A brief guide to beach soccer’s key rules

12 Aug 2021
  • The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2021 kicks off on 19 August

  • The entire event will be held at the Luzhniki Beach Soccer Stadium in Moscow

  • We summarise the basic rules of beach soccer to whet your appetite

With just one week to go, excitement is mounting ahead of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™.

The finals at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium will be sure to serve up more spectacular moments, pure emotion and a few surprises – just like the previous editions of the competition.

However, there are a few differences between this version of the beautiful game and others such as traditional 11-a-side and futsal. To make sure you have the rules in the back of your mind when watching a match, FIFA.com has summarised some of the key aspects of this format for you.

Playing time Beach soccer matches are divided into three 12-minute periods, with a three-minute break between each period. This means that the game clock is paused in the event of a goal, a foul or an injury. The same is true if the referee believes that a team is time wasting. If the ball is in play, the period only ends once the ball stops moving or goes out of play. The pitch As you might expect, matches are played on sand, and the pitch must be covered in sand to a depth of at least 40cm. The playing area must be between 35 and 37 metres long and between 26 and 28 metres wide, and marked with lines ten centimetres wide. The goals are 2.2 metres high and 5.5 metres wide.

The halfway line is marked by red flags. Another imaginary line is marked by yellow flags nine metres from each goal line. This is the penalty area, with penalties taken from the midpoint of this line in the event of a foul. Finally, the substitution zones are located along the touchline, just like in futsal.

Football - FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009 - Quarter-finals - Brazil v Italy - Main Pitch - Dubai - UAE - 20/11/09.Actionshot, Giant Screen, Stadia Dressing, Coca-Cola Board, FIFA Partners.Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Matthew Childs

Ball With a circumference of between 68 and 70 centimetres, the ball has the same dimensions as a normal football but is lighter than its turf-based counterpart. It weighs between 400 and 440 grams and is pumped up to a pressure of 0.4 to 0. 6atm at sea level before the start of each match.

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - AUGUST 07: The ball placed ready for a free-kick during the German Beachsoccer League game between Beach Royals Duesseldorf and Ibbenbuerener BSC on August 7, 2021 in Dusseldorf, Germany. (Photo by Neil Baynes/Getty Images)

The players Each team has five players on the pitch at the start of a game – one goalkeeper and four outfield players – as well as seven substitutes. There is no limit on the number of substitutions that can be made. All changes, including those involving the goalkeeper, can be made during open play. Each team has its own specially designated substitution zone for this purpose. All of this means that substitutions play an important tactical role in beach soccer.

The referees Each match is controlled by two referees, both of whom have full authority to enforce the rules. There is also a third referee as well as a timekeeper, who sits at a table level with the halfway line on the same side of the pitch as the substitutes’ benches.

No draws allowed A beach soccer match can only be won or lost – it never ends in a draw. If the scores are tied at the end of the game, the rules stipulate that a three-minute period of extra time must be played. If there is still no winner after this, the match must be decided by penalty kicks, with each team taking five shots each. If even this does not produce a victor, the penalties go to sudden death and the winning team receives one point. Disciplinary action If a player is sent off after receiving a red or second yellow card, they can be replaced by a substitute after two minutes of playing time have elapsed following the sending-off. There is no limit to the number of fouls a player can commit. Football without walls The players are not allowed to form a wall when a free-kick is taken. If a team commits a foul in their own half, all players must remain behind the ball until the set piece is taken. If the foul is committed in the opponents' half, all players must stay at least five metres away from the ball until the free-kick is taken and cannot stand in the line of fire.



One other important detail is that the free-kick must be taken by the fouled player unless injury prevents them from doing so. Once the referee blows their whistle, the player has four seconds to put the ball back in play, otherwise the opposing team is awarded a free-kick.

Football - Spain v Iran - Group B - FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2007 - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 6/11/07.Farid BOULOKBASHI - Iran (#9) takes a free kick against Spain, Actionshot, adidas board, Stadia Dressing.Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Matthew Childs

Best foot forward Unlike in the traditional version of football but just as in futsal, you are not allowed to score directly from kick-off in beach soccer, and there is no offside rule. One rule unique to this format is that throw-ins or kick-ins can be taken with either the hands or foot.