What are the Rules for U8 Soccer? (Complete Guidelines for Coaches and Players)

Soccer is a popular sport enjoyed by millions across the globe, and introducing the game to young children can foster a lifelong love for the sport. When it comes to the U8 (Under 8) age group, specific rules and guidelines are in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable playing environment. This age group typically consists of children aged seven or younger, making it essential to adapt the game accordingly.

The rules for U8 soccer prioritize development, fun, and safety over intense competition. These age-specific regulations help young players learn essential soccer skills such as dribbling, passing, and shooting while also promoting teamwork and sportsmanship. These guidelines are customized to acknowledge the physical and cognitive capabilities of the young participants, assisting in their understanding of the game.

Having a clear and comprehensive grasp of these rules allows coaches, parents, and young athletes to make the most of their soccer experience. In this article, key U8 soccer rules will be discussed, including field size, game duration, player positions, and specific modifications for this age group. With a focus on learning, growth, and enjoyment, these rules work to create the ideal introduction to the world of soccer.

Basic Rules and Regulations

Field Dimensions and Markings

The field of play for U8 soccer should be rectangular, with the length being approximately 50-60 yards and the width around 30-35 yards. The field is marked with distinctive lines, which include touchlines running the length of the field and goal lines at each end. Additionally, a center mark is placed in the middle of the field to establish the starting point at kickoff.

Number of Players and Positions

U8 soccer matches consist of 7 players per team, including a goalkeeper. Here's a brief overview of the players' positions on the field:

  1. Goalkeeper: Protects the team's goal and is the only player allowed to touch the ball with their hands within their penalty area.
  2. Defenders: Positioned along the team's goal line, they prevent opposing players from scoring.
  3. Midfielders: Play in the center of the field, connecting defense and attack while assisting in both roles.
  4. Forwards: Primary offensive players, responsible for creating scoring opportunities and putting the ball in the back of the net.

A team may also have substitutes, although the number can vary depending on the league's rules.

Equipment Requirements

Proper equipment is essential for the safety and comfort of all U8 soccer players:

  • Shinguards: Mandatory for all players, they provide crucial protection to the lower legs.
  • Uniforms: Each team should have matching uniforms (jerseys, shorts, and socks) to establish a sense of unity and allow for easy identification on the field.
  • Footwear: Soccer-specific cleats or athletic shoes, depending on the playing surface.
  • Ball: A size 3 soccer ball is the standard for U8 soccer matches.

Duration of the Game

To accommodate the young players' attention span and energy levels, U8 soccer matches are played in four 10-minute quarters, with a short 5-minute halftime break between the second and third quarters. This allows for a total game length of 40 minutes, excluding any stoppage time added by the referee for injuries or other interruptions.

Commencement and Restarts

Kick-Off Procedure

At the beginning of the match, the kick-off determines which team starts the game. The referee flips a coin, and the winning team captain selects which side to defend. The opposing team commences proceedings in the center circle. After each goal, the team that was scored upon restarts at the center circle.

The ball must travel forward, and only when it moves are the remaining players allowed into the circle. Keep these key points in mind:

  • All players must remain outside the center circle until the ball moves
  • The opposing team must remain 5 yards away
  • The kicker cannot touch the ball again until another player has

Ball In and Out of Play

To understand the in and out-of-play rules, be aware of these scenarios:

  1. Throw-in: When the ball crosses the touchline, the team throwing it in has to follow these steps:
    • Use both hands for the throw
    • Perform it from the point where the ball crossed the touchline
    • Maintain both feet on or behind the touchline during the action
  2. Goal kick: When the ball crosses the goal line without scoring and is last touched by an attacker, a goal kick takes place. The goalkeeper must restart play by kicking the ball from anywhere within the goal area.
  3. Corner kick: If the defending team last touched the ball as it went over the goal line without scoring, a corner kick is awarded. The attacking team must kick the ball from the corner of the field closest to where it crossed the goal line.

Restarting Play After a Stop

Various situations call for restarting play. Here is a list of instances and how to handle them:

Ball out of playThrow-in
FoulDirect free kick
Goal scoredKick-off
Ball on touchlineCorner kick
Ball on goal lineGoal kick

Remember, for U8 soccer, understanding and following these basic rules will help build a strong foundation for advancing to higher levels of play.

Rules for Play

Understanding Offsides

The offside rule is essential in soccer, especially for U8 players. To understand offside, a player is considered offside if they are nearer to their opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent at the moment the ball is played to them. However, a player is not in an offside position if they are level with the second-last opponent or level with the last two opponents. It is crucial to remember that an offside offense will not be called if the player is in their own half of the field or if the player receives the ball directly from goal kicks or corner kicks.

Managing Free Kicks and Penalty Kicks

There are two types of free kicks in soccer: direct and indirect. Direct free kicks are awarded after a more severe offense like a dangerous tackle. They can be scored directly into the opponent's goal. In contrast, indirect free kicks are awarded for more minor infractions and must touch another player before entering the goal.

For penalty kicks, they are awarded when a direct free kick offense occurs within the penalty area. The ball is placed on the penalty spot, and the goalkeeper must remain on the goal line until the kick is taken. In U8 soccer, it is essential to remember that the purpose of these rules is to ensure fair play and safety.

Handling Substitutions

Substitutions play a vital role in managing U8 soccer players' fatigue and allowing equal playing time for all team members. Substitutions can occur at any time during a match, but the process must follow specific guidelines. The substitute should only enter the field after the player being replaced has left, and at the halfway line. It is also crucial to notify the referee of the intended substitution and ensure they give permission for it to take place.

In summary, understanding the U8 soccer rules for offsides, free kicks and penalty kicks, and substitutions is essential for a well-organized and fair match. These rules provide structure and safety, ensuring that players, coaches, and referees work together to create an enjoyable and engaging soccer experience for all participants.

Infractions and Conduct

Common Fouls and Misconduct

In U8 soccer, it's essential to maintain a safe environment, positive behavior, and fair play. Some common fouls and misconduct that can occur in matches include:

  1. Tripping: Deliberately causing an opponent to fall.
  2. Holding: Restraining an opponent by grabbing or holding onto them.
  3. Obstruction: Impeding the movement of an opponent without challenging for the ball.
  4. Handball: Deliberately touching the ball with the hand or arm (excluding goalkeepers within their penalty area).
  5. Dangerous play: Handling the ball or challenges that could potentially harm other players.

These infringements typically result in a free kick for the opposite team. It is crucial for coaches, players, and parents to understand these rules for the safety and enjoyment of the game.

Disciplinary Actions

In case of fouls or misconduct, referees can issue disciplinary actions to maintain control. There are two main types of disciplinary actions in soccer, as shown in the table below:

ActionCard ColorDescription
CautionYellowIssued for repeated fouls, unsporting behavior, or dissent.
EjectionRedIssued for serious foul play, violent conduct, or receiving a second yellow card in the same match.

For U8 soccer, using cards to discipline players is typically discouraged as this age group is still learning the game. Instead, referees are expected to educate and warn the players. However, if a player's behavior is consistently inappropriate or dangerous, the referee may ask the coach to remove the player from the game for a brief period.

By following these guidelines and understanding the infractions and appropriate conduct, U8 soccer matches can be enjoyable, safe, and engaging experiences for all involved.

Roles and Responsibilities

Let's dive right into the key roles and responsibilities in u8 soccer, ensuring kids have a fun, engaging, and safe experience on the field.

The Role of the Referee

The referee is the authority on the field, tasked with enforcing the rules, maintaining control of the game, and ensuring the safety of the players. The referee's primary duties include:

  • Monitoring time and score
  • Identifying and penalizing fouls
  • Managing substitutions
  • Resolving disputes between players

In u8 soccer, the referee often takes on a more educational role, explaining their decisions and clarifying game rules to young players.

Guidance for Coaches and Parents

Coaches and parents play crucial roles both on and off the field in u8 soccer. By adopting a supportive and positive attitude, they can work together to create a nurturing environment for the children's development.


As a coach, you are responsible for:

  1. Teaching fundamental skills, strategies, and rules
  2. Encouraging teamwork and fair play
  3. Ensuring player safety
  4. Communicating with parents and officials

In u8 soccer, winning should not be the primary goal. The emphasis must be on player development, learning, and enjoyment.

Parents and Spectators

Parents and other spectators should contribute to a positive atmosphere at games. Their primary responsibilities are:

Encourage playersCriticize players
Support the teamCoach from the sideline
Respect the refereeQuestion referee decisions
Applaud good playShout at opposing players

By adhering to these guidelines, parents can minimize unnecessary pressure on the young players and promote sportsmanship.

Fulfilling these roles and responsibilities in u8 soccer enables everyone involved to participate in a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

When kids get older some rules change and some stay the same. More information about U10 soccer can be found here.

December 17, 2023
Published: December 17, 2023