Note: Rules differ slightly depending on the age group and league.
Starting the Game: The game is started by a kickoff, which requires a player to kick the ball into the opponent's half of the field. A goal may not be scored directly from a kickoff. Kickoffs are used to restart the game after a goal or any half time or overtime interval.
Ball In and Out of Play: The ball is designated out of play when the entire ball has crossed outside the entire boundary line. The ball is put back into play by a corner kick, a goal kick or a throw-in.
Scoring: A goal is scored when the whole of the ball has passed over the goal line, between the goal posts and under the crossbar, provided it has not been intentionally thrown or carried by an attacking player.
Offside: A player is in an offside position if that player is nearer to the opponent's goal line than the ball, unless the player is in her own half of the field of play, or there are at least two opponents as near to their own goal line as the opposing player. A player shall be declared offside and penalized for being in an offside position only if at the moment the ball touches or is played by a teammate, the player is, in the opinion of the referee, interfering with play, or seeking to gain an advantage by being in that position.
Number of Players: The game is played by two teams of 11 players each, one of whom is the goalkeeper.
Substitutions: Either team can substitute up to 11 players at a time. Either team may substitute on a goal kick, corner kick, after a goal has been scored, between periods, when a player has been cautioned, when a player has been ordered off the field for an equipment change and in the event of an injury.
Violations and Misconducts: A player shall be penalized if she intentionally handles the ball, holds or pushes an opponent, violent or dangerous charging, fouling a goalkeeper or any dangerous play. A player shall be penalized if that player intentionally spits, kicks, strikes, attempts to kick or strike, uses blood or bleeding injuries improperly against an opponent or jumps at an opponent.
Caution (Yellow Card): A disciplinary action taken by the referee, signaled with a yellow card and officially recorded, against a player guilty of misconduct. A second offense warrants ejection from the match (red card).
Corner Kick: A direct free kick taken from a corner area by a member of the attacking team if the ball goes out-of-bounds across a goal line and was last touched by a member of the defending team.
Defender: Players forming the last line of defense, immediately in front of the goalkeeper. Their main job is to repel attacks on goal. Defenders are also called fullbacks.
Direct Free Kick: A free kick that may score a goal directly; that is, without the ball first being touched by another player. Also a specific penalty called for fouls and misconduct.
Dropped Ball: A dropped ball is used to restart the game after a temporary stoppage in play due to an infraction other than a foul. The referee drops the ball onto the ground between two opposing players. Play restarts when the ball touches the ground.
Ejection (Red Card): Sending a player off the field. A disciplinary action taken by the referee, signaled with a red card and offically recorded, against a player guilty of a personal foul or handballing. Usually results in expulsion from at least one future match.
Forwards: Players who function primarily in the attacking third of the field and whose main responsibility is to score goals.
Free Kick: A placekick awarded to a team when a player of the opposing team is penalized. A free kick is either a direct kick, called for a serious offense, or an indirect kick, called for a minor infraction. Players on the offending team must remain 10 yards away from the ball until it is put into play, unless they are on their own goal line between the goalposts.
Fullbacks: Players forming the last line of defense, immediately in front of the goalkeeper. Their main job is to repel attacks on goal. At Nebraska, fullbacks are called defenders.
Goal: The eight-yard-wide by eight-foot-high area into which field players must send the ball into in order to score. Two goalposts, a crossbar and netting form the goal, which is positioned midway along each goal line and extends beyond the official playing field.
Goalkeeper: The team's last line of defense. Primary responsibility is to prevent the opponent's ball from entering the goal for a score. The only player allowed to use her hands, provided she is within the penalty area.
Goal Kick: A placekick taken from the goal area by a member of the defending team when the ball goes out-of-bounds across the goal line and was last touched by a member of the attacking team or when it goes straight into the defenders' goal after a kickoff. All opposing players must stay outside the penalty area until the ball is in play. A goal cannot be scored directly from a goal kick.
Goal Line: The boundary line at each end of the field. When the ball completely crosses the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar, a goal is scored. When the ball completely crosses the goal line elsewhere, play is stopped and restarted either by a corner kick or a goal kick.
Halfway Line: The line drawn across the center of the field, parallel with the goal line, and separating the attacking and defending zones. Also called the center line.
Handballing: A major violation, the intentional use of the hands other than by a goalkeeper. The penalty is a direct free kick.
Indirect Free Kick: A free kick that cannot score a goal without the ball first being touched by a player other than the kicker. It is also a specific penalty called for minor infractions.
Kickoff: A placekick taken from the center spot to start the match and the second half or restart play after a goal has been scored. Opposing players must remain outside of the center circle until the ball is in play. A goal may not be scored directly from a kickoff.
Linesmen: The two officials who assist the referee. The linesmen patrol the touchlines and carry flags to signal the referee when a ball has gone out-of-bounds, or an offside or a foul has been committed that the referee might not have seen.
Midfielders: Players who function primarily in the central part of the field and whose main responsibility is to link the defense and the attack. There are three types of midfielders; defending, playmaking and attacking. Midfielders are also referred to as halfbacks and linkmen.
Obstruction: Deliberately impeding the progress of an opponent instead of playing the ball. The penalty is an indirect free kick.
Offside: A player is offside if she is between her opponent's goal line and the ball at the moment the ball is played unless she is in her own half of the field, at least two opponents (including the goalkeeper) are nearer their own goal line than she is or she received the ball directly from a corner kick, goal kick, throw-in or drop-ball situation. The penalty is an indirect free kick.
Penalty Area: An 18-by-44-yard area located directly in front of each goal. The goalkeeper may handle the ball in this area, and penalty kicks are taken from here.
Penalty Kick: A direct free kick taken from the penalty spot. It is awarded to the attacking team if a defender commits a major offense within her own penalty area. Except for the goalkeeper, who must remain stationary between the goalposts on her own goal line while the kick is being taken, all players must be outside of the penalty area and at least 10 yards from the penalty spot until the ball is in play.
Pitch: The traditional name for the soccer field.
Referee: The official in complete charge of a soccer match. The referee is assisted by two linesmen.
Save: A successful effort by the goalkeeper to prevent a possible score by stopping or deflecting a ball aimed at the goal.
Striker: Players who function primarily in the attacking third of the field and whose main responsibility is to score goals. Strikers are also called forwards.
Throw-In: The method of putting the ball back into play after it has gone out-of-bounds over the touchline. A member of the opposing team that last touched the ball must throw it onto the field from over her head, using both hands and keeping a part of each foot on the ground either behind or on the touchline. The ball is thrown in from the point where it went out-of-bounds. A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in.
Touchlines: The boundary lines at each side of the field. If a ball goes completely over the touchline, play is stopped and restarted by a throw-in from the place where it went out-of-bounds. Touchlines are also called sidelines.
Wall: A human barrier of at least three players used to aid the goalkeeper in defending against free kicks, when they are specifically so awarded. Players may line up 10 or more yards from the ball to form a barrier between the kicker and the goal.