Wednesday 03 October 2018, 09:57

The rules of futsal explained

On Sunday 7 October, one day after the opening ceremony of the men’s and women’s Youth Olympic Futsal Tournaments Buenos Aires 2018, futsal will make its official debut as an Olympic sport, a landmark occasion that the discipline is ready to shout about. A total of 20 U-18 men’s and women’s teams – ten in each competition – will fight it out for the first six Olympic medals to be awarded in the history of futsal.

Although it already boasts a large following around the world, futsal is attracting an ever-increasing audience. And though it is similar in nature to football, it does have its own unique characteristics. So for anyone new to this spectacular sport, rounds up its most important rules.

Duration of matches

  • Two halves lasting 20 minutes each, with a 15-minute break for half-time.

  • The clock stops whenever the ball goes out of play or there is a break in play.

  • The clock only starts again when play resumes.


  • Each team may request a one-minute time-out per half.

  • Teams may only call a time-out after notifying the timekeeper and when they are in possession of the ball.

  • If a team decides not to use their time-out in the first half, they cannot carry it over to the second.

  • There are no time-outs if a match goes to extra time.

Rolling substitutions

  • Each team starts with one goalkeeper and four outfield players on the pitch.

  • Coaches can make as many substitutions as they wish.

  • Substitutions can be made without stopping the game.

Infringements and sanctions

  • As in football, fouls are penalised with either a direct or indirect free-kick, or a penalty if the foul is committed inside the penalty area.

  • Fouls can be sanctioned with red and yellow cards.

  • If a player is shown a red card, they can only be replaced on the pitch by a substitute after a mandatory two-minute time penalty. If the team concedes a goal during this time, the substitute may come on before the time penalty has elapsed.


  • Goalkeepers are free to move anywhere on the pitch but can only handle the ball inside their own penalty area.

  • They are allowed to throw the ball from their area into the opposition half.

  • When the ball is in their possession, either in their hands or at their feet, they have four seconds in which to play it to a team-mate.

  • They may only touch the ball again after an opposition player has touched it or if they advance to the opposition half.

Team fouls

  • A count is kept of fouls penalised with a direct free-kick or penalty kick in each time period. These offences are called “accumulated fouls”.

  • When a team commits a sixth accumulated foul, the opposing team is awarded a direct free-kick without a wall on the second penalty mark, which is situated ten metres from goal and four metres behind the first penalty mark.

  • If, however, the sixth accumulated foul is committed between the opposition goalline and an imaginary line parallel to the halfway line and passing through the second penalty mark, the free-kick may be taken closer to the goal, in the position where the infringement was committed.

  • If a match goes to extra time, the accumulated fouls from the second period continue to accumulate during extra time.


  • Futsal is played with a ball that bounces less than a conventional football.

  • Goals measure three metres wide and two metres high.

  • Matches are officiated by two referees, one on each touchline.

  • When the ball goes out of play, play resumes with a kick-in.

  • There are no offsides.

For more details on Futsal's rules and regulations, read the latest Laws of the Game document.

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