World Cup Soccer Rules


With soccer still arguably the world’s most popular sport, it isn’t a surprise that the FIFA World Cup draws a large number of viewers each tournament. The 2006 World Cup Tournament drew a record 715 million viewers during the final match. Some may say that the rules and format of the World Cup are what makes their tournament worth watching.

Field Dimensions

  • World Cup Tournament utilizes FIFA’s international game dimensions as the standard field size. These include a field length between 110 and 120 yards; and field width between 70 and 80 yards. The goal must be eight yards in between each post and eight feet from the top of the goal to the goal line. The ball must be between 68 and 70 centimeters in circumference and weigh between 420 to 445 grams at the game’s start.


  • In order to qualify for the World Cup tournament, soccer teams in various leagues must compete among the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s six different continental zones. This amounts to over 200 teams. Each zone hosts tournaments that are able to place a certain amount of teams into the World Cup Final Tournament. For example, the European Zone can send 13 out of 53 teams to the 2010 tournament, while North and Central America and Caribbean will send at least three out of 35 teams.


  • World Cup soccer rules state that the qualifying teams will then be sorted into eight groups of four teams. The top eight teams according to FIFA rankings are separated as “host teams for the groups. All teams within the group play three matches against each other in a round-robin format. The top two teams from each group play a single-elimination match called the knockout stage.


  • Rules for the knockout stage in World Cup are developed to eliminate a tie. Two 15-minute periods of extra time is added if there is a tie at the end of regulation. If the extra time expires and there is still a tie, a penalty shoot-out of five kicks each takes place. Should the shoot-out end in a tie, a sudden death round takes place until one team scores when the other does not.


  • World Cup uses yellow and red cards to signal warnings and expulsions against players and players only. Yellow cards serve as a caution and can be handed out for reasons to include unsportsmanlike behavior, persistent infringement of the rules, dissent or deliberately holding up the game. Red cards can be handed out for spitting on the opposition, violent behavior, abusive language use towards others or receiving two yellow cards in one match.

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