Similar to all other sports, soccer also has its own rules and regulations. Though, these rules differ from age to age like field size, ball size and number of substitutes varies for all age groups. So what differs in youth soccer rules and regulations?
You may find variations and non-uniformity in the soccer rules and regulations while looking at different resources and the rules might change according to the circumstances. But rules such as goal size and ball size are mostly similar as mentioned below. However, rules for the number of players, number of substitutes, free kicks and penalty kicks can vary.
If we talk about the ball size, primarily there are three sizes of soccer balls in use that are 3, 4 and 5. Although the sized range from 1 to 5 but 1 and 2 are mini balls not routinely used in games.
Age groups of U12 and older, the ball size is #5 while for U8 to U12 the ball size is #4. Similarly, for the U8 age group, the ball size would be #3.
The goal size also has variations depending on the age. The maximum goal size in feet for U6 to U8 is 4’ x 6’, 6.5′ x 18.5′ for U9 and U10, 7′ x 21′ for U11 and U12 and 8’ x 24’ for U9 and U13 age groups respectively.
Duration/Length of the Game
The length of games for each age group is as follows as given by the US Youth Soccer and its Association:
- Two 45 halves for U17-U19
- Two 40 halves for U15-U16
- Two 35 halves for U13 and U14
- Two 30 halves for U11 and U12
- Two 25 halves for U10 and U9
- 4-10 quarters for U6-U8
The overtime periods for all age groups include:
- Two 15 halves for U15-U19
- Two 10 halves for U11-U14
Besides, there are no overtime periods for ages U6-U10
The playing field is separated into two halves from a halfway line and there is a centre mark on the halfway line which is indicated as the midpoint. This line is also known as the retreat line and is used while resuming the game with a goal kick.
Maximum Number of Players
Both teams can have a maximum number of eleven players and seven players to start the game. Although, the number of players can differ for each age group. However, for players of age U14 and above the maximum and minimum number of people per team remains eleven and seven respectively. The maximum numbers of players per team, including the goalkeeper is 5v5 for age groups under U7 and U8.
The recommended size for U12 soccer players is 9 players per team. Furthermore, as per the Football Association and Competition rules, players can only play against and with the members of their own age groups.
Whenever possible, each member of the team should get equivalent playing time. The best recommendation and practice is 50 percent time for each player per game.
Furthermore, players might require showing the proof of their identity and age before or after the match starts.
Necessary Playing Equipment & Uniform
Wearing shin guards, matching shirts with sleeves, shorts and long socks is necessary for every player and socks should fully cover the shin guards. Sweat pants can be worn under the shorts. Players will not be allowed to play without shin guards. A differentiating playing strip should be worn by the goalkeeper.
Shoes that have flat sole or turf are required, cleats are not allowed. Choosing the appropriate footwear suitable for the surface of the pitch is vital. For instance, avoid metal studs for artificial grass pitch.
Players should wear clothes appropriate to the weather and team members should be dressed in the uniform which will be issued by the APR&CR. If the player is in altered uniform or not in uniform, he will not be eligible for the game. The goalkeeper’s jersey should not match the other team’s jersey. The teams should also wear different colour uniforms to be distinguished by the opposing team during the game. During the play, shirts have to be tucked in.
Furthermore, wearing jewelleries, a hard cast, head decorations, beads in the hair is not permitted in the game. However, wearing a headband not wider than 2 inches designed with nonabrasive one coloured cloth, rubber, soft leather or fibre is permitted to be worn. In addition, elastic rubber bands to manage hair are also allowed.
Referees & Assistant Referees
Each match is regulated by a referee who has the authority to implement laws and punish someone who breaks the youth soccer rules. Mostly the referee is helped by an assistant referee who points out game issues during the play like handball, foul and offside but the referee has the decision power.
For free kicks, opponents have to be 10 feet (sometimes yards) from the ball. Before the free kick is taken, the ball must stand stationary. Free kicks can be indirect or direct, although sometimes at youth level free kicks can be categorized as indirect.
For age group U6 to U10, there are no penalty kicks. Usually penalty kicks are granted when the opponent does a direct free kick foul inside the penalty area. Ball has to be kicked forward and players have to stand behind the ball. Except the goalkeeper, all players must stand outside and at least 5 yards away from the penalty mark.
When the goal is not scored and the ball passes in the air or on the ground from over the goal line and is last touched by a team member, the opposing team gets to score the goal directly from the goal kick.
Similarly, a corner kick will be awarded to the other team, if the ball entered directly in the kickers goal and has left the penalty area.
A goal will not be scored from an indirect kick or from a kick-off directly. In other words, to score a goal, the ball has to be kicked legally or fully passed between the goal posts and beneath the cross bar or by penalty kicks, direct free and action kicks.
Ball In or Out of Play
Whenever the ball has fully crossed the touch line or goal line either in the air or on the ground and when the referee has stopped the play for example when someone broke the law or if any player has been injured during the game. Otherwise the ball stays in the play.
Misconduct & Fouls
Mostly fouls include tripping, pushing, holding which leads to a free kick. Fouls may also consist of charging or handballs – touching the ball with arms or hands, exception for goalkeeper. Other fouls include:
- Stopping the goalie to release the ball with hands
- Jumping, pushing, charging or kicking an opponent
- Holding the opponent
- Playing the game in an unsafe manner
- Elbowing or striking any opponent
- Obstructing the progress of opponent
- Appearing in the protected area when an opposing player is taking a free kick
For age groups U12 and above, if fouls are conducted irresponsibly or carelessly, they will be given yellow, blue or red card, along with a penalty or free kick.
Yellow card is the warning and the red card is the disqualification of that player. Disqualified members may not enter the game again. Getting two yellow cards equals one red card. However, no cards are shown to players of U6 to U10 age.
The Start & Restart of the Game
The game starts with a kick-off from the centre point and if the opponent secures a goal, the play again restarts with a kick-off. Each player should be at least ten yards from the ball and in his own half.
The referee tosses a coin to determine which team will start the kick-off.
Prior when the kick-off is taken by the player; the ball must stand stationary on the centre point. Just after the referee gives a signal commonly by blowing a whistle, the kick-off is taken and the ball comes in play.
If the ball leaves the field or crosses the side-line of the field, the throw-in is taken.
The rule for throw in is to throw the ball over the head by using both hands. When a member last touches the ball as it crosses the side-line in the air or ground, the throw-in will be awarded to the opposing member.
It is the duty of the referee to allow young players commonly for U8 and below to learn the game and give them a second chance.
Players may be substituted with any other player for example in case of any injury faced by any player during the game or if the player gets tired and can’t continue. Any player can also reappear in the game except when disqualified.
The number of substitutes for the youth section is commonly 4.
So these were some of the basic and major youth soccer rules and regulations but sometimes you will find modifications in it. Conclusively, these youth soccer rules may seem tough to read at first but as you watch the game more, you start understanding the value of these youth soccer rules and how they are implemented.