World Cup Rules

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The FIFA World Cup plays under the same FIFA laws of the game as every other professional soccer league. There are also some special rules for the tournament.

What is the format of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

The 2022 World Cup is the final edition of the tournament with 32 teams. The first round has eight groups of four teams that play one game against each of the other teams in their group.

The winner and runner-up of each group advance to the knockout round. The knockout round is single elimination with a Round of 16, Quarter Finals (eight teams), Semi-Finals (four teams), and Final. There is also a third-place game for the losers of the semi-finals.

Group Stage Tiebreakers

In the group stage, teams are ranked according to three points for a win and one point for a tie. If teams are tied on points, the tiebreakers are:

  • Goal difference (goals scored minus goals allowed)

  • Goals scored

  • Head-to-head points between the tied teams

  • Goal difference in head-to-head matches between the tied teams

  • Goals scored in head-to-head matches between the tied teams

  • Fair play based on yellow and red cards received

  • Random draw

Knockout Round Tiebreakers

If knockout round games are tied, the teams play two 15-minute periods of extra time. Teams play the full time even if one scores. There is no sudden death or golden goal.

If games are tied after extra time, a penalty kick shootout determines the winner.

What rules does the FIFA World Cup use?

The FIFA World Cup uses the same rules as every other professional league. The 2022 World Cup will use the same rules that the Champions League and other European leagues are using during the 2022-2023 season.

If you follow a summer league, such as Major League Soccer, it may still be using the 2021-2022 rules since the rule changes happen in the middle of the summer, and leagues often don’t adopt changes in the middle of their season.

There are only minimal changes in the FIFA rules for 2022-2023.

How many subs will the World Cup use?

The World Cup will use five subs, which was made permanent this year.

However, teams can only stop the game three times to sub. So to use the full five subs, teams have to either send on multiple subs at once, sub at half time, or sub at the break before or during extra time.

Teams will also be allowed a sixth sub during extra time.

How big will the World Cup rosters be?

World cup rosters are expanding from 23 to 26 players. Unlike other tournaments and previous editions of the World Cup, the entire roster can dress for a game and be eligible to play. Teams don’t have to select a roster of 18 for each game.

What are the rules for yellow and red card suspensions?

Red cards result in a minimum one-game suspension. For serious offenses, FIFA may add additional games.

A player who receives two yellow cards in two different games is automatically suspended for the next game.

Yellow cards and suspensions from yellow cards do not carry over from the qualifiers to the World Cup Finals. Red card suspensions do carry over into the finals if not completed during the qualifiers.

In the finals, single yellow cards are canceled after the quarter-finals. This makes it impossible for a player to be suspended for the final due to receiving yellow cards in two games. Red card suspensions still apply to the finals.

Will the World Cup use VAR?

The World Cup will be using VAR.

This includes the new semi-automated offside technology. Semi-automated offside technology doesn’t make calls during play but does automatically calculate offside position to help speed up reviews for offside.

It also appears from preparations for the event that FIFA will be more liberal about sending referees to the monitor. Instead of the VAR only recommending a review for what the VAR believes is a clear and obvious error, VARs have been recommending reviews on close decisions and allowing referees to make the final call.

Who are the referees from the World Cup?

The FIFA World Cup selects the top referees from leagues around the world with every continent represented. Each game is refereed by a referee crew from a neutral country and usually another continent from the two teams.

FIFA is more likely to use European referees in a game involving Europe vs. South America, since many of the South Americans play on European club teams.

You can visit World Cup Referees to learn more about the referees selected for the 2022 World Cup and how World Cup referee appointments work.

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