© 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 16 - The Goal Kick

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A goal kick is the way that play is restarted when the ball, having last touched a player of the attacking team, passes over the goal line and a goal is not scored according to Law 10. The kick is taken by the defending team at any point within their own goal area.


A goal kick is awarded:

  1. when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, either on the ground or in the air, except when a goal is scored. If the ball goes over the line in the air and is blown back in before touching the ground, it is still out at the point where it crossed the line and a goal kick is awarded. If in doubt, PLAY ON.
  2. to the defending team. Note that if it is last touched by an attacker, we have a corner kick instead (Law 17). If you are on defence and your players are not sure who last touched the ball, they should proceed as if it is a goal kick and allow the referee to correct them if his interpretation differs.


  1. The ball may be kicked by any player from the defending team from any point within the goal area. At higher levels, most teams allow the keeper to take the kick although this might be a dangerous approach for the younger levels.
  2. The ball is not in play until it leaves the penalty area. This means that once the ball is kicked, no player of either team may play it until it leaves the penalty area. If someone does play it in the area, the kick is simply retaken as the ball was never in play. Note that if one team continually plays the ball before it leaves the area, the referee might rule that this is wasting time and penalize accordingly. If the ball stops rolling or rolls back over the end line before it makes it outside of the penalty area, it is rekicked.
  3. The opponents must remain outside of the penalty area until the ball is in play. That is, the attackers are not only prohibited from playing the ball while it is in the area but are actually prohibited from entering the area at all. On the other hand, defenders can take up any position that they want either inside or outside of the area.
  4. The kicker must not play the ball a second time until it is touched by another player. This is similar to the ruling on all restarts except a drop ball. The kicker can not play the ball again until it has a) cleared the area and b) touched another player of either team. If the second touch takes place in the area, the ball is kicked again. If it takes place outside the area, it's an indirect free kick to the opponents at the point of the second touch.

A goal may be scored directly from a goal kick but only against the opposing team. This means that if the ball is kicked high into the hurricane force wind which blows it back into the kicker's goal before it gets beyond the penalty area, it is rekicked. If by any chance the ball does leave the penalty before being blown back into the goal, the correct restart will be a corner kick, as you may not score on your own goal directly from a goal kick.

Questions on Law 16

16.01 Does a team awarded a goal-kick have to place the ball on the side of the goal the ball went out on, or can they place it anywhere they choose within the goal area?

It's true that the laws used to require that the kick be taken on the side of goal on which the ball went out. However, this changed several years ago and players can place the ball anywhere inside the goal area (i.e. the "little box".. Typically, kickers will place the ball in either front corner of the box as this gets the ball a) as far forward and b) as far away from the center of the goal as possible.

16.02 What happens if the initial kick attempt fails to make it out of the penalty box?

As noted above, the ball is therefore never in play and the kick must be retaken.

16.03 What if a player on the defending or attacking team rushes in to play the ball after the kick, but before it clears the penalty area?

Good questions. First of all, let's look at the defender. Defenders can be anywhere on the field at the time of the kick so they can certainly rush into the penalty area to play the ball if they want—as long as they don't actually touch it until it leaves the area. If they DO touch it, the kick is retaken. Looking at the attackers, they are in violation of the law as soon as they enter the area, which earns an immediate retake whether they touch the ball or not. Note that if either the attackers or defenders continually play the ball in the area, or if the attackers continually enter the area, the referee might apply sanctions for wasting time, misconduct, or impeding the restart of play.

16.04 What if the ball makes it just to the penalty area line and stops?

As we learned in Law 1, the lines are part of the area that the define which makes the penalty area line a part of the area itself. This means that a ball sitting on the line is actually still sitting in the area, which calls for the kick to be retaken.

16.05 What if the ball fails to clear the penalty area and the kicker kicks it again before it leaves? What if the keeper decides to help out and picks up the ball in the area? What if the kicker or a helpful teammate picks the ball up in the area (handling ?)

Different questions, same answer. As long as the ball has not left the area, it is simply not in play and players can pick it up, stuff it under their shirt, balance it on their head, whatever, with the only penalty being a retake , subject to the repeated infringement/wasting time/misconduct deal in 4 above.

16.06 When can the kicking team's goalkeeper safely pick up a ball following a a goal kick by his own team?

First, let's consider the case where the keeper is the kicker. Once the ball has first passed completely out of the penalty area and has then been played back in by another player of either team, the keeper may safely pick it up, subject of course to the usual restriction that he may not handle a ball which has been intentionally kicked to him by a teammate. If a player other than the keeper takes the goalkick, the keeper may safely handle the ball as soon it has first passed out of the penalty area and then re-entered it (subject of course to the same restriction). For example, if a player other than the keeper takes a goal kick which is then blown back into the penalty area by the wind, or which hits the referee and bounces back in, the keeper may safely pick up the ball.

16.07 How far can we kick the ball?

In general, as far as you want. However, most tournaments that play 6 v . 6, as well as most indoor venues, require that the ball either touch the ground or another player before crossing the midfield line.

16.08 The linesman signaled for a goal kick but the referee awarded a corner kick. What's the deal?

As you know, the actions of the linesman are subject to the decision of the referee. Regardless of who was technically "correct", a corner kick it'll be.

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Law 16

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Updated February 26, 1998