Basic Soccer Rules For Kids – Crash Course For Parents

Does your limited knowledge of soccer rules stop you from joining the conversation with other parents? This basic soccer rules for kids guide is a crash course for parents who want to learn basic soccer rules.

Understanding the rules will make you more engaged with other parents and enjoy yourself on the sideline. Furthermore, you will start educating your kids as well.

Bear in mind that the organizers of the event may modify the rules to suit the theme of the competition, the environment, and other factors.

But mostly designed around young players, safety, and fun for all.

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What Are Rules For?

Okay, you might be wondering what are the rules for, and are they important at all?

I come up with a list of why the soccer rules for kids are there:

  1. Ensuring the players are safe from injuries
  2. The kids will be in more contact with the ball thus developing their soccer skills
  3. The game is adequately controlled and rules are fairly applied


As a reference, the soccer rules below are targeted at kids 12 years old and below.

1. Length Of The Game, Overtime Periods, And Ball Specifications

Let‘s get a bit technical here, according to Rule: 303 of the US Youth Soccer Policy the following rules apply regarding the length of the game, overtime periods (sometimes also called extra time), and the ball specification.

Basic Soccer Rules For Kids - Soccer ball

For kids, under 12 years the maximum length of time to play is 60 minutes. That is two halves of 30 minutes.

And if overtime is required then a total of 20 minutes for both halves is allowed. A maximum of nine players is allowed to play including the goalkeeper.

And the ball must be size 4

For kids, under 10 years the maximum length of time to play is two halves of 25 minutes and no overtime is allowed.

And only seven players are allowed including the goalkeeper, to play with a size 4 ball.

Kids under 8 will play 4-12 minutes per quarter, or a total of 16-48 minutes full-time, and no overtime is allowed.

Only four players are allowed to play without a goalkeeper. The ball size is 3.

Related: 10 Best Soccer Balls For Kids 2020


2. Field Of Play

Below is a diagram of an adult soccer field as a guide to assist in my explanations below.

The typical size of the field for young kids under 12 is 14-20 Yards (12-18 meters) in length and 9-15 Yards (8-13 meters) in width.

The penalty area below is also called the 18-yard box, it is the common name in soccer regardless if it’s actually 18 yards or not.

On a kids’ soccer field, it will be less than 18 yards.

Basic Soccer Rules For Kids - Soccer ball

3. Games Officials

A female soccer referee
Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

The game’s officials are the men and women who look after the game. The referee is the person who holds the whistle running on the soccer field.

He (or she) is the final decision maker in the game. His main role is to make sure all soccer rules are observed and the game is under control.

He is responsible for cautioning or sending off players, recording scores, keeping the time, and can pause the game.

Normally a referee’s decision cannot be overturned even if the decision is wrong.

However, they can be punished for poor refereeing and in severe cases are totally banned from soccer.

There are also 2 linesmen who run with the checkered flags along the sidelines.

Their role is to assist the referee to make his decisions.

They look out for offside, and the ball rolls over the line, assisting in the corner kicks, and penalty kicks, but they never make the decisions.

The linesmen do not stand facing each other on the opposite sidelines and they only run from the Corner to the Center-line.

If we look at the diagram above one linesman will look after Sideline B and the other will look after Sideline C.

Or they can alternate to Sideline A and D. And the fourth official who is called… the Fourth Official, deals with the teams and coach on the sideline, registering substitutes, keeping the time and score.

Finally, if the referee or a linesman is having an emergency and needs to leave the field, the fourth official steps in.


4. Inspecting The Players For Dangerous Objects

Before anything else, the game’s officials would inspect the players looking for any dangerous objects that might be harmful to other players.

Harmful objects could be earrings, metal bracelets, necklaces, soccer cleats with metal studs, or anything that may pose any risk.

They will also check if the player is wearing protective gear such as a mouth guard, shin guard, proper soccer cleats, socks, or headgear if compulsory.

5. Toss Of Coin

Throughout this post, I will use 2 teams in my explanation as Team A and Team B.

This is to enable us to distinguish which team I am talking about.

The kick-off can be determined by a toss of a coin.

The referee will ask the two opposing coaches or the team captains of Team A and Team B to choose the head or tail of the coin.

If Team A wins the toss then they will start with the kick-off.

6. Kick-Off

The kick-off must start in the center circle of the soccer field.

Team A will start the kick-off and players of Team B will not be allowed to stand in the center circle on their side of the field.

Once the whistle goes off the first player of Team A passes the ball to his teammate and the game officially started.

Each team will try to score the ball in their opponent’s goal.

The players will pass the ball to their teammates by using their feet to dribble and kicking it.

They can use any part of their body except their arms.

7. Throw In

If during the game a player in Team A kicks the ball out of the sidelines then a player in Team B will take a throw-in.

That is standing on the sideline and throwing the ball to his teammate, by holding the ball with his 2 hands and throwing it over his head.

The sidelines are the longest sides of the field.

A soccer throw-in
Image by Nate Tribbs from Pixabay


8. Corner Kick

If a player on Team A kicks the ball outside his goal line, the short sides of the field, then a corner kick is awarded to Team B.

A corner kick is taken from the corner of the field, normally you would see 4 corner flags to indicate where the corner kick is to be taken.

All the players would wait at the goalmouth to receive the corner kick either to defend it or the other Team B scores.

This is a goal-scoring opportunity.

A soccer ball placed on the corner position
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

9. Goal Kick

A goal kick is taken to resume the game after the opposing team kicks the ball outside the goal line.

The goal kick can be taken by the goalkeeper or any player of the same team.

When kicking the ball it must be received outside the penalty area. Otherwise, the goal kick must be retaken.


10. The Goalkeeper

A soccer goalkeeper
Image by ddenherder from Pixabay

The goalkeeper is a unique player that is required to wear a different colored jersey from his teammates.

He is also the only player allowed to use any part of his body to stop the ball in the penalty box.

The only exception is the “passing back to the goalkeeper” rule below.

Check out my guide on 6 Important Goalie Gear For Soccer You Must Not Ignore

11. Passing Back To The Goalkeeper

Passing back to your Goalkeeper is allowed but he must not touch or pick up the ball.

He must use his feet or any other part of his body to receive the ball.

If he picks up the ball then an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team.

Related: Read About Goalkeeper Profile Here


12. Off-Side

Off-Side is when an attacking player on Team A positions himself behind the defender and in front of the goalkeeper of Team B and receives a pass from his teammate.

This can be intentional but mostly by accident, or because the defenders of Team B strategically moved up the field leaving the attacker exposed.

With a very young team like those under 8 years old, the off-side rule may not apply.

13. Substitution Of Players

There is normally a limit of 5 players to be substituted.

However, with young players, the substitution can be increased or unrestricted.

14. Common Soccer Fouls

In soccer, fouls are interpreted as an unfair act towards another player:

  1. Handball. It is a foul if any player’s arm touches the ball. Only the goalkeeper can use his hands.
  2. Tackling another player from behind is deemed as a dangerous play.
  3. So is any other aggressive conduct to other players including your teammates.
  4. Pushing, pulling, and hugging another player in order to win the ball
  5. High-kicking. Raising your foot above another player’s head, unless nobody is close to you.
  6. Verbal abuse to other players, games official, or the spectators
A soccer foul
Image by planet_fox from Pixabay

15. Yellow And Red Card

Basic Soccer Rules For Kids - A referee showing a yellow card
A referee showing a yellow for a foul committed

A yellow card is given for unsporting behavior, not following the referee’s instructions, repeating the same offense, or leaving and re-entering the field without the referee’s permission.

A red card is given for serious offenses, mostly for violent behavior towards referees, linesmen, or other players.

A red-carded player will be sent off the field and no replacement player will be allowed.


16. Penalty Kick

A penalty is awarded if any foul is committed by the opponent in front of his own goalmouth.

A penalty kick is taken at the penalty spot facing only the goalkeeper to stop the ball.

All other players are directed to stay away from the penalty area. This is a goal-scoring opportunity.

17. Direct and Indirect Free Kick

A boy taking a free kick
Image by bottomlayercz0 from Pixabay

A free-kick is awarded to the player who is being fouled and it must be taken on the spot.

With a Direct free-kick, a player can kick directly into the goal without touching any other players, and score a goal.

With an indirect free-kick, the ball must touch a second player before scoring.

A direct free kick is awarded for a contact foul and handball. A penalty kick is a direct free kick.

All others are indirect free kicks

18. Heading The Ball

Players under 10 years old are not allowed to head the ball because it might cause injury to the head of the young player.

Related: What Is A Soccer Concussion – Injury Awareness

19. Sportsmanship Rule

Basic Soccer Rules For Kids - Show of sportsmanship
Image by janeb13 from Pixabay

The rule of the game is that it cannot be stopped unless the ball goes outside the sidelines and the goal lines.

If a player in Team A is injured, normally lying on the field, and required medical attention, Team B players can kick the ball outside the sideline, therefore, stopping the game temporarily.

This will allow the team doctor to enter the field and attend to the injured player. This is a gesture of care, kindness, and respect for the injured player.

As the game resumed, Team A players would usually kick the ball back to Team B’s goalkeeper.

Normally the spectators would show their approval and appreciation by cheering the teams’ sportsmanship.

There you go, I hope my basic lesson on kids’ soccer rules gives you some confidence when discussing with other parents or the coach.

You might be asked to be a linesman one day, who knows.

Related: 9 Tips About Teaching Sportsmanship To Kids


Once again, bear in mind that the game’s organizers can modify the rules but the basics will still apply.

The FIFA soccer rule book has more than 200 pages! But the ones above are the bare-bone basics you should grasp first. More rules will be learned on the sidelines.

Did I miss a rule?

Let me know in the comments.

Related: Common Soccer Questions And Answers – Introducing Soccer To Parents


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