OFFICIAL Foosball Rules for American and European Table Soccer

Garlando G-500 Foosball Table

Most of us play foosball for fun, but did you know there can also be some serious cash in the game if you go pro?

Back in 1978, the winning team in the World Foosball Championships took home a whopping $1 million, one of the highest tournament prices ever. 

Due to its popularity, foosball has become a recognized sport, and it's players tend to take the rules quite seriously. If you want to start playing against avid foosers, then you'll need to have a strong handle on the rules of the game. 

Foosball rules are relatively simple. However, there are some variations between clubs and players. There are also some advanced rules that apply to tournament level foosball. 

What's more, if you want to try out some drinking game foosball, then you'll need to know the rules that can apply to these fun versions of the table sport. 

Whether you want to become a pro or just be able to play with your buds, learning the rules is the first place to start. Once that's done, you can hit the foosball table with confidence.

Ready to get the ball rolling? Crank up the fun and keep reading to find out everything you need to know about foosball rules. 

Number of Players

Before we get into the main foosball rules, to get started, you'll need to know how many players can compete in one foosball game. 

On a regular foosball table that you find in bars or at someone's home, you'll typically be able to fit in two people per side comfortably. This means you can play a "doubles" game where there are two people per team. 

You can also choose to play a singles game, where it is just you and another play, each on opposing sides of the table. Here you will need to man all the rods on your side. 

While these are the standard configurations for most casual foosball games, you can up these numbers considerably if you have a large enough table. There have even been novelty foosball tables built, such as this one created by Amstel to commemorate the European Champions League. This extraordinarily large table can accommodate two whole teams of 22 players.

Of course, most of us don't have access to an extra-large novelty game table—or for that matter, 44 friends who'll play foosball with us!

However, this doesn't mean you are stuck playing doubles or singles only. In some places, you can find tables designed for 6 or even 8 players. These tables are usually common in bars and foosball clubs. If you like the idea of adding more friends to the foosball party, you can also order yourself one of these extra player tables. 

As you can see, the number of players in foosball is only restricted by the table size. And if you choose to play human foosball, you can play with up to 12 people, without even having a table. 

How the Scoring Works

Foosball rules around scoring are pretty simple and are similar to soccer. In short, if you get the ball into the opponent's goal (while not breaking any other rules), you have scored a point. 

To win a match, you need to compete to reach a certain number of points. In most games, this is 5 points. So if you score five times before your opponent scores five goals, then you have won the game.

Most foosball matches consist of a few games. You will need to win the majority to win the match. If you are playing 5 games in your match, then you will need to win 3 of these to be the match champ.

Time Limits

Generally, there is no time limit on games or matches. If the players are equally matched and highly skilled, foosball matches can go on for quite some time. The longest recorded match lasted a full 61 hours and 17 minutes and became a Guinness world record

However, there are time limits around how long each team can hold the ball. In the goalie area, the ball cannot be kept for more than 15 seconds. The same applies to the 3-man rod. 

At the 5-man rod, the ball must not linger for more than 10 seconds. If you break this rule, the penalty is that you lose ownership of the ball and send it to the opponent's 5-man rod. 

These rules are to prevent players from "hanging on" to the ball, gaining an unfair advantage by strategic waiting, and slowing down the speed of play. 

Deciding Who Serves

Another basic but important area of foosball rules is who serves when. For the first serve, it is traditional to flip a coin. Whoever comes out on top then gets to make the first serve. 

Once the first goal is scored, the serve goes to the scoring team. If you score a goal, you serve, and if your opponent scores, they serve. 

What Counts as a Goal

Like serving, the rules around goal scoring are pretty simple. As long as the ball enters the goal area and has been touched by a man, it is a score. 

What Happens When There Is a Dead Ball

Dead balls are when the ball stops rolling in a place on the foosball table from where neither team can "kick" it. 

To continue the game and get the ball back into play, the commonly accepted rule is that the team who last scored removes the ball and serves it. 

What Happens When the Ball Bounces off the Foosball Table

What can also happen in a heated foosball game is that the ball bounces right off the foosball table. If this happens, the rule is that, once again, the team who last scored gets to serve the ball back onto the table. 

Spinning Is Not Allowed

If you've watched other people play foosball, you've likely seen a lot of frantic, manic rod spinning. This is actually illegal in a proper foosball game. 

Spinning is defined as a 360-degree turn of a rod. In other words, while you can spin your rods backward and forwards, you can't spin them right around. 

Jarring Is Out

Another no-no is jarring. Foosball rules disallow players from "jarring" the table with the intention of distracting the other player.

This means that if your opponent pushes, hits, or tries to move the table to throw you off your game, they are breaking the rules. 

Like spinning, jarring is common in many an amateur foosball game. However, it is not tolerated among more avid players.

Tournament Rules

If you are playing in a tournament, special rules can apply. One of these is what's known as "5 bar passing."

In 5 bar passing, after serving, players are required to pass the ball within 10 seconds from the 5 bar rod to 3 bar rod. Once you have completed the initial serve, you then have 15 seconds to pass the ball from the 5 bar. 

What's more, the ball may not stop on the 5 bar. It must touch two figures on the 5 bar before you pass. In other words, you can pass it to another figure on the 5 bar. 

Lastly, the ball also can't touch the wall more than twice in a row before proceeding. 

These rules are there to stop skilled payers from keeping the ball in their court, so as to speak, and gaining an advantage that way. Keeping the ball moving makes the play fairer and prevents stagnation. 

What Are the Penalties for Breaking Foosball Rules?

Now that you know the fundamental rules of foosball, what are the consequences of breaking a rule?

Unlike other sports, you don't get penalties in foosball. Instead, you often get disqualified if you break a rule intentionally. In others, you may be required to give up the ball. 

In most cases, you will be forced to forfeit the match. 

If you are playing casually, this may not apply. Among friends, you might bend or break the rules and carry on playing. But if you are playing someone you don't know, have a competitive opponent, or are playing in a tournament, make sure you stick by the stipulated rules. 

How to Avoid Breaking the Rules

We have gone over the basic and most commonly accepted foosball rules. However, depending on where and who you are playing, there may be house rules or tournament specific rules. 

Therefore, it's always a good idea to establish what the rules are where you're playing. If it's a casual game, you can ask the other players if there are any specific rule variations they play by. 

If you are playing in a more serious setting, you can ask the organizer if there are any printed rule sheets. They may also be able to email or WhatsApp a copy of their official rules. 

To try and keep things cohesive in the world of foosball, the ITSF has commissioned a group of officials and referees to consolidate some of the existing rule books into a universal document. However, this doesn't mean that all clubs and players adhere to this. Therefore it's always best to clarify the rules that other foosers play by. 

Foosball Drinking Games and Their Rules

Some players get really serious about foosball. Cue the aggressively competitive German students in Community.

However, many of us just want to use foosball as an excuse to relax and have fun with our friends. If you want to take the fun to the next level and aren't averse to a little rambunctiousness—you can also try out some of the drinking game variations of foosball.

There are many variations of foosball drinking games you can try. A common one is where you have to drink a shot every time the opposing team scores a goal. If you want to up the ante, you can also incorporate the rule that two shots have to be drunk if you score in your own goal. 

Another option is the speed drinking variation. Here you will need to use large drinks, such as beers or coolers. The aim is to drink as much of your beverage as possible, whenever the other team serves. 

Just be warned, you may need to invest in some bolt down bar stools to mitigate damage when the games begin!

Do you have a drinking game variation of foosball? If so, comment below and share it with us. 

Adjusting the Rules for Fairness of Play

Whether you are playing foosball competitively or just for fun, it's important to make sure that you have a fair playing field. 

Depending on who you play with, there may be unevenness in the level of experience between players. Pitting a semi-pro against someone who is just starting isn't all that much fun. The experienced player will wipe the foosball table with the beginner, and neither will really enjoy the game. 

If you want to avoid this and even out the odds, you can impose a handicap on the more advanced player. 

One effective handicap is to challenge the advanced fooser to play one-handed. This almost always guarantees a few laughs and a better challenge for both them and the beginner. 

Another handicap you can implement is giving the weaker play a bonus point or two to give them a head start on the game. 

Are These Foosball Rules Making You Itch to Start Playing?

Foosball is an addictively fun game. What's more, it gives you the chance to improve your reflexes, bond with friends, and make new ones by joining clubs and tournaments. 

Is this list of foosball rules making you itch to start playing? Are you without a table? If so, we have some good news. 

Foosball tables are relatively affordable nowadays, which means you can purchase your own to play on any time you choose. Instead of heading out to find a venue with a foosball table, you can invite your friends over and bring the party to you. 

Not sure what brand to go with or which is the best foosball table to get? The Tornado foosball table is considered one of the premium options. Tornado foosball tables have been around since 1970 and are of tournament level quality. 

If you would like to check out the latest deals on foosball tables, head on over to our shop page.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us

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