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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) first ratified the official rules of soccer, entitled "Laws of the Game," when it was founded in 1886. These original laws have only changed slightly over the years, in accordance with specific evolution and demands of the sport. The purpose of the laws is to be applicable in the same way at any level from World Cup final to a local game with your friends at a park.
The FIFA rules consist of 17 laws that break the game into segments. The laws are as followed: Law 1 - The Field of Play. Law 2 - The Ball. Law 3 - The Number of Players. Law 4 - The Players' Equipment. Law 5 - The Referee. Law 6 - The Assistant Referees. Law 7 - Duration of the Match. Law 8 - The Start & Restart of Play. Law 9 - The Ball In & Out of Play. Law 10 - The Method of Scoring. Law 11 - Offside. Law 12 - Fouls & Misconduct. Law 13 - Free Kicks. Law 14 - The Penalty Kick. Law 15 - The Throw-In. Law 16 - The Goal Kick. Law 17 - The Corner Kick.
These rules and regulations are revised annually (usually in July) by FIFA. FIFA is the world soccer governing body, but for lower levels of play, youth organizations have been known to adjust the rules to fit children. The "Laws of the Game" have been anything but simple to comprehend as a whole. FIFA's 17 sections are comprised of a rulebook 70 pages long, as well as an additional 44 pages worth of questions and answers.
FIFA represents soccer throughout the world, so the World Cup is not the only soccer event that follows its rules and regulations. Club teams and their respective leagues are a great example of the "Laws of the Game." Whether it is the English Premiership or the La Liga (Spanish Premier), European soccer is most accustomed to following the guidelines set by FIFA.
However, in the United States, leagues of every level provide their own rules and regulations that can add to, revise, or otherwise amend FIFA's laws. The purpose of this flexibility in the rules arises from the need to acknowledge that different cultures and economic factors surrounding each level can affect the way the game is played.
MLSNET.com explains in its rules of the game section that the laws that originated over a century ago are susceptible to be altered. Whether it be Division I college soccer or youth leagues for young children, the laws are designed as a loose framework open to amendment based on the discretion of that particular governing body. Although these slight rules differentiate from FIFA, the issue is mostly null and void. While soccer throughout the United States, particularly the MLS, is growing, the players rarely have an opportunity to compete in Europe or elsewhere. The competition level is far superior outside of our country and thus the rule variations seemingly fail to apply most of the time.
"The Laws form the skeleton of a league's rules, while the competition guidelines provide the flesh. Major League Soccer's guidelines have moved closer to a literal translation of the Laws of the Game over the years with the abolition of the shootout tiebreaker and the restoration of the on-field clock at the start of the 2000 season."