A Guide to Soccer Rules for Non-Sporty Moms

I’m about as non-sporty a mom as you’ll find. But, my kids love sports and I love my kids. So I spend a lot of time on the sidelines watching them in their sports of choice. And, as you might have discovered in my post about learning to ice skate at 38, I don’t just tune out during their activities. I want to understand what’s going on.

So, if you’re like me and what to know what the heck is happening out there and what all those soccer parents are yelling about on the sidelines, check out this short guide to basic soccer rules.


There are two teams and the object of the game is to score more points than the other team by kicking the ball into the goal that the opposing team is defending. 1 goal scored = 1 point. Soccer does allow tie scores to be final scores. The length of the game, the number of players on the field, and even the size of the field will vary by age group.



What is it? In a kick off, the center front row player of the team in possession of the ball will pass the ball to one of their teammates, then the ball is in play.
When does it happen? Kick-offs put the ball in play at the start of the game, the start of the half, and after each time a goal is scored.
Who gets to do it? At the start of the game, there is a coin toss to determine which team gets the kick-off. After a goal is scored, the team that was scored on gets to re-start the game with control of the ball by taking the kick-off.


What is it? This is an overhead throw where both feet must remain on the ground.
When does it happen? When the ball goes out of bounds on the sidelines. The team that last touched it the ball loses possession.
Who gets to do it? Any player from the team that did not make the ball go out of bounds may be chosen to put the ball back in play through a throw-in.
What happens if they do it wrong? If a player lifts their foot up during a throw-in, younger players might get the opportunity to re-do the throw-in. For kids in older age groups, if they lift a foot during the throw-in, they have to give possession of the ball to the other team and the other team gets to throw it in.


What is it? The goalie places the ball on the first rectangle around the goal box and kicks it to one of their own team’s players to put the ball in play.
When does it happen? When the offensive team kicks the ball out of bounds on one of the end lines.
Who gets to do it? The goalie.


What is it? The offensive team kicks from the corner of the field, usually aiming toward the goalie box to try to get one of their players to shoot and score.
When does it happen? When the defensive team kicks the ball out of bounds on one of the end lines.
Who gets to do it? Any member of the team playing offense.


Check out this helpful graphic that tells you what’s against the rules on the soccer field.

Equipment Needed

Shin Guards:

In most of our local soccer programs, every player must wear shin guards. You’ll notice that the refs come and check to make sure the kids are wearing them, typically by making the kids tap on them. For new soccer moms, it might be helpful to know that the shin guards go on UNDER the soccer socks, and if the top of the shin guards are angled at all, the taller part of the guards is usually toward the inner part of the leg.


These are typically for outdoor soccer seasons (and some special indoor turf) and have “spikes” on the bottom. If you are buying cleats, make sure you are buying cleats that are specifically for soccer, not football or baseball.

Special thanks to Iowa City Moms’ soccer-playing kids who know the game way better than I do and helped review this post for accuracy. PS – If I got some things wrong, don’t blame me, blame them! Just kidding. But not really.


Laura is a mom of three who works full-time from home as a Development Director for a children’s charity. Laura grew up in Maryland, spent her 20s living in Southern California and South Carolina, and has spent her 30s and now 40s in Iowa, moving to Iowa City in 2010. Laura loves dancing, reading, baking, and music. She and her husband Ryan started dating in college (gasp – over 20 years ago!) and they have been sharing life’s adventures ever since. Their biggest adventure is, of course, parenthood. With three kids, the action is non-stop - which is just the way Laura likes it.


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