Category Archive : How to Play

Soccer (as I’ll be referring to it by for the purposes of this website) at its core is a very simple game. One of the many speculated explanations for its mass appeal and adoption around the globe is this simplicity. At its most stripped down version all you need to play soccer is two people and a ball. Or a rock. Or a jumble of sphere shaped tape. From remote villages to dense urban areas, the game of football is quite possibly the most accessible sport in the world. However, the competitive, professional version of the sport that this website serves as an introduction to is conducted under a set of rules known as the Laws of the Game. These laws are codified and maintained by FIFA, the international governing body for the sport. These rules have grown to be fairly dense over the years, with intricacy and specific exceptions and conditions that you might expect in the rules of a sport that has been played professionally for more and than a century (closing in on one and a half). This page will go over the basics of how the game is played, while the other two pages in this section will cover what constitutes a foul and explain the different phases of play.

A team in soccer is made up of eleven players on the field, one goalkeeper and ten outfielders (i.e. those who do not play in goal and instead play out in the field). The positions section will cover what makes each of those players different but for now the only important distinction is that the goalkeeper is the only one who is allowed to pick up or touch the ball with their hands, and they are only allowed to do so in a specific area of the field. A team is allowed to name a bench of usually up to 7 players (certain tournaments allow for an expanded bench) from which the coach can make 3 substitutes. Subs are not rolling so once you’re out you’re out, so when you make your subs and who you take off and bring on makes up a huge portion of a coaches in game tactical management. You can read more about tactics in this section of the website.

diagram of the field of play
The field of Play diagram from the IFAB website

The field of play is a rectangular pitch of either natural or artificial grass with a long side (touchline) of at least 110 yards but not longer than 120 yards and a short side (goal line) at least 70 yards wide but no longer than 80 yards. So more variation is allowed in ameatur or other lower level matches, but no matter the level the touchline must always be longer than the goal line. Like many other sports Americans watch everyday the field of play contains several markings and divisions. The simplest division is into two halves, with a line perpendicular to the touchline exactly halfway between the two goal lines dividing the field into two equal halves. Each half contains a penalty area and a goal area, two boxes at either end of the pitch surrounding the goal. The former extends 18 yards from the goal line and stretches 18 yards out from either side of the goal. It is the area of the field where the goalie is allowed to use their hands. Additionally any foul committed by the defence in this area will result in a penalty kick, which you can read more about here. The second box is the known as the goal area, it is a 12×6 yard box with its long side consisting of the goal line and a line parallel to the goal line 6 yards away. This line is where the goalie places the ball for a goal kick.

The object of the game is to score goals (points) by kicking, heading, or otherwise getting the ball into your opponent’s goal while at the same time preventing the other team from doing likewise. At the end of the game the team with the most goals wins, or if an equal number were scored or no goals were scored the game will end in a draw. The only exception to this is in a knockout tournament, where extra time would occur. You can discover how this works by checking out the “Phases of Play” section.

At its core soccer is a very simple game. However, there are a number of rules and restrictions that make the game both more challenging and more interesting. Why can’t anyone just pickup the ball and run (cause then it would be Rugby) or how come someone can’t just tackle someone to stop them from getting to the ball? In the next section we will explain the major laws governing what is considered fair play. Read on.