Parent Parents & Players

Parent’s Guide to Soccer Rules

To be the most supportive parent to your child’s budding youth soccer career, you need to know the rules of the game. Read on for a rundown of basic soccer rules to keep you cheering on the sidelines.
soccer coach teaching kids

by Trace Team

A team on a mission to change the way we capture and relive the most important memories of our life.

There are lots of benefits for kids who play soccer. From fostering physical fitness and enhancing motor skills to instilling valuable life lessons like teamwork, discipline, and perseverance, youth soccer creates an environment that nurtures personal growth and development. That’s why we’re giving you a guide to simple soccer rules for beginners so you can understand the most common — and important — rules you’ll see used in your child’s games.

The fundamentals of the game

Kids’ soccer games look a little different than the professional games you may have seen on TV, and that’s largely due to the technical and physically demanding nature of the game. Fundamentally though, the basic rules of soccer remain the same — the game begins with a kickoff, and two teams compete against each other to kick the ball into the other team’s net to score points. The game is split into two halves, the ball must stay within the bounds of the soccer field, and each team has a goalkeeper in the goalie box to block the other team’s shots.

The size of the soccer field varies by age group, and youth soccer is generally divided into groups for kids ages six, eight, 10, and 12 years old. Fields start out small so they can gradually introduce the game of soccer to younger children who need more engagement and limited athletic demand.

Basic youth soccer rules

The thrills of youth soccer games are accompanied by a set of well-defined rules that govern play on the field, and understanding these rules is essential for players, coaches, and parents alike. You may be familiar with some of the more obvious rules, like “no touching the ball with your hands or arms,” but we’ll give you a rundown of the most common ones and how they interact with each other:

Out of play & throw-ins

When a ball is “out of play,” that means the ball has crossed the white boundary lines of the field, and it can apply to a ball on the ground or in the air. When the ball goes out of play (specifically along the sidelines), the referee stops the game and the team that didn’t touch the ball last before it went out is awarded a throw-in to restart the game.

NOTE: If the ball is on the white line, it is still considered “in” — there has to be green between the boundary line and the ball to be considered “out.”

The player who does the throw-in will launch the ball from behind and over their head with both feet planted on the ground, resuming gameplay. Once the throw-in is complete, the player receiving the ball can then go on to dribble, pass, or shoot the ball per the regular rules of the game. Notably, throw-ins only happen along the sidelines, or the longer sides of the field.

Corner kicks vs. goal kicks

When the ball goes out of bounds along the shorter sides of the field, or the goal lines, a corner or goal kick is awarded. The key distinction between corner kicks and goal kicks lies in which team is awarded the restart. If the defending team was last to touch the ball before it went out, a corner kick is awarded to the attacking team. If the attacking team was last to touch it, a goal kick is given to the defending team. The positioning of the kicks also differs, as corner kicks are taken from the corner of the field nearest to where the ball went out, while goal kicks are taken from within the defending team’s six-yard box. Gameplay continues after each type of kick is taken.

Goalie rules

On the note of goal kicks, goalkeepers have distinct rules and responsibilities that set them apart from other players on the field. This includes taking goal kicks and the ability to use their hands to save or block from the opposing team while they’re in the goalie box. But, it’s important that goalies don’t touch the ball with their hands outside of the goalie box, as they could trigger a free-kick or penalty kick for the opposing team.


A player is considered offside if they are closer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender when the ball is passed to them. You can think of it as an attacker being too far forward and getting behind all of the other team’s defenders. When the offside rule is called, play is stopped, and the opposing team is awarded an indirect free-kick (more on that later) from the spot where the offside offense occurred. The player who was in the offside position is unable to rejoin play until another player from either team touches the ball, ensuring that the attacking team does not gain an unfair advantage by positioning their players behind the opposition’s defense.


As we’ve established, you cannot touch the ball with your hands if you’re a regular player or a goalie outside of the goalie box in the game of soccer. If a player intentionally handles the ball with their hands or arms, a handball offense is called and the opposing team is awarded a free kick or a penalty kick. Within this rule, there’s a distinction between accidental and deliberate handballs. If the ball accidentally grazes a player’s arm or hand, it’s not likely to receive a flag from the referee unless it leads to a goal or serious scoring opportunity. For less severe handball infractions, the opposing team gets an ​​indirect free kick. But for glaring handball infractions, the other team may get a penalty kick.

Two touch rule

The two touch rule basically means that when a player is restarting play, they can’t touch it twice in a row. For example, if a player is performing a throw-in, they can’t be the next person to touch the ball, it has to be a teammate or opponent (this prevents “passing” to yourself). If your player doesn’t follow the two-touch rule, the opposing team is rewarded with an indirect free kick.

Direct vs. indirect free kicks

Speaking of, direct and indirect free kicks are triggered by fouls. When a player commits a minor foul, it results in an indirect free kick, where the ball must be touched by another player before it can go into the net (first the player handling the free kick, then another touch). On the other hand, a more serious foul — like being aggressive to another player or touching the ball with your hands — leads to a direct free kick. These can be kicked directly into the net from the free kick if close enough to the goal.

Allowing for advantage

However, the whistle isn’t blown for all fouls. The “allowing for advantage” rule is used by the referee when a team has been fouled but still has a promising attacking opportunity. When the foul happens, the referee has the discretion to assess whether stopping play would benefit the fouled team more than allowing them to continue in their already advantageous position. If that’s the case, the referee will not blow the whistle and gameplay continues. However, if the fouled team fails to capitalize on the advantage gained within a few seconds, the referee may then call the original foul and award a free kick or penalty.

Penalty kicks

When a defending player commits a foul inside their own penalty area, such as a foul on an attacking player that denies them a clear goal-scoring opportunity, a penalty kick is triggered. During a penalty kick, only the player and the goalie remain inside the penalty area until the ball is kicked, and gameplay resumes as normal after the kick. This rule is not to be confused with free kicks or corner kicks, as penalty kicks often provide a team’s best chances of scoring a goal due to the 1-on-1 nature of the penalty.

Red vs. yellow cards

Red and yellow cards are disciplinary warnings from the referee when players commit various infractions. Red cards are for serious fouls, aggressive or violent conduct, and intentional handballs denying goal-scoring opportunities — and they immediately expel a player from the game. Yellow cards are for less serious offenses like persistent fouling, dissent, or time-wasting, but if a player gets two yellow cards in the same game, it’s an automatic red card, and they are sent off the field. While yellow cards are less serious, if a player accumulates too many throughout a season, they may face additional disciplinary actions.

Rules for parents to follow

Parents play a vital role in creating a positive and supportive environment for their young athletes, so it’s important you serve as a role model who embodies good sportsmanship. That’s why it’s crucial to respect the referees’ decisions and avoid any confrontations — with either the referee or other parents — even if you disagree with their call. Stay off the field and let the coaches be coaches, this will give everyone on the field the space they need to focus and play. Most importantly, be supportive and have fun. Make relationships with the other parents. Your good attitude and willingness to participate in a respectful and appropriate way will allow your child to play their best without unnecessary pressure. If you can’t resist a little bit of coaching, practice with your child to help them improve by using Trace’s smart camera and PlayerFocus to capture every moment on the field, including areas of improvement.

Never miss a call with Trace

Now that we understand the rules of the game, you and your junior athlete can take to the field with confidence. While the tradition of parents watching their children’s soccer games might be as old as the sport itself, there’s a new way you can capture your child’s greatest plays and share their highlight reels with friends and family like never before.

Trace captures each play and skillfully puts the spotlight on your child’s performance during every game. Trace’s PlayerFocus tool locks in on your player and automatically splices their soccer game videos together so you can easily review and help your child improve their skills. By using Trace, you can spend the game cheering on your child instead of messing with your camera or filling up the storage space on your phone with blurry action shots of the game. Learn more about how we can change the way you participate in your child’s soccer games for the better.

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