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.
Generally, the Laws of the Game require that referees stop the game when something has happened which is unfair or unsafe.
To start the game or the second half, and after each goal, a kickoff is taken from the center circle.
After the ball has completely crossed the side lines - commonly called touch lines in soccer - a throw in is awarded against 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.
The 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.
This kick is taken by the attacking team each time the ball is kicked by the defense over its own goal line without a goal being scored. 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.
A penalty kick is awarded when a defending player commits one of the 10 major fouls within his or her own penalty area while the ball is still in play. The penalty kick is taken by a player from the offended team from a spot 12 yards from the goal. All players must remain outside the penalty area, 10 yards from the ball, and behind the penalty kick 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. The kicker, after waiting for the referee's signal, may score by kicking the ball directly into the opponent's goal.
There are two kinds of misconduct:
- when an action results in a caution (yellow card) from the referee
- when an action results in a player being sent off or ejected from the field (red card).
A referee may also warn a player to improve his or her conduct (or unsporting behavior) before a caution is issued. The referee also has the authority to suspend or terminate play because of misconduct or interference on the part of coaches or spectators.
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. Players get more "touches" on the ball, learn skills quicker and have more fun using this method.