MVSC Development League: Rules of Play

Summarized and Modified for MVSC Development Program League

1] The Field of Play

Field must be rectangular and longer than it is wide. Field will be appropriate in size to age of players.

2] The Ball

Size 4 ball

3] The Formats

MLS Boys, NWSL1 Girls, & NWSL2 Girls:  5 v 5 (includes goalkeeper)

Serie A Boys:  6 v 6 (includes goalkeeper)

EPL Boys:  7 v 7 (includes goalkeeper)

NWSL3 Girls & La Liga Boys:  9 v 9 (includes goalkeeper)

4] Substitutions

MLS Boys, NWSL1 Girls, & NWSL2 Girls:  On the fly at any time, or during any stoppage.

Serie A Boys, EPL Boys, NWSL3 Girls & La Liga Boys:  During any stoppage.

5] Equipment

All players shall wear a team jersey, shorts, shin-guards, socks and soccer cleats. Baseball cleats (with a front toe cleat) are not allowed. Shin-guards should be worn underneath socks. No jewelry (earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.), or other equipment deemed unsafe is allowed. Goalies shall wear a jersey or practice bib differing in color from either team.

6] The Referee/Game Day Facilitator

Most Development games will use a professional coach Facilitator for weekend games.  Some games will be managed by a referee.

Facilitators/referees’ calls should be respected, and not questioned by coaches, parents or players. The Facilitator/referee is encouraged to explain calls to assist players in learning.  If a parent volunteer is acting as the referee, there should be minimal coaching on the field.

In addition to refereeing the game, the pro coach Facilitator’s role is to:

  • Assist parent coaches in teaching players the rules.
  • Serve as a resource to parent coaches on tactics, strategy, player and game management.
  • Offer instruction to players on the field during natural stoppages, without disrupting the flow of the game.
  • Adjust format of games (number of players on the field; size of field) if teams are short players.

The pro coach Facilitator also has authority to manage mismatched and/or blow-out situations (i.e., situations in which the competitive match-ups of the teams on the day are not allowing for players on both teams to experience a reasonable level of challenge and success).  The Facilitator’s assessment of whether there is mismatch will be based on his/her coaching expertise, and may consider factors other than or independent from the score of the game.

  • When managing mismatched situations, the Facilitator may:
    • Require one team to add a player to the field.
    • Require a team to shift certain players positionally.
    • Require a team with more players in attendance to loan one or more players to the other team for the game (this can be done with players taking turns playing with the opponent).
    • Place a restriction on the "dominant" team (e.g., only score with non-dominant foot; only score off a pass with a 1 touch shot; etc.).
  • Facilitator game management interventions will be made with the aim of providing a challenging and competitive environment that best supports the development of the players on both teams.

7] Duration of Game

MLS, Serie A, EPL, NWSL1 & NWSL 2: 2 X 25 min. halves, with 5 minute halftime

La Liga & NWSL3: 2 X 30 min. halves, with 5 minute halftime

8] Ball In and Out of Play

The ball is out of play when the entire ball has completely crossed over the touch line (sideline) or the goal line (end line), either on the ground or in the air, and the referee has stopped play. The position of a player touching the ball has no impact on the ball being called out of bounds (a player may be on, or even outside the lines, when he is playing a ball). The ball is deemed in play at all other times.

9] Scoring

A goal is scored when the entire ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar. 

10] Offsides

MLS, NWSL1 & 2: Offsides is not called.  Discourage "cherry picking."

Serie A & EPL:  Offsides line is each team's buildout line.

La Liga & NWSL3:  Offsides line is the halfway line.

11] Fouls

A major foul occurs when a player carelessly, recklessly, or with disproportionate force does one of the following:

  1. Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent.
  2. Trips or attempts to trip an opponent.
  3. Jumps at an opponent.
  4. Charges an opponent.
  5. Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent.
  6. Pushes an opponent.
  7. Tackles an opponent and makes contact with the player before touching the ball.
  8. Tackles from behind or in a dangerous manner
  9. Holds an opponent.
  10. Spits on an opponent.
  11. Deliberately handles the ball with any portion of his arm from fingers to shoulder (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area). For a “hand ball foul” to be called, there must be intent by the player to strike the ball with some portion of the arm or hand.  Generally, if contact is made “hand to ball” it is a foul. If it is “ball to hand,” no foul.  If a player protects him/herself from being hit by a hard shot, or if the ball inadvertently strikes the hand, there is no foul.

 A major foul results in a direct free-kick. (*See note on “Free Kicks” & “Penalty Kicks”)

A minor foul occurs if a player:

  1. HEADING:  There is no deliberate heading allowed in the DPL.   If a player deliberately heads the ball, an indirect free kick will be awarded to the opposing team.  If the ball hits a players head (not deliberate), play should continue.
  2. Plays in a dangerous manner.
  3. Impedes the progress of an opponent.
  4. Prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands.
  5. Charges the goalkeeper.

A goalkeeper can commit a minor foul if he:

  1. Touches the ball with his hands after releasing it into play before it is touched by another player.
  2. Touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a teammate.
  3. Touches the ball with his hands after receiving the ball directly from a teammate’s throw-in.

A minor foul results in an indirect free-kick, even if the foul occurs in the defending team’s penalty box.

YELLOW CARDS & RED CARDS: The Referee may determine that certain fouls or behavior warrant a significant caution (yellow card) or ejection from the game (red card). An ejected player may not be replaced by a substitute.

12] Free Kicks

Direct free kicks – a goal may be scored directly from the kick. 

Indirect free kicks – a goal cannot be scored until the ball is touched by a player other than the kicker.

*MLS, NWSL1 & NWSL2: all fouls result in an indirect free kick.

13] Penalty Kicks

A penalty kick is awarded when a major foul is committed by a defender within his own penalty area. The kick is taken on the penalty mark (approx. 10 yards directly in front of the goal) with no defense except the goalie, who must remain on the goal line until the ball is kicked.

*No penalty kicks are given for MLS, NWSL1 & NWSL2.

14] Throw-Ins/Kick-ins

When the ball is played out of play over a touch line (side line), play is restarted in the following manner:

MLS, NWSL1 & NWSL2:  No throw-ins.  A player on the team that didn’t touch the ball out of play can kick or dribble the ball into play from the sideline where the ball went out of bounds.

Serie A, EPL, La Liga & NWSL3:  Throw-ins.  Play resumes with a throw in for the team that didn’t touch the ball out of play. A legal throw-in requires the player face the field with both feet on the ground and outside the touch line, and uses both hands to throw the ball from behind and over his head. An illegal throw-in results when the player lifts one or both feet, uses only one hand to throw, or fails to bring the ball from behind and over his head.  An illegal throw in results in a warning, and a 2nd attempt.

15] Goal Kick

When the ball is played out of bounds over the goal line by the attacking team, play is restarted with a goal kick for the defending team. 

The Goalkeeper taking the goal kick can pass the ball into the field from in front of his or her goal.  The player receiving the pass may be inside the penalty box.  All players from the defending team must retreat behind the build-up line* until the ball is put into play by the goalkeeper.

Build-up Lines:

MLS, NWSL 1 &NWSL2 (half field line)

Serie A & EPL:  Build up lines are marked on each field

La Liga & NWSL3:  No Build-up line.  On a goal kick, players on the defensive team must be outside of the penalty box

16] Corner Kick

When the ball is played out of play over the goal line by the defending team, play is restarted with a corner kick for the attacking team. The ball is placed within the corner arc on the side the ball went over the goal line. Defenders must be at least 7 yards away.

Other Modified Rules

A.     Playing Time:  Each player shall play a minimum of 50% of the total playing time (unless there is an issue with attendance, attitude or behavior).

B.     Spectators: Parents and spectators must occupy the opposite side of the field from the players – NO EXCEPTIONS. Both teams should occupy one side. Coaches are not permitted to walk past the halfway line into the area occupied by the other team.

C.     Code of Conduct: All parents are required to read and support the policies and philosophies detailed in the “Code of Conduct.” As a “self-policing” policy, every referee, coach and parent has a responsibility to demonstrate and encourage good sportsmanship in both players and each other. Behavior outside the guidelines of the Code should be addressed and/or reported to the Club.

D.     Common Sense: Referees in soccer must use common sense in applying and interpreting the Laws in order to maintain the spirit of the game. Soccer is a game of constant motion with no time for instant replay. Good judgment must be used to allow the game to flow, which will sometimes result in “no calls” for fouls that would contravene the spirit of the game or take an attacking advantage away from a team.

E.  Build-up Rule (for all leagues except La Liga and NWSL 3):  When the goalkeeper has possession of the ball in his or her hands, all players on defending team must retreat to the build-up line until the goalkeeper releases the ball.  

F.  Punting:  In all leagues except La Liga and NWSL 3, Goalkeepers are not allowed to punt the ball.  They may throw the ball, provided they do not throw it in the air over the halfway line.  They may also drop the ball to the ground and kick it (provided they don't kick it off a bounce).  This rule is in place to encourage building out of the back.  Goalkeepers are also permitted to distribute the ball quickly (prior to the defending team retreating to their defensive half) if they wish to do so.  In La Liga and NWSL 3, goalkeepers are permitted to punt the ball.  But if they do so, the ball must touch a player or the ground before crossing the half-field line.  If the ball is punted or thrown over the halfway line without touching a player or the ground, an indirect free kick shall be awarded to the other team.