World Cup Soccer Rules of Soccer and European Football

About the rules for soccer or football, international or world cup standard rules including positions, referees, and field size.

The World Cup


The international rules of soccer are as follows: The playing field has a length of a minimum of 100 yards and a maximum of 130 yards. The width is from 50 to 100 yards. The field markings are the end lines ("goal lines"); the side lines ("touchlines"); a halfway line; and on each end of the field, rectangular penalty and goal areas. In the middle of each of the goal lines are set 2 goal posts, 8 yards apart, spanned by a crossbar 8' off the ground and backed by a net.

The purpose of the game is to make more goals than the opposing team. A goal is scored when the ball passes between the goal posts under the crossbar as a result of being kicked or propelled by the head of a team member ("headed").

The spherical ball used is a minimum of 27" and a maximum of 28" in circumference.

There are 11 men of each of the 2 teams. Except for the goalkeeper, they may roam the field. The defensive players are the left fullback, right fullback, and the center halfback, left halfback, and right halfback. There are 5 forwards: outside right, inside right, center, inside left, and outside left.

A referee, assisted by 2 linesmen, controls the game.

The game is made up of 45-minute halves. There is a one-minute interval between halves, at which time the teams reverse their positions on the field.

Immediately prior to the game, the team captains flip a coin, with the winner having the option of a choice of goals or kickoff. The game starts with a place kick from the center of the field by the center forward. Usually he kicks it to one of his nearby team members to the left or right.

Kicking, heading, and blocking the ball with the body are the techniques used to manipulate the ball. There are a few circumstances under which the use of the hands is also allowed: If the ball is propelled across a touchline, a player on the opposing team throws it back onto the field. Also, the goalkeeper may handle the ball when it comes into his penalty area. He is permitted to carry the ball 4 steps and throw or kick it to a teammate.

The short kick used by the players to advance the ball while running, keeping it under control, is called the "dribble." The long kick to another player or out of bounds is also used. Tripping, pushing or holding are prohibited. Blocking and other types of body contact are forbidden. The exception is when such contact accidentally occurs in the process of trying to play the ball. When infractions occur, the opposing team is allowed a free direct or indirect kick, depending upon the violation. In the indirect kick, the ball must be touched by someone other than the kicker before a goal can be scored.

Soccer's only complicated rule states that an offensive player is offside if he is nearer the goal line than is the ball at the moment his teammate starts to pass the ball to him, unless there are at least 2 defending players (the goalkeeper and one other) between him and the goal line. This rule does not apply if he receives the ball after it has been touched by a member of the defending team, or if he receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a corner kick, a throw-in, or from the referee dropping the ball into play. The offside infraction is called only when the player who is offside actually participates in the play.

Soccer's relatively simple rules have helped to make it a universally understood and appreciated game. But not until the World Cup competition began did soccer achieve the status attributed to it by English author Anthony Burgess: "the only international language, apart from sex."

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