Football Rules: A Beginner’s Guide

FIFA World Cup. Champions League. Euro Championships. Chances are that you have heard of one of these soccer tournaments over the years. Don’t worry.. football, or soccer in the U.S., is a simple sport to cover and we will get you equipped with knowing the basic rules of football.

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What Are The Positions In Football? How Many Players Can Be On The Field?

    Both teams start with 11 players at the beginning of the game.

    They consist of forwards, midfielders, defensemen, and a goalkeeper depending on the team’s formation.

    All players, except for the goalkeeper on each team, are not allowed to use their hands. Each goalkeeper can only use their hands within their goal box.

    Each team consists of 7 substitute players on the bench. However, each team has a maximum of 3 substitutes throughout the entire game regardless of fatigue or injury.

    Once a team substitutes a player out of the game, they are not allowed to re-enter the game.

    Also, if a team uses all 3 of their substitutions and have a player injured, the injured player can’t be replaced and the team will have to play with only 10 players.

    There are 3 officials: (1) referee and (2) assistant linesmen.

    The referee is the official person to call fouls, appoint penalty kicks, manage time, and also manage the intensity/integrity of the game.

    Furthermore, the two assistant linesmen choose which team throws the ball in and determine whether the offensive team is offsides.

    Photo by Thomas Serer on Unsplash

    What Is A Foul? What Are The Football Rules About Yellow And Red Cards?

    Three actions usually result by a foul by a player: no card, yellow card, and red card.

    No card is usually a common foul by the player that did not have intent to harm the other player.

    A yellow or red card is usually awarded based on the severity of the action.

    Generally, a player will receive a yellow card for a hard foul. However, if the action is dangerous to the other player, the referee may give the player a red card and immediately kick them out of the game.

    If a player receives a second yellow card during the game, it will upgrade to a red card and the referee will eject the player from the game.

    If a player is removed from the game by a red card, their team can’t substitute a player for their spot and will have to play with a maximum of 10 players for the rest of the game.

    It is possible to get more than 1 player kicked out of the game on the same team. As long as a team has a minimum of 7 players, they can continue to play in the game.

    What Is The Size of a Football Field? How Long Is A Football Game?

    The football field will be 90-120 m (98-131 ft.) long and 45-90 m (49-98 ft.) wide. However, the final dimensions are determined by the league, level of play, and other factors.

    The game is 90 minutes split into two 45 minute halves. The team will alternate starting with the ball at the beginning of each half (e.g. If the home team receives the ball first in the 1st half, the away team will receive the ball first in the 2nd half).

    However, the time will increase at the end of each half based on how much injury time is added by the referee.

    The total amount will vary based on how they view the impact of stoppages in play on time and the flow of the game.

    There is no time limit to how long a team can be in possession of the football.

    Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

    Phases of the Game

    The aim of the game is to score a goal and the team that scores the most goals before time runs out wins the game.

    Depending on whether the game is for a league, tournament or a friendly match, the game can end in a tie. Also, it is possible for neither team to score a goal.

    However, a game can go into extra time and, if neither team scores to break the tie, the game will end with a shootout where the team that scores the most goals wins the game.

    Types of Kicks

    There are four types of special kicks awarded to a team: free kicks, penalty kicks, goal kicks and corner kicks.

    Goal and corner kicks are determined by which team last touched the ball past the touch line of the goal post.

    If the defending team last touched the ball, a corner kick is awarded to the corner that is closest to where the ball went out of bounds. If the attacking team last touched the ball, a goal kick will be awarded to the defending team.

    Free and penalty kicks are awarded to a team after a foul has been committed by a player on the other team.

    The referee awards a free kick for any foul committed outside of the goal box. In contrast, the referee awards a penalty kick to a team when a foul occurs within the goal box.


    Nice job making it to the end of this article. Feel free to share it with your friends.

    If you enjoyed this article and want to go more in-depth with the football rules, we recommend checking out the “Laws of the Game” provided by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

    This breaks down all 17 laws that every football game must abide by.