Rules (Soccer)


A. General

The MDSL will act as the league and tournament coordinator.

  • FIFA Laws of the Game shall apply except as amended herein. Lack of knowledge of the MDSL rules will not relieve any Coach, Team Official, Parent of Player of a team participating in the MDSL or seeking entry in the MDSL from the responsibilities and possible penalties herein.
  • ALL CLUBS, TEAM OFFICIALS, PARENTS AND PLAYERS BY PARTICIPATING IN MDSL PLAY, AGREE THAT THEY ARE BOUND BY THESE RULES.
  • The USYS Seasonal Year runs from August 1 through July 31 of the following calendar year and shall be comprised of two

(2) MDSL seasons of soccer, Fall, Spring, and Summer. We also offer a Winter (Futsal) league.

  • The MDSL season of play commences with the first league game of the season and terminates with the completion of the last MDSL league game.

B. Affiliation

  • The MDSL is affiliated with the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA).

C. Club Entry and Obligations

  • Entry of a new Club into the MDSL must be approved by the MDSL Head Office.
  • New clubs must provide the following information: Club name, geographic location, and the number of teams to be entered.
  • ALL teams are expressly prohibited from recruiting players from other MDSL teams. Contact the league office if such a situation arises.

D. Registration

  • Administration
  • Team Rosters
  • The MDSL Official Team Roster shall be used for games. To obtain a finalized roster, teams must register in the GotSport system and upload player birth certificates, medical release of liability forms, and the team’s roster. All documents will be emailed once the team registers and is approved.
  • Every team must designate at least one (1) participating adult to assume responsibility for the team as team officials.
  • Teams will register for league play using the designated on-line GotSport registration system and pay online. Teams must register and pay fees on or before league deadlines.
  • Player Eligibility and Team Composition
  • A team official is any non-participating person whose name appears on the Official Team Roster.
  • Scheduling
  • All age groups will be scheduled for seven (7) to eight (8) league games each season based on the number of teams entered and the alignment of the divisions within the respective age groups. Every effort is made to accommodate schedule relief requests submitted by the deadline. Teams are permitted to communicate via the GotSport scheduling chat function and agree to moving the game to another date or a time change due to coaching conflicts. These changes must be made prior to the Schedule Lock Date provided by the league when schedules are released.

E. Referees

  • Referee assignments for MDSL games are made by the league.
  • For all MDSL games, referee fees are paid out by the league.
  • MDSL utilizes both experienced and junior referees.
  • Abuse of referees by coaches or spectators will not be tolerated. Any such behavior will be referred to the league coordinator who will address the situations with the Rules and Disciplinary committee for investigation and possible sanctions. All game results will be final, and no game result will be subject to protest. We ask that your team’s manager, coach, players, and parents take a look at this video.
  • MSYSA Behavior Expectation Policy
  • MSYSA Politica de Expectativas de Comportamiento

F. Standings and Awards

  • Standings and awards are kept for ages U-9 (Division 1) and up. For U-9 (Division 2 and under) in addition to U-7 and U-8, no public scores are kept. However, for internal reasons and placement we do ask that teams report the scores for U-8 and up.
  • For tournaments scores and standings are recorded across all age groups. Awards will be issued for the winners and runners up.
  • The winning team and the home team (if tie) are required to report the scores to MDSL no later than 24 hours following the conclusion of their game. We will verify the score line with our referee assignor so please make sure that all scores are reported correctly.
  • A team’s standings in its division will be determined by the number of points it receives based on its win/loss record during the season. Points will be awarded as follows: 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, 0 points for a loss.
  • Championship trophies are awarded for U-8 and up in tournaments and U-9 and up in leagues. If games with playoff or championship implications end tied at the end of regulation, then the game will proceed straight to penalty kicks.
  • If a team withdraws from the MDSL during the season of play, all scores and point records for or in connection with that team shall be nullified and all games played or scheduled to be played shall be recorded as a “BYE” for the opposing team.
  • If a team forfeits one or more games during the MDSL season of play, that team may be removed from the league and may not be asked back for the following season.

G. Outdoor/Field

All competitions shall be governed by the rules as stated herein in all cases where they are applicable. All members of MDSL shall be governed by these Rules of Competition. If games with playoff or championship implications end tied at the end of regulation, then the game will go straight to penalty kicks.

H. Field of Play (Dimensions)

  1. The following specifications are applicable to all divisions administered by the MDSL.
  1. The field of play must be rectangular. The length of the touchline must be greater than the length of the goal line. 
  1. For players between U7 – U8/U9 (Playing 4 v 4 or 5 v 5) – the maximum length is 40 yards and the maximum width is 25 yards. Interior markings consist of four corner arcs (3 ft. radius), a center circle (6 yd. Radius), and a goal area (6 yd line drawn from sideline to sideline). In case permanent goals are not available, flags or cones may be used to mark the goals and corners. If cones are used for goals, the top of the player’s hands will determine the “imaginary” height of the crossbar. There is also a build out line that the opposing team is not allowed to enter.  

See drawing below.

  1. For players playing between U-8 – U-10, the maximum length is 65 yards and the maximum width is 45 yards. Interior markings consist of four corner arcs (5 ft. radius), a center circle (10 yd. radius), and a goal area (12 yards. The penalty area is 12 yards wide and 12 yards in width. Goal dimensions are 6 x 18.
  2. For players playing between U-11 – U-12, the maximum length is 80 yards and the maximum width is 60 yards. Interior markings consist of four corner arcs (5 ft. radius), a center circle (12 yd. radius), and a goal area (14 yards. The penalty area is 12 yards wide and 12 yards in width. Goal dimensions are 6 x 18 or 7 x 21.
  3. For players U-13 and up, the maximum length is 120 yards and the maximum width is 80 yards. Interior markings consist of tour corner arcs (8 ft. radius), a center circle (16 yd. radius), and a goal area (18 yards). The Penalty area is 18 yards wide and 18 yards in width. Goal dimensions are 8 x 24.

Game Postponement

A game may be postponed at the field site if weather conditions are too hazardous for play. Extreme weather includes lightning, snow or ice on the ground. Rain is not a reason to postpone play but field officials may. In case of a postponed game, the MDSL Sports Coordinator has the ability to re-schedule the game as long as it does not conflict with the remainder of the season.

Team Responsibilities

All teams are responsible for the cleanup of the fields after each game. Please do not leave garbage on the sidelines.

LEAGUES Game Format, Duration, and Ball Size

U7 – Age Group: 4 v 4 w/o Goalkeepers. Four 12-minute quarters, with a 1 minute break in between, and a 3-minute halftime break. A size three (3) ball will be used for games. 

U8/9 – Age Groups: 5 v 5 w/Goalkeepers. Two – 25 minute halves and a 5-minute halftime break. A size four (4) ball will be used for games. 

U9/10 – Age Groups: 7 v 7 w/ Goalkeepers. Two – 30 minute halves. 5-minute halftime break. A size four (4) ball will be used for games. 

U11 – U12 – Age Groups: 9 v 9 w/Goalkeepers. Two – 35 minute halves. 5-minute halftime break. A size four (4) ball will be used for games. *Note that for tournaments the format is 9 v 9 and the games are 25 minute halves.

U13 – U15 Age Groups: 11 v 11 w/Goalkeepers. Two – 40 minute halves. 5 minute halftime break. A size five (5) ball will be used for games.

U16 – U18 Age Groups: 11 v 11 w/Goalkeepers. Two – 45 minute halves. 5 minute halftime break. A size five (5) ball will be used for games.

TOURNAMENTSGame Format, Duration, and Ball Size

U8 – U10 – Age Groups: 7 v 7 w/Goalkeepers. Two – 25 minute halves and a 3-minute halftime break. A size four (4) ball will be used for games. 

U11 – U12 – Age Groups: 9 v 9 w/Goalkeepers. Two – 30 minute halves. 3-minute halftime break. A size four (4) ball will be used for games.

U13+ Age Groups: 11 v 11 w/Goalkeepers. Two – 35 minute halves. 5 minute halftime break. A size five (5) ball will be used for games.

Number of Players

U7 Age Group: Teams shall have no more than 12 players on the roster. 

U8 Age Group: Teams shall have no more than 12 players on the roster. 

U9/10 Age Groups: Teams shall have no more than 14 players on the roster. 

U11-U12 Age Groups: Teams shall have no more than 16 players on the roster. 

U13-U15 Age Group: Teams shall have no more than 18 players on the roster.

U16-U18 Age Group: Teams shall have no more than 22 players on the roster.

From U-7 – (4 v 4), teams may not place a defender in front of the goal to try and prevent the opposing team from scoring. Defenders may remain in their own half of the field to teach basic positioning but defenders will not be allowed to simply remain within a few yards of the goal at all times. Players are however allowed to play within the circle in the goal box, meaning that they can take the ball out of the circle but they are not allowed to just stand in there.

Build out lines  

Build out lines will be enforced for U-7 – U-10. On goal kicks and when the goalkeeper has the ball, the opposing team must set up outside of the line. Once the ball is played and the team with the ball touches it after the first pass, then the opposing team is allowed to pressure the ball and play can continue. Build out lines are NOT enforced for U-11-U-12.

Substitutions

Substitutions may be made, with the consent of the referee during any stoppage of play or for an injury.

  • Clubs are allowed to make their own decisions in terms of playing time for the players, however, we highly recommend that each player receive at least 50% of total playing time. Substitutions will be allowed in order to give an opportunity for all players to get equal playing time and to balance the games rather than to run up the score.
  • Players not on the field of play must remain two (2) yards behind the touchline and not within the distance of the goal area from the corner of the field. No players, parents, or spectators may be allowed to stand behind the goals, or on the sidelines with the coaches. They must be on the opposite side of the field. 
  • The coaches refereeing the game have the responsibility of ensuring that any player bleeding from a wound leaves the field of play. The player may only return on receiving a signal from the coach refereeing the game who is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped.

Player’s Equipment

All players shall wear shin guards. Socks must be worn up and over the shin guards.

  • A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry). NO JEWELRY.
  • All players shall be in uniform to play. A minimum “official” uniform is the standard MDSL issued jersey with number, players must have all the same colored shorts, and socks.
  • Standard approved soccer shoes or gym shoes shall be worn by all players. A player may not  play in their bare feet. Shoes with toe cleats will not be permitted.
  • A player shall not wear anything that may be dangerous to other players or themselves.
  • All or any member(s) of a team may wear extra protective clothing against the cold, including gloves without dangerous, protruding or hard objects provided that:
  • The proper team uniform is worn outermost; and any hat should be without peak, bill or dangling or protruding object of any kind; and referee discretion may be used to determine if an item of protective clothing is considered to go beyond the purpose of providing a means of retaining body heat.
  • No player shall be allowed to play in any regularly scheduled practice or game with an injury or a known medical condition, which can be communal or aggravated by playing.
  • Prosthetic Devices require a physician’s permission before a player may play and it must state the player needs to wear the device in order to play. Even then, such devices must pose no danger to other players on the field. The referee’s judgment shall be the final determining factor.

Officiating

Games will be refereed by referees especially for the U-8 and up age groups. There will be game managers for U-7, however, this isn’t always guaranteed as it will be the responsibility of the coaches to ref the games at this age. There will be 1 referee for U-8 – U-12 and 3 referees for U-13 and up.    

It shall be the duty of the coaches to encourage clean competition and good sportsmanship at all times and to enforce the rules and regulations of the league.

Coaches and parents are not allowed to talk to the referees and there will be ZERO tolerance for bad behavior towards the referees. The referees are members of the league and are an integral piece to the structure of our games. Without referees, these games will be scrimmages and would not enable the coach to strictly focus on improving his or her team(s), so please respect the referees.   

Coaching

All coaches, team managers, and assistants must comply with all Risk Management requirements. There must be an approved adult at all functions.

  1. The coach and/or the manager should send the game schedule link to the team.
  1. The coach is responsible for his own behavior as well as that of his players, parents and spectators on his/her side of the field. Remember this is just for fun.
  1. Every player must play in each game at least 50% of the playing time unless they are not able to play due to illness or injury.
  1. Coaching from the sidelines is permitted but not recommended. Coaching must be done in a civil manner and the tone of voice will be informational and encouraging, not demanding or critical.
  1. It is every coach’s obligation and duty to attend coaching meetings in order to acquire information that, in turn, may be passed on to the players.
  1. Make sure that you have a game ball properly inflated before the game starts. The home team is responsible for providing the game ball.
  1. Make sure that your players are properly equipped with the correct game attire.

In case of injuries during the game, assure that the player is properly attended to. Check his/her condition after the game and follow up with a call home in the evening. In the event an injured player requires medical attention, he/she must have a written release from the doctor before returning to practice or playing with a team. 

Field Boundaries

Coaches and players shall be on the opposite side of the field to the parents. 

I. The Rules of Play

Start of Play

The ball will be placed at the center of the field by the referee and the game will start with one player taking a kick into the opponent’s half of the field, after a given signal by the referee. At the time of the kickoff, every player will be in his/her half of the field. Every player of the opposing team, to that of the kicker, shall be 6 yards from the center mark.

The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward. The kicker shall not play the ball a second time until it has been touched or played by another player. Punishment: For any infraction of these laws the kickoff shall be retaken.

A goal shall not be scored directly from a kickoff without the ball being touched by at least one other player on either team.

Restart of Play

After a goal has been scored, the game shall be restarted with a kickoff for the team that gave up the goal.

To start the second half, the game will be restarted with the kickoff by a player of the opposite team to that of the player who started the game.

Restarting play after temporary delay: In the case of a temporary suspension due to an injury or any unusual situation, if one team is clearly in possession of the ball, the game shall be restarted by an indirect free kick by the team in possession of the ball at the point where the ball was when play was suspended. Should there not be clear possession at the time play is suspended due to an injury or any unusual situation, there will be a drop ball at the spot where the ball was declared dead. The ball shall be deemed “in play” when the ball has touched the ground.

Ball in and out of Play

  1. The ball is out of play when it has wholly crossed the goal line or whole touchline, whether it is on the ground or in the air.
  1. The ball is out of play, when the referee has stopped the games.

Method of Scoring

A goal is scored when the whole of the ball has crossed the whole of the goal line on the ground or in the air between the goal posts (flags) and under the crossbar (height of the flags).

In the event that cones are used for markers, the height of the crossbar will be determined by the height of the player’s shoulders.

No team may score while a teammate is in his/her own 6 yard goal area.

Offside Rule

The offside rule will not apply for U-7 and U-8 teams, however the intent of the rule will be followed. Off-sides will apply for U-9 and up. For U-9 – U-12, players are not allowed to go past the build-out line in their offensive third until the ball is played. In addition, positioning a player in front of the opponent’s goal irrespective of the location of the ball on the field is contrary to the aims of the league. The referee shall take appropriate action to prevent this kind of play (an indirect kick to the offended team and instructional statements to the violating players and coach).

Fouls and Misconduct

Free kicks shall be classified under two (2) headings:

“Direct”, from which a goal can be scored by a direct kick against the offending side and “Indirect”, from which a goal cannot be scored unless the ball has been played or touched by a player other than the kicker before passing through the goal. The opponent must be 6-8 yards away before the ball is kicked depending upon field dimensions.

Penalty kicks will be awarded for U-9 and up and be taken at the spot. 

Play should stop when a player acts in a careless, reckless, or dangerous manner. The incident should be explained and then play is restarted with an INDIRECT FREE KICK for the opposing team.

Kick-ins (U-7 and U-8)

When the whole of the ball passes over the whole touch line, either on the ground or in the air, it shall be put back into play by a kick-in. The players will have the option to dribble or pass the ball in. Kick-ins shall be taken from the point where it crossed the line, by a player of the opposing team.

The kicker must face the field of play and must keep both feet on the ground while dribbling or passing the ball.

Several kick-ins may be allowed if an incorrect kick occurs. Before the re-kick, the referee will instruct the kicker on proper technique and then proceed with the re-kick.

The kicker may not play the ball until another player has touched it. If the kicker plays the ball a second time before another player has touched it, the above re-throw rules will apply.

A goal shall not be scored directly from the kick-in.

Similar rules above apply to throw-ins (U-9 and up), it is just that the player must throw the ball in by keeping both feet on the ground and throwing the ball from behind his or her head with a follow through of the arms going forward.

Goal Kicks

When the whole of the ball passes over the whole of the goal line,     excluding the portion between the goal posts and under the crossbar (either in the air or on the ground), having last been played by one of the players on the attacking team, it shall be kicked directly into play by a goal kick. Defending players can’t stand on the edge of the box. 

A goal kick may be taken from anywhere inside the goal area.

Any defending player may take the goal kick.

The kicker shall not play the ball a second time until it has been touched or played by another player.

The ball is in play when it crosses outside the goal area.

The opposing team must be 6 yards away before the ball is kicked.

Corner Kicks

When the whole of the ball passes over the whole of the goal line excluding that portion between the goal posts and under the crossbar, (either in the air or on the ground), having last been played by one of the defending team, a player of the attacking team shall have a corner kick.

The ball shall be placed within a three (3) foot arc from the corner flag or cone and shall be kicked into play from that position by an attacking player.

A goal may be scored directly from a corner kick.

Players from the opposing team to the kicker shall not approach within the distance of the center circle measurement (6 yards) of the ball until it is in play.

If the player who takes the kick plays the ball a second time before it has been touched by another player, the referee shall explain to the kicker the proper procedure of a corner kick. Then the referee shall award an indirect kick to the opposite team from a spot where the infringement occurred. For any other infringement the kick shall be retaken.

Miscellaneous Rules

Good judgment, sportsmanship and fair play should govern the decisions and actions of all the coaches, referees and spectators.

Coaches, their assistants or spectators are not allowed on the field of play during the game unless permission is given by the referee (in case of emergencies or unusual situations).

Public scores will be recorded for U-9 (Division 1) and up.

Heading is not allowed for kids ages 11 and under.

Slide tackling is not allowed for kids ages 8 and under.

Mercy rule (applies for U-9 and under, however, some principles of it can be applied throughout) – If a team is winning by 7 goals or more then they must take a player off of the field until the opposition has cut the deficit under 7. If a coach finds that his team is scoring a ton, then we encourage the coaches to have the kids play in different positions, play the goalkeeper before attacking, enforce a rule that everyone must touch the ball before they score, or anything that encourages the good of the game. The mission should never be to deflate the opponent. There is no benefit to a team winning 10-0 or a team losing 10-0. As coaches we can all find different ways to make the game more challenging on our players when far ahead in a game.

J. Three strike rule (for teams)

This policy applies to all leagues owned and managed by the Maryland Developmental Soccer League

STRIKE 1

Any team responsible for a scheduled game that is not played on the scheduled date and time will receive a strike.

The actions below will result in a strike against the responsible team.

  • Forfeiting a game
  • Late cancellation (within 3 days of the scheduled date)
  • No show at the game

STRIKE 2

Any team that has received their first strike, that is then responsible for another scheduled game not being played on the agreed date and time will receive their second strike. The actions below will result in a strike against the responsible team.

  • Forfeiting a game
  • Late cancellation (within 3 days of the scheduled date)
  • No show at the game

A second strike against a team is to be acknowledged as a final warning before being removed from the current league season (Spring or Fall).

STRIKE 3

Any team with two strikes that is then responsible for another scheduled game not being played on the agreed date and time will receive their third and final strike.

The actions below will result in a strike against the responsible team.

  • Forfeiting a game
  • Late cancellation (within 3 days of the scheduled date)
  • No show at the game

As a result of a third strike, the team will be removed from their competing league for the remainder of the current league season (Spring or Fall). Any team that is removed from the league will forfeit all their games.

  • When a team is removed for a three-strike violation, that team’s bond will be revoked, and they will need to pay the bond for their team again the next season they register.