Soccer League Rules

Game Format

The rules unique to Upward Soccer are designed to provide promote healthy competition and sportsmanship while also teaching the objectives of game play. These rules take precedence over all Federation International Football Association (FIFA) laws. Whenever questions about the interpretation of a foul occur, always refer back to the Rules for Upward Soccer.

  • Referees lead both teams in prayer at midfield before the game. This is a time to keep things in perspective and set the tone before the game.
  • Referees will call and explain all violations. This teaches players the game of soccer and to play within the rule structure.
  • The coaches should determine which team will start the game with the ball. The other team will start the second half. This creates an environment of coaches working together, not against each other. 
  • Games consist of two 18 minute halves, one minute for substitutions, and an eight minute halftime. This keeps games under an hour of and honors family schedules.
  • The game clock is maintained by the referee and will only stop every 6 minutes for the predetermined substitutions. This keeps games under an hour of and honors family schedules.
  • Teams will switch goals at halftime (except in the K5 division). This will balance any advantage that may occur because of the playing field.
  • Scores are not kept in K5 and 1st-2nd grade divisions. This is done to encourage the enjoyment of the game and focus on fundamentals, not the score.
  • No division standings are maintained in any division. Standings add unnecessary pressure and intensity for players.  Every game begins with equal standings
  • Coaches are allowed to walk the sidelines to support players. Coaches are encouraged to be on the field with K5 players to help coach during games. Because the focus is on instructing the player, we want coaches to encourage and teach players at all times.
  • All coaches will adhere to the substitution rules as detailed in this coach playbook. This ensures equal playing time for players.
  • No yellow cards or red cards are used in Upward Soccer. Because the focus is on instructing the player and we don’t want anyone sent off.
  • There is no extended time in Upward Soccer. This keeps games under an hour of and honors family schedules.

Number of Players

  • Team Size: Eight is the maximum number of players per team.
  • Team Format: 4 vs 4
  • No Goalkeeper: Because of the goal arc and the size of the goal there is no need for a goalkeeper. This reason of this format is meant to give all players an active role as field players. Players should not be positioned in front of the goal arc to act as a goal keeper and not be an active part of the game. As a compromise, coaches may position a player around midfield to play as a defender.
  • Additional Players: One additional player may be added to the field of play by a team that is four goals behind. The additional player may remain on the field until the score differential is two goals.

Game Duration

  • Periods of Play: The game will consist of two 18 minute halves with each have half being divided into three 6 minute periods for 1st – 6th grades. K5 will play two 18 minute halves being divided in six 3 minute periods.
  • Half-Time: Half-Time will be an 8 minute interval between the two 18-minute halves.
  • Game Clock: The game clock will be maintained by the referee

Facilities and Equipment Recommendations

Field of Play

  • Dimensions: The field should have a width of 60’ and a length of 100’
  • Field Markings: The field of play should be marked with two touch lines, two goal lines and divided into two equal sections by the midfield line and a center circle.
  • Goal Area: Each goal area will be a 6’ arc (semi-circle) directly in front of each goal.
  • Penalty Area: There will be no penalty area marked off.
  • Flag posts: Placed at each of the four corners of the field. Typically 60” high with a 13” x 13” flag, flexible pole on a spring base.
  • Corner Arc: Corner arcs will be a quarter circles with a radius of 3’
  • Goal Size: The goals are 2.5’ x 6’ (4’ x 6’ goal tipped)

The Ball

  • K5-2nd Grades: Size 3
  • 3rd – 6th Grades: Size 4

Rules of Play

  • A kick-off begins each half and after a goal has been scored. Opposing players must remain outside the center circle or 4 yards away until the ball has been put in play. 
  • The team in possession of the ball at the end of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th six minute period retains possession of the ball. The team with possession of the ball will start the next six minute period with a throw-in at the closest point on the sideline when play was stopped. The team that did not start the game with the kick-off will begin the second half of the game with a kick-off.
  • Shooting Arc: There is no ball contact allowed within the shooting arc. If the ball comes to a stop within the arc, a goal kick is awarded to the defensive team regardless of who touched the ball last. Any part of the ball or player’s body on the line is considered in the shooting arc. If the ball has broken the plane of the shooting arc and a defensive player touches the ball, but the referee determines that the ball would not have gone in the goal, a corner kick is awarded to the attacking team. (See Penalty Kick for additional information.) If the attacking player touches the ball inside the arc, a goal kick is awarded. The plane of the shooting arc extends upward. 
  • Fouls will result in either an indirect or direct kick. Opposing players must be 5 yards away from the ball. Indirect Kick: A player other than the kicker must touch the ball before a goal can be scored. Direct Kick: The kicker may score directly without another player touching the ball.
    • Indirect kicks are awarded to the opposing team if one of these fouls is committed:
      • Dangerous Play
      • Obstructing an opponent
      • Delay of game


    • Direct kicks are awarded to the opposing team if one of these fouls is committed:
      • Handling the ball
      • Kicking an opponent
      • Hitting an opponent
      • Pushing an opponent
      • Tripping an opponent
      • Holding an opponent
      • Any unsportsmanlike conduct
      • Slide tackling or any contact with the ball while the player is on the ground.
  • A penalty kick is awarded for deliberate handling/kicking of the ball inside the goal arc that denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. The penalty kick will be taken 5 yards from the top of the shooting arc and all players should be positioned behind the player taking the penalty kick. If the kick does not result in a goal and the ball is still in the playing field, it is a live ball and play continues from the spot of the ball.
  • A goal is not scored if a player kicks or throws the ball into his or her own goal. A corner kick is awarded for the opposing team. This is removes the possibility of a player scoring for the other team and prevents further embarrassing a player for making this mistake.
  • A goal may only be scored from a player’s offensive end of the field. This prohibits a player from scoring a goal from the center circle on a kickoff or from a goal kick. This prevents players from attempting to kick the ball the length of the field rather than passing the ball and working as a team.
  • Offside is not called in Upward Soccer because of the field size.
  • Referees should monitor substitutions and help coaches who have questions. Review the substitution section found in the playbook.
  • Slide Tackling is not allowed in Upward Soccer. Players must stay upright and “on their feet” and may not make contact with an opposing player. Slide tackling is not a skill covered by Upward Sports and most players at the ages of 5 – 12 do not have the coordination to execute the tackle without injuring themselves or other players. This does not prevent a player from sliding to stop/intercept a ball, but NO contact may be made with opposing players.
  • Players who commit two fouls resulting in direct kicks, excluding handballs, in the same 6-minute segment must sit out the remainder of that segment. Those players may return during their next scheduled substitution. This rule allows the offending player time to regroup during the remainder of the segment while realizing that there is a consequence for the fouls committed.


  • Kickoffs: A kick-off is taken from the center circle at the start of each half and after a goal is scored. Kicks must go forward, toward the defending goal. The ball must touch another attacking player or defensive player before the initial kicker touches the ball again. If the kick does not go forward or if the ball is touched second time by the initial kicker before another player touches the ball, the kickoff should be retaken. A goal may not be scored from the kick-off, because all goals must be scored from the offensive side of the field. The kick-off is treated similar to a free kick. This means the opposing team must stay outside of the center circle (at least 4 yards away). Both teams must be on their own half of the field and outside of the center circle until the first touch on the ball is made, after which they may attempt to win the ball.
  • Corner Kicks: When the ball passes over the goal line by the defending team, the ball should be placed inside the corner arc on the side it went out-of-bounds. The defensive team must be at least 5 yards away when the kick is taken.
  • Goal Kicks: When the attacking team kicks the ball over the goal line or if the ball comes to a stop within the shooting arc before entering the goal, a goal kick is awarded to the defending team. The ball should be placed on the end line/goal line, 5 yards from the shooting arc on the side in which the ball went out. The defending team must be at least 10 yards away from the player taking the goal. K5 and first- and second-grade divisions must retreat behind midfield until the ball is kicked. 
  • Throw-ins: When the ball passes over the sidelines, the last team to touch it loses possession and the opposing team takes a throw-in. The player throwing the ball back into play must throw the ball over his or her head with both hands, both feet must be touching the ground and the player must stay behind the sideline while throwing. The defensive team must be at least two yards away from the thrower. It is recommended that the K5 players place the ball on the touchline and kick it back into play. A throw-in is used to restart play at the beginning of the 2nd 3rd, 5th and 6th six minute segment of play. The throw-in is taken by the team in possession of the ball at the end of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th six minute segment of play. 
  • Drop-Ball: A drop-ball will occur between two players; one from each team to restart the game any time an official has to stop play for a no-penalty situation. The ball is dropped at the spot where it was last in play unless this happens in the goal arc, in which case it is dropped at the nearest point five yards outside the goal arc. The ball may only be kicked after it has touched the ground. A goal may be scored directly from a drop-ball.