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Indoor Soccer Rules, Policies, and Procedures for Officials

There are variations to some rules between the various arenas where you will work. When a rule includes an asterisk (*), look in the section titled “Modifications to Rules by Arena” for further clarification and changes, so that you follow the proper set of guidelines in the arena where you are working.

Rule 1 - The Ball

1.1 The following size soccer balls should be used for competition:

1.2 The game ball is to be provided by the home team for each game. Should the home team not provide an adequate ball, a substitute may be provided. In all cases, the ball is to be approved by the referee prior to putting it into play. If there is a dispute between sides that cannot be resolved, the home team’s ball shall be used. Any changes to the ball can only be made by the referee, not by a player.

Rule 2 - Players

2.1 The number of players allowed on the field will vary based on age and arena. In general, U-12 through adult games will have five field players, plus a goalkeeper; games U-11 and lower will have six field players*.

All players are to have a valid player card, or a temporary player card/pass issued by the arena, in order to play. Do not allow players to play without a card or pass, regardless of whether you know them, you’ve seen their card before, their coach/manager forgot to bring it, or any other excuse. To do so opens you and the arena to liability, and you will not have a card available for disciplinary purposes should a red card situation arise.

2.2 Coed games will have six field players, plus a keeper. There is a maximum of three male field players allowed on the field during play (except when players are added due to a scoring margin), regardless of the gender of the keeper. There may be more than three female field players at any time.

2.3 Players should wear a jersey of the same color as their teammates. At our level of soccer, with players being picked up to fill out teams sometimes, there will be a variation of color. Use your discretion and judgment in deciding if the color variations are acceptable and will not cause confusion. If you feel there is a problem, have the player change shirts. Your word is final as to what is and is not acceptable as a color to play in for a specific player.

If there is a color conflict between two teams, the home team is to change uniforms.

Goalkeepers should wear a jersey that differs from those worn by all field players, and (in theory) the referee’s jersey.

Players should not wear jewelry or other items which are not a part of the playing uniform. Jewelry which can not be removed should be taped or covered. Any hardened protective devices such as casts, splints, or braces (not including knee braces) should be covered and/or padded to the referee’s satisfaction.

2.4 A maximum of two coaches should be allowed on the bench at any time. All other adults, non-team personnel, parents, children, and spectators are to be removed from the bench area and returned to the spectator area of the arena.

2.5 Teams are free to substitute players at any time (“on the fly”). Players must substitute off the field of play via the substitution zone in front of their own bench. Take time to educate players and/or coaches that substitutes need to wait for the player being substituted to get in the bench zone before having the substitute enter the field of play.

Players may not step off the field of play through the opposing team’s bench, the goals, or any entrance/exit on the field of play.

If both players are on the field, and the ball comes to them, neither player may play the ball if the other player is on the field (player subbing out can’t kick the ball if the sub has stepped on the field; player subbing in can’t kick the ball if the replaced player hasn’t left the field). A violation of this rule results in a free kick to the opposing team.

Players may not jump or vault over the boards as a part of the substitution process. A player who jumps over the boards shall receive a blue card.

2.6 A team with too many players on the field is penalized, with a free kick awarded to the opposing team.

2.7 When a team is trailing by five or more goals during a game, the team that is behind may place an additional player on the field of play.* In coed games, the added player may be of either gender.

Rule 3 - The Referee: Rights and Responsibilities

3.1 The referee’s responsibility for the supervision of a game, and his or her right and authority to issue penalties and sanctions, includes the time from when players, coaches, and team personnel enter the arena and/or the field of play, during play, during stoppages, to the time when all personnel exit the field of play and/or the arena.

3.2 The referee’s decisions with regard to the interpretation of the rules of the game, and with the facts connected to the play on the field, are final. The referee may change ANY decision prior to the resumption of play upon reconsideration. Obviously, you don’t want to find yourself in this position if you can avoid it, but you have the right to make a change if you need to (for example, you rule a free kick one way, and both teams tell you it touched a player from that team last). If you have to, swallow your pride, and get the decision that’s right and fair to the players made.

3.3 The referee has the right to stop, suspend OR terminate a game, based on events, interference by players, coaches, or spectators, unsafe conditions, or other justifiable reasons. This call is at the referee’s discretion. Ask arena personnel for help if you need it if you have an extreme situation.

Rule 4 - The Game and Rules of Play

4.1 All regulation (non-tournament) games will have 22-minute halves.* A tie game will remain a tie in regulation play. Arenas will provide rules for possible tiebreak situations if a tournament game is tied. The clock is to run continuously during play once it is started, and should not be stopped for any reason once a half has commenced.

If a foul which results in a shootout situation is called, and time expires prior to the shootout being taken, the half or game will be extended to allow the shootout to take place.

4.2 Play in each half is to start with a kickoff from the center spot in the middle of the field. The home team will kick off to start the first half (and first overtime period, if overtime is being used), and the visiting team will kick off the second half (and second overtime period, if applicable).

Following a goal, play resumes with a kickoff from the center spot, taken by the team that was scored upon.

Kickoffs should not be taken until the referee blows his or her whistle to signal play is to resume. Once the signal has been given, a team has five seconds to play the ball. A team failing to play the ball in this time span will lose possession, and the opposing team will be awarded a free kick. A player taking a kickoff may not touch the ball again until it has been touched by another player. Violation of this rule results in a free kick for the opposing team.

4.3 Free Kicks (ALL kicks in indoor play are direct kicks)

Free kicks are awarded during play for rules violations. The ball must be stationary before a free kick can be taken. Players on the opposing team must be a minimum of five yards away from the ball when a free kick is taken. If a free kick is taken within five yards of the opponent’s goal (from outside the penalty arch), defenders may stand on the goal line, but not any closer.

If a defensive player steps within the five-yard area (encroachment) during the kick after that player has been cautioned to stay the five-yard distance from the ball, that player will receive a blue card (see cards, below). If a player is attempting to move away from the ball, and is hit with the shot, that player will not receive a blue card.

All free kicks must be taken within five seconds of the referee indicating the resumption of play. Any kick not taken within the five-second limit will result in a free kick being awarded to the opposing team. Make sure your count can be clearly heard by players as they prepare to take a free kick.

A player who takes a free kick may not touch the ball again until it is touched by another player from either team. A player who violates this rule with a “double-touch” will cause a free kick to be awarded to the opposing team at the point of the second touching. This most frequently occurs when a player makes an attempt at scoring a goal from a free kick, only to have the ball rebound off the wall directly to the same player, who then plays it again, resulting in a “double-touch” violation. This can also happen in recreational games with a beginning or novice player who makes a poor free kick originally, and races forward to play the ball again to keep it away from an opponent.

A free kick which is taken within the defensive team’s penalty arch may be taken from any location within the penalty arch, and may be taken by a goalkeeper in coed games (as opposed to other free kicks, which are taken by female players in coed games). All opposing players must remain outside of the arch, and must be a minimum of five yards away from the ball until it clears the arch and is deemed in play. If any player from either team touches the ball before it leaves the penalty arch, the free kick is taken again.

When an offensive player is fouled in the opponents’ penalty area, the free kick is taken from the opponent’s free kick spot, which is located at the top of the penalty arch. All defensive players must be a minimum of five yards away from the ball.

When a free kick is awarded because of any of the following four reasons, the free kick is to be taken from the free kick spot at the top of the penalty arch:

4.3.1 Kick-ins

If the ball goes out of play outside of the space between the corner marks without contacting the ceiling, a free kick, called a kick-in, is to be taken from the touchline (the sideline which circles the field next to the walls). If a team kicks the ball into the netting or bench area, causing it to go out of play, the opposing team is awarded the kick-in. If the ball goes out of play after touching a player, a substitute, any bench personnel who may be inadvertently extending into the field of play (i.e., hanging over the boards), or if the ball goes through a door left open by a team, the kick-in is taken by the opposing team.

4.3.2 Corner kicks

If the ball, after having been last played by a defending player, goes out of play inside of the corner marks, without contacting the ceiling, then the opposing (attacking) team will take a free kick from the corner mark that is on the side of the goal nearest to where the ball exited play.

4.3.3 Three-line violations (*)

If the ball is played by a team from behind its defensive red line, and travels in the air over three lines (defensive red line, center line, and offensive red line), without contacting the side boards or glass, a free kick is awarded to the opposing team from the restart mark (dot on the red line) of the team that committed the three-line violation.

Note: If the ball strikes the wall, glass, referee, or another player before breaking the plane of the third line (far red line), then there is no three-line violation. Otherwise, the kick is in violation the moment it “breaks the plane” of the far red line; it does not have to land on the turf before the whistle can be blown.

4.3.4 Kicks into ceiling/netting (*)

If the ball is played by a team into the ceiling or netting which is covering the ceiling area, a free kick is awarded to the opposing team at the restart mark (dot on the red line) closest to where the violation occurred.

When the ball strikes the ceiling, determine in which half of the field the ball contacted the ceiling surface, then place the ball at the restart mark on that half of the field.

4.4 Goalkeeper Distribution after the ball is out of play

If a member of the attacking team plays the ball out of play, without it touching the ceiling, inside the corner marks, then play shall restart with the goalkeeper throwing the ball to a teammate outside of the arch.

The keeper may not drop the ball outside of the arch and play it to himself or herself. The throw must go from any point inside the penalty area to another player outside of the penalty area.

Once the keeper has control of the ball, and you have indicated play is to restart, the keeper has five seconds to play the ball. Opposing players must be at least five yards away from the penalty arch until the ball clears the arch and is back in play. If the keeper does not release the ball before the five-count concludes, a free kick is awarded to the opposing team at the free kick mark (dot at the top of the penalty arch).

If a keeper has possession of the ball in his or her hands, the keeper may not bounce the ball. The act of bouncing the ball means the ball is considered in play when it touches the playing surface, and thus catching it again by the keeper is an illegal touching. This differs from what a keeper is allowed to do outdoors; you should warn/remind/explain this to the keeper (especially since many have little experience as indoor keepers) on the first violation; subsequent illegal touches can result in a free kick to the opposing team from the free kick mark (dot at the top of the arch).

4.5 Dropped Ball

If there is a stoppage of play and neither team is clearly in possession of the ball, then you should restart play with a dropped ball. All dropped balls must first contact the playing surface before they can be touched by any player. The ball is considered in play when it touches the playing surface.

A dropped ball is played at the point where play was stopped, unless a drop ball was called while the ball was in the penalty arch. If this is the case, then the drop ball is taken at the free kick mark (dot at the top of the penalty arch).

The majority of dropped balls will occur when you decide to stop play due to a player injury (see below).

4.6 Player Injuries

At the recreational amateur level, the health and safety of players is a primary concern, and you should keep player safety foremost in mind with regard to stopping play to insure that they are not injured.

It is up to the referee to determine whether to wait for the next natural stoppage of play, or to immediately stop play, depending on the severity of the potential injury as well as the location of the player. It is the referee’s right to immediately stop play if any of the situations listed below are present:

Use common sense with injuries to recreational players, and err on the side of safety and caution if you’re trying to decide whether or not to stop play. Everyone playing in a recreational game wants to get through the game healthy, and be able to continue with work, school, or other activities.

If a player is bleeding, has blood on his body, or blood on his uniform, regardless of whether it is that player’s blood, or someone else’s, that player must immediately leave the field until the blood is cleaned off, and any bleeding areas are treated and covered. You are to inspect and approve all coverings and treatment for blood before allowing a player to return to the field. Players with blood on their clothing must change that clothing before returning to the field. You may permit players to wear alternative clothing, or a different color or shade, in order to allow them to continue to play.

Rule 5 - Goals

5.1 A goal is scored when the entire ball legally passes over the entire goal line, between the goalposts, and under the crossbar. A goal may be scored directly from any kickoff, free kick, or restart.

5.2 If an outside agent of any kind alters the path of the ball on its way over the goal line, no goal is awarded. A free kick is to be given to the team which is opposing the team that was responsible for the outside agent or stoppage, unless the play in question involved a shootout or a penalty kick. In those cases, the play (shootout or penalty kick) is retaken.

Rule 6 - Fouls, Violations, and Cards

6.1 A foul is given to a player who commits any of the following violations in a manner that in the referee’s opinion is either careless, serious, reckless, or involving excessive force:

In addition, a foul is given if a player commits any of the following, regardless of severity:

6.2 The following violations are ruled to be Unsporting Behavior, with a free kick awarded to the opposing team:

6.3 Goalkeeper violations

Any of these violations committed by a goalkeeper will result in a free kick being awarded to the opposing team at the free kick mark (dot at the top of the penalty arch):

6.4 Team violations

A team penalty is issued for any of the following team violations, either by a team member, coach, or other unidentified person:

6.5 Advantage Rule

When a player has been fouled, and his or her team will benefit more from an existing offensive advantage, the referee is to let play continue. If a foul is severe enough that a card will be given, you can still let play continue, and award a delayed penalty (see below).

6.6 Flagrant Fouls

For any of these fouls committed by a defensive player in the defensive half of the field, a shootout is given (see proper procedures under “Shootouts” below):

6.7 Blue Card Fouls and Offenses

Unless the referee decides instead to issue a yellow or red card when calling a violation or foul, a Blue Card is shown for:

6.8 Cautionable/Yellow Card Fouls and Offenses

Unless the referee decides instead to issue a red card when calling a violation or foul, a Yellow Card is issued for:

6.9 Ejection/Red Card Fouls and Offenses

A player receives a red card for:

You, as the referee, have latitude and leeway in determining how you will penalize a violation. You can issue a blue card, a “straight yellow” instead of accumulating two blues, or a red card. It is up to you to determine the severity of the foul or violation, and penalize it accordingly.

6.10 The “Macho” Rule: This rule is in effect for coed adult games. Any player who acts in a threatening manner, either verbally, physically, or otherwise toward a female player, or puts a female player’s safety in jeopardy through his or her style of play, will be in violation of this rule, and a free kick will be awarded to the team of the threatened or jeopardized player. The most frequent occurrence of this rule is the male player who blasts a powerful shot on goal with a female player directly in front of the ball, and trying to avoid the shot. Note that, as more skilled female players continue to join coed play, many women are now comfortable with deliberately stepping in front of, and defending, a male player’s shot. The Macho Rule should not be applied when these players make the conscious decision to play the ball. A two minute penalty may also be given to the offending player. The enforcement of this rule, and the level of penalty assessed, is solely the referee’s decision.

Rule 7 - Time Penalties

7.1 Time Penalties When a Card is Issued

When a card is issued by a referee, the following time penalties are assessed, with the penalized team playing one player short:

7.2 Except as listed herein, the player who receives a card serves the time penalty. A player who receives a Red Card is to leave the facility, and is not permitted to return to the facility until that player is allowed to return by the arena management.

Players serve their time penalties until:

A time penalty which has time remaining at the end of the first half of play will continue to be served at the start of the second half, until the time penalty expires or the opponents score a goal. Time penalties do not end at halftime if there is still time remaining in the penalty.

Players may be selected by their teams to serve the following Time Penalties:

The player chosen to serve the penalty may not already be serving a Time Penalty. Players who are chosen to serve time penalties will not have those penalties accumulate in their personal totals. In other words, a player who serves a time penalty, and then receives a blue card of his or her own, does not then receive a yellow for having accumulated two blue cards.

A team may not have more than two players serving time penalties at any one time. If a third player receives a time penalty, but two other teammates are already serving time, the third penalized player will go to the penalty area, but the player’s team will continue to play with the minimum (generally, four) number of players. The third player’s penalty time, although the player is in the penalty area, does not start to count until at least one of his or her teammates has finished serving a penalty.

If a team is scored upon while it has one or more players serving a two-minute time penalty, then a player is “released” from the penalty area, allowed to return to the field of play, and the remaining penalty time is canceled. If the team has two or more players serving penalties, only the player whose penalty started first is released. If the player is serving a yellow card penalty of two consecutive two-minute penalty periods, a goal scored in the first two minutes cancels out the remaining time of the first two minutes only; a goal scored in the last two minutes cancels out the remaining time of that time period.

When two opposing players receive Red Cards at the same time, their time penalties are not served by either team.

No player may receive more than five minutes of penalty time at any one single point in the game, except for those players who receive Red Cards and are automatically ejected.

If a referee has an advantage situation occur in a place where a blue or yellow card should be issued, the advantage should still be played. The referee should hold either the blue or the yellow card over his or her head, to designated a delayed penalty is to be called, and keep it there until either:

In the above three circumstances, once play is stopped, the penalty is then assessed under the standard penalty guidelines listed above

Rule 8 - Shootouts and Penalty Kicks

8.1 Shootouts: During regular, non-tournament game play, shootouts are awarded for any of the rules violations listed above in Rule 6.6. Tiebreaker (tournament) shootouts are covered below in Rule 8.3.

Any player on the attacking team can take the shootout. All players on the field, with the exception of the shooter and the opposing keeper, must stand behind the midfield line, with members of the defending team inside the center circle, and members of the attacking team outside of the center circle.

The ball is placed on the red line closest to the goal where the shootout is to take place. The goalkeeper must have at least one foot on the goal line until after the referee blows his or her whistle to start the shootout.

Once the referee blows the whistle, the ball is in play, just as in regular play, and the player plays the ball forward. The player taking the shootout may use any standard legal manner to score–including a direct shot on goal, dribbling and then shooting, playing the ball off of the boards, passing to a teammate, and so on. A shootout which takes place during regular game play is not timed; the ball is simply back in play in standard game mode once the referee blows the whistle.

Any foul which is committed by the keeper on the shootout player will result in a Penalty Kick being awarded (see Rule 8.2).

8.2 Penalty Kicks: In a penalty kick situation, the ball is placed at the free kick mark (the white dot at the top of the Penalty Arch). The keeper may not move off of the line until the referee blows the whistle to begin the Penalty Kick. All other players are lined up at midfield, similar to the shootout. Once the whistle blows to commence the penalty kick, the player taking the kick has five seconds to take the kick. The player taking the kick must strike the ball one time, as in the standard penalty kick. The player who takes the penalty kick may not touch the ball a second time until another player has touched it. Should the “double-touch” occur, a free kick is awarded to the defending team.

8.3 Shootouts Used as Tiebreakers in Tournament Play: A shootout which is used as a tiebreaker to resolve a tied tournament game proceeds similar to a regular shootout, with a few modifications.

All players other than the shooter and the two goalkeepers are to remain on their team benches. The goalkeeper who is the teammate of the player taking the shootout attempt may not interfere with play or distract the opposing goalkeeper in any fashion.

The referee will determine which goal will be used for the shootout, and in which order the teams will shoot. Each team will select three players, who will alternate back and forth, taking shootout attempts. The keeper must keep one foot on the line until after the whistle has been blown. Once the referee starts play by blowing the whistle, the attacking shootout player has five seconds to score after the referee’s whistle. The ball must cross the goal line prior to the end of the five seconds; simply having the shot away before the end of the five seconds is not sufficient to register a goal.

It is legal for the player to score a goal by a direct shot, by dribbling and shooting, or by playing the ball off of the boards, as long as the ball crosses the goal line prior to the end of the five-second period.

Any foul which is committed by the goalkeeper on an attacking player, where a goal is not scored, results in a Penalty Kick. The Penalty Kick may be then taken by any player on the shooting team, following the guidelines of Rule 8.2 above.

Any cardable offenses which take place during a tiebreaker shootout are still recorded and assessed to the player, but the time penalty is not served.

At the end of three rounds of shootout attempts, if one team is ahead, that team is declared the winner. If the two teams are still tied, the tiebreaker will continue one round at a time, alternating players between the two teams. If, at the end of any round, one team is ahead, that team is declared the winner.

During a tournament tiebreaker shootout, a player may shoot only one time for every five rounds of shootout attempts.

Rule 9 - Modifications to Rules By Arena

See rule modifications for each arena: