Do You Know the Rules of Soccer?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Soccer, known as "football" (or some variation thereof) in most other countries, is the world's most popular sport. In the United States, though, it has a different status. It's not popular as a spectator sport, however, it's a staple of P.E. classes and of youth sports leagues, with special popularity among girls. 

Soccer is not unlike hockey, a sport that's big in Canada and the northern United States. It's even more like the sport of rugby, which is its close cousin. All of these are sports whose main point is scoring a goal. But, of course, it's not as simple as that sounds. In soccer, there are rules for getting the ball to and into the goal. First and foremost is which body parts a player can manipulate the ball with (we suspect you know what we're getting at, but won't give it away here). Violating the rules can result in the referee calling a foul, giving a penalty kick to the opposing team. Repeated violations can get a player cautioned, or even ejected from the game. 

The odds are that you've either watched or played soccer, and therefore learned its rules. But how confident are you that you really remember them? Test your knowledge now with our quiz! We promise no matter how you perform, we won't give you a red card!

What is the most basic rule of soccer everyone should know?

This is the day-one-before-lunch thing players learn about soccer. They are allowed to walk while on the field, of course, and they *must* wear shoes, called "cleats" or "boots."


Does the no-hands rule include the arms?

This is why you won't see a player "elbow" a ball, like they use their heads and knees. However, if the ball accidentally hits a player's hand or arm, that's not a foul.


Which player IS allowed to touch the ball with her/his hands?

The goalkeeper is allowed to grab the ball with her hands to stop it from entering the goal. Goalie is perhaps the most mentally challenging position in soccer; it offers many opportunities to be the game's hero or its goat.


How long is a goalie allowed to have the ball in her hands?

Several rules govern the goalkeeper handling the ball. In addition to the six-second rule, the goalkeeper is not allowed to handle the ball after releasing it, until it has contacted another player. The punishment for these infractions is an indirect free kick.


A soccer game is divided into ______.

A soccer game is very simply divided into two halves, with halftime in between. This has to do with the simplicity of play -- it's not like baseball, in which the offense and defense trade places regularly throughout the game.


Which of these is NOT a player in a soccer game?

Soccer does have midfielders, but not locks or hookers. Those players are found in rugby, which has a number of colorful names for its players.


"Striker" is another name for which player?

"Striker" is just another name for forward. Though they are the players most likely to score, a striker is not necessarily the highest-scoring player -- in fact, there's almost always more than one on the field.


To be on the opponent's half of the field without the ball and closer to the goal than any defenders is ______.

Obviously, the goalie doesn't count as a defender in this situation. Or, put another way, being offside is being closer to the goal than any defender but one.


A player is NOT offside if he is ______.

To be offside, the player must be ahead of, not even with, the closest defender, and involved in active play. To just be standing offside is not called as a penalty.


What is the most serious penalty in a soccer game?

Expulsion (also called ejection) isn't just a punishment for the player. The team is not allowed to bring in a new player, so it hurts the whole squad, which is now one player light.


What color card marks an expulsion?

A red card is a type of penalty card. It's used in more sports than soccer, but always denotes a serious offense and a serious penalty.


What does a yellow card signify?

Not all fouls get are marked by penalty cards; in fact, most aren't. A yellow card tells a player that if he continues to violate the rules, he'll be ejected, and his team will have to play one person light.


What does an orange card signify?

Usually, only yellow and red cards are used in soccer. Indoor soccer has a "blue card" used to indicate that a player will be sent to the penalty box, a punishment that association soccer does not use.


A soccer team on the field must consist of ...

Unlike the fixed formation of players in a sport like baseball, soccer is fluid in how players can be arranged and used. This allows a coach to assign more defenders, for a more cautious game, or more forwards, for a more aggressive one.


How many players maximum may be on a soccer field (per team)?

While the formation of a team is at the manager's discretion, things would get out of hand if there were no maximum number. So it's capped at eleven. This number can go down if a player is ejected, because substitutions are not allowed in the case of expulsion.


True or false: A soccer field must be real grass.

According in international rules, a field may be artificial turf, as long as it is green in color. Players probably prefer grass, while those who do their laundry probably prefer artificial turf.


There must be eight yards between ________.

This would be a long way for a referee to have to stand off from a player! Instead, it's the distance between the goal posts. Opposing players do have to stand at a distance from the ball at kick-off, but it's not eight yards.


How long is a standard soccer game? (Not including stoppages and halftime)

There are two halves, with 45 minutes of play each. Halftime is usually 15 minutes.


Which of these is the team captain's responsibility?

The team captain has unofficial responsibilities, of course. He or she is usually a competent veteran player who raises morale and sets a standard for sportsmanslike conduct.


What does the winner of the coin toss decide?

This also determines which direction they want to play; that is, which goal they want to be advancing toward. This can provide some tactical advantage, given where the sun is and how the wind is blowing. In compensation, the losing team gets the ball at kick-off.


How many kick-offs are there in a soccer game?

Usually, there are two kick-offs, one for each half. However, if the game goes into overtime, there can be another kick-off.


What can the kicker NOT do in a kick-off?

Another player must contact the ball before the kick-off kick can touch it again. There's a similar rule for goalkeepers, when they touch the ball with their hands.


How many yards do opposing players have to keep away from the ball at kick-off?

This is a pretty healthy distance from the ball. Still, it keeps opposing players from crowding the kick-off and getting almost instant control of the ball.


How far up the field can the goalie advance?

The goalie is not allowed to use his hands when outside the penalty area. However, there is no restriction on the goalie advancing past that and up the field. It's just really bad judgment on his part, leaving the goal undefended.


What are the "touchlines"?

Called "sidelines" in other sports, the long edges of the field are called "touchlines" in soccer. Rugby also uses this term.


What happens when the ball rolls off the field of play?

When a player loses control of the ball to the extent that it rolls out of bounds, a player from the opposing team throws it back in. As with an indirect free kick, a throw-in cannot result directly in a goal.


What would disqualify a throw-in?

In a throw-in, the player must throw the ball with hands over his head. The ball going into a goal is allowed, but does not score a point.


What is the result when the ball goes over the goal line (but not into the goal)?

A corner kick is made by a member of the team on offense. A goal scored by a corner kick is legal, though it's obviously rare, given the position of the goal in relation to the corners of the field.


Which of these usually restarts play after a foul?

Only the goalkeeper can defend against a penalty kick. That's why they often result in goals.


In an indirect free kick, the ball must do what before scoring a goal?

In a direct free kick, the player may score with his kick. In an indirect free kick, the ball must touch a player other than the kicker before a goal can be scored.


How many referees are there per game?

There's one referee whose rulings are ultimately final. However, assistant referees help him or her keep an eye on play in different parts of the field, and perform other minor duties.


"Booking" is a synonym for what?

When a referee gives a player a caution, or yellow card, she also makes a notation in her book. Therefore, giving a yellow card is also called "booking" a player.


What are the official rules of soccer/football, published in 19th-century England, called?

The Laws of the Game were officially formulated in England in 1863. Smaller organizations, like youth soccer clubs, might have their own set of rules, based on the Laws but adding tenets about sportsmanlike behavior and so on.


Broadly speaking, how many Laws are there?

We say "broadly speaking" because each law is an area (e.g. "The Players' Equipment") with several rules and instructions included in it. It might be more accurate to call them the seventeen Categories, but tradition holds that they're called Laws.


What is the organization that governs soccer at the international level?

FIFA runs international football (soccer), including the World Cup. The use of both "Federation" and "Association" in the name isn't redundant: Soccer is formally known as "association football," and the adjective comes after the verb in French.


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