© 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

Modifications made to the LOTG

for Youth Players

Thumbnail | Commentary | Table of typical modifications


Subject to the agreement of the association concerned and provided the principles of the Laws are maintained, the Laws may be modified in their application for matches for players of under 16 years of age. Any or all of the following modifications are permissible:

A table showing typical modifications by age group follows the Commentary / FAQ.

Commentary / FAQ

The Field Of Play/Number Of Players

There has been a general move towards small-sided games for youngsters as many people have recognized that kids simply have more fun in smaller groups - primarily because they have more time on the ball.

Each club, league, team or organization will define the dimensions of the field and the goals. These can vary widely, not only from organization to organization, but even from field to field within a given organization. While a field may be smaller than the FIFA standard, 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 laws for free kicks, which stipulate that opponents are to be 10 yards away from the ball.

Generally, as the field size is reduced, so is the number of players on the field. Fewer players accomplishes several things:

YM.01 What is the minimum number of players a team must have to begin a game and what happens if a team starts with enough but drops below that number during the game due to injury?

For U6/8, the coaches can decide how to deal with this. The choices are to play uneven sides, pull a player off the field from the other team to even the sides, or "borrow" a player from the other team to even the sides. For U8/U10, special club laws may apply, but generally speaking, coaches should do their best to ensure that some sort of game continues. You should consult your club's regulations to see what the local policy is. FIFA suggests that 11-a-side games be halted if a team is reduced to fewer than 7 players, but as much flexibility as possible is desirable with younger players.

YM.02 How often can I change my keeper?

In the younger age groups, playing everyone equally in terms of both playing time and positions is encouraged. Changing goalkeepers several times a game should be no problem.


At the younger age levels, there are rarely formal referees. Either a coach or parent from either team does this. Often there can be young referees who much like young players, need to develop experience too. Youth games are a perfect referee training ground. It is not unusual for beginning referees (typically 12 -14 years old) to referee U6/8/10 games.

Start Of Play

YM.03 The opposing 9-year-old player started the game by kicking the ball forward a few feet, then ran forward and began dribbling toward our goal. Should that be allowed?

No. The referee should simply stop the game and require that the kickoff be retaken properly. This is an excellent opportunity for a referee to take a moment to teach young players the proper way to start a game.

Fouls and Misconduct

In the six to ten age group, could you ever finish a game if every foul was called by the book? It serves no purpose at this level to call fouls as they would be called at higher levels. Young players simply enjoy playing. They're almost always surprised by the whistle and would rather play to exhaustion than have the game stopped for something they really don't understand yet. Letting the game flow freely provides a better learning experience for the players. Up to the U-10 level, the idea of "keep it safe, keep it fair, keep it moving" generally applies.

YM.04 What if a player sees a hard kick coming and instinctively throws up their hands to protect themselves?

A: Most players are afraid of the ball and will protect themselves from being hit with their hands. Most handballs should not be called. A deliberate attempt to alter the course of the ball by use of the hands is easy to spot and is a foul that should be called.

YM.05 Pushing seems to occur frequently at my daughters' games, by both teams, but does not seem to ever be called. Why?

A: Pushing with the hands is part and parcel of the six to ten age group game. It occurs all over the field. The player wants the ball and there's always someone in the way. Half the time it's their own teammate! Rarely is it intentional or sustained as players at this level are more intent on getting the ball then trying to stop another player from moving into a position. Referees at this level should not call a foul as long as no clear advantage was gained. The referee will likely just ask the players to keep their hands down and stop pushing. A push to a player who just took the ball away as a frustration reaction is a more serious offense. In these hopefully rare instances, the referee should call the foul and use the opportunity to talk to all the players about needing to keep down their hands.

YM.06 It's a breakaway from the U8 "herd" when the ball magically pops loose to a lone attacker. But wait, here comes a defender whose foot goes for the ball but misses. The exhausted attacker goes down like he's been shot. Is it a foul?

Most likely not. Players at this level do not often have the coordination or skill to execute even the simplest type of maneuver correctly. Most of the time their legs just flail away. As long as the defender is making an honest attempt for the ball, it's generally "play on."

Table of typical modifications

NOTE: The table that follows contains general modifications falling for the most part within the recommendations of the United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA) and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).

It is extremely important to note, however, that these are to be viewed as generalized guidelines only. Modifications to the Laws are set locally, so the variations of how small-sided games are played from community to community are endless, and in some communities they are not played at all. If you do not live in the USA, modifications for young players, if any, may differ very considerably from those shown here.

# of Players 6 - 8 7 - 9 9 - 11 10 - 12
Size of Field (yds) 20 x 30 30 x 50 40 x 60 50 x 80
Goal Size (ft) 4 x 6 5 x 10 6 x 12 7 x 20
Penalty Area (yds) n/a n/a n/a 14 x 35
Players on field 3 vs 3 5 vs 5 7 vs 7 8 vs 8
Goalkeeper no no yes yes
Size of Ball 3 3 3 4
Coach on Field yes yes (d) yes (d) no
Offside Rule no no no yes
Direct Free Kick no no no yes
Penalty Kick no no no yes

Links to other parts of the LOTG project:

Main page | Credits | Glossary | Supplements

Links to FAQs on other laws:

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Updated February 19, 1998