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SOCCER 101 LESSON 1: BASIC RULES

BY KEVIN KERNEN

Debuting in this month’s edition, we’re going to take a look at the rules, history, culture and competitions among other facets of the worldwide soccer tapestry. For the uninitiated, consider this section a crash course in understanding the world’s most popular sport; for the indoctrinated, you’ll probably learn something new as well.

The rules for the game of soccer (referred to as some variation of football virtually everywhere else) are governed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), not FIFA. There are 17 rules that explicitly outline every aspect of the game, and as a certified referee, I can assure you it’s not an easy compendium to internalize. For your sanity, I will distill the first five rules for you here, along with some commentary.

RULE 1: THE FIELD OF PLAY

Much like in baseball, parts of the dimensions of the field can vary. The length of the pitch (a term unique to soccer that we’ll explore in a future issue) can vary between 100 and 130 yards, while the width is somewhere between 50 and 100 yards. Yes, you can have a square pitch.

At the end of each half is the penalty area, also called the goalie box, 18-yard box, or simply the box. This is the area that the goalkeeper is allowed to handle the ball in. A foul committed inside this area results in a penalty kick (we’ll get to that next edition). The smaller box inside of the penalty area is called the goal area, and is sometimes referred to as the 6-yard box or the six.

Other than that, there is the penalty mark, measuring 12 yards from the center of the goal. This is where penalty kicks are taken from. If you’re wondering what the arc is at the top of the penalty area, that’s for during penalty kicks. Players must stay 10 yards away from the spot until the moment the ball is kicked, and that arc is the area of exclusion outside of the penalty area itself. For penalty decisions, this arc is not considered part of the penalty area.

RULE 2: THE BALL

Every team at LouCity’s level uses a size 5 soccer ball. Fun Tidbit: Colors of balls vary between manufacturers, but in case of snow, match officials will break out an orange neon or yellow ball. Let’s move on.

RULE 3: THE PLAYERS

There are 11 players per team, including a goalkeeper. The 10 players that aren’t the goalie are often referred to as outfield players. In the United Soccer League, where LouCity plays, each team is permitted three substitutes, a convention the USL only adopted last season. Once a player is subbed off the field, they are not allowed to re-enter.

RULE 4: THE PLAYERS’ EQUIPMENT

While policy on shirt sponsors varies from league to league, players are required to have:

1. Shirt with sleeves

2. Shorts

3. Socks

4. Shin Guards

5. Approved Cleats (sometimes called boots)

This ensemble is often called a kit.

Make sure to check back next time as I’ll be covering the contentious area of fouls, bookings, and sendings off.


For top teams in Europe, kit sponsorships are lucrative propositions that can yield eye-watering sums. For instance, in 2014, England’s Manchester United (one of the world’s most valuable sports team) signed a seven year, $559 Million deal with Chevrolet, per Forbes.com. On top of that, kit suppliers (Nike and Adidas being the most affluent) splash out even more ridiculous amounts for the right to manufacture and sell teams’ shirts. Another top European team, Spain’s Real Madrid penned a 10 year, $1.6 billion deal with Adidas to produce kits for Los Blancos.

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