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Foosball Rules | Our Guide To Play

Foosball Rules

Most commonly seen in Joey and Chandler’s apartment on the hit show Friends, this game has been a staple in game rooms across the country. Foosball can be played one on one or in teams and you can be sure the competitive juices will be flowing. With four rods to be controlled on each side of the table, there is a certain amount of physical activity that goes into it.

The more you play the faster the game gets and you may find yourself struggling to keep up. Even those that don’t watch soccer regularly may find a new appreciation after playing. Chances are there is a foosball table tucked in the back corner of your local watering hole. Next time you’re out give it a shot with these foosball rules and take a break from the billiards table.

Starting The Match

To start a foosball match a traditional coin toss is used. Whoever wins the coin flip gets to decide one of two things. They can either:

  • Choose which side of the table they wish to play on


  • Choose to take the first serve

After the game has started the service will always go to the player who was last scored on.

Serving The Ball

When serving the ball you have an advantage. You can put spin on the ball that will affect its motion to hopefully benefit you. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Always tap the ball on the railing before serving – this is a courtesy to other players that the serve is about to happen and they should have their hands on their rods
  • No player can touch a flying ball that has not hit the playing surface first
  • A goal cannot be scored from the first touch

Ball In-Play

Once the ball is in play no player can reach in with their hand to touch it. A ball is only in play as long as it is moving and does not touch the upper railing above the player’s head. If a ball comes to a dead stop then it should be reserved by the team that got scored on last. 

Scoring And Winning

Foosball rules can differ when it comes to scoring. A lot of tables have an abacus-style score system so whatever number your scoring system goes to should be the number of goals needed to win. In official foosball rules, a game lasts until one team scores 5 goals. With this format, a multi-game match is not uncommon and is usually played as a best of 3 series.

Illegal Moves

Along with the official rules, there is an illegal move or two to avoid.

Illegal Moves


This is the most common infraction when people play foosball. This occurs when a player spins their rod a full 360°. If this happens then the penalized player must surrender possession of the ball to the opposing team. The opposing team can choose whether to take the ball from their 3 man rod or to just play it as it lies.

If a goal is scored via spinning then the goal is called back unless it’s on their own net.  


Jarring is part of the basic rules to ensure no player gains an unfair advantage over the other. Jarring the table can mean a couple of things:

  • Pushing the foosball table laterally so the legs slide on the floor
  • Lifting the table using your rods
  • Bumping the table to affect the direction of the ball

If any of these occur then the other team is awarded possession or may play the ball as it lies.

What You Need To Know About…

Switching Positions

When playing in teams no player can switch positions while the ball is in play. You may only switch after a goal has been scored or a time out is called and only with players on the same team as you. You can also switch positions in between games.

Dead Ball

Dead balls only occur if they come to rest at a point where no player on the field can reach them. It’s only considered a dead ball once it has completely stopped moving which includes spinning in one place.

If it’s a pinned ball between the two-man rod and the goalie then the ball is moved to the nearest player. If it happens anywhere else on the playing area then the ball is moved to the five-man rod of the team that was the last to serve the ball.

Ball Out Of Play

If the ball flies off the table then it is deemed to be out of play. It’s also considered out of play if the ball hits the upper railing, even if it comes back into play. When this happens then the ball possession goes to the player who last served and they start with the ball at mid-field.

If you haven’t already got a foosball table or want an upgrade, read our foosball table reviews and foosball coffee table reviews here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Spinning is illegal in foosball because it takes away from the inherent skill that is involved. In tournament play, the players are carefully maneuvering the ball around the field in order to best the opposite team. With frantic and uncalculated spinning is involved then the skill and grace of the game are removed.

Yes, an own goal will count according to foosball rules. Even if a player is guilty of spinning that results in an own goal then that goal counts for the opposing team. This can happen quite often when you are trying to pass using the two-man rods.

It’s called foosball because it’s derived from the German word for football. This word was invented by Americans when the game was first introduced back in the early 20th century. Originally called table soccer, the word football stuck based on how many Europeans were using it.

A goalie shot is when your goalie scores a goal. This is quite difficult and very rare since the goalie, like all players, is attached to a man rod and cannot move closer to the net. Therefore the ball must avoid every player on the field as well as the opposing goalie. Albeit hard, there is nothing in the foosball rules that state a goalie shot is worth more than any other goal.

You can play foosball with as little as two people and up to a maximum of eight people. However, the two most common formats are either 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2. When you’re on a team with one other person then you still have plenty of space to move about.


Foosball is a great addition to any game room – it takes up less space than some other traditional basement games yet provides the same amount of fun for people of all ages. There is a skill involved and the more you practice the more you can improve your talents and win more games. Practice your passing skills to wow your friends and catch your opponents off guard. Whether you choose to follow the official foosball rules or not this game will keep you on your toes and provide hours of fun and excitement. Good luck and GAME ON!

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