Survey and Lay Out Fields

Fields are pre-surveyed, and the four corners are positioned in advance.  The left side of this page describes that procedure.  Determining where to position the field and laying out the four outer corners is a three-person job.  

After the fields are pre-surveyed, a survey/lining team then lays out and paints all the lines on the field for the first time, based on the already established 4 corners.  The survey/lining team is best to consist of six- or seven-persons. 

Pre-Surveying:  Laying out the 4 Corners

Some large fields have an adjacent baseball diamond: keep the touch line at least three feet away from the gravel, for the assistant refs.

Try to avoid bad spots in the field (overwatered, bare, irrigation control boxes) - but it's often not possible. The repainters should mark dangerous objects in the soccer fields.

2 fields, parallel 2 fields, not parallel single fields
Walter Hays
El Carmelo
Hoover Park*
Hoover School

For parallel fields, try to keep fields at least 15' apart.
Make a guess where to put the field and lay it out to try if it fits:

  1. Put in 1 metal stake where you think a corner of the field will be
  2. Hook a measuring tape on it and measure to next expected corner along the touchline; put in metal stake.
  3. Hook another measuring tape in the first metal stake and lay it in the direction to the other corner, the goal line
  4. Make the corner square and put another metal stake at the correct distance along the goal line.  See below, Making a Corner Square.
  5. Triangulate to fourth corner; you could confirm that the measuring was done correctly by checking the two diagonals.

If the soccer field fits the area comfortably (it needs a little room to the sides, at least 3 feet), replace the metal stakes by the yellow plastic stakes.

Put in the yellow stake for about 1/3, then spray a solid 6" to 8" diameter dot of field paint around it (shake paint cans for about a minute before use.) Then hammer in yellow stake to near dirt level. 

If the pre-survey is more than 5 days before the surveying, the paint on the dots needs to be refreshed. Take care not to paint the stake.  Be sure not to leave metal stakes on the field. They may get stuck in the mowers.

Equipment for one team, 2-3 fields: 4-5 measuring tapes, 300' if available

  • 5 metal stakes
  • hammer
  • blue hexagonal (octogonal?) driver(?)
  • yellow plastic stakes
  • 2 cans fields paint (about half a can for one field.)
  • (optional) wand for applying paint
  • fields diagrams
  • calculator with square root function for Pythagoras' theorem calculations
Making a Corner Square
Use the 3:4:5 rule, resulting from Pythagoras theorem.  From a single corner, we measure 3 units along the goal line, 4 units up the touch line, and then run a diagonal between the 3 and 4 points, and it must measure 5.  Here is a table of useful 3:4:5 measurements.  

   Goal Line  Touch Line  Diagonal
 Unit  3  4  5
 15 ft  45 ft  60 ft ft  75 ft
 30 ft  90 ft  120 ft  150 ft
 60 ft  180 ft  240 ft  300 ft

Survey and Line the Field
  1. Pictures of a Survey Party
  2. First count the metal pins in the bucket so you'll know how many to leave with when you're done. Metal pins left on the field may cause havoc in the mowing machines, and be a severe safety hazard to the city workers, not to mention children.
  3. The Team leader and one or two helpers will lay out the field; on a large field (with goal and penalty areas), a second group could lay out the other side of the field if there is a second diagram with measurements. 
  4. The remaining volunteers could start by shaking the paint cans they're going to use (probably several boxes): shake each can vigorously for about a minute. You can hold one in each hand.
  5. The corners of the fields (or in parallel fields, the outer corners) have already been set out by the advance team. Find white dots of about 4 to 6 inches diameter, look for the head of a plastic pin in the center (often yellow), and put a metal pin in next to it. 
  6. Attach a string and let a helper walk to the next corner. Put in a metal pin like in the first corner, tighten string, make sure it's straight, (lifting it up in the middle may help) then wind string a few times around the pin and continue to the next corner. (If a corner dot is hard to find you can measure with the tapes from the other dots.) 
  7. The field location map at the bottom of the page will tell you what the length of the goal and touch lines likely are; but make sure by measuring.  
  8. It's best to start with a touch line. Attach a measuring tape to a corner pin and send a helper to the next corner with it. Tighten and straighten the measuring tape and push pins in on the points marked on the field diagram.
  9. Most Small Fields are laid out with parallel touch lines.
  10. On Large Fields, the volunteers can start to paint the touch lines after the midline points have been set, while the leader and her helpers lay out the inner dimensions of the field (penalty and goal area) according to the diagrams. Put in metal pins at the intersections of lines, and draw string between them.
  11. The machines cannot go right up to the pins. Leave space open. DO NOT take can from machine to paint by hand. It takes too much time and you get too close to the vapors. DO NOT remove the pins before the string has been rolled up.
  12. When the lines are all painted, roll up the string. This can only be done when there's tension on the string, so only take out the metal pins after the string has been rolled up. It's best to have one person wind up the string, and someone walks with him or her to collect the pins, and another volunteer with a paint machine follows and fills in the lines around where the pins were.
  13. Don't forget to paint:
    1. mid circle (set out with wand and the string on small spools, redo with machine) 
    2. lift machine off its rear wheels to make circle or arcs
    3. corner arcs (at the four corners of each field) 3 feet radius
    4. penalty spot and penalty arc (only on (60x40) fields with goal and penalty areas)
    5. a two-feet line at the midpoint of the goal lines (to position the goals)
    6. a two-feet line at the midpoint of the mid line (ball position at kickoff)
  14. Do count the metal pins again before leaving the field.
  15. If you notice a mistake in the corners layout of more than a few percent, it should be corrected; if the mistake is less than a few percent it's probably OK.
  16. Put empty paint cans in your City of Palo Alto blue bin, for recycling.