Your Guide To World Cup 2014: Part 3 - Rules & Format

New to soccer? Tired of answering questions from "rookie" friends? The18 has you covered with our guide to World Cup rules and tournament format

Starting June 12th, the world will watch 64 matches take place in 12 cities across South America’s biggest country. We at The18 decided to create a "what you need to know" guide to FIFA World Cup 2014 for new footy fans - or, let's be honest, for avid footy fans who are tired of answering questions about rules and tournament format in the middle of every match from less experienced friends and family members. You know who you are.

World Cup Rules:

First things first, let's go through the rules of football. They’re pretty simple - and, yes, we will cover "offside." 

1: The field, also known as the pitch, must be between 100-130 yards long (the touch line), by 50-100 yards wide (goal line). The 2010 and 2006 World Cup’s had a pitch size of 115 yards by 74 yards. That's right, American football fans, the size of the pitch can vary. Get used to it.

2: At each end of the pitch there is a centered eight-yard-wide goal. Six yards from each goal post along the goal line and six yards out into the field (perpendicular to the goal line) is the goal box. 

3: Extending 18 yards from each goal post along the goal line and 18 yards out into the field (perpendicular to the goal line) is the penalty box. This gorgeous box is also called "The 18," hence the name of our site (in case you were wondering). 


4: Each team has 23 players on the entire squad. The starting lineup will consist of 11 players and each team has three substitutions. The minimum amount of players on the pitch is 7. Kick-off is determined by a coin flip and NO hands! Only the goalkeeper can use their hands and they must be inside their own 18-yard box. Luis Suarez and Ghana will remember this one. 

5: The game is made up of two 45-minute halves with additional time added at the end of 90 minutes at the discretion of the referee. It is the referee’s job to calculate how much time has passed during the match due to restarts, injuries, fights, pitch invasions, biting, etc. These stops in play are called "stoppages," and result in extra time at the end of 90 minutes called "stoppage time." If the score is tied after 90 minutes, teams will go into extra time. (Except in the group stage, but we’ll get to the tournament format later).

6: A goal is worth one point, and the ball must cross the entirety of the end line for the goal to count. With FIFA’s new goal line technology this shouldn’t be a problem to determine. 

7: The offside rule is easy. Offside is when an attacking player is behind the second to last defender (typically the goalkeeper is the last, but not always) when the ball is played to him/her. In other words, the attacker must be level with the last defender when the ball is passed to him/her, otherwise they are offside. Here is a video explaining all the different situations:                                                                                            

8: Fouls are also pretty easy to pick out. Below is a list of some examples in case you have trouble. Also prepare yourself to see some flopping and remember, no head butting. 

Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
Trips or attempts to trip an opponent
Jumps at an opponent
Charges an opponent
Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
Pushes an opponent
Tackles an opponent before making contact with the ball
Holds an opponent
Handles the ball deliberately

9: If a foul occurs within "the 18" (see above) on the attacking team, a penalty kick is given, which is a 12-yard kick between a player and the goalie. The goalie may move along the end line, but can not come off it until the ball is struck.

10: Yellow cards are awarded as a caution to players for unsporting behavior, reckless fouls, delaying the game, and so forth. Red cards are given for more serious offenses. If you receive a red card, you are ejected from the game and you will miss the next match. Your team will continue to play with 10 men. If you receive two yellow cards in one game, that equals a red card. If you receive one yellow card in two consecutive games, you may stay in the game but you will be suspended for the following game. Here is one of the most famous red cards in World Cup history:

11: Free kicks are broken into two categories, direct and indirect. A direct kick can be shot directly into the opponent’s goal without touching another player. An indirect free kick is indicated by the referee raising his hand during the kick. An indirect kick can only go into the goal if it has subsequently been touched by another player before it enters the goal. The ball must be stationary for both types of kicks.

12: A throw-in is awarded when the possessing team plays the ball out of bounds over the touchline. While taking a throw-in, a player must release the ball with both hands simultaneously and keep both feet firmly planted on the ground. If the player violates these rules, the throw-in is given to the opposing team. Players are not allowed to score directly off a throw-in.

13: A goal kick is awarded when the offensive team plays the ball out of bounds over the defensive team’s goal line. After the ball is out of play, the defender or goalkeeper may place the ball anywhere within the six-yard goal box and kick the ball back into play.

14: A corner kick is awarded to the offensive team when the defensive team plays the ball out of bounds over its goal line. The ball is placed within the corner area and is kicked back into play by the offensive team. Players can score directly off a corner kick.

World Cup Tournament Format:

(Be sure to join our ESPN Bracket challenge for your chance to win The18 soccer gear!

1: The first round, or the "Group Stage," is a round-robin tournament between the 32 years divided into eight groups. The two best teams from each group advance to the "Knockout Stage." 

2: A victory earns teams three points, while a draw earns them one point. Obviously, if you lose you receive no points. 

3: If there are more than two teams tied atop a group after the round robin (i.e., "Group Stage) then the tiebreak system is as follows. 

The side with the most points in the encounter(s) between the tied teams takes precedence.
The next criterion is goal difference in the group matches between the tied teams.
Teams that cannot be separated by goal difference are then ranked according to the number of goals scored in the games between the teams concerned. 
If there are still more than two teams tied after the previous tiebreakers, FIFA uses points earned in head-to-head matches to determine the winner. 
If it remains tied after that tiebreak, it goes to head-to-head goal differential. 
If it remains tied after that, it goes to head-to-head goals scored.
If it remains tied after that, (which has only happened once in the history of the tournament) it will be a random draw. 

4: After the Group Stage there is the "Knockout Stage." The winners of each group play the second place finishers of the group they're paired with for the Knockout Stage. For example, the winner of group A will play the second place finisher of group B, and so forth. 

5: From this point on, after the Knockout Stage, it is a simple elimination tournament. If a game is tied after full time, there will be two 15 minute periods of extra time. If they are still tied after that, it will go to a penalty shootout. There is no golden goal at the World Cup.