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SYSA Rules


All rules contained below are informed and guided by the IFAB Laws of the Game and US Youth Soccer. Unless explicitly listed below, or in supplemental materials provider by SYSA, the current Laws of the Game should apply


IFAB Rules can be found at



Offside Law 11:

From the IFAB 2021-22 Laws of the Game:   

It is not an offence to be in an offside position. A player is in an offside position if any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half and any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. For the purposes of determining offside, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.


A player is not in an offside position if he is in his own half of the field of play or is level with the second-last opponent or is level with the last two opponents


A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

• interfering with play or

• interfering with an opponent or

• gaining an advantage by being in that position

No Offense

There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in, a corner kick.



In U9-U10 (Grade 3-4) a break out line is deemed to serve as an “offside marker”. Attackers standing before this line are not in an offside position unless they cross this line as per the definitions above where a player is guilty of an offside offence. There is no offsides in U8 and below (grade 1-2).


U10-U18 (Grade 3-4 and up): Substitutions can occur only during the following opportunities:

  • After a goal by either team

  • Prior to a throw-in in your favor

  • Prior to a goal kick by either team

  • At half-time

  • After an injury by either team, when the referee stops the play.  Only one substitution for the injured player is allowed, opposing team may substitute one player only.

  • For a cautioned player, opposing team may substitute one player only.

In all SYSA games, any time a referee stops the game due to injury and the coach enters the field of play, the injured player must leave the field. They can return,  when the referee permits it, without being substituted. 


NOTE: Once a team substitutes a player in the above situations, the opposing team may substitute an unlimited amount of players.


U8 (Grade 1-2): Substitutions are “on-the-fly”, but are encouraged to be enacted at any stoppage of play. 

Number of Players and Game Durations:

Division                        Duration of match                      Number of players                       size of ball

                                     Under-8             4 12-minute quarters         4 players per field                  3

                                    Under-10            2 25-minute halves            7 players                               4

                                    Under-12            2 30-minute halves            9 players                               4

                                    Under-15            2 30-minute halves           11 players                              5


*For Recreational soccer Under-8 is Grade 1-2, Under 10 is grade 3-4, Under-12 is coed 5-6 and girls 5-7, Under-15 is coed 7-9

Note:  There will be a five-minute halftime for all divisions. Modification of halves is permitted if determined by the league/competition. The 2021 Fall Recreation Season will be utilizing 25 min halves for all divisions u10+.

Fouls and Misconduct Law 12:

All fouls and misconduct will be assessed by the Referee. If, in their opinion, the foul or misconduct was the result of carelessness, recklessness, or the use of excessive force, the referee shall award a direct free kick. Additional sanctions such as red and yellow cards may also be assessed. For detailed examples see IFAB Law 12. All fouls that are not mentioned explicitly in the Laws of the Game or fouls that are not the result of contact should result in an Indirect Free Kick. This includes, infractions committed by the goalkeeper such as:

  • touching the ball with the hand/arm a second time, after releasing if from their possession before it has touched another player 

  • touching the ball with the hand arm after receiving it directly from a teammate

  • touching the the ball with the hand/arm after receiving it from a throw in from a teammate

For indirect kicks occurring within the penalty area, for the attacking team, the ball should be placed on the closest line, parallel to the goal line.

Competition Rules of Note:


Goal Kicks:

U8 (grades 1-2): At the taking of a goal kick all players on the defending team must retreat to the halfway line until the ball has been played. Violation of this offense results in a retaking of the kick. 


U9/U10 (grades 3-4): For all age divisions utilizing the breakout line, on a goal kick, the defending team must retreat behind this line until the ball has been played. Violation of this can result in a retaking of the kick, unless the referee determines an advantage is gained from the play. If a team opts to take a quick kick before all opposing players have retreated behind the line, then the referee shall allow the play to continue. 



A goal can be scored directly from a kick-off, a goal-kick, or a corner kick. 

A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in, unless it touches another player.

A player kicking the ball directly into their own net from the kick off results in a corner kick for the opposing team. 


Heading the Ball:

Players under the age of 12 MAY NOT use their head to play the ball. The referee must award an indirect free kick from the spot of the infraction if the use of the head was intentional, or a dropped ball if it was unintentional. If intentional and in the box, the referee should place the ball on the closest line parallel to the goal line. 



All players, coaches, staff, officials, and fans are expected to behave in a manner consistent with the developmental focus of youth sports. Derogatory, discriminatory, abusive, or violent language or actions, whether directed at any player, fan, coach, official, or member of the SYSA staff, including volunteers, will not tolerated. A violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action that can include removal from participation in current or future SYSA related programs or activities.




If the ball hit the arm of a player while they were making a play for the ball, is that handling?

Not necessarily. The Laws of the Game have clarified that the ball making contact with the arm, in line with the bottom of the armpit is NOT handling. Essentially, using the shirt sleeve as a guide, anything below the sleeve may be handling. Anything above is not. 


You just said MAY be handling. Why?

The player may still not be in violation of Law 12 unless they:

  • deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball

  • touch the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalised.


  • score in the opponents’ goal directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper or immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental


A child was playing the ball on the ground and the referee didn’t blow their whistle. Isn’t that against the rules?

No. Playing the ball on the ground is NOT actually against the Laws of the Game. Think of it this way, if playing the ball on the ground was illegal, then why are slide tackles permitted in soccer? The Laws define playing in a dangerous manner as: 

any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player themself) and includes preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.

This means that if in the opinion of the referee a player goes down on the ground and continues to play the ball, but they are not putting themself or another player at risk, then they have committed no offense. 

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