7U Division Guidelines

Just a few points for coaches, referees and parents to remember, especially for those who have experience in other divisions, as to how 7U differs from soccer’s standard Laws of the Game.

  1. Roster size: The maximum number of players assigned to a particular team is 7.
  2. Game is 5 vs. 5 with NO goalkeepers. If the opposing team has fewer than 5 players then you must play down (play the same number of players). However, there should never be more than 2 substitutes per team. Coaches are encouraged to “lend” players to the opposing team to field the proper number of players. Loaned players must play at least half of the game with their own team. Do not play more than 5v5. (See AYSO’s philosophy on short-sided games and the benefit to the players.) 
  • EXAMPLE 1: Team A has 6 players present, Team B has 4 players present: Team A loans a player to Team B and play proceeds 5v5. EXAMPLE 2: Team A has 5 players, Team B has 4 players: play should switch to 4v4.
  1. Duration of game is 30 minutes and is played in two 15-minute halves. The half-time break is 5 minutes. Due to lack of substitutes or hot weather, the referees may use their discretion to allow for a short break for players to get a drink midway through the half. Switch sides for the second half.
  2. Heading the ball: Deliberate heading of the ball is not allowed for all players in this division in both practices and games. In a match, a free kick will be awarded to the opposing team if a player deliberately touches the ball with his/her head during a game. The free kick is to be taken from the place where the player touched the ball with his/her head.
  3. Playing time: All players on a given team should have equal playing time. Game is “Open Substitution” which means players can enter and exit as frequently as necessary. If there are enough players to have a substitute(s), ALL players shall be substitutes equally. No player shall “sit out” (act as substitute) for more than 2 minutes at a time. Adherence to the playing time policy is the responsibility of the Coach, not the Referee nor the Assistant Referee. It is recommended to have an Assistant Coach or Team Manager keep track of a substitute rotation schedule during a game.
  4. Goal kicks are taken from the outside of the “the big box” (penalty area), NOT the goal area (the little box). 7U fields likely will not have a goal box.
  5. Kick-ins/Pass-ins: Restarts after the ball crosses the touchline is a pass-in. The player puts the ball down on the touchline and kicks the ball; he may also dribble the ball into the field of play. The opposing players need to be at least 2 yards from the ball before it is kicked. Throw-ins are not allowed (until 8U).
  6. Fouls and Other Stoppages: The following, if deliberately done, are the fouls most likely to occur in 7U games: kicking, charging, tripping, pushing, holding, handling the ball and dangerous play. No slide tackles are allowed. Referees should not stop play for trifling violations. It’s a player’s game so keep the fun going and let them play. But always stop for safety. Referees should work cooperatively with the coaches to instruct players on fair play.
  7. Misconduct: Misconduct should be rare in 7U games. There is no need for the public cautioning and sending off of young players (Referees should leave their red and yellow cards home). Officials should work cooperatively with the coach when a 7U player may need some “cool down time”.
  8. Free Kicks: All kicks are direct free kicks, meaning no one has to touch it for it to be considered a goal. If a foul occurs inside the penalty area, the ball is to be moved outside the penalty area for the free kick. There are no penalty kicks. In other words, teams defending a free kick may place a “wall” of defenders between the kicker and goal.)
  9. Distance from Ball: Players should be asked to stand back 8 yards (minimum required distance for Santa Monica at this age) from the ball being kicked (for free kicks, goal kicks, kick-offs, etc.) to give the kicker room to kick the ball without it immediately hitting an opponent.
  10. Offside: The concept of offside is too complicated for 7U players, but aspects of the law may be instructed. The referee may instruct a player to move out of their opponent’s penalty area if the ball is not near.
  11. No score is publicly acknowledged (“we all win”). While we do not have a “no slaughter policy”, good sportsmanship is still paramount (in fact, it’s one of the six core AYSO philosophies).  Coaches must be prepared with innovative ways to keep the score close while still challenging their players and being respectful of the opposing team. To ensure no more than a 5-goal margin, coaches should begin to pull back PRIOR to reaching that margin. Coaches are encouraged to review the document “How to Prevent a Blow-out” on the website and to consult with the Regional Coach Administrator for suggestions on how to achieve a result that is both challenging and respectful.  Egregious blow-outs that show a lack of sportsmanship may result in penalties against the offending teams.


Referees should briefly explain any infringements to ALL the players and help players with instructions. They are the teachers on the field – and should encourage proper play and sporting behavior. Every effort should be made to keep the game moving and free from stoppages for doubtful infractions. Let them play and enjoy. 

Referees must be registered AYSO volunteers (meaning completion of Safe Haven and  volunteer background check, CDC Concussion Awareness, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, and Safe Sport) and must attend Region 20’s online ZOOM “Parent Referee Orientation” offered in the Fall. Usually, one Center Referee is enough to handle these games; the field is small and it’s relatively simple to make every call (i.e. when ball goes out of play). But, “unofficial assistant referees” can be handy, and may work each sideline calling the ball in and out of play. The HOME team (first team listed on the schedule) should provide the referee (Center Referee) and maybe an “Assistant Referee.”  The visitor team should provide the other assistant referee (AR). If someone from the Home team is absent, they should recruit a Center Referee from the visiting team.

Coaches shall use positive coaching skills (avoid constant coaching, no yelling at players), stay within the designated technical area (coach’s box—no more than 8 yards on either side of the midfield line), show respectful attitude toward the referees and HAVE FUN!

Spectators from each team shall be on opposite sides of the field. The home team is the first team listed on the game schedule and sits on the West or North side of the field. The visiting team is the second team listed on the game schedule and is assigned the East or South side of the field. Spectators must stay between the “18-yard lines” (between the penalty areas). Spectators must also be 2 yards back from the touchline, maintaining an unobstructed and safe area for the Assistant Referee and players to run and perform pass-ins. A spectator must never sit or stand behind the goal or goal line. Coaches and assistant referees should encourage adherence to this policy. Spectators shall not coach players (coaches coach, players play, parents cheer), avoid foul or abusive language or gestures toward any player, coach, referee or other spectators, abide by the Kids Zone guidelines (no smoking, no consumption of alcohol, no dogs, etc.), acknowledge and congratulate BOTH teams on a game well played, and HAVE FUN! Spectators should NEVER argue with the referee or assistant referees (even when the spectator is right! – remember, scores are not recorded in 7U). Team Managers should help ensure proper sideline etiquette.

You must kick-off at the designated time on the schedule. If you start late, or take a long half-time break, please make-up that time somehow so you still end on time as a courtesy to all the teams who have games after you. As the official timekeepers, this is the Referee’s responsibility. If the Referee feels s/he has too much going on to keep track of time, select someone to be the timekeeper.

Coin toss: The team that wins the toss of the coin decides which goal to attack in the first half or to take the kick-off. Depending on their choice, their opponents take the kick-off or decide which goal to attack. If time is short, have the home team choose which goal to attack and have the visitors kick-off to start the first half.

Ball Size is size 3.

Game Cards are not required in 7U. Scores are not reported and referees do not keep track of substitutions.

Field Set-Up. It is the responsibility of all the teams with the first game. Parents must help set up the field. Please arrive early to complete this task in time for the players to practice with the goals. Each field has 2 goals and nets, plus 6 flags – 4 on each of the corners, and 1 each at mid-field, about a yard away from the edge of the field (touchline). Stakes are used to secure the goals in the ground and net hooks keep the net taut. Additionally, Kids Zone sign needs to be placed in a visible location.

Field Take-Down is the responsibility of the teams with the last game on that field. Parents must help break down the field. Sometimes, one field may end earlier than another, so be sure to check if yours is the last game for that field. All field equipment needs to be returned to the storage room, along with the Kids Zone sign. Please ensure all stakes and net hooks are accounted for, so children do not find them afterwards. The correct number of stakes and hooks are noted on the toolbox in which they are stored. Any trash and/or recycling must be picked up and dealt with appropriately.

Weekly Practice: 7U teams will be assigned a weekly one-hour practice space in the late afternoon or early evening during the week. Coaches should attempt to develop the skill level and game knowledge of their players during that time. Additionally, coaches are strongly encouraged to scrimmage against one of the other 7U teams assigned to the same field and same time for the last 20 minutes.

Thanks for your help and cooperation in making this an enjoyable experience for all the children!