How to Play Foosball (Rules, Tips & Tricks)

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If you ask people what the best tabletop game out there is, many will say that it is foosball. This game that seemingly combines the excitement and goal-scoring potential of soccer (or football) with the ease of playing from the comfort of indoors definitely produces quite the rush.

It’s a great game to play at home or at the bar when pouring back a few cold ones, and there are actually legitimate foosball leagues as well. If you plan to start playing this game, you will need to know the rules, and that’s what we’re here to learn about today.

How to Play Foosball

How to Play Foosball: The Rules

Ok, so as you might have gathered, the main point of foosball is to get the ball into the opposing team’s net. Yes, in this sense it is exactly like soccer, but of course on a much smaller scale. It seems simple enough, right? Well, there are actually quite a few foosball rules that you need to be familiar with, particularly if you plan on playing in a professional league.

There are two main leagues to speak of, with one being the ITSF or the International Table Soccer Federation, and the other the USTSA or the United States Table Soccer Association. Here we have a list of the most important rules that players within both leagues must adhere to.

Keep in mind that there are enough rules to fill a 20-page book, so we will only be listing the most important ones. After all, this is a site about home recreation – and the goal of that is to have a lot of fun, not necessarily to follow all the professional rules.

No Rods Spinning

This is perhaps the oldest foosball rule out there, and also one of the most important ones. This rule states that the rod that holds the “players” cannot spin more than 360 degrees before contact with the ball is made, something that tons of amateur players do.

This means that you cannot let go of the handle and spin the rod for increased force. If you do spin the rod and make contact with the ball, particularly if your hands let go of the handle, the penalty is the loss of possession of the ball.

No Rod Spinning in Foosball

No Cursing

Although this goes without saying, one of the official foosball rules across all leagues is that there is to be no swearing, cursing, or foul language of any kind.

If a player curses, the opponent receives a penalty shot from the three-man rod, and if a player curses more than once, it may result in a forfeit of the game.

No Jarring or Moving the Table

Another big rule in foosball is that in no case can a player jar or move the table.

If a player pushes a rod too hard and it hits the opposite end of the table, resulting in the jarring or movement of the table (or if a player lifts the table up on their end by being too aggressive with the rods), the opponent can place the ball to where it would have been before the jarring occurred or your opponent can choose to place the ball on a location on their five-man rod.

The second infraction will result in the opponent receiving a penalty shot from the three-man rod.

No Distractions

Another official foosball rule is that there are to be no distractions of any sort from any of the players.

This means that there is to be absolutely no talking while the ball is in play, and there is to be no hand waving, making faces, jumping in the air, burping, farting, or any other such action that may distract a player.

If this rule is violated, the opponent gets possession of the ball on their five-man rod, with the second infraction resulting in a penalty shot from the three-man rod.

Ball Possession Time Limits

There are also rules related to the possession of the ball. A player may possess the ball in the goalie area for no longer than 15 seconds, for no longer than 15 seconds for the three-man rod, and no longer than 10 seconds for the five-man rod.

The penalty for this infraction is the loss of possession to the opponent, who can place the ball at his or her five-man rod.

Goal Scoring and Keeping Score

In foosball, a goal is scored when the ball leaves the green playing field and goes into the net.

Goals are counted as soon as the ball enters the net, regardless of whether or not it bounces back out.

Alterations to the Table

In no circumstances are players allowed to make any alterations to the table, including the playing surface, the bumpers, the men, and anything else touching the table.

Players may use something like chalk or other such substances to improve their grip on the handles, but when table sides are switched, any deposits of chalk or other substances must be removed from the handle.


Players are allowed to call time outs in foosball.

Each player (or team) may call up to two time-outs per game. Each time-out may not last longer than 30 seconds. If the ball is in play, a time out may only be called by the team that is currently in possession of the ball. If the ball is not in play or completely stopped, either team may call a time out.

Starting a Match

To start a match, a coin flip is to be made. The team that wins the coin toss can choose either what side of the table they want to start on OR if they get the first serve.

If the team that won the coin toss chooses the side of the table they wish to play on, then the team that lost the coin toss can choose who serves the ball.

Serving the Ball

The ball shall be served through the designated serving hole by the team who was designated to do so according to the coin toss, as stated above.

Frequently Asked Questions About Foosball

With the basics out of the way, it’s time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this game.

Why Is It Called Foosball?

The reason why this game is called foosball is because the first foosball tables imported to North America, in German, were called “Tischfussball” which loosely translates to table soccer. The second half of the word “Tischfussball” was anglicized into foosball.

What Equipment Do You Need to Play Foosball?

In order to play foosball, you need the table, the rods, the handles, the men, the balls, and cleaning supplies for the table.

Foosball Table

How Many People Can Play Foosball?

Foosball can be played in single-player format, or in other words, one on one, or it can be played in teams of two.

Can You Spin Rods in Foosball?

No, a rod cannot turn more than 360 degrees before a player on the field makes contact with the ball. That’s the official rules, though, so if you want more action in your home game, you can allow spinning rods.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Finally, let’s quickly go over some foosball tips and tricks to make playing easier and more successful:

  • If you tend to suffer from sweaty hands, using something like chalk to increase your grip on the handles is advisable.
  • Remember to hold the handles loosely, because if you hold them too tight, you won’t be able to put as much force into a shot.
  • When serving, it is recommended that you learn to spin the ball so that it rotates towards your own five-man rod upon serving the ball.
  • It is legal to lubricate the rods so that they glide smoothly through the holes.
  • When playing defensively, make sure that both of your two-man rods do not overlap each other.


There you have it folks, the main rules that you need to follow to play foosball in a professional league, as well as some tips to help you score those oh so important goals!