Soccer 101: Learning the Penalties


Don’t touch the ball with your hands, but sometimes you can touch the ball with your hands? Soccer can be a confusing sport, and for any new fan, it can take time to get a hang of the rules. That’s only fair — there are 228 pages of rules! The Laws of the Game, set by FIFA and adopted by most federations and national organizations, define what is and what isn’t acceptable during the game. Luckily, the women’s soccer experts at QueensCast have your cheat sheet to understanding what doesn’t fly on the pitch and what can get a player tossed out of the game.

Common Fouls

  • Dangerous Play: Dangerous play is anything a referee deems to be careless, reckless, or an excessive use of force. This can range from kicking, tripping, striking, pushing, or tackling another player. The result from dangerous play usually results in a direct free kick for the other team.

  • Disrespect: Any actions that fail to show good sportsmanship such as spitting or offensive language. This can be punishable by a yellow card.

  • Impending Progress: This is anything that impedes the progress of the game or another player. Results vary from an indirect kick to being punishable by yellow card.

  • Touching the Ball: This is a red card offense for any player other than the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper, being the only player who is allowed to touch the ball, has a different set of rules. Goalkeepers cannot touch the ball for six seconds or more. Additionally, goalkeepers are not able to touch the ball after releasing it until another player comes into contact with it. The result of a goalkeeper breaking either of these rules is an indirect kick.

Common Penalties

  • Yellow Cards: These can be given to players for a number of reasons, including unsportsmanlike behavior, arguing with the referee, and infringing the laws of the game. A player who receives a yellow card may continue to play. If a player receives a second yellow, it's treated as a red card would be. The player will sent off immediately and, additionally, will be suspended for the next match.

  • Red Cards: Red cards are given to players for serious fouls such as violent conduct or denying the opposing team an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. A player who receives a red card is immediately dismissed from the pitch and cannot be replaced. Their team must play the remainder of the game one player short.

  • Direct Kick: A player can score by simply kicking the ball directly into the goal.

  • Indirect Kick: Another player must touch the ball before it can go into the goal.

With knowledge of the basic fouls and penalties, you’re on your way to understanding the rules of soccer, showing your support, and even playing the game yourself! For more tips from women’s soccer experts on the basics of soccer, basic first aid, and being a soccer parent, check out our blog!