Now that football (REAL football … sorry, husband) is in the spotlight, thanks to the World Cup, I keep hearing comments like “I just don’t understand soccer.” Which baffles me, soccer is literally one of the most simple sports out there. But I understand, what they are saying is they don’t understand the rules and finer points of soccer.

Well! As a Soccer Expert (OK, not really, but I played in high school), let me help you out!

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Senior year: I’m on the right in the first picture, and second from right in the second

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Sophomore year. I’m in the front, in the center (to the left of the goalie [in yellow])

Tournament Scoring – It can get hard to get worked up over a game where the outcome doesn’t matter, as was the case for the USA-Germany game last week. Right now, the tournament is in the group (or round-robin) phase. You get points for a win (3), tie/draw (1) and none for a loss. After each team plays every other team in their group, the points are tallied, and the top two proceed. In the instance of a tie for second place, they look at the total goals for and goals against to determine who will proceed. Eventually, the group phase will turn into the knockout phase, and each individaul game will matter. Which also means overtime and shootouts can happen (and no more games ending in a tie).

Game Format – All soccer games are 90 minutes, split into two 45-minute halves with halftime. (And in running terms, playing soccer is like running fartleks, with a ball thrown in.) However, the clock never stops, even though play does stop (when the ball goes out of play, when there is a penalty or free kick, or when someone is injured). To make up for that, the refere can add stoppage time at his/her discretion. Usually, they add 4-5 minutes. But if you are a player, unless you ask the ref, you literally do not know how much time is left at the end of the game. So you keep playing until you hear the whistle. I kind of like that, instead of say, American Football.

Offside – This is one of the few rules of the game. Everyone knows the basic rule – only the goalie can use their hands when the ball is in play. But the offside rule says that when a team is on the opposing team’s half of the field, and kicks the ball, none of their players can be closer to the goal than the defending team’s players, at the moment the ball is kicked. (The goalie is not considered.) This way, a team can’t leave their forward camping out in front of the other team’s goal. (There are nuances to the rule.)

Corner Kick – Whenever the ball crosses the endline (and  goal is not scored), it needs to be kicked back into play. If the attacking team (the one trying to score in that goal) is the last to touch the ball, the defending team (usually the goalie), kicks the ball back into play (called a goal kick), from on the field (in front of the goal). If the defending team was the last to touch the ball, then the attacking team gets to kick the ball from the corner. This is usually a good opportunity to score.

Headers – Yes, they can hurt like a b#$%&. The trick is to try to hit the ball around your hairline, and you really don’t want to take a direct hit (straight on).

Positions – Each teams gets 11 players on the field (this includes the goalie) at any given time. There are a lot of ways you can set this up, but generally…

1 goalie
3-5 defenders (left, right, front, back) – front: stopper, back: sweeper, sides: fullback
3-4 midfielders (left, right, center)
2-3 forwards (left, right, center) – also called strikers

The defender’s job is to keep the ball away from their team’s goal as much as possible, and they very rarely score. The goalie protects the goal. The forward’s job is to score. The midfielders support both the defenders and the forwards, and it is not uncommon for them to score. I was an outside defender. I think I only scored one goal in four years, and it was on a penalty kick.

Tackling – Players aren’t allowed to directly tackle each other, but they do run into each other (and knock each other over) when playing the ball. If it looks to the ref that you are legitimately playing the ball and not the other player, it’s legal. If not, it’s a penalty. If it’s bad, you get a yellow card (caution). If it’s really bad, or you’ve gotten enough yellows, you get a red card (dismissal) and get kicked out of the game and possibly miss future games. This is bad if you’re in a tournament. You can also get carded for unsportsmanlike conduct. All of this is at the discretion of the ref.

OK. I think that’s it for the basics. Any questions? Did I get anything wrong? (I did try to look up the stuff that was fuzzy.) If you want to learn more, head over to Wikipedia. Or, just enjoy some Football Hotties.