This is an archived article that was published on in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Here are the answers to some basic questions newbies have about soccer.

How many people are on a team?

Each team was allowed to bring 23 players. Each game is played with 11 men, and each team gets three substitutions throughout a game.


Fouls are called throughout a game, and a player can accumulate several fouls without much consequence. However, if a player is persistently fouling, or makes a dangerous tackle, he can be shown a yellow or red card. Yellow cards are a caution, and if a player gets two yellow cards in a game, he is ejected. A red card also means an ejection. When a player is ejected, his team must play a man down. A few things lead to a straight red card, including tackles from behind.

Penalty kicks

If a player is fouled in the 18-yard box surrounding the opponent's goal, he is awarded a penalty kick. It's a player-versus-goalkeeper scenario where the referee places the ball on the penalty spot. One player takes the shot while all the other players line up on the 18-yard line. Penalty shots are notoriously difficult to stop.

Can a player do more than kick the ball?

Yes, a player can use his head, chest, back and legs to move the ball. He can't touch it with his hands (and a handball in your goalkeeper's box means the other team is awarded a penalty kick).


There are no timeouts in soccer. The clock runs continuously through two 45-minute halves. However, an official keeps track of time when the ball is not played (for an injury, goal, etc.) and extra time can be added to the end of each half. Usually, extra time is somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes, though it can be shorter or longer. There is a 15-minute halftime. The only time a game is stopped is if lightning is seen in the surrounding vicinity. The game is restarted after the storm passes.


Soccer has its own vocabulary, and the last thing you want to do is call a sideout or touchdown when surrounded by soccer fans. Here are some of the basics.

Football • Around the world, soccer is known as football (or futbol in Spanish). Players are often referred to as footballers, especially on ESPN where the fantastic British announcer Ian Darke calls many games.

Pitch • The name for the field of play.

Offside • This is probably the trickiest rule to understand (but nothing compared to the in-field fly rule in baseball). While there are nuances to the offside rule, the basics are that an offender must have two defenders in front of him when the ball is put into play. Think of it as a rule to prevent goal-tending, kind of like limiting the time spent in the key in basketball.

Result • The British pronunciation for a win or tie.

Managers • The British pronunciation for coaches.

Flop or dive • A player intentionally falling to get a referee to call a foul. The most egregious one of the 2014 World Cup thus far was Fred's dive in the box, which resulted in a penalty kick against Croatia.

Hat trick • When a single player scores three goals in a game. A brace is when a single player scores two goals.

Cap • A player earns one each time he plays for his national team.

Set piece • Any time the ball is put back into play after stoppage. Specific names for set pieces are:

Throw-in • A player throws the ball in from the sideline after the ball rolls out of bounds.

Free kick • Awarded after a foul occurs. A single player kicks the ball, and opponents may not be within 10 yards of the ball when the free kick is taken.

Corner • Awarded when a defender is the last to touch the ball before it crosses the endline.

Penalty kick • Awarded when a foul is committed against an offender in the opponent's box.