© 1998 jointly in the following individuals: Jim Geissman, David Graham, Jim MacQueen, Connie Matthies, Jim Meinhold, Chris Mohr, Gary Rue, Ken Smith, Dave Teetz, Ron Tremper, who are together known pseudonymously as the SOCCER-COACH-L LOTG COLLECTIVE

Law 1 - The Field of Play

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A soccer field (or "pitch") must be rectangular, with the longer boundaries forming the sides (or "touch lines") and the shorter boundaries forming the ends (or "goal lines" or "bye lines"), with an anchored goal centered on the goal line at each end. These boundary lines should be marked by lines on the ground and a flag in each of the four corners of the field. Other prominent markings on the field should include:

  1. a rectangular goal area and a larger rectangular penalty area, centered in front of each goal (see question #1.11),
  2. a halfway line parallel to and midway between the goal lines dividing the field into two even halves (see question #1.10),
  3. a penalty spot centered in front of each goal halfway between the goal area and penalty area (see question #1.11);
  4. two markings to indicate 10-yard clearances that should be observed for kick-offs and penalty shots, respectively a circle at the center of the field, and an arc just outside the top of the penalty area (the "penalty arc") marking 10 yards from the penalty spot (see question #1.09).


1. Size of Fields: The size of the field may vary within a wide range, so long as it is rectangular in shape. See question #1.11 for official FIFA regulation match requirements. In an important match, e.g. a tournament where teams from outside your league may be playing, it is important for a field to meet official size requirements. By agreement and accepted practice, fields used for younger players are frequently scaled down below FIFA-regulation size (see FAQ 1.08 and the supplement on modifications of the Laws for young players).

2. Goals: The most important requirements are that the goals be securely anchored to the ground, that the goals be formed at least of two vertical goalposts and a horizontal crossbar between them to form the top of the goal, and that the crossbar and goalposts remain intact and firmly secured in place so that they do not become displaced or broken during the match, or become dangerous to the players (see questions #1.03 and #1.04). See question #1.11 for official FIFA regulation dimensions. Like the field of play, goals for young players are usually scaled down below regulation size.

3. Boundary Lines are always in bounds, not out of bounds for the particular area they mark, whether they mark the sides (touch line), goal line (ball on the line is not a goal), or penalty area (foul on the line is in the penalty area).

4. Essential Field Markings: An official match field should always be laid out with all the regular markings in paint or chalk along the ground; for the proper dimensions of these various areas, see question #1.11. However, sometimes rain, snow or heavy use will obscure the markings, or someone will forget to bring corner flags, or whoever was supposed to maintain the markings before the games will fail to do their job, but everyone would still rather play than not. The one internal area of the field that must be visibly marked at all times during a match is the penalty area, because of the potentially dire game-altering consequences of fouls which result in penalty shots if committed within that area. Controversy can also arise if the goal line (especially between the goalposts) becomes obscured. This can usually be acceptably dealt with by properly positioned referees and linesman on critical plays. If the touch lines and goal lines are well marked, corner flags can be done without in a pinch. If these lines are obscured in any significant part, securely anchored corner flags are essential to be able to interpolate the position of the touch line and goal lines. Since flat cones are easily moved, they are not an acceptable substitute for field markings or corner flags in a match. They may be used for informal scrimmages.

Questions on Law 1

1.01: How can I be sure the field is safe?

A: Good question! The first priority of every coach should be to ensure that the field is safe for the players. Coaches, like referees, should take a quick walk within the field before a match to ensure that there are no hazards such as rocks, debris, holes and ruts. If the field contains many rocks, line the players up on the halfway line equally spaced. Have them perform a sweep to the goal line, picking up the dangerous rocks that they find. Holes and ruts can often be filled in using soil from outside the boundaries of the field.

1.02: What if it's snowing or raining?

A: Snow and rain do not necessarily present safety hazards in themselves, but a frozen pitch should not be used, and very wet fields can be seriously damaged. Playing in the snow and rain is frequently unpleasant , so all concerned may prefer to reschedule the match if possible. Thunder and lightning are a very serious matter. If you play in an area where thunderstorms are at all common, you should be prepared to abandon your game at short notice and get your players under cover.

1.03: Is it true that someone was actually killed recently when a goal fell over?

A: Soccer goals present a serious safety hazard when they are not secured in the ground. This may allow the goal to tip, falling on a player: every year, young players are killed in this manner. Goals can be permanent or portable. Permanent goals are actually dug into the ground, whereas temporary goals are made of a light-weight material. A good test is to shake the uprights. If this method shows that the goal may fall, try to secure them as best you can. Portable goals are best secured with "U" brackets or stakes driven well into the ground to hold down the rear of the goal. They may also be held with sand bags. Continue to make adjustments to the goals until you are satisfied they will not fall.

1.04: What if the cross bar becomes displaced or damaged?

A: FIFA makes special mention of this in the LOTG. "If the cross bar becomes displaced or broken, play is stopped until it has been repaired or replaced in position. If a repair is not possible, the match is abandoned. The use of a rope to replace the crossbar is not permitted. If the crossbar is repaired, the match is restarted with a dropped ball at the place where the ball was located when the play was stopped."

Make every attempt to repair the crossbar. However, do not compromise player safety in making the repairs. Duct tape is wonderful stuff, but may not be able to hold the weight of the crossbar.

1.05: There's no netting in the goals, or the netting isn't attached at the bottom or at the sides. Is this a problem?

A: It isn't a problem from the point of view of the legality of the goals, because Law #1 states that nets MAY be attached to the goalposts. So there is no requirement that netting be present. It certainly is a problem from the point of view of keeping track of whether or not a shot has actually entered the goal, however, so do your best to make sure that nets are present. Also try to ensure that they are securely fastened to the posts, crossbar and ground. The referee and assistants should check this, but it's a good idea for coaches to check it too. If the nets are not properly attached, lots of bad things can happen: for example, if the nets are not attached to the posts, a shot that hits the outside of the side netting can still wind up in the goal! If the nets are not attached at the bottom, a well struck shot can pass right through the net, making it appear never to have entered the goal.

1.06 : Since the Laws permit so much variation in field sizes, what are some approximately "normal" dimensions?

A: The Laws say that a soccer pitch can be from 50 to 100 yards wide and 100 to 130 yards long, as long it is rectangular. In practice, however, field sizes vary a bit less than this: 80 by 120 yards would be considered a very generous-sized field by most people, while 75 x 110 might be considered a good size, and 65 x 100 rather small for players above U13. American football fields are often used by high-school teams in the US, but they are extremely narrow in comparison to their length. "Real" soccer fields are usually drawn with a width to length ratio of about 2 to 3. Note that you can readily judge how wide a field is by checking the distance in yards between the touch line and the penalty area. Double this distance and add the result to 44 (the width of the penalty area) to obtain the width of the field in yards. For example, if you can see that the distance from touch line to penalty area is only about 10 feet (just over 3 yards), the field will be only about 50 yards wide -- very narrow indeed if it's regulation length!

1.07: I saw a referee remove the corner flags from a field recently after she inspected it before the game. Why would she do this? Aren't the flags required?

A: Law 1 does mandate the presence of corner flags by stating that "A flagpost (...) is placed at each corner." Corner flags are certainly desirable, especially if the markings are faint. But safety is always the paramount consideration. Flags must be at least 5 feet in height to minimize the likelihood that a player will be impaled on one. If one or more of the corner flags are unsafe, the referee may well decide to remove all of them. This referee was probably removing the flags because they were too short or because one was damaged and unsafe and could not be replaced.

1.08: We play small sided soccer (6v6, 7v7, 8v8) with very young players (6-12 years old); what size should our field be?

A: There is no one answer to this question. Each club, league, team or organization will define the dimensions of the field and the goals, which may vary from field to field even within a given organization.

The field may be smaller, but it must still be rectangular. The size of the goal area and penalty area should be reduced in proportion to the reduction in field size. It is suggested, however, that the center circle and the penalty arc retain their normal diameter of 10 yards. This is in accordance with the rules for free kicks, which stipulate that opponents are to be 10 yards away from the ball when a team is taking a free kick. This includes kick-offs (hence the center circle) and penalty kicks (hence the penalty arc).

1.09: You mean the penalty arc is there just to make sure all players are a certain distance from the ball when a penalty is taken?

A: Yes, that's its only purpose. All players except for the penalty-taker must be at least 10 yards from the ball when the kick is taken. The penalty arc allows the officials to make sure this minimum distance is respected. The arc is necessary because the top of the penalty area can be as close as 6 yards from the penalty spot.

1.10: What's the purpose of the line dividing the field into two equal halves?

A: The halfway line (or "half-line") serves two purposes. It allows the officials to ensure that all players are in their own half of the field when a kick-off is taken. It is also important for judging whether a player is in an off-side position [see the FAQ on Law 11 for a discussion of this topic].

1.11: What are the regulation measurements of the areas marked out on the field?

A: These are all described very clearly in Law 1, but briefly stated they are as follows (for metric equivalents, see the Laws). The goal measures 8 feet high by 8 yards wide. The goal area measures 6 yards out from the goal line by 20 yards wide (the 8 yards of the actual goal plus 6 yards on either side). The penalty area (sometimes called the "18") measures 18 yards out from the goal line by 44 yards wide (the 20 yards of the goal area plus another 12 yards on either side). The penalty spot must be placed 12 yards from the goal line. The corner arcs, within which the ball must be placed when a corner kick is taken, have a radius of 1 yard. You may also see small markings on the touch lines and the goal lines at a distance of 10 yards from the corner arc. These are used by the officials to ensure that opponents are at least 10 yards from the corner when a corner kick is taken.

1.12: Snow has covered the field, how do we see the lines?

A: If snow has obscured the lines, consult with the referee and opposing coach to determine what is going to be done. Probably the easiest way to remedy this problem is to do what is done in professional soccer - simply clear the snow away from the markings by running a shovel along the lines. This can be done quite quickly. Perhaps the parents from the home team could volunteer to go get some shovels. The referee should be willing to allow stoppages in play to allow the parent volunteers to clear the snow away. If the snow becomes too much of a problem, however, the game should probably be canceled.

1.13: The field we are playing on is very hard (or soft), what shoes should the players wear?

A: Athletic footwear has progressed tremendously in recent times. Soccer shoes, or boots come in a variety of styles that can be used on numerous surfaces: flats, turf shoes, molded cleats or screw-ins. Each shoe permits advantages for various field types. Molded cleats are by far the most popular with younger players. These cleats are sufficient for virtually any ground type.

As players become older they may want to invest in other boot types. On a very hard field, players may opt to wear flats or turf shoes, which will save "wear-and-tear" on the feet and legs. On a very wet field players may opt to wear screw-ins (often called "6-stud cleats"), in which the size of the cleat can be changed. [See Law 4 for questions about players' equipment]

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Law 1

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Updated February 26, 1998