Rules of the game…
We all like to play soccer of one form or another; however, we may not know the rules that pertain to the game. Here we will discuss the common ones pertaining to indoor soccer as that is what we play. Rules vary between governing bodies, but some of the nearly universal rule deviations from association football include:
- The Field. Most indoor soccer arenas are rectangular or oblong in shape, with artificial turf floors. In many collegiate intramural leagues, the game may be played on basketball courts, in which case the floor is hardwood. Walls at least six feet tall (often the hockey dasher boards and Plexiglas used for that sport) bound the arena. Ceiling heights vary. Arena sizes are generally smaller than soccer fields, and the goals are recessed into the walls. Goals are also smaller than in standard soccer and generally the penalty area is smaller. The field commonly is 200′ by 85′, the regulation size for a hockey rink in North America.
- Duration. Most indoor soccer games are divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each for a total of 60 minutes of play time. There are two 3 minute periods between the first and second, third and fourth quarters and one 15 minute half-time in-between the second and third quarters. If the game stays tied until the time runs out, there will be a 15 minute overtime period until one team scores one goal. However, amateur leagues generally consist of two 25-minute halves with no overtime for tied games.
- The team. Most indoor soccer games are played with six active players per team, one of whom is the goalkeeper and the other are either defense or forward also known as attackers and strikers. Substitute players are permitted.
- Play off of walls. The ball may be struck in such a way that it contacts one or more walls without penalty or stoppage. If the ball flies over the walls or contacts the ceiling, play is stopped and the team opposing the one that most recently touched the ball is awarded a free kick at the location where the ball left the arena or made contact with the ceiling.
- Contact rules. Standard contact rules generally apply (i.e. ball contact must be made during a play on the ball, no charging with hands or elbows, no charging from behind, no holding the opponent etc.). Many leagues ban the use of the sliding tackle, though such techniques are less useful on turf or wood than they are on a slick field. If one attempts to slide on an indoor field painful burns and or cuts can occur.
- No offside. Most leagues play without an offside rule.
Beyond these common threads, the sport is structured according to the idiosyncrasies of individual leagues. Most of these rules are adopted from other arena sports like ice hockey. Below is a listing of some of the more common ones:
- Substitution. Most leagues allow unlimited substitutions while the ball is out of play although some allow them when the game is in progress, provided that one player leaves the arena before another steps on. A minority of leagues require substitution in shifts.
- Cards. In addition to the traditional yellow and red cards of association football, some leagues include a card of a third color (blue is a common color) or another form of warning before the issuance of a yellow card. Often, leagues with a third card include a penalty box rule, and issuance of this third card requires the penalized player to sit in the box for a prescribed period of time (usually two minutes as in ice hockey) during which his or her team plays shorthanded. In leagues using the traditional card system, it’s common for the yellow card to carry with it a penalty box rule.
- Zones. Because of short fields and walls surrounding the goal, a common tactic is to attempt to score at kickoff by shooting at the goal and charging at the goal with all five non-goalkeeper players who overwhelm the other team’s defense and score at close range. As this depletes the tactics and drama of the game, many leagues have adopted an ice hockey-like zone rule, requiring that the ball not cross more than a certain forward distance toward the goal without being touched by a player.
- The ball. For leagues that play on hardwood, the ball is generally covered with suede or a similar non-marking covering. The ball is generally bouncier and harder to control which makes it more complicated to score goals.
- The crease. Some leagues enforce a special zone inside the goalkeeper’s box called the crease. No player may shoot the ball from inside the crease unless that player entered the crease already having the ball.
- Multi-point scoring. Some leagues value goals scored from a greater distance to be worth two or three points, similar to basketball. Sometimes, leagues with a multi-point system also use a rule that a minor technical infraction gives the non-offending team a one-on-one opportunity to score on the opposing goalkeeper, worth one point. Many indoor coed leagues will give a female player 2 points for 1 goal that she scored.
- Three-lines rule. Some leagues rule that the ball may not cross three lines without touching the ground. The lines are evenly spaced along the length of the pitch, one of them being the exact center. The rule is used to avoid playing only with long balls and keeping the ball close to the ground. Violations are often punished with a free kick at the center of the line closer to the opposing goal.