MLS Versions of the 17 FIFA
Rules of Football (Soccer)
MLS Versions of the 17 FIFA Rules of
|Rule 1 - The Field of Play
Major League Soccer fields may have a minimum width of 50 yards and a maximum width of 100
yards, and fields may have a minimum length of 100 yards and a maximum length of 130
Rule 2 - The Ball
The official Mitre Game ball of Major League Soccer will have a circumference of 27
- 28 and a weight of 14 oz.- 16 oz.
Rule 3 - Number of Players
Each team consists of 11 players, one of whom must be the goalkeeper. A maximum of three
substitutes, plus the keeper, may be used. If an MLS team substitutes its
keeper during a match, he shall not count as one of the three allowed field player
Rule 4 - Player Equipment
A players uniform must consist of shirt, shorts, socks, shinguards and shoes. The
goalkeeper must wear colors which distinguish him from the other players.
Rule 5 - Referees
One referee and two referees assistants and a fourth official, are appointed for
each match. The referee is responsible for control of the game and his/her decisions
regarding facts connected with play are final.
Rule 6 - Referees Assistant
Two referee assistants will assist the referee by indicating offside, when the ball is out
of play, which team is entitled to a corner kick or throw in, substitution request and by
indicating other misconduct or any incident that has occurred out of the view of the
Rule 7 - Duration of the Game
The game shall be divided up into two equal periods of 45 minutes each. If a MLS match is
tied after 90 minutes, a shootout will be held to determine the winner. See MLS tiebreaker
procedure for more details on the shootout.
Rule 8 - The Start of Play
A flip of a coin decides which team will kick off. Each team must stay in its own half of
the field and the defending players must be at least 10 yards from the ball when it is
After a goal, the team scored upon will kick
off. After halftime, the teams change ends and the kickoff will be taken by the opposite
team to that which started the game.
Rule 9 - Ball In and Out of Play
The ball is out of play when (a) it has wholly crossed the goal line or touchline, whether
on the ground or in the air, or (b) when the game has been stopped by the referee.
Rule 10 - Method of Scoring
A goal is scored when the whole of the ball has passed over the goal line, between the
goal posts and under the cross bar, whether on the ground or in the air.
Rule 11 - Offside
A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents goal line than
both the ball and the second last opponent unless:
- he is in his own half of the field of play, or
- he is level with the second last opponent or two last
A player shall only be declared offside and penalized for
being in an offside position, if, at the moment the ball touches, or is played by, one of
his teammates, he is, in the opinion of the referee:
- interfering with play or with an opponent, or
- gaining an advantage by being in that position.
A player shall not be declared offside by the referee
- merely because of his being in an offside position, or
- if he receives the ball direct from a goal-kick, a
corner-kick, a throw-in, or when it has been dropped by a referee.
If a player is declared offside, the referee shall award an
indirect free kick, which shall be taken by a player of the opposing team from the place
where the infringement occurred, unless the offense is committed by a player in the
opponents goal area, in which case the free-kick shall be taken from any point
within the goal area.
Rule 12 - Fouls and Misconduct
A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the
following 10 offenses in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or
using excessive force: (a) kicks, (b) trips, (c) jumps at, (d) charges violently, (e)
strikes, (f) pushes, (g) holds, (h) spits, (i) intentionally handles the ball, or (j)
tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent
before touching the ball.
A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above 10 offenses is committed by a player inside
his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball, provided it is in play.
An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player, in the opinion of the
referee, commits any of the following offences: (a) dangerous play, (b) impedes the
progress of an opponent, or (c) prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his
An indirect kick will also be awarded if the goalkeeper: (a) takes more than four steps
while controlling the ball with his hands, before releasing it, (b) touches the ball again
with his hands after it has been released from his possession and has not touched any
player, (c) touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him
by a team-mate, (d) touches the ball with his hands after receiving it directly from a
throw-in taken by a teammate, or (e) wastes time.
A player is cautioned and given a yellow card if he commits any of the following offences:
(a) unsporting behavior, (b) shows dissent by word or action, (c) persistently infringes
the Laws of the Game, (d) delays the restart of the game, (e) fails to stand the required
distance for a corner kick or a free kick, (f) enters or re-enters the field without the
referees permission, or (g) deliberately leaves the field of play without the
A player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits the following offences: (a)
guilty of serious foul play, (b) guilty of violent conduct, (c) spits on an opponent or
any other person, (d) denies an opponent a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by
deliberately handling the ball, (e) denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an
opponent moving towards the players goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or
a penalty kick, (f) uses offensive language, or (g) receives a second caution in the same
Rule 13 - Free Kick
Free kicks are classified into two categories: Direct (from which a goal can
be scored directly against the offending side) and Indirect (from which a goal
cannot be scored unless the ball has been touched by a player other than the kicker before
entering the goal).
For all free kicks the offending team must be at least 10 yards from the ball or the goal
line until the ball is kicked.
Rule 14 - Penalty Kick
A penalty kick is a direct free kick taken at the penalty mark. All players except the
player taking the kick and the goalkeeper must stay outside the penalty area and be at
least 10 yards from the ball (hence the arc at the edge of the penalty area).
Rule 15 - Throw In
When the ball has wholly crossed the touchline, it is put back into play by a throw-in
from the spot where it went out and by a player from the opposite team to the player who
last touched it. A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in.
Rule 16 - Goal Kick
When the ball has wholly crossed the goal line after being last touched by a player from
the attacking team, it is put back into play by a kick from the goal area by the defending
Rule 17 - Corner Kick
When the ball has wholly crossed the goal line after being last touched by a player from
the defending team, it is put back into play by a kick by the attacking team from the
corner on the side the ball went out.
Each team's active roster will consist of a maximum of 20 players plus Project-40 players.
The home team may dress a total of 20 players for an MLS league regular season game. The
visiting team may dress a total of 16 players for an MLS regular season game. Three
substitutions plus one goalkeeper may be used in any regular season game.
In addition to injured reserve and non-soccer disabled lists, under certain conditions a
player may also be placed on other inactive lists, with the team retaining the rights to
that player. Other than injured reserve and disabled players, inactive players shall not
receive compensation, participate in any team activities, or dress in team apparel. In
addition to injured reserve and non-soccer disabled lists, a player shall be considered a
member of the team's inactive list if he is on one or more of the following lists:
suspended list, failure to report list, left squad list, ineligible list, voluntary
retired list, and loaned list.
Subject to certain restrictions, a team may add a replacement player to its active roster
if an active roster player is placed on injured reserve or is out due to national team
duty. In addition, teams may carry more than 20 players during the following situations:
(a) teams may carry a larger roster during training camp; (b) teams may add a temporary
replacement player if its active roster is depleted under 16 healthy players, and (c) if a
team's goalkeeper is out due to injury, a backup may be called up. After June 15,
replacement players can only come from an A-League or USL team.
ROSTER CUT-DOWN DATES
Teams must cut their rosters to 22 players by March 1, 1999. Teams must then cut down to
20 players by April 1, 1999.
INTERNATIONAL PLAYER LIMIT
MLS teams are allowed a maximum of four (4) international players on their active roster.
The USSF (United States Soccer Federation) has established that a player is considered an
international unless he meets the following criteria:
- The player is a United States citizen
- The player is in the United States as a resident alien (green
card) or under asylum protection and is eligible to play for the U.S. National Team.
ROSTER FREEZE DATE
No additions can be made to a team's active roster during the period immediately following
that team's final regular season game through the day after the league championship game.
INJURED RESERVE LIST
To qualify for injured reserve list, a player must have sustained a season-ending injury,
or an injury that will keep him out for 15 consecutive days (the minimum time period for
injured reserve). A player placed on the injured reserve list will not count against the
team's active roster.
A team may place a player on waivers at any time during the regular season. If that player
is not claimed within the following three business days, he may be released outright from
MULTIPLE WAIVER CLAIM
If more than one team claims the same player from the waiver list, the team that has the
lowest points per game average, based on equal number of games, will receive the player.
If the claims occur before all teams have played at least three regular season games,
priority shall be granted based upon the prior year's point totals. If, at any time, the
teams are equal in points, the league office shall award the player to the team that filed
the first waiver claim.
The trade deadline for the 1999 Major League Soccer season is 5 p.m. ET on August 13,
1999. After this date, teams may not trade players until after MLS Cup '99.
Teams will receive three points for a win, one point for a shootout win and zero points
for a loss, whether it be in regulation time or in a shootout.
TEAM-STANDINGS TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURES
The team awarded the highest position in the MLS standings will be the team with the
greatest number of points as determined by the point system. Ties will be broken according
to the following system:
1) The highest position shall be awarded to the team with the better win/loss record in
current regular season games against all other teams equal in points. (head-to-head
2) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the highest position shall be awarded to
the team with the greater goal difference against all other teams during the regular
3) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the highest position shall be awarded to
the team scoring the greatest number of total goals against all other teams during the
4) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the procedures described in this section
shall be applied only to games played on the road by each team against all other teams
during the regular season.
5) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the procedures described in this section
shall be applied only to games played at home by each team against all other teams during
the regular season.
6) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the highest position in the standings
shall be determined by the toss of a coin.
Any player receiving a red card in an MLS regular season game will be suspended for the
next league season game and shall pay a fine of $250. Any player receiving a red card in a
pre-season or exhibition game will be suspended for the next exhibition game and not the
next regular season game. Any player who receives a second red card during the season will
be suspended for one game and shall pay a fine of $500. Any player who receives a third
red card during the season will be suspended for one game, pay a fine of $1000, and
receive additional sanctions by the Commissioner.
Players who receive a second yellow card in a game, and thus a red card, will have the
appropriate penalty points of the first yellow card only applied to their point totals.
A penalty point system has been developed to weight the tactical significance of various
yellow cards. Players accumulating 21 penalty points shall be suspended one game and
fined. Players are suspended and additional game and fined after the accumulation of an
additional 11 points and each 11 points thereafter.
CARD CARRY OVERS
Suspensions for red card and yellow cards for regular season games will carry over to
playoff games. However, point accumulations from yellow cards begin anew in the playoffs.
Players accumulating 11 points during the playoffs shall be suspended one game and fined.
Any suspension for a red card or an accumulation of points during playoff games that would
otherwise be served after the team's last league season game will carry over to the first
game of the next league season.
The official game time for all Major League Soccer games will be displayed on the stadium
clock. However, the game time remains under the control of the referee throughout the
game. In all cases, the clock shall only start on the signal from the referee, who may
also signal time stoppages for injuries, time-wasting or other disturbances. If necessary,
the referee may have the stadium clock adjusted to the correct game time.
The stadium clock will display the time from 45:00 to 00:00 in both halves. However, for
statistical purposes, the minutes for goals, substitutions, yellow cards, etc., will be
listed from the first minute until the 90th minute, i.e. a goal with 35 minutes left in
the first half will be listed on the official scoresheet as occurring in the 10th minute.
A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following
1. is guilty of unsporting behavior (UB)
a. Commits a penal foul in a reckless manner
b. Commits a penal foul while tackling for the ball from behind without endangering the
safety of an opponent
c. Commits a tactical foul designed to interfere with or impede an opposing team's
d. Commits an act deemed by the referee as bringing the game into disrepute (aggressive
attitude, inflammatory behavior or taunting)
e. Handles the ball deliberately to score a goal
f. Fakes an injury or exaggerates the seriousness of an injury
g. Fakes a foul (dives) or exaggerates the severity of the foul
h. Interferes with or prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands into
i. Verbally distracts an opponent during play or at a restart
j. Unfairly distracts or impedes an opponent performing a throw-in
k. Changes jerseys with the goalkeeper during play or without the referee's permission
(both players must be cautioned)
l. Engages in trickery to circumvent the goalkeeper's limitation on handling a ball played
from a teammate's foot
2. shows dissent by word or action (DT)
a. Verbally or through action disputes or shows contempt for an official's decision
b. If playing as a goalkeeper, leaves the penalty area (not beckoned by the referee) to
engage an official in debate regarding a decision.
3. persistently infringes the Laws of the Game (PI)
a. Repeatedly commits fouls or participates in a pattern of fouls directed at an opponent
b. Violates Law 14 again, having previously been warned
c. If playing as goalkeeper, wastes time, having previously been warned or penalized for
4. delays the restart of play (DR)
a. Kicks or throws the ball away or holds the ball to prevent a free kick restart by an
b. Kicks or throws the ball away or holds the ball to prevent a throw-in or corner kick by
c. Fails to restart play after being so instructed by the referee
d. Excessively celebrates a goal
e. Fails to return to the field upon conclusion of the midgame break, fails to perform a
kick-off when signaled by the referee, or fails to be in a correct position for a kick-off
5. fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner
kick or free kick (FRD)
a. Does not retire at least ten yards away from an opponent's free kick
b. Does not retire at least ten yards away an opponent's corner kick
6. enters or re-enters the field of play without the referee's permission (E)
a. After been previously substituted
b. After having been previously instructed to leave the field of play to correct equipment
c. After having been previously been given permission by the referee to leave the field
due to an injury
d. After having been previously instructed to leave the field for bleeding or blood on the
e. As a substitute, without having received a signal to do so by the referee
7. deliberately leaves the field of play without the referee's permission (L)
a. To place an opponent in an offside position
b. Leaves the field other than through the normal course of play
The actions listed above assist in defining the scope of the basis for a caution and
can provide a useful guide in identifying the specific behavior which the Laws of the Game
consider unacceptable. It is critical, however, for Referees to distinguish between those
relatively few actions for which a caution is mandated by the Laws of the Game and the
remaining actions for which a caution is discretionary.
SEVEN SENDING-OFF OFFENSES
A player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven
1. Is guilty of serious foul play (SFP)
2. Is guilty of violent conduct (VC)
3. Spits at an opponent or any other person (S)
4. Denies an opponent a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately
handling the ball (This does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty) (DGH)
5. Denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the
player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick (DGF)
6. Uses offensive, insulting or abusive language (AL)
7. Receives a second caution in the same match (2CT)