Indoor Soccer Rules
Soccer is considered the world’s most popular sport. Virtually every nation on earth plays the game and professional competitions are watched by billions. There are a number of variations of ‘the beautiful game’ with each variation trying to adapt to specific constraints such as space, weather conditions, and the physical fitness of players.One the most popular forms is the indoor format and to ensure you can play properly we have put together a thorough list of rules for the small sided game. Also known as arena soccer or mini football, the game is designed to be played indoors and within limited spaces and we also explore field dimensions in more detail towards the bottom of this page.
Interestingly indoor soccer was first developed in the United States and Canada—two countries not known for their vast soccer traditions. This format of the game was developed in such a way that it can be played indoors—a convenient solution given that snowy and adverse weather conditions can make playing outdoors difficult, if not impossible at certain times of the year. It is played in indoor arenas normally reserved for other sports such as ice hockey and skating and Indoor soccer should not be mistaken for futsal, another popular variation of football also played indoors and you can read more about the differences between indoor soccer and futsal here.
At the moment, FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, does not sanction indoor soccer, mainly due to its focus on developing futsal around the world instead but this does not mean you can’t take the game seriously which official rules to help you play the game. The World Minifootball Federation (WMF) is considered the international governing body for the sport and even without the blessing of FIFA indoor soccer remains very popular in many countries. As mentioned the game lends itself to played when outdoor soccer just isn’t feasible which has led to growth around the world especially in countries that don’t have adequate outdoor football facilities and those that have seasonal cold weather. In countries such as the United States, Canada, and Mexico, professional indoor soccer leagues exist, as well as leagues for amateur, collegiate, and recreational players depending on your interest in the game and how seriously you are looking to take the sport.
Indoor Soccer Rules
Game Time – Official indoor soccer matches last anywhere between 25 to 60 minutes long, with playing time period divided in to two halves of the same length. Game time depends on the number of players on each team and officials have the jurisdiction to shorten the overall time period as they see fit, but this must be discussed with both teams beforehand. If the game ends with the scores tied, an overtime extra period may be played, especially if the game is a playoff match but not likely in a league situation when the game is more likely to end in a draw with both teams taking a point each. The overtime period can have a length of 5-15 minutes depending on the original game length. The golden goal rule may also be applied in overtime—that is, the first team that scores the goal wins the match. If the score remains tied after overtime, the match can be decided by a penalty kick shootout.
Number of Players per Team – The number of players on each team on the field of play should be no fewer than 4 but no more than 7, including the goalkeeper on each team. The number of players within each team’s roster depends on the coaches’ strategy with unlimited substitutions allowed throughout the game as long as it is done either off the field or within the touch line in the bench area of their respective teams. Oftentimes, substitutions are allowed only when the ball is out of play, but some allow substitutions while the game is in progress, as long as it’s done appropriately. Unofficial games can often number up to 9 players on either side which is often done to accommodate all players and to give every one playing time but field dimensions may have to be bigger for these larger sized games.
Ball Size & Equipment – The game ball used for indoor soccer is size 5 for all adult games with the only exception being in u12 football, where the game ball should be either size 3 or 4. Size 5 is the same sized ball used in official outdoor soccer, in all international tournaments and professional leagues. The reason a small ball is used in youth games is to encourage those new to the game to take up the sport slowly, with a small ball easier to control and shoot with.
Indoor Soccer Uniforms & Equipment – Players should wear their team uniform consisting of the same colors while inside the field. Goalkeepers wear uniforms with colors different from all other players and referees. All players should wear appropriate footwear which can differ depending on the surface you are playing on, some indoor soccer fields now have artificial grass technology that allows players to wear molded and firm ground studs while most indoor soccer pitches can be hard flooring meaning indoor trainers must be worn. Shin guards must also be worn at all times during the game and the wearing of jewelry and other accessories is not allowed due to their dangerous nature when they may become loose or be caught when involved in an impact with another player.
Penalty kick’s shootout – There are a number of violations that can lead to a penalty kick being awarded with the most common being a defender entering his or her own penalty area. Usually during a game of indoor soccer the penalty area is only allowed to be entered by the goalkeeper in goal at the time. A penalty kick shootout is also sometimes needed to decide a winner when extra time has proven insufficient to separate both teams. Any player may participate in the shootout as long as they are not ejected from the game. On the referee’s whistle, the player has 5 seconds to attempt the shot. A team may select 3 to 5 players to participate in the shootout, with opposing teams taking shots alternately. The winner of the shootout is determined if one team have amassed an insurmountable lead, if they have the lead after all participants have taken a shot, or if they have the lead after sudden death.
Offside Rule – Most indoor leagues play without an offside rule but some may implement a rule called the “three-line violation.” This prohibits players from playing a ball from behind the front line of their own penalty area across all 3 lines of the opponent’s penalty area which encourages more shorter passing in order to involve all team members.
Fouls – There are a number of violations that can lead to a foul being awarded against one team. These fouls are often similar to offenses in the full sided outdoor game of football with the most common listed here:
- Kicking an opponent in an attempt to win back possession of the ball
- An outfield player handling the ball
- Dangerous play by either attempting to strike or using force on an opponent player
- Slide tackling is sometimes not allowed in indoor soccer
- Unsporting behavior including dissent both against the referee or opposing team
- Goalkeeper impeded for leaving his penalty area resulting in a free kick, as mentioned an outfield playing entering the penalty area results in a penalty kick being awarded
- Passing back to the goalkeeper. As in professional outdoor football there is a pass back rule in effect, the difference is that although pass backs are allowed usually if a goalkeeper rules the ball to a defender, that same defender can not give the ball immediately back to the goalkeeper encouraging a free flowing game.
Cards – Cards can be given for any of the fouls listed above, including unsportsmanlike conduct and repeated rule infractions. In indoor soccer three cards are given to violating players. Blue cards are given for offenses such as fouls, unsportsmanlike behavior, or intentional breaking of rules. Yellow cards are given for reckless and repeated offenses, as well as for provoking fights or altercations. Red cards are given for repeated and reckless offenses, intentionally injuring any player from the other team, extreme unsportsmanlike behavior, and starting/participating in fights. A red card warrants an automatic ejection and suspension for the next match.
Playing Off The Walls – One of the unique rules of indoor soccer is the “play off of walls” rule. This rule states that, as long as the ball doesn’t fly off the wall or hit the ceiling, the ball remains in play and no stoppage is needed. Should the ball go out of bounds, a free kick is awarded to the opposing team on the area where the ball left play. This is one of the biggest differences between indoor soccer and the 11-aside game is the rule that walls and borders can play. Players are encouraged to use the walls to their advantage and the outer arena can often act as an extra player if used correctly. This is in contrast to outdoor soccer when keeping the ball within the playing area is a key skill.
The Start and Restart of Play – As with the professional game the beginning of play is started with a kick off from the field’s center circle. All other restarts after each goal and for the second half are also taken from the center spot.
Indoor Soccer Field Dimensions
Playing Area – The playing area is rectangular or oblong in shape. The official length of the playing area is measured at 180 feet and the official width is at 80 feet, though there can be some slight differences from arena to arena. Goals are located at opposite ends, with the penalty area covering an area of 30 x 35 feet. The size of the goal is measured at 6 ½ feet high and 12 feet wide. Walls bound the corners of the court, just like what you see in hockey. The flooring used for this game is artificial turf whereas futsal uses a ceramic surface. You can read more about the exact dimensions of an indoor soccer field here.
Although the official dimensions are given above these can often vary depending at the level you play. The most important aspect of indoor soccer is that it can be played at any time, all year round when weather makes outdoor soccer hard to play and anywhere, just because you have a smaller arena does not mean you are prevented from playing. The dimensions given are almost a guideline with the field set out something like the following image:
As you may have noticed the diagram shown displays different field ratio’s to the official dimensions listed and this really illustrates the point that the field ratio’s often change from field to field depending on how many players on each side and how ‘official’ and competitive the competition. Although the dimensions of indoor soccer fields may change there a number of constants that remain across every game you will play and that is the penalty area which is more often than not an oblong or semi circle as opposed to straight lines in 11-aside soccer and a centre spot for restarts. The penalty area in indoor soccer is often a goalkeepers domain with defenders sometimes penalised for entering and attackers no allowed to shoot within it. A penalty spot, or penalty kick marker will show where the attacking team can take a spot kick from if the defending team is penalised but the penalty area may be marked differently depending on the field you play on and what the arena is regularly used for with cones sometimes used.
Although indoor soccer field dimensions can differ considerably depending on the arena one other constant is that the length of the pitch is always keep larger than the width. This is in line with 11 a-side outdoor soccer and has a huge effect on the tactics and strategies that can have an impact on the outcome of a match.