Checklist for Teaching Basic Soccer Rules



Concept:  This checklist is intended to represent the general chronological order of a hypothetical soccer game.  The coach must be fully versed in all of the rules (Laws of the Game) and how they are applied.  Everything below must be clearly demonstrated to all of the players.  All of the Laws are subject to “Local Rules” based on the provisions of the competition.

_____ 1.        The Field

Identify the Lines, Areas, Goals, Nets, and Corner Posts.  Any balls rebounding back into the field from the goals, corner posts, referee, or assistant referees (if they are in the field of play) are still in play.

_____ 2.        The Ball

Size and proper inflation for the age group.

_____ 3.        Duration of the Game

Two equal halves of 45-minutes (or less) for the full, adult, outside game; time kept by Referee.  (No “time outs.”)

_____ 4.        Number of Players per Team

Eleven (or fewer of equal numbers down to seven), one specifically designated to the Referee as the goalkeeper.

_____ 5.        Players’ Equipment

Shoes, socks, shinguards, shorts, shirt.  Nothing that could be dangerous to the player or any other player.  No jewelry.  Team in matching shirts; goalkeeper in contrasting shirt.  Inspection of equipment will be performed by the Referee before the game.  Player passes, if used, will also be reviewed.

_____ 6.        The Referee (and Assistant Referees)

The Referee and Assistant Referees have full authority from the moment of arrival until departure.  The referee conducts the game from within the field of play. (Club personnel may be used to indicate out-of-bounds on the sidelines in the absence of Assistant Referees.)

_____ 7.        The Substitutes, Coaches, Parents and Fans

Along with the players, everyone must exhibit good behavior.  Coaches and substitutes must stay outside their sidelines unless permitted to go onto the field by the Referee.  Team officials are subject to warning, cautions and ejections.

_____ 8.        Coin Toss

Visiting team calls the toss.  The winner of the toss chooses which goal to attack first or to take the kick-off.  If a direction is chosen, the other team kicks off.  If the kick-off is chosen, the other team chooses which goal they will attack first.

_____ 9.        Players Take the Field

Referee may wish to have a short talk with both teams and/or allow one or two questions.  Based on the coin toss, players are to be arranged in their half of the field of play prior to the scheduled kickoff time.

_____ 10.        Kickoff

Kicking team – can’t cross midfield until a legal kickoff (ball moves) has taken place; kicker may be in other half of field and kick the ball backward; kicker may not kick the ball twice.

Defending team – must be in its own half of the field and outside the center circle until the ball is properly kicked; no players may proceed on the Referee’s starting whistle alone.

_____ 11.        Movement of Players

All players may go anywhere on the field, including the goalkeepers; the goalkeepers may only use their hands, however, in their own Penalty Area.

_____ 12.        Ball In and Out of Play

The WHOLE of the ball must be ALL OF THE WAY over the outer lines, whether on the ground on in the air to be out (a ball may not curve or be blown back in).  For a foul, the ball is no longer in play immediately at the instant the Referee starts to blow his whistle.

_____ 13.        Throw-Ins

On the sidelines, at the point where the ball went out, a player from the team which did not touch it last must:

–       Keep both feet in contact with the ground, on or behind the line, facing the field;

–       Deliver the ball, into the field, from behind and over the head, using both hands equally, at the point where the ball went out.

Defenders must not try to block the throw-in from taking place (must be at least two yards away from the thrower).

(Throw-ins where no part of the ball ever enters the field of play are retaken.)

_____ 14.        Goal Kicks

When attackers last touch the ball over the defenders’ end-line, defenders kick it back into play from anywhere within their Goal Area. The now-defenders must promptly leave the Penalty Area and must stay outside the Penalty Area until the ball is kicked. The team taking the goal kick should allow the now-defenders to clear the Penalty Area before taking the kick. The ball is live as soon as it is kicked.

_____ 15.        Corner Kicks

When defenders last touch the ball over their on end-line, attackers kick it from within the quarter circle on the same side of the field.  Defenders must be at least ten yards away.  The kicker can’t remove the corner post or kick the ball twice.

_____ 16.        Control of the Ball (Possession) by the Goalkeeper

When the goalkeeper handles the ball and has it in such a way that no other player could legally (safely) play the ball, he is in “control” or “possession” of the ball. (See next item.)

_____ 17.        Release by the Goalkeeper

Upon coming into possession of the ball, the goalkeeper is obligated to get it back into play as quickly as possible.  He has only six seconds to release it from his hands (put in on the ground, or throw it or kick it out into play).

_____ 18.        Scoring a Goal

When legally propelled off of anyone, a goal is scored when the whole of the ball goes between the goalposts, under the crossbar, and completely over the goal line.

_____ 19.        Substitutions (and Resubstitution)

Discuss local rules and procedures specific to a competition.  Recreation rules usually allow one-for-one replacement upon injury; and, any number on own throw-in, own goal-kick, at quarter breaks (if used), at halftime, and after a goal is scored.  New goalkeepers must always report to the referee.  If a team started short, a forthcoming player is generally not considered to be a “substitute” and the coach may usually send him onto the field at any point with the permission of the referee.

Players coming off must leave at the closest point of a boundary line.

_____ 20.        Halftime

Referees must allow the players a halftime break, if the players request it.  The halftime break must not exceed 15 minutes.  Teams change ends to start the second half.  Teams are to take the field before the halftime interval is actually over.  Other team from the start of the game kicks off.

_____ 21.        Fouls and Misconduct

Major player contact fouls and handling result in direct free kicks for the other team from the spot of the foul.  Procedural misconduct results in indirect free kicks for the other team from the spot of the misconduct.  The severity of the foul may result in a verbal warning from the referee, a caution (yellow card), or an ejection (red card).

(See below.)

_____ 22.        Free Kicks

The defenders must be at least ten yards away.  The kicker can’t kick the ball twice.  Attacking players must not get in a defensive “wall.”

“Direct Free Kick” – The kicking team may score a goal directly from the kick, without it having to be touched by another player other than the kicker.

“Indirect Free Kick” – The kicking team may not score a goal directly from the kick.  The ball must be touched by at least one other player, from either team, before it goes into the goal in order to count.

(See below.)

_____ 23.         Penalty Kick

Awarded because of an infraction by a defender in his own Penalty Area which would otherwise have resulted in a direct free kick for the attacking team.

The goalkeeper must have at least one foot on the goal line, facing the field, until the ball is kicked.  All players except the goalkeeper and the kicker must be outside of the Penalty Area and the penalty arc (“bubble,” “D”) until the ball is kicked.

The ball is “live” and in play, and the game re-started, with the kick.

_____ 24.        “Advantage Clause”

The referee shall refrain from penalizing a team which has committed a foul when, in his opinion, the act of stopping the play would actually be more beneficial to the team that committed the foul than the resulting free kick would be to the team receiving the award.  (Show examples, such as: player shoots, player is tripped, then the ball goes into goal.  The foul is not called and the goal counts.)

_____ 25.        Offside

Players are not allowed to just hang around in front of the goal they are attacking.  If they were, there would just be two big knots of players in front of each goal and the game would deteriorate into long kicks from end to end.  As such, attacking players must not be beyond the next-to-last defender at the moment the ball is passed to them.

_____ 26.        Pass to Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper is only allowed to take possession of the ball with his hands under certain conditions (headed, chested) when receiving a pass from a teammate.

_____ 27.        End of Game

The game is over at the instant the referee starts to blow his whistle, even if the ball is in mid-flight.

(Remember to thank the opponents and the referee nicely after the match, no matter how it turned out, for without them there would be no game and you wouldn’t get to play and coach.  See “The Unwritten Rules of Soccer.”)


  • Kicks or attempts to kick
  • Trips or attempts to trip
  • Jumps at an opponent
  • Charges improperly
  • Strikes or attempts to strike
  • Pushes
  • Tackles improperly
  • Holds
  • Spits at an opponent
  •  Commits a handling offense with the ball

(A penalty kick is awarded if any of the fouls above are committed by a player inside his own Penalty Area.)

MISCONDUCT  (Result in an Indirect Free Kick)

  • Dangerous play
  • Impedes the progress of an opponent (obstruction)
  • Prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
  • Goalkeeper exceeds six seconds before releasing the ball
  • Goalkeeper releases the ball but then touches it again without it being touched by another player
  • Goalkeeper touches the ball after it has been intentionally kicked to him by a teammate
  • Goalkeeper touches the ball directly from a throw-in from a teammate.

CAUTIONABLE OFFENSES  (“Yellow Card”)  (Result in an Indirect Free Kick)

  • Unsporting conduct
  • Dissent by word or action
  • Persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game
  • Delaying the restart of play
  • Defender fails to be far enough away from a re-start
  • Entering the field of play without the referee’s permission
  • Deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission

EJECTION OFFENSES  (“Red Card’)  (Result in a Direct Free Kick)

  • Serious foul play
  • Violent conduct
  • Spitting at anyone
  • Denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberate handling (field player)
  • Denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity by use of a direct free kick infraction
  • Offensive, insulting, or abusive language or gestures
  • Receiving a second caution in the same match

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • Read and understand the full IFAB Laws of the Game at
  • Use all of the explanations of the Laws of the Game contained at as instruction for higher-level players.

© Copyright, John C. Harves