How to Start a Soccer Game? Know the Rules!!

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

I get it:

Soccer laws can be CONFUSING.

Except that they really aren’t so much so…

…once you get to learn just a few basic rules.

In the present post, I’ll answer every question you have on how to start a soccer game, tell you whether or not you can score a goal directly from a kickoff and much more.


One of the beautiful elements of soccer is the fact that at its core the rules are very clear and simple to follow.

The game of soccer, much like the games of American football and rugby — all of which share a common lineage to one another — starts with a kickoff.

However, the soccer kickoff has its own quirks that separate it from the other sports.

Knowing these rules is an important part of playing and learning!

Does a Soccer Game Begin With a Kickoff at the Center of the Field?

The first thing that soccer differs from American football, for example, is that it begins at the very center of the field with a kickoff.

In fact, if you would ask me…

«How do you start a soccer game?»

I would tell you that it is precisely with a kickoff.

How to Start a Soccer Game?

The way to start or restart a soccer game is via a kickoff.

The kickoff is how the game of soccer begins and also how it resumes play.

After a coin toss before the game to decide which team defends which side and which team will get the ball first, the ball is put in the very middle of the center line on a small ball-sized circle.

Even for games that aren’t played on a painted field, this practice is common and it is the chosen way of beginning play.

The reason for this is so that a team isn’t allowed to just easily advance the ball to the other team’s goal for a scoring opportunity!

The Big Difference Between Soccer and Other Games

One of the biggest differences between soccer and American football — and even rugby to a degree — is the fact that the kickoff can be a way to possess the ball much better than in the other two sports.

The team with the ball has a choice on what to do.

They can decide to touch the ball to a teammate or they can decide to kick it as hard as they can.

Most of the time, though, you will see a team keep the ball in order to try to go down and score a goal!

Can a Goal Be Scored Directly From the Kickoff?

Soccer does allow you to score a goal straight from the kickoff (unlike American football and rugby).

This is explicitly said in Law 8 of the FIFA Laws of the Game handbook that the international governing body of association football puts out for officials, players and coaches.

Can a Goal Be Scored Directly From the Kickoff?

The only time that this rule is not in effect is if the league you play in dictates otherwise.

For example, there are many younger age groups that do not allow players to shoot for the goal on kickoff because the fields are smaller and/or there may not be a goalkeeper to protect said goal.

This keeps the game a little more fair and more about getting touches, rather than kicking it long.

But in most cases, you can — theoretically — score from a kickoff, though it can be incredibly tough with a competent goalkeeper in the net.

Here’s a video that shows striker Mirrai playing for Comercial FC scoring directly from the kickoff against opponents Catanduvense.

Kickoff Procedures: (Re)Start of a Soccer Game

Kickoffs used to be much more stringent than they are now.

Up until 2016, kickoffs were required to be touched forward before another player could touch the ball. Failure to do so brought a foul and awarded the other team the soccer ball.

Nowadays, however, the ball is no longer required to move forward due to a rule change.

Therefore, for the (re)start of a soccer game, a team can kick the ball sideways, forwards, backwards or any other combination they can come up with.

How to Properly Take a Kickoff on Offense

Because of the rule changes mentioned above, there aren’t very many ways that you can mess up a kickoff anymore.

But there is one big way that it can be messed up by the attack.

The attacking team cannot have the same player touch the ball twice directly after the kickoff.

If a player does so, the other team is given possession via an indirect free kick.

So, basically, this stops teams from getting a player to just begin dribbling toward the other team’s net.

The only other way to mess this up is for a member of your team to go over the midfield line before the ball moves!

How to Defend on a Kickoff

There are all sorts of strategies for defending against kickoffs, ranging from presses to full-on collapses and most of them are very legal.

The only thing that can get a defender into trouble is to come into the center circle before the ball is kicked or for them to come over the halfway line.

Other than that, there are few penalties or things that are not allowed to be done.

Frequency of Kickoffs

The number of kickoffs in a match widely varies depending on the game and the length it lasts.

The kickoff is administered at the beginning of play and at the start of each half, meaning that a minimum of two will always be taken.

After each goal is scored, the team that was scored upon also gets a kickoff.

At half time, the team that kicked off the in the first half will then be on defense as the previous defending team takes their turn.

Extra Time Protocol

If a match needs extra time in order for the winner to be decided, the procedure is the same as at the beginning of the match.

A coin toss will be made and the captains will have the same decisions to make.

One team will kickoff to begin the overtime period and then the other team will do so in the second overtime period.

A kickoff is always meant to follow the same laws as the preceding ones. There are no changes that occur due to the time or the situation at hand.


The kickoff is one of the most basic elements of the sport of soccer, yet so many people get it wrong.

The best use of the kickoff is to keep the ball for your team and to try to work it down the field in a way that everyone understands on your team.

But, before you can even begin to develop a soccer kickoff strategy, you first must understand how the rules of the game apply to the kickoff so that you don’t end up giving the other team the ball due to a silly mistake!

Oftentimes, when coaching or watching a game, you can quickly tell which teams and coaches know what they are doing and which do not! This is the way to show that.

I hope you’ve liked reading today’s article on how to start a soccer game; use the social sharing buttons if you did!

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.