Indoor soccer, indoor football or minifootball is a game derived from association football adapted for play in an indoor arena such as a turf-covered ice hockey arena or skating rink. Despite the term "indoor soccer", it is also used to describe the game played on such fields which are built outdoors.
Indoor soccer is one of several distinct variants of the game of football designed for play in indoor arenas. Indoor soccer is most popular in the United States, Canada and Mexico, with several amateur, collegiate and professional leagues functioning. It is also played in Brazil, where it is called showbol. Other variants of indoor football, such as futsal and five-a-side football, are more popular outside North America. These variants have different rules and governing bodies from those of indoor soccer.
Indoor soccer around the world
Indoor soccer is played throughout the world. The international federation dedicated to promoting the sport is the World Minifootball Federation (WMF) based in Czech Republic. WMF organizes international tournaments with the participation of several countries. There are also regional federations who govern the sport including: African Minifootball Federation (AMF), Asian Minifootball Confederation (AMC), Confederacion Panamericana de Minifutbol (CPM), European Minifootball Federation (EMF), Oceana Minifootball Federation (OMF).
In November 2013 it was announced the creation of a new minifootball WMF World Cup tournament, whose first edition will be held in the United States in 2015.
United States and Canada
Indoor soccer is a common sport in the United States and especially Canada, with both amateur and professional leagues. Due to the short season for outdoor soccer in Canada and the Northern United States, and the ubiquity of arenas built for ice hockey and basketball which can easily be converted to indoor soccer (similar reasons why indoor lacrosse is more popular in Canada, field lacrosse in the United States). It is especially popular in Northern Canada due to the often unplayable outdoor conditions and its appearance in the Arctic Winter Games.
Indoor soccer has also become a popular sport in Mexico, being included as part of the Universiada (University National Games) and the CONADEIP (Private School Tournament), in which university school teams from all over Mexico compete. In Mexico, indoor soccer fields are most frequently built outdoors (though indoor courts are also used in some tournaments).
Indoor soccer is known in Brazil as showbol, with several current regional leagues.
Indoor soccer is also played several European countries. In the United Kingdom, Masters Football is the most well-known competition. Tournaments among Masters teams (consisting of veteran former players from professional 11-a-side teams from each country) are regularly played. In Spain, some over-30 ex-professionals represent their clubs in the Liga Fertiberia which plays a five-a-side variant.
European Minifootball Federation
There is a European indoor soccer federation known as the European Minifootball Federation (EMF). EMF organize the European Minifootball Championship every year and in recent years countries have established official national minifootball associations to help them further organize and develop it. EMF organize variations of six-a-side football and this could come in different shapes and sizes from a large custom-built facility with multiple pitches or even an 11-a-side pitch temporarily split into smaller pitches. This isn't to be confused with the term used in Russia and some other former Soviet countries, where the term mini-football is used to describe futsal.
Rules vary between governing bodies, but some of the nearly universal rule deviations from association football include:
- The Field. Most indoor soccer arenas are rectangular or oblong in shape, with artificial turf floors. In many collegiate intramural leagues, the game may be played on basketball courts, in which case the floor is hardwood. Walls (often the hockey dasher boards and plexiglas used for that sport) bound the arena. Arena sizes are generally smaller than soccer fields, and the goals are recessed into the walls. Goals are also smaller than in standard soccer and generally the penalty area is smaller. The pitch is commonly 200' by 85', the regulation size for a hockey rink in North America.
- Duration. Most indoor soccer games are divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each for a total of 60 minutes of play time. There are two three minute periods between the first and second, third and fourth quarters and one 15 minute half-time in-between the second and third quarters. If the game stays tied until the time runs out, there will be extra 15 minute, golden goal overtime periods. However, amateur leagues generally consist of two 25-minute halves with no overtime for tied games.
- The team. Most indoor soccer games are played with six active players per team, one of whom is the goalkeeper and the other are either defense or forward also known as attackers and strikers, but so far in the United States all indoor professional games have only allowed up to six active players. Substitute players are permitted.
- Play off of walls. The ball may be struck in such a way that it contacts one or more walls without penalty or stoppage. If the ball flies over the walls or contacts the ceiling, play is stopped and the team opposing the one that most recently touched the ball is awarded a free kick at the location where the ball left the arena or made contact with the ceiling.
- Contact rules. Standard contact rules generally apply (i.e. ball contact must be made during a play on the ball, no charging with hands or elbows, no charging from behind, no holding the opponent etc.). Many leagues ban the use of the sliding tackle, though such techniques are less useful on turf or wood than they are on a slick field. If one attempts to slide on an indoor field, painful burns and/or cuts can occur.
- No offside. Most leagues play without an offside rule. Some leagues enforce a "three-line violation", prohibiting players from playing the ball in the air from behind the front line of their own penalty area across all three lines into the opponent's penalty area. Violations often result in a free kick for the opposing team at the front line of the offending team's penalty area.
Beyond these common threads, the sport is structured according to the idiosyncrasies of individual leagues. Most of these rules are adopted from other arena sports like ice hockey. Below is a listing of some of the more common ones:
- Substitution. Most leagues allow unlimited substitutions while the ball is out of play. Some allow live substitution while the game is in progress, provided that one player leaves the arena before another steps on. A minority of leagues require substitution in shifts.
- Cards. In addition to the traditional yellow and red cards of association football, some leagues include a card of a third color (blue is a common color) or another form of warning before the issuance of a yellow card. Often, leagues with a third card include a penalty box rule, and issuance of this third card requires the penalized player to sit in the box for a prescribed period of time (usually two minutes as in ice hockey) during which his or her team plays shorthanded. In leagues using the traditional card system, it's common for the yellow card to carry with it a penalty box rule.
- Zones. Because of short fields and walls surrounding the goal, a common tactic is to attempt to score at kickoff by shooting at the goal and charging at the goal with all five non-goalkeeper players who overwhelm the other team's defense and score at close range. As this depletes the tactics and drama of the game, many leagues have adopted an ice hockey-like zone rule, requiring that the ball not cross more than a certain forward distance toward the goal without being touched by a player.
- The ball. For leagues that play on hardwood, the ball is generally covered with suede or a similar non-marking covering. The harder surface generally makes the ball "bouncier" and more difficult to control, which in turn tends to make scoring goals more complicated.
- The crease. Some leagues enforce a special zone inside the goalkeeper's box called the crease. No player may shoot the ball from inside the crease unless that player entered the crease already having the ball.
- Multi-point scoring. Some leagues value goals scored from a greater distance to be worth two or three points from behind an arc, similar to basketball's three-point field goal. Sometimes, leagues with a multi-point system also use a rule that a minor technical infraction gives the non-offending team a one-on-one opportunity to score on the opposing goalkeeper, worth one point. Many indoor coed leagues will give a female player two points for scoring a single goal.
- Football Mundial (United Kingdom)
- Leisure Leagues (United Kingdom)
- Liga de Fútbol Indoor (Spain)
- Masters Football (United Kingdom)
- Soccer Sixes (United Kingdom)
- Major Arena Soccer League (United States and Mexico)
- Premier Arena Soccer League (United States and Mexico)
- Western Indoor Soccer League (United States)
- American Indoor Soccer League (United States)
- Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League (Canada)
- Continental Indoor Soccer League (United States and Mexico)
- Eastern Indoor Soccer League (United States)
- I-League (never played a game; instead merged with MISL)
- Major Indoor Soccer League (2008–2014)
- Major Indoor Soccer League (1978–1992)
- National Professional Soccer League (originally called the American Indoor Soccer Association)
- National Soccer League (never played a game; not to be confused with the NISL)
- North American Soccer League (1968–1984) (indoor and outdoor soccer league)
- Southwest Indoor Soccer League (evolved into the outdoor USL)
- World Indoor Soccer League (originally the Premier Soccer Alliance)
- Xtreme Soccer League (United States)
- "PASL Commissioner Kevin Milliken Talks Ontario Fury Debut, First World Cup". 12 November 2013.
- "EMF - European Minifootball Federation". eurominifootball.com. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- Quarstad, Brian. "USL Announces Merger with Major Indoor Soccer League". insidemnsoccer.com. Retrieved 30 July 2012.