The Dropped Ball

A referee asks:

Situation 1: There is no ‘double touch’ rule applicable to a dropped ball, right?  Only to all other restarts? Because the moment it touches the ground, even if simultaneously touched by a player, it is in play….& double touch rule doesn’t apply to the ground (which is what put it in play).

Situation 2:  The player who is the first to touch the ball…if he/she pulls it away or pushes it away & dribbles it, can that player shoot on goal?  What if, with his/her first touch, the player passes it to his/her other foot, which means the other foot or the one that first touched the ball = can be used for a shot on goal + a successful shot on goal can be allowed, as it is not a ‘direct kick on goal’ from a dropped ball?

Answer — Situation 1

It is correct that there is no “double touch” (also known as a “2nd touch”) violation possible on a dropped ball, but not for the reason you suggest.  It is not “the ground” that started the sequence of events which led to the ball being in play, it was the referee.  All second touch violations are based on and apply only to the person who performs the restart and only if that person is a player.  Touching the ground is merely a requirement for the ball to be in play, the same as the ball leaving the penalty area is one of the requirements for the ball to be in play on a goal kick.

Answer — Situation 2

Three people are important in understanding a dropped ball restart: the referee (who does it), the first player to make contact with the ball (who gains possession), and all other players on the field regardless of which team they are on.  The referee initiates the restart. If there is no “first player who contacts,” this means that the ball left the field directly from the drop and the Law requires that the ball be retrieved and dropped again at the same location.  Once you have a “first person who contacts,” a different dynamic takes over.  The referee goes back to officiating and this “first contact player” (let’s make this easy and say A12) takes center stage.  A12, in all respects but one, can play the ball in any way permitted by the Law.  This means, of course, that A12 can move the ball anywhere on the field by dribbling it (either or both feet), by heading the ball, by passing it to a teammate (or an opponent), and so forth.  The single thing A12 cannot do is score a goal (against either team!).

Notice, we didn’t say can’t “shoot on goal” because, in fact, that is something A12 could certainly do — it’s just that, if A12 did so and the ball went into either goal, the goal cannot be counted.  Using the left foot and then the right foot while dribbling makes no difference because it stays the same person and the rule applies to the person, not to one or the other of his/her feet.  Nor does it make any difference if A12 pushes the ball into space, then runs to the ball and continues moving it by any lawful means.  And it also makes no difference if A12 kicks the ball such that it deflects off the referee (or a crossbar or goalpost) and goes back to A12, who proceeds to continue moving the ball — A12 remains the “first contact player.”

So where do all players other than A12 come into this thing?  Once any of the “other” players (regardless of team) makes legal contact with the ball, the special identity of being the “first contact player” totally disappears — even to the point of A12 passing the ball to A43 who then passes it back to A12 who then shoots on goal … and scores (legally).  The moment A43 made contact with the ball, A12 is no longer the “first contact player”and now, along with any other player, can score legally.

By the way, if A12 did put the ball into the net without any other player making contact with the ball, the restart would be a goal kick if it was the opponent’s net but a corner kick if it was A12’s own net.

What Is a Kick?

A HS/College coach asks:

Is it within the laws of the game to “lift” the ball (meaning to slide your foot under and propel the ball up in the air — as opposed to striking or rolling it with your sole) on a kick-off, corner, free kick, etc.


Yes.  We think.  Probably.  Actually, the only place which specifically deals with your question is in Law 13 (Free Kicks) where it states that “a free kick can be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously” (2016/2017 edition).  So, at least for direct and indirect free kicks, the answer is clear.

What we don’t know, because the Law doesn’t mention it, is whether the same “ruling” would apply to such other restarts as penalty kicks, kick-offs, corner kicks, or goal kicks.  Because, in general, all restarts involving kicking a ball are similar in many respects, our conclusion would be that, in practice, the “lift with the foot” approved for free kicks would apply to all “kick the ball” restarts, but with the proviso that all such restarts must still be governed by any other characteristics specified in the Law.  For example, a penalty kick must still “go forward” even if lifted up.  Another example would be that, even if the ball is put into play by lifting it up with the foot (or both feet), a player who did so and then headed or volleyed the ball would still be guilty of a second touch violation.

Perhaps the reason the Law is silent on whether the “lift with the foot” kick applies to kicked-ball restarts other than free kicks is that it really makes little sense (at least as regards to the purposes and dynamics of these other restarts) to kick the ball in this particular way.  Why, for example, would a player want to take a goal kick or penalty kick using that technique?

In any event, however, the answer is absolutely clear with regards to free kicks, and probably the same for any other kicked-ball restart.


I have been trying to get an answer regarding the taking of an indirect free kick. One source has an answer on its site which contradicts the answer I found on the US Soccer site. My thought is if the ball needs to be kicked and move, that this should happen on the initial touch otherwise the ball has not been put into play correctly and should be retaken. This being the case on the any restart not properly put into play. Could you please clarify the answer as the advice to referees does not clearly state what should happen in the event of not putting the ball into play on the 1st touch.

Answer: February 6, 2014
The referee needs to use common sense and apply practices currently accepted in modern soccer, no matter how much these may differ from what we have learned and applied in the past. On any free kick, whether direct or indirect, the Law is clear: The ball must be moved a minimum distance with the foot, preferably in a kicking motion. In many cases, this means that the ball may be stepped on, although it still must move some minimum distance. If the referee does not see some minimal movement on the initial kick, then the ball is not yet in play and the kick must be taken correctly.

Yes, old timers, this is not quite the answer you are used to from me, but we need to move in synch with what the rest of the world does, and this is it. Just remember that the final decision is up to the referee on the spot, not you or me or anyone else.


My child plays U8 soccer. There is no goal box, only a penalty area. When taking a goal kick, the ref insists the ball sit on the corner of the penalty area. The offense of a team we played either stood immediately in front of or rushed the ball while it was being kicked. For larger fields, the offense has to stay back because of the goal box being inside the penalty box. since they’re one in the same for us, can the offense stand immediately in front of the ball?

Answer (May 9, 2012):
According to USYS Rules for U8, there is no penalty area in U8 soccer; they use only a goal area, which has two lines drawn at right angles to the goal line three (3) yards from the inside each goalpost. These lines extend into the field of play for a distance of three (3) yards and are joined by a line drawn parallel with the goal line. The area bounded by these lines and the goal line is the goal area. The opponents must remain outside the goal area and at least four (4) yards from the ball until it is in play. There is absolutely no requirement that the kick must be taken from one of the corners of the goal area, just as there is no such requirement in adult soccer

One of our readers, Greg Brooks, supplied this useful information:

I thought I’d chime in on the U-8 question posted today. In a league
which I officiate, they allow the U-8 players to take goal kicks from
the edge of the penalty area instead of the goal box. I believe the
required minimum distance is 8 yards, so that should apply to those
goal kicks in such U-8 games, correct? I’ve never had a problem with
failure to maintain the required distance, but this gives me something
to think about.


The following occurred in an official match in Argentina’s “Torneo Argentino C”: A forward kicks the ball towards the goal, the ball hits the crossbar and goes up, then hits a branch that was inside the field area and goes down. A defender takes the ball with his hands, and the referee signals a penalty.

Questions: Was the branch an outside agent? Should have the referee signaled a dropped ball instead of a penalty?

Please advise.

Source (with video):
also at

USSF answer (February 25, 2012):
We agree with the referee that the ball was still in play. The tree limb overhanging the field is a pre-existing condition, meaning that play is the same as if the ball had hit the crossbar or the referee — it is still in play.

One is unlikely to find a tree overhanging a field in which the game is played under a FIFA-run competition, as there would certainly be no tree to worry about.


When is the referee authority end? Does it end as soon as he whistles the end of the game? We had a game when the referee blew his whistle 3 times to signify the end of the game while a ball was still in the air. After the whistle was blown, the girls stop playing and the ball continued into the net. The referee then signified no goal and then changed it to a goal. The tournament head referee said it was a bad call, but upheld the goal. So how can that be if the referee duties and authority are over as soon as he blows the whistle.

Can he then change his mind, but he doesn’t have any authority at that point. Nonetheless that the call shouldn’t have been a goal since he indicated the game was over. His excuse was he accidently blew his whistle. You don’t accidently blow your whistle three times. Just looking for some clarification.

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
This is not a case of the referee’s authority — which ends when he has left the environs of the field, not as soon as the final whistle is blown. Rather , it is a case of poor refereeing and a particularly uninformed decision by the “tournament head referee.”

By tradition, custom, and practice, the referee’s whistle brings the game to a complete and immediate halt, whether the period of play is over or not. If the ball is in the air at that moment, life is hard, but no goal can be scored, no matter that the whistle was blown “accidentally.”


Advice – dealing with Appurtenances – Pre-existing Conditions

Per Advice dealing with appurtenances, 1.8(c) -pre-existing conditions, specifically overhanging trees. We have several venues that have overhanging tree limbs on one end of the field that happens to behind the goal area/line. If the overhanging tree limbs ” do not affect one team or more adversely than the other are considered to be part of the field”. There have been two examples where the attacking team has to take a corner kick and the player taking the kick happens to kick it into the overhanging tree limbs, the referee then told the players that the ball is still in play because it did not leave the field of play. In another example, one team who was attacking their opponent’s goal had their player take a shot on goal, the ball was going over the cross-bar but for the tree limbs, the ball stopped and dropped in front of their opponent’s goalkeeper penalty area and the goal-keeper was able to retrieve the ball, since the ball was still in play, the goalkeeper then was able to punt the ball across the field and their forward was able to score a goal in a matter of seconds. A third example, occurred when the ball was kicked by an attacking team, the goal-keeper was out of position and the ball hit the tree limbs and the ball rolled across the goal-line and underneath the cross bar, thus a goal was scored. In the final example, the attacker took a shot and the ball hit the tree limbs yet the ball was still in play and the team-mate was able to score because the goal-keeper turned one way and the ball fell to the side of him inside of the goal area. In these four examples, how should the referee crew handle these examples. Should they tell the teams ahead of time, should they stop play and do a drop-ball or should the referee say “play-on” and where would play be restarted?

Thank you.

USSF answer (May 26, 2011):
Advice 1.8(c) is pretty clear and we believe it covers your situations fully::

(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)

Note: The difference between non-regulation appurtenances and pre-existing conditions is that, if the ball makes contact with something like uprights or crossbar superstructure, it is ruled out of play even if the contact results in the ball remaining on the field. Where there is a pre-existing condition (such as an overhanging tree limb), the ball remains in play even if there is contact, as long as the ball itself remains on the field. Referees must be fully aware of and enforce any rules of the competition authority or field owner regarding non-regulation appurtenances.

There is no bias in this guidance toward one team or the other, as each team must play one-half of the game under these conditions.

As the competition appears to play many games at these fields, it would seem that all teams should already be well aware of the conditions before they get to the field. However, the referee could be proactive and remind the teams of the conditions and that the ball will remain in play.

The only permanent solution we can recommend to avoid such events is that the limbs might be lopped off by a trained tree-removal person (with the permission of the landowner, of course).

Finally, let us add that our advice applies only to those portions of the trees that actually overhang the field; not to other portions of the same tree.


In a recent viral video of a Conway AR high school match shows the center awarding a free kick to Conway and the Conway players setting up. Two players approach the area of the ball as if both are going to initiate the kick with one passing by the ball and then colliding with the other approaching player and both collapse on the ground while a third player initiates the kick. A score resulted.

Question is, has an offence been committed? My input would be yes that it is unsporting behavior in that the collision was set up as a distraction that is staged, much like a player taking an obvious dive after contacting a player of the opposing team. I can’t see the trickery rule applying because it only addresses playing the ball back to the keeper and trying to circumvent a law of the game. I believe the goal was awarded. Not that it matters to me being I have no interest or contact with any team in Arkanas. Just discussing it with some current officials on how we would have called it. I am a laspsed official (not one of the choices below)

USSF answer (May 19, 2011):
Ah, deceit, the mother of legal gamesmanship. The kicking team is allowed to engage in its little bit of deception at almost any restart. Provided that the players who collide don’t turn the event into a moaning, groaning, shrieking distraction, this was likely legal. Some playacting is certainly acceptable, but when an event is played to the hilt it could be seen as constituting either (a) exaggerating the seriousness of an injury or (b) the equivalent of shouting at an opponent to distract (either of which would be unsporting behavior). It all depends, of course, on the opinion of the referee, which would be based on how out of the ordinary the actions of these players were.

The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players, in this case the defending team that did not continue to pay attention to the subsequent kicker, the runner, and the ball itself.

CAVEAT: Please note that this is a high school game played under NFHS auspices, and not necessarily in accordance with the Laws of the Game. And the referee might be especially cunning and preempt any problems by stopping play for the “injury,” which occurred before the ball was in play, have the players attended to, and restart with original free kick.

A video clip of this incident may be seen at this URL:


Defending team has been awarded a free kick outside the penalty area. The kicker pass back the ball to his goalkeeper. The keeper touches the ball with his hands but the ball, anyway, enters the goal.

How the referee should reiniciate the game?

1. Awarding an IFK against the goalkeeper because he used his hands after the ball was passed to him by a team mate?

2. Allowing the goal because the goalie touched the ball before it entered the goal? or

3. awarding a corner kick because a team can not kick a free kick into its own goal?

USSF answer (February 12, 2010):
For direct free kicks taken outside the penalty area, the Law requires only that a ball is kicked and moved to be in play and thus be eligible to enter the goal for a score (or a corner kick, if taken by the defending team). That happened. The ball was kicked by a player directly to his own goalkeeper. If the goalkeeper had let the ball go, it would have been a corner kick for the opponents. If the goalkeeper had stopped the ball with his hands, it would have been an indirect free kick for the opponents. Unfortunately for his side, the goalkeeper touched the ball but allowed it to continue on its way to goal. The referee should invoke the advantage clause and record the goal. Restart with a kick-off for the defending team.


For clarification purpose, I would like for you to honestly assist with normal procedure and correct interpretation of the law and in accordance to; and in US Soccer and FIFA opinion the correct procedure and your recommendation to the following.

In the first half of a competitive match, a corner kick was being taken from the leading AR side. Properly, the Assistant referee applied the distance of encroachment and the team taking the corner kick tricked the defense as the kicker walked away and another player acted as if he was going to take the kick started dribbling the ball towards the goal when he got to the corner kick spot. I made eye contact with the leading AR who did nothing and I let the play go.

In the same half, a corner kick was awarded to the same offense, but now in my quadrant. The ball was set, and the kicker stood over the ball with his foot on the ball but made no movement because the defense this time were encroaching. When I realized the the attacker won’t play the ball, I instructed the defense to respect the distance of which they obliged. While we were waiting for the corner kick to be taken, number 7 of the team taking the corner kcik who was behind me in the goal area loudly yelled to his team mate on the the ball. “Leave it, let me take it.” He then ran past me and the defenders while his team mate walked away from the ball. When he got to the ball, he took position as if he was going to put the ball back in play, then he started dribbling the ball towards the goal. All these happened while I was still holding back the defense from encroaching. When I realized he was in active play, I blew the whistle walked to him and cautioned him for unsporting behavior. I then restart the play with an indirect kick to the defense for double touching a direct kick restart. 

As usual, the cautioned player pleaded his case and claimed that was their trick and my response was that you were deceptive. I told him it’s legal to apply trick fairly, and by audibly being deceptive, you gained unfair advantage.

USSF answer (February 6, 2010)
The kicking team is allowed to use a certain amount of trickery at any kick restart, including corner kicks. If the kicker actually kicks at the ball, then it is now in play. Observe these two video clips of corner kicks, one of which was not allowed by the referee. However, both were totally legal, as the ball was played in a kicking motion by the original player on the ball.

First clip:

We responded to a question on this clip back on January 30, 2009:
It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct; in that case, the referee would call the second player for a double touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

Second clip:

The assistant referee’s flag was incorrect and the referee should have waved it down; the resulting goal should have been allowed.

So, what is NOT allowed?
The ball must move a perceptible distance from “here” to “there” to be considered in play through a kick. If the “kicker” only steps on top of the ball and does not kick it, and therefore the ball has NOT moved from “here” to “there,” the kick was not properly taken and must be repeated. It is not a cautionable offense.