Introduction to Soccer

Field Layout:

Diagram, schematic

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  • Center Spot:
    • The circle is in the exact center of the pitch where the ball is placed to start a kickoff.
  • Center Circle:
    • 10-yard all directions from the center spot. For kickoffs, all opposing players must be outside this and on their half of the field. This area only serves that purpose.
  • Center Line:
    • The line divides the field into half. Important line as during kickoffs, all players need to be on their half of the field, and this line establishes that, 
  • Touchline(s):
    • Lines mark the out-of-play for the sides of the field, and balls that go out of play on touchlines are throw-ins.
  • End Line(s)/Goal Line(s):
    • Lines mark the out-of-play for the ends of the field, and balls that go out of play on end lines are goal kicks for GK for the defensive side or corner kicks for the offensive side.
  • Goals:
    • The goals are 8 feet tall by 24 feet wide. Goals all have nets. Goal posts must be white and made of wood, metal, or other approved material. 
  • Goal Area:
    • It is referred to as a 6-yard box because the top is 6 yards from the end line; it is a six by 20 yards area in front of the goal. It extends 6 yards to either side of the goal post.
  • Penalty Area: 
    • The only area of the field a Goalkeeper can use their hands/arms to touch the ball. If the attacking team is fouled in this, it will result in a penalty (PK).
  • Penalty Mark/Spot: 
    • Mark inside the penalty area where the ball is placed for the PK to be kicked from.
  • Penalty Arc
    • The additional area marked off to keep all players that are not PK taker and GK to be outside to be the minimum distance all defending players need to be during the kick. 
  • Corner Arc:
    • Found at 90-degree intersections between touchlines and endlines. If a defender puts the ball out of the end line, there will be a corner, and this area marks where the ball is placed.
  • Referees/Linesmen: 
    • There is one official Head referee, two Linesmen (assistant referees), one 4th Official, and then a Video Assistance Referee (VAR) for professional matches.
  • Head Referee:
    • Enforces the Laws of the Game and final decision authority on all matters.
    • Controls match in cooperation with other match officials.
    • Acts as timekeeper.
    • Keeps record of the match and provides the appropriate authorities with a match report, i.e., disciplinary report and other incidents that occurred pre-during-post match.
    • Supervises restart of play. 
  • Linemen/assistant referees:
    • Oversees half touchline on opposite sides of the field.
    • Duties include using a flag to indicate that the offside offense has happened on their side of the field, when the ball has left the field of play and fouls that happened outside the Head Official.
    • Generally positioned in line with the ball or second to the last person (this excludes GK 99% of the time) to better judge offside.
  • 4th Official:
    • Is the reserve/replacement referee in professional soccer.
    • Duties include administrative functions pre-during-post match, assessing players’ equipment, managing substitutions, using an electronic board for time added on each half, contacting outside staff of the stadium and league, and maintaining teams’ technical areas (benches).
  • Video Assistance Referee (VAR):
    • Main video official whose main role is to check all reviewable incidents and recommend a VAR where a possible clear and obvious error has occurred.
    • VAR has four categories: Goal/No Goal, Penalty/No Penalty, Yellow/Red Card review, and Direct Red Card.
    • Card review is often called Mistaken Identify for rewarding appropriate cards; Yellow or Red.
    • Direct Red Card is for denial of obvious goal-scoring opportunities, serious foul play (studs up on tackle is common), and Violent conduct (Headbutt, Spitting, Biting, etc.)

Basic Rules and Gameplay:

  • Match Length: Matches are 90 mins long, split into two 45-minute halves. The clock does not stop unless the match needs to be interrupted (Weather and fans are the most common reasons). There are no timeouts, and depending on the heat index, there are halfway point water breaks for hydration for player safety. They are often seen in months from May to September. Each half will often have injury time added at the end. 4th Official will show on the electronic board how much time is added for injury time, whether injuries or crowd issues.
  • Injury/Stoppage Time: 4th Official will show on the electronic board how much time is added for injury time, whether injuries or crowd issues.
  • Extra Time: Is implemented during knockout tournaments when a winner is needed, and a draw is not an option. Some examples are UCL Knockouts, Europa Knockouts, World Cup Knockouts, etc. They are two 15-minute halves with a 5-minute break in between them. These can also have injury/stoppage time added at the end of each. 
  • Penalty Shootout: If a knockout match is still tied at the end of the Extra Time, then teams go to a penalty shootout to determine a winner. All players but the PK taker and GK are in the center circle Non-defending GK stands at the intersection of the goal line and line marking penalty with the assistant referee. Coin toss decides which goal kick will be taken at. A second coin toss will determine the first team to take the first kick. Each team can select only eligible players on the field at the end of the play. It is a best of five, and if tied after five, additional kicks are taken until the winner is decided. See Man United v Villareal 2020/21 Europa Final, where it ended 11-10 with both GKs taking PKs. 
  • Foul: They can happen in the area on the field, and some common types are kicking an opponent, tripping, jumping into the defender on a header, Pushing, Tackling (when you contact the player before touching the ball), jersey pulling/player holding, etc. 
  • Corner Kick: Is awarded when the whole ball crosses the End/Goal Line and has been touched by the defender last. These kicks are taken from the Corner Arc area.  
  • Corner Cross: Crossed into the Penalty area for a goal-scoring opportunity. This method can score goals directly from a corner kick though it is a rarer goal scored. The most common is an aerial corner cross for players in the box to head into the goal. 
  • Short Corner: These are stupid and worst plays in soccer. Google if you want to learn about it. LOL
  • Free Kick: Free kicks occur when a foul happens often. The is placed 
  • Direct Free Kick: The ball can be taken as a direct shot at goal. It does not mean it has to.
  • Indirect Free Kick: The shot must touch at least one other person on the field before it goes in.
  • Offside: This is often the most difficult rule to understand. To keep it simple, when a player is in the opposing team’s half of the field and nearer to the opponent’s goal line, the ball and the second-last opponent when a pass is played to them. The Photo below shows it very well. 

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  • Penalty Cards: Cards used to warn, reprimand, or penalize a player, coach, or team official. Most used on players that have committed an offense on the field.  
  • Yellow Cards (YCs): Indicates the player has been cautioned for an offense. Players are allowed 2 per match. A second equals a Red Card and sent off from the match. 2 YCs typically result in 1 match ban.
  • Red Cards: Also called straight Red Card means the player is sent off and typically has a 3-match ban. 
  • Substitutions: Most professional leagues have three subs per match rule, but since Covid-19, they have expanded to 5 subs per match. Subs no longer must come to 4th official and switch out with a new player. They can now leave the pitch at the close end line or touchline. 


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