of Scoring - A goal is scored when the ball completely crosses the goal-line between the posts and below the crossbar. Any stoppage of play by the referee before the ball crosses the line invalidates the goal.

11. Offside - The law states that a player is in the offside position when the player's body is nearer to the opponent's goal than the last two opponents or the ball at the time when a teammate passes the ball forward. A player can only be in the offside position on his or her attacking half of the field. The referee must determine whether the player is in the offside position and an active participant in the play. The enforcement of offside varies in small-sided youth and junior games.

12. Fouls and Misconduct - Deliberate infractions of the Laws of the Game are penalized in two ways:

  • Penal Fouls are penalized by a direct free kick. A direct free kick may be shot into the goal directly by the kicker. Penal infractions include kicking, tripping, jumping at, charging, striking, pushing or attempting to do any of these fouls. Deliberate handling of the ball, holding, spitting at or making contact with an opponent prior to a tackle are punishable by a direct free kick. Penal infractions that occur in the penalty area result in a penalty kick.
  • Technical Fouls are punishable by indirect free kicks, which means that the ball must be touched by a player other than the kicker before scoring a valid goal. Examples include dangerous play, obstructing an opponent or goalkeeping violations. The indirect free kick also is awarded for offside violations.

13. Direct and Indirect Kicks - The referee is charged with enforcing the correct distance of opponents on free kicks, which is a minimum of ten yards away. At higher levels of play, the referee will use discretion in applying this requirement to give the attacking team the opportunity to seize the element of surprise with a quick restart. If this is used, the attacking team surrenders its right to the minimum distance. Referees also are instructed to use discretion to allow play to continue if stopping play would disadvantage the attacking team. This is known as the "application of advantage." If the advantage fails to materialize, the referee may call the ball back to the point of the infraction and award a free kick.

14. Penalty Kicks - Awarded for penal infractions within the penalty area, the penalty kick is taken from a mark (either a yard-long line or a nine-inch-wide spot) located 12 yards away from the goal. The goalkeeper may move along the line but may not move forward until the ball is struck. Once the kicker has played the ball on a penalty kick, he/she may not touch it again until it has been touched by another player.

15. Throw In - The throw-in must be taken from the point at which the ball exited the field. The thrower's feet must be on or behind the touchline and must be on the ground. The ball must be delivered from behind and over the thrower's head.

16. Goal Kicks – Goalkicks are awarded to the defending team when the attacking team kicks the ball over the goal-line. The ball is placed in the six-yard box and must be kicked beyond the penalty box to be considered in play. No opposing players are allowed in the penalty box during a goalkick.

17. Corner Kicks – Corner kicks are awarded to the attacking team when the defending team kicks the ball over the goal-line. The ball must rest in the corner arc or on the arc line. A goal may be scored directly on a corner kick.

Referee's Judgement - The Unwritten 18th Law

Although it is unwritten, the so-called "18th Law" of soccer is perhaps the most important. It directs the referee to enforce the “spirit of the Laws” by using common sense, doing what is fair and allowing the players to play without excessive interference. Just as the coach is to let the players play the game, so too must the referee, although referees use their judgment to ensure a fair opportunity for every player on the field.


  • The referee is the authority for the game and is to be respected by coaches, players and spectators.
  • Soccer is a better game when played cleanly and fairly, applying the 17 Laws of the Game.
  • Coaches are responsible for making sure their players know the Laws and adhere to them while on the field.
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