© 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

Law 10: The Method of Scoring

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Three things have to happen for a goal to be awarded:

  1. The whole ball has to cross over the goal line.
  2. The ball has to pass through the goal.
  3. No foul by the attacking team occurred before the ball went over the goal line and through the goal.

The winning team is simply the team that scores more goals. Ties (draws) will be covered in the FAQs.


Goals are glorious to the goal scorer and the team. Since the scoring of a goal, or goals, is the determining factor in a game, it is essential that this topic be covered in its own Law. The official Law is very brief, which leads to many questions. For this reason, the FAQs will attempt to cover many of the questions that are associated with this Law.

Questions on Law 10

10.01 Why does the whole ball have to go over the goal line?

A: Law 1, The Field of Play, dictates that the lines are part of the field of play. Therefore, the ball is not out of play until it crosses the line entirely. The same is true for the goal line, in the case of scoring a goal.

10.02 What if the goal keeper is holding the ball and he/she crosses over the goal line? In most sports this is considered out of bounds, or in this case a goal.

A: Unless the ball crosses the line, no goal is scored. The goal keeper can stand anywhere inside the goal mouth, as long as the ball is not over the goal line. Knowing this, please keep in mind that many youth games use a single referee who is often not in position to make the determination that the keeper's feet were in the goal, while the ball was still on the goal line. The referee makes the call, from his/her point-of-view, meaning you're likely not going to get too far trying to argue this call.

10.03 The weather has caused the goal line to disappear. How does the referee or assistant referee know that the ball crossed the line?

A: The goal line is supposed to be the width of the goalposts. Because of this, the referee or assistant referee can judge where the line should be by looking at, and past, the nearest goalpost. If the referee or assistant referee sees the ball go past the goal upright, then a goal is awarded.

10.04 The ball hit the referee and went into the goal. Does this goal count?

A: Yes. The referee is part of the field of play, therefore any time the ball hits referee or an assistant referee who is within the limits of the field of play, the ball is considered in play.

10.05 The assistant referee was holding up the flag when the ball went near the goal. Can the AR decide when a goal has been scored?

A: Absolutely. The referee should be looking for this assistance. Note: however, the assistant referee's "call" is subject to the decision of the referee, who may or may not agree. See below for the relevant portion of Law 6:

Two assistant referees are appointed, whose duties, subject to the decision of the referee, are to indicate:

10.06 If the assistant referee sees a goal that the referee missed, how long does the referee have to call the goal good?

A: The AR sees the goal, puts up his/her flag and the referee doesn't see the flag or the goal. The AR should keep the flag raised until the referee sees the flag, or until play has been stopped, then restarted. Coaches/Captains should bring the raised flag to the attention of the center referee. If play stops, then is restarted, the goal can't be awarded. More information pertaining to the decisions and responsibilities can be found in Law 5.

10.07 From my angle, the ball seemed to go through a gaping hole in the net, but the referee called the goal good. What should I do?

A: You shouldn't have missed the hole before the game. The nets should be checked before each game to ensure that they are attached to the goalposts and that there are no gaping holes. The holes should be fixed and the nets should be attached to the posts.

10.08 The game ended in a tie. How are ties settled?

A: This varies widely according to the league, division or organization that sponsors the game or tournament. There is no one correct answer. In league play, ties are common and will typically remain a tie. In tournaments, the directors of the tournament will typically outline the resolution should a game end in a tie. Sometimes the qualifying games are permitted to end in a tie. However, the final game must determine a winner, so specifications are set as to how to break the tie.

Tie-breakers can be in the form of overtime periods and/or penalty shots. Typically, two equal halves will be played in the OT. These halves can range from five minutes to 15 minutes in length. If the game is not decided after these periods, penalty shots can be taken. Some use alternating shots, where one team shoots, followed by the other team. If one scores and not the other, than the game is decided. Other formats call for five players to shoot, with the winner being decided by the most made out of the five shots. [See the FAQ on "Kicks from the penalty mark"]

The best advice is to review your local regulations or the regulations of the tournament that you are attending to direct your questions to the appropriate members of local or tournament committees.

10.09 A dog walked onto the field and was hit by a shot from one of my players. The ball didn't make it into the goal because of the dog. Shouldn't the goal count?

A: No, sorry. The referee and assistant referees should monitor the field for obstacles during the game. If a dog, cat, child, etc. enters the field, play should be suspended until the obstacle is cleared. Play should be restarted with a drop ball. In point of fact, there are no circumstances under which a referee can award a goal without the ball actually crossing wholly over the goal line, between the goalposts.

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Law 10

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Updated April 6, 1998