The object of the game is for the players to get the ball into their opponent's goal using any part of their body except their hands and arms. Only goalkeepers may use their hands while inside their own penalty area. Keepers are limited to how much they can be in goal, and must also play as non-GK. .
A team has a maximum of 11 players on the field at any one time, although a game can be played with as few as seven players on a team. Regions use small-sided teams in younger age divisions so that players get more "touches" on the ball, learn skills quicker and have more fun.
To start the game or the second half, and after each goal, a kickoff is taken from the center mark. The ball must move forward, and cannot be touched a second time by the starting kicker until someone else touches the ball (teammate or opponent).
The ball goes out of play when it completely crosses either a touch line or a goal line. The ball is put back into play with a restart.
After the ball has completely crossed a touch line to go out of play, a throw in is taken by the opponents of the team that last touched the ball. The throw in is taken from where the ball left the field and must be thrown with two hands from behind and over the head, while both feet are on the ground on or behind the touch line.
A goal kick is taken by the defending team each time the ball crosses the goal line without a goal being scored and was last touched by an attacking player. The ball may be placed anywhere in the goal area and is not considered back in play until it has been kicked out of the penalty area.
A corner kick is taken by the attacking team each time the ball crosses the goal line without a goal being scored and was last touched by a defending player. The ball is placed within the three-foot arc in the corner of the field (nearest to where the ball went out of play) and kicked into play by the attacking team.
Fouls are actions or behavior by a player (against an opponent while the ball is in play) that "are against the rules" as listed in Law 12 (tripping, pushing, holding, handling, etc.). The referee will stop play when a foul has occurred and award a free kick to the opposing team. The more serious fouls (typically where someone could really get hurt) are called Direct Free Kick fouls because the restart is a direct free kick. The less serious fouls (called Indirect Free Kick fouls) result in an indirect free kick as a restart.
When play is stopped after a foul by a player, an opponent restarts play with a free kick from the spot of the foul. If the foul was a Direct Free Kick foul, the ball can be kicked directly into the goal to score. If the foul was an Indirect Free Kick foul, the ball must touch another player after it is kicked before it can go into the goal to score.
A penalty kick is awarded when a player commits one of the 10 Direct Free Kick fouls within his or her own penalty area. The penalty kick is taken by a player from the opposing team from a spot 12 yards from the goal line. All other players must remain outside the penalty area, 10 yards from the ball, and behind the penalty mark until the kick is taken, except for the kicker and the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper must remain on the goal line until the ball is kicked. Once kicked, the goalkeeper may try to stop the ball from entering the goal.
If the referee needs to stop play because of an injury to a player (a player falls down or is hit by the ball unexpectedly) or other issue (another ball gets on the field), play is restarted by a dropped ball.
A player who commits a Cautionable Offence (unsporting behavior, dissent, reckless fouls, etc.) or a Sending-off Offence (violent conduct, abusive language, fouls with excessive force, etc.) is guilty of misconduct. A Caution is signaled by a yellow card being shown to the offending player, while a Send-off is signaled by the showing of a red card. A player receiving a second yellow card in a match is automatically shown a red card and sent off. Referees typically verbally warn players to improve their behavior before penalizing for misconduct.
The referee has the authority to take action against team officials and spectators (including expelling them from the field, or suspending or terminating play) because of irresponsible behavior.
Law 12 states that a player who "handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)" has committed a Direct Free Kick foul. It is not simply that the ball touches a player's "hand" (where "hand" actually means the entire arm from finger tips to shoulder), but whether the player caused it to happen deliberately.
If the ball simply bounces and hits a player on the arm, no foul has occurred. Nothing in the Law speaks to whether an advantage might have been gained by the ball hitting a player's arm inadvertently, so it doesn't matter.
In deciding whether a handling foul occurred, the referee could ask himself "did the ball play the player or the player play the ball?". Only the "player playing the ball" with their hand or arm is a foul.
Offside is an "offence" and not a "foul". A player is offside if, at the moment the ball is played to them by a teammate, they are closer to the opponent's goal line than the ball and the "second-last" opponent, and the player is involved in active play. "Active play" is defined as interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage by being in that position.
Being in offside position (closer to the opponent's goal line than the ball and two opponents) is not an offence, as long as the player in offside position is not involved in active play.
There is no offside offence if a player in offside position receives the ball from a throw-in, corner kick or a goal kick.
If play is stopped for an offside offence, the restart is an Indirect Free Kick for the opposing team.