Question:
On a kick by the defense from within its own penalty area (could also be a goal kick), what is the restart if the ball is kicked backwards and goes over the goal line between the boundaries marked by the sides of the penalty area?

I’m asking because this scenario was posed to me by a USSF State Referee. His amazing explanation, which he said was confirmed by [a high-ranking referee and USSF manager], was as follows. The penalty area only has three sides: the line in the field that is 44 yards long (the “18 yard line”) and the two lines on the sides. The line that is at the back of the penalty area is the goal line; the goal line is not part of the penalty area.

Therefore, a ball that is kicked out over the goal line, as described, has left the penalty area and is in play briefly as it crosses the goal line. Therefore the restart is a corner kick because the last player that touched the ball was a defender.

I disagree. Law 16 says “The ball is in play when it is kicked directly out of the penalty area.” In my scenario, the ball has not gone into play; therefore the kick must be retaken.

A corner kick would be the correct restart only if the ball exited the penalty area and crossed the goal line between the corner flag and the side of the penalty area….but that is not the scenario we’re discussing (I was shocked by the State Referee’s answer, therefore I confirmed exactly where he said the ball went out).

Please help. Thank you.

USSF answer (July 29, 2009):
We are extremely disappointed with the “USSF State Referee” who has falsely quoted the high-ranking referee and USSF manager.  His explanation is indeed “amazing”; however, the correct information for this situation is entry-level material.  In this situation the ball must leave the penalty area and enter the field to be considered in play.  If the ball leaves the field without exiting the penalty area and entering the field proper, the kick is retaken.