© 1998 jointly in the following individuals: Jim Geissman, David Graham, Jim MacQueen, Connie Matthies, Jim Meinhold, Chris Mohr, Gary Rue, Ken Smith, Dave Teetz, Ron Tremper, who are together known pseudonymously as the SOCCER-COACH-L LOTG COLLECTIVE

Kicks from the penalty mark

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Particularly in tournament situations, it may be necessary to decide a result of a drawn match, for example if only one team is to go forward while the other is to be eliminated. While such results used to be decided by the toss of a coin, for a number of years now the usual way to decide the outcome is to have the two teams take a series of kicks from the penalty mark (often called a "shootout"). This situation, while not covered by any of the laws, is sufficiently important to warrant a special appendix to the laws which may be found immediately after Law 17.


The taking of kicks from the penalty marks has a highly ritualized feel to it, and like all rituals is governed by a rigid code which stipulates how the parties are to behave. These kicks differ from the normal taking of penalties in a number of crucial ways:

  1. in an initial round, each team takes five kicks, shooting alternately, unless a winner has been determined before the fifth kick (for example, if one team is ahead 3-0 after three kicks);
  2. the players must wait in the centre circle and come forward only when it is their turn to kick, except for the goalkeepers, who alternate between the goal and a spot just outside the penalty area;
  3. all kicks by both teams are taken at one end of the field, which is designated by the referee

There are a number of other important points for you to consider, which are dealt with in the FAQ.

Coaching points

The referee may ask you to provide him or her with a list of your first five shooters in the order in which they will take their kicks. If the number of kicks goes beyond five, s/he will probably simply note down the number of each player who takes a kick in order to ensure that no player kicks twice before all players have taken at least one kick. Most coaches will have their first five shooters in mind well before the end of the match, but it is wise to ask all your players before the shootout to let you know if they do not wish to take part unless necessary. Players who are very nervous about taking penalties will usually not hesitate to say so, and should not be pressed to perform unless there is no option. Different coaches have different opinions about the qualities required for players shooting in each position: for example, many coaches will put their most dependable penalty takers in the first and fifth positions. The SOCCER-COACH-L archives contain a number of postings on this topic. Most keepers prefer to dive to the side of their dominant hand, so it may be wise to remind your players quietly which side that is.


KPM.01 The referee called for the captains before having the players take the kicks, and tossed a coin: our captain won, but the referee didn't give him the choice of kicking first or second. What's going on?

Unlike the coin toss for the opening kickoff, no provision is made for allowing teams to pick and choose: the rule is that the team whose captain wins the toss must kick first. This may not be to the liking of either side, but at least it has the merit of being clear!

KPM.02 The other team's captain won the toss, and the referee let them choose whether they wanted to kick first or second. Didn't they have to kick first?

Perhaps the referee was simply in error; if so, however, you really have no choice but to accept his decision. It is also possible that some local modification of the laws gave the referee this option, in which case he should have made it clear to the captains before the toss.

KPM.03 Our home field has bleachers at one end, but the referee decided to take the kicks at the opposite end from where all the parents were sitting. Why on earth would he do that?

The referee has complete authority to choose the end at which the kicks will be taken, and it's hard without asking him or her to know why s/he made this decision. Here are some possible reasons:

KPM.04 The referee declared one team the winner even though the other team had not taken all its five kicks. Why would she do that?

If one team has an insurmountable advantage during the taking of the first five kicks, there is no need for the remaining kicks to be taken, and the referee will stop the kicks at that point. This is similar to the 9th inning in baseball: if the home team is winning after the visiting team's last at-bats, there's no need to play the bottom half of the 9th.

KPM.05 I have a substitute who is a brilliant penalty taker but a weak player defensively. I wanted to put her on to take a kick, but the referee wouldn't let me substitute her for one of my other players. Why not?

Only the players who are on the field at the conclusion of play may take part in the taking of kicks from the penalty mark (but see KPM.06 for an important exception). In other words, you should have made your substitution before the referee signalled the conclusion of play. If you had used up all your allowable substitutions, your player would not have been able to come on in any case. Similarly, teams which have been reduced in number through having one or more players sent off may not replace them for the taking of kicks.

KPM.06 The other team's goalkeeper had her nose badly broken by a shot from one of my players, and the referee allowed their substitute goalkeeper to come on in her place. How is this possible? I thought no substitutes were permitted during a shootout!

This is the one exception to that rule: if a goalkeeper is injured and unable to continue, and if her team has not used all its substitutes, a substitute goalkeeper may be brought on for the remainder of the kicks.

KPM.07 At the end of five kicks, we were all tied at 4 goals each. I wanted my best penalty taker to take the sixth kick, but the referee said I couldn't use him again until everyone on our team had taken at least one kick. Is that right?

Yes. No player is allowed to take a second kick until all his or her eligible teammates have taken a kick. If one team has been reduced in number, the player who took the first kick for that team will thus become eligible to take a second kick before the first player from the other team.

KPM.08 The other team's goalkeeper looked very weak on my team's first two shots, but then he changed places with one of their other players, who stoned us on our remaining shots. Is that allowed?

Yes, provided that the second player was already on the field and eligible to take part. Any eligible player (in other words, one who was on the field at the conclusion of play and is thus allowed to take part in the shootout) may change places with the keeper at any time. If you decide to take advantage of this provision, you should ensure that both players identify themselves to the referee before changing places, however.

KPM.09 I wanted our keeper to come and sit with us in the centre circle between kicks, but the referee said she had to remain down by the penalty area, away from the team. That seems unfair to me.

The main purpose of this requirement is to ensure that the kicks are taken as quickly and smoothly as possible by minimizing the distance that the keepers have to walk between kicks. It also has the effect of preventing coaches from providing additional coaching to their keepers between kicks. The keeper is also required to remain on the field of play, which ensures that s/he remains within sight of the officials.

KPM.10 The other team took a kick which struck the crossbar and then hit my keeper in the back of the head and entered the net. The referee said it was a valid goal -- was he right?

Yes, unless your match was being played under modified laws which do not conform to the normal FIFA Laws. The section on the taking of kicks from the penalty mark simply outlines the special rules which apply; in all other respects, the normal stipulations of Law 14 govern the outcome of the kicks, and they make it clear that in this case the goal is valid.

KPM.11 Can I stay with my players during the shootout, or do I have to leave the field?

Sorry, no team officials are allowed to be on the field during the taking of kicks. In the case of young players subjected to this very stressful experience, however, many referees will choose to disregard this stipulation and will allow a coach to remain with the players.

KPM.12 During the kicks, the lights failed at our home field when we were ahead 3-2 on kicks and we could not get them to come one again. The referee tossed a coin to decide the winner, and the other team won. Can he do that?

Yes. If the light (whether natural or artificial) fails badly during the kicks, the referee does have the power to decide the outcome in this way rather than proceeding in unsafe circumstances. This may be necessary in cases where the winning team has another match to play early the next day. If the teams were allowed to leave the pitch and then reassemble the next day to resume the contest, it would be virtually impossible for the officials to ensure that the same players were taking part.

KPM.13 One player from the other team did not participate in the kicks, even though two of his teammates took a second kick. I thought this was not allowed.

An injured player may be excused by the referee from taking a kick; no doubt this player had suffered an injury near the end of the match which would have made it difficult for him to take a kick.

Kicks from the Penalty Mark

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Updated February 26, 1998