Youth Soccer Rules for the Beginner Coach

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By Steven R Parker

The Basic Rules

The following are some of the most commonly observed youth soccer rules, as dictated by the United States Youth Soccer Associations (USYSA) and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Remember that youth soccer rules can vary between leagues and age divisions, so always consult the local soccer authority for the final word on rules and regulations.

Each team is comprised of 11 players- 10 on the field and 1 in goal. According to youth soccer rules, a team is allowed a maximum of 3 substitutions during the match if it is part of an official competition. While all the players on the field must wear jerseys of the same color, the goalkeeper must wear a different colored jersey than their teammates and the referees. Most goalkeepers choose to wear a goalkeeping jersey, a pinnie or mesh training vest, or a t-shirt.

All players must wear shin guards both during practice and game play that must be covered with socks. Metal cleats are not permitted during youth soccer play. Only rubber cleats in the back of the shoe will be accepted.

A soccer match lasts 90 minutes, and is played in two halves. A team scores a goal when the entire ball has traveled across the goal line between the two posts and under the crossbar.

Hands Off

Arguably the most important rule in the game of soccer is that players are not allowed to use their hands or arms (from the tips of the finger to the shoulder) to move the ball while it is in play on the field. The sole exceptions to this rule are the goalkeepers. However, a goalkeeper may not use their hands on a pass that comes from one of their own teammates.

The 3 Kicks: Goal, Corner, and Penalty

When the ball is kicked out of bounds along one of the sidelines, a player from the opposite team gets to throw the ball onto the field at the point in which it went foul. Both feet must remain on the ground when throwing the ball in from the sidelines, and the throw must be executed overhead using both hands.

If the ball crosses the end line, a corner kick or goal kick is performed. If the offensive team was the last to touch the ball before it crossed the end line, then it is kicked in from any spot inside the goalkeeper’s box, hence the name goal kick. Any player may execute the goal kick, not just the goalkeeper. If it was the defensive team that kicked the ball across the end line, it is kicked back into play from the corner nearest to where it left the field.

Penalty kicks are also a big part of youth soccer. If the defending team causes a contact foul or a hand ball within the penalty area, a penalty kick will be awarded to the offensive team. The ball is placed 12 yards away from the goal in the center, which is known as the penalty spot.

The goalkeeper must keep both feet on the goal line and all players must vacate the penalty area and remain outside until the ball is kicked. If a goal is not scored and the ball bounces back onto the field, it is still considered live, thus anyone can play it.

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Soccer formation diagram
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