28 Rules of Foosball Every Player Must Know

Whether you are a casual player or a pro, you need to know the rules of foosball. The official rules can be found at the United States Table Soccer Association (USTSA) but we’ve summarized them into the 28 Essential Rules of Foosball. Bettering your game also helps if you know the rules.

1. Starting a Match

Before starting the match, a coin flipping is done in presence of the players of two teams. The winning team has the right to either first serve or choosing of side. The team losing the flip have to take the remaining option. When winning team in coin flip chooses any of the two options, they can’t change their decision.

2. The Serve

Soon after any team serves the foosball through the serving hole, the match starts immediately. If the ball leaves the table or a goal scores a point, the ball is served again. After the game is on with the ball hitting the playground no player can touch the ball with hand until it is next serve time. Playing area is the surface of the board on the upper side of the table. At the time of serving, if the server’s hand touches the play area, the serve will be canceled as illegal.

For influencing the serve, the server can spin the ball. But unless any of the serving team figures touches and struck the ball, no score will be counted. If the opposing team is not ready for the game to start, the server will surely not serve the ball.

3. Following Serves

After the game starts, subsequent serves will follow by the last scoring team. When there is a multi-game match, the losing team of the previous game will serve for the new game. If the wrong team serves, it will be a violation or infraction of the rule that will stop the play and the right team will re-serve the ball. However, if any subsequent serve made by the wrong team leads to scoring goal, no protests will be granted. But if the re-serve leaves the table or goes dead, it will be served again by the team who violated the rule before.

4. Ball in Play

After the server serves the foosball it will remain in the play until it is a dead ball, it is a timeout, the ball hits off the table, or a point scored.

5. Ball Off the Table

When the ball leaves the playing surface area and hits the cabinet ends, scoring marker, top of side rails, any object that is not a part of the table, or ashtrays, it will be called as off the table. In such instances, the team which originally served the ball will re-serve it. However, in case the ball enters the serving cup and then comes back to the playing area, it will be declared as ball in play.

6. Dead Ball

A foosball is declared as dead when it completely loses its motion and is out of reach of any of the player figures. When the ball is dead in between two-man rods and the goal, the play is started by placing it to a corner nearest to the spot. If the ball is dead between two-person rods, the game resumes with serve from the team that originally served that ball. In case, any team makes the ball dead intentionally for advancing, the opposing team gets the chance for re-serve.

7. Time Out

A foosball game allows each to take two-time outs when they may leave the table. Time outs are limited by not more than 30 seconds. In case when the ball is in play, a team with the possession of the ball can call the time out only when the ball is completely stopped. However, either team can call the time out if the ball is not in play.

8. Resuming after Time Out

After the time out is over, the player in possession of the ball in the previous session will bring it back for start playing. However, he will make sure that the opposing team has the readiness for resuming the game. At the time of calling the time out, if the ball was not in play, restarting the game will be initiated by the team that actually served that ball.

9. Official Time Out

If an official is not present during the restart of the game after the time out and any dispute arises, either of the teams may request for an official only when the ball is dead or stopped. The first request for an official to aid the dispute resolution is called official time out. Subsequent requests for an official by any of the teams will be adjusted with the regular time out. 

If any foreign object falls on the playing surface by any chance, the game will be immediately stopped. Any player or team may request for medical time out which must be approved by the Tournament Director, Head Official, and other official members. They will solely determine the length of such time out. 

10. Point Scored

When the ball enters into the goal, it will be counted as a score. If the ball enters into the goal and revers back to the playing surface, it will still be counted as score. In case there is a controversy on whether the ball entered the goal, either of the teams will call for an official.

11. Table Sides

At the end of each game, the contesting teams will change their table sides for the next game. Maximum 60 seconds is allotted for change of table sides. If both the teams are ready before the full 60 seconds, the rest time will be forfeited. When any team doesn’t get ready for the next game at the end of the 60 seconds timeline, a delay of game will be charged on them.

12. Change of Positions

When there is a doubles event, any of the players having designated for two rods may switch position. In that case the ball must be in play. There must have a score made by any team or there is a time out requested by any team. 

13. Spinning the Rods

If any team member spins the player figure of a rod by 360 degrees before or after striking the ball, it will be considered illegal and a dead ball for which the game will be replayed.

14. Jarring

No player will jar, slide or lift the table at the time of playing. Otherwise, it will be illegal. Any of the teams may claim of jarring made by the opponent team. However, the call of making the jar illegal will be declared by an official. 

15. Reset

If the ball moves for the unintentional jarring of the opponent player for shooting or passing, the official present will make a reset call. He will further instruct and set time limits. However, player with the ball has the option to carry on the game ignoring the call of reset. 

16. Reaching into Play Area

Regardless of touching the ball, any player when the ball is in play can’t reach into the playing area without permission from the opponent team. Otherwise it will be illegal.

17. Alterations to the Table

No player can change to the men, bumpers, playing surface etc. affecting a foosball table’s internal playing characteristics. If for better gripping the handles of the rod any player uses any substance, he must clean the handles without any delay before changing the tableside. In case, there is a need to change the ball, the Tournament Director or the official present must approve it before starting the match. When the existing ball becomes significantly different than a standard one, the new ball will be approved.

18. Distractions

When the ball is in play and there is a movement or sound from a rod distracts any player, he/she may call an official to notify the matter. If the official declares the incident as distraction, any point made will not be counted.

19. Practice

When the match is on, any player is not allowed to practice a serve or shot on the table getting played or any other table between games and during time outs.

20. Language

No player will make any comment that is anti-spirit of the sportsmanship to any other player. If there is a violation of this rule, it will be a technical foul. 

21. Time of Possession

Only an authorized tournament official will enforce the rule for time of possession. When it is a five-person rod game, each rod can hold the ball for 10 seconds and normally each rod can possess the ball for 15 seconds. After the time limit, the player holding the ball must advance it to or past one rod of the opposition. 

22. Match Time Limit

For a five-match game, time limit is one hour and when it is three-match game, the time limit is thirty-five minutes. The Tournament Director will enforce the rule on match time. If the match is not completed before the specified time limit, a ten minute overtime is declared by an official. 

But if the overtime period expires before the match is done, the team with maximum victory in matches will be declared as winner. In case when both the teams have equal points and the overtime expires, the team scoring higher points during this overtime period will be declared as winner. Time outs taken within the limits of game time will be adjusted from the time left to play. 

23. Delay of Game

Except the time out periods, the game will be continuing within the specified limit of time. Only an official can declare penalty for the delay of game.

24. Forfeiture

After a match is called, both teams need to report immediately to their respective table ends. Any team is recalled if for any reason they don’t report within three minutes. However, during this recall they are must to report and violation of which may lead to forfeiture of the game.

25. Technical Fouls

During the game time if any team intentionally violates any of the rules, the authorized official of the tournament may judge this as technical foul on the offending team. When it is a technical foul, the ball is awarded to the opponents of the offending team for a shot. Regardless of score made by the shot, the ball will be stopped after that and put it back to the spot where the technical foul occurred.

26. Rules, Decisions, Appeals

If any controversy arises regarding any decision in presence of an official, his/her decision will be final and irrevocable. Only when any interpretation of rule is required and any official is present in that time, a player must file an appeal with the official. 

The appeal must be made before the ball played during the controversy is put back for playing. Decision on an appeal will be made by a Head Official and other two officiating staff members. Their decision is final. No argument is allowed against the decision. Violation of this rule will lead of game penalty for delay and/or violation of code of ethics.

27. Code of Ethics

If any unethical work or action goes against the spirit of sportsmanship during the tournament whether it is in the play or game room or facility ground, it will be treated seriously as the violation of code of ethics.

Code of ethics violation may lead to forfeiture from the play, fine, or banning from the tournament. USTSA Disciplinary Committee will determine the level of penalty for the violation.

28. Tournament Director

Tournament Director will be responsible for the overall administration of the game including determination of match timing, scheduling the events and making the draws. He will appoint the Head Official who will decide matters related to handling appeals, appointing officials etc. Decision of the Tournament Director is final and irrevocable. 

Final Thoughts

Rules of foosball game are mandatory to know and understand well for all the professionals involved with this game but they also come in handy if you are a casual player. Once you’ve got all of the rules sorted, it’s time to focus on some tricks.