Hanky-Pank with KFTM

Shawn,  a HS and College Referee, asks:

Have you ever had a kicks-from-the-mark situation where, in the execution phase, an eligible player became ineligible due to injury, misconduct, or other cause? How did you handle it?

According to LOTG, “the opposing team will not further ‘reduce to equate’” and “the team with fewer players may use all its eligible players before the other team and will therefore begin allowing its players to kick a second time before this occurs for the other team.” Also, KFTM “will continue so long as the team has at least a single eligible player”. This seems ripe for abuse, as, in a worst case scenario, a team whose keeper is also an excellent penalty kicker could declare all other eligible players “injured” once the execution phase has begun, or after the initial group of five have kicked. The guidance from expert referees is the referee should “reduce to equate,” using Law 18.


We can tell you how it used to be handled in the “good old days,” how that changed to the not-so-long-ago days, and how it is supposed to be handled as of June of this year.

First of all, take note that what follows your opening to the second paragraph below of “According to the LOTG” is out of date.  Second of all, the scenario you describe is always possible if there are bad intentions on the part of a team – the consequences may be in accordance with the LOTG and the Referee may have little recourse because nothing illegal is being done but the Referee can include in the match report the behavior of a team which is otherwise legal but offends the spirit of the game.

As of this year’s version of the LOTG, “reduce to equate” continues throughout the entire KFTM procedure, not just during the phase of the procedure that precedes the first kick.  The loss of an eligible player through injury or misconduct triggers a comparable reduction in the number of opposing players who are eligible.  The Law also specifies, though, that a player who chooses not to participate despite being eligible (i.e., not being declared injured or sent off for misconduct) is counted as having unsuccessfully kicked from the mark.

If the Referee believes that a team is apparently manipulating the availability of its eligible players in an unsporting manner, the solution resolves into two options.  First, if listed eligible players are being declared “injured” and unable to participate with no supporting evidence, then the solution is to proceed in regular order (i.e., following the rules) but then to report this information to the competition authority with full details in the match report.  Second, if after listed eligible players in any round have taken a kick but there remain other listed eligible players who, despite not having been sent off and not having been declared injured, do not respond to a call to take a kick, then after calling the name of a remaining eligible player several times without success, the Referee simply marks their “attempt” as a “miss” (i.e., no goal) and moves on in regular order.

Remember, the Referee does not choose who kicks — this information is supplied by the team at each kicking opportunity.  The Referee has four tasks: (1) signal for the kick to be taken, (2) observe if any misconduct occurs by the kicker or goalkeeper, (3) record the results, and (4) ensure that no eligible player from that team in that round takes a kick a second time in the same round.  The only way a player is removed from eligibility is to be sent off or declared injured and unable to participate, at which point the opposing team reduces its eligible play list accordingly and notifies the Referee which eligible player has been removed.…

When Is the PK Over?

Robert, a referee of older youth players, asks:

A penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving. How about giving me some examples when a ball stops moving during a penalty kick situation.


The International Board, in its infinite wisdom when it rewrote the Laws of the Game to make them simpler and easier to understand, wasn’t entirely successful in several of its changes.  This is one of them.  Note that almost the exact same language was used in Laws 10 and 14 to say when the kick was complete:

Law 10:  The kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws

Law 14:  The penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws.

More to the point of your question, both Laws include “ball stops moving” as one of the ways that a kick from the mark (KFTM) or a penalty kick (PK) may be considered ended.  This works fairly well for a KFTM and it also works for a PK taken in extended time.  As long as the ball continues to move while making contact with any one or combination of the goalkeeper, goalframe, or the ground, a valid goal can be scored.  Yet, at the same time, in each case no one else is allowed to participate in the play.  Thus, if a PK in extended time or a KFTM struck the crossbar, rebounded backward onto the ground in front of the goal, but had acquired a spin which resulted in the ball now rolling forward a few feet into the goal, that goal would count.  The same would be true if the ball rebounded from the crossbar to the back of the goalkeeper and then rebounded from there into the goal.

A regular, ordinary PK, however, is a bit different because, except for the original kicker, the ball can be played by anyone once it is in play (kicked and moved forward).  During that time, it is entirely possible that the ball could be motionless … and it doesn’t matter because, with one exception, no one particularly cares when, whether, or even if the PK is “over.”

The exception is if an outside agent interferes with play at the taking of a penalty kick.  Ordinarily, if play is stopped because of outside agent interference, the restart is a dropped ball.  We can just picture some spectator, who supports the Orange team which is just about ready to defend against a PK, thinking that, if he or she ran onto the field after the PK was taken and interfered, the referee would have to stop play and then restart with a dropped ball (effectively taking the PK away from the hated opponent)!  So the Laws of the Game provide that, if the interference occurs while the ball is moving toward the goal and hasn’t made contact as yet with any part of the goalframe or the goalkeeper, the restart will be a retake of the PK.  Until the ball stops moving forward (not just stops moving), the PK is not “over” at least for the purpose of retaking the PK rather than having a dropped ball in the case of outside agent interference.  The implicit theory of this provision is that a team which has been awarded a PK should have a reasonable opportunity to score and any event which interferes with that during the period from the ball being kicked and the ball reaching the immediate area of the goal should result in the offended team getting to redo the PK after all the dust has settled.…

Player Disappears During Kicks from the Mark

An adult referee asks:

Kicks from the penalty mark 11 v 11 and all subs used.Last player on one side scores their 11th as it is now sudden death but the other team player says they are too injured to take theirs, possibly fear of losing the game?


This will likely not be the last time we entertain questions regarding how the 2016/2017 Laws of the Game changed elements of the Kicks from the Mark (KFTM) process.  This question, at least, is one of the easier ones (the really difficult questions will emerge after enough experience accrues to highlight the less well known ins and outs of KFTM).

Before proceeding, however, we need to clarify some terminology.  There is no such thing as “sudden death” in the KFTM procedure.  If the tie has not been broken by the time five pairs of kicks have occurred, the process moves to a phase in which the two teams take kicks in pairs and the tie is broken only if one team has scored and the other team has not. The term “sudden death” would be applicable only if the tie is declared broken (and KFTM is ended immediately) because the first kicker in the pair was successful.  In point of fact, both teams always have a chance to kick once the first five pairs have finished with the score still being tied.  In fact, this requirement for there to always be a second kick is at the heart of the question here.

With that settled, the scenario we are faced with here is fairly simple. The teams have started with 11 v. 11 and not lost anyone so far through ten pairs of kicks due to a send-off or injury.  We come then to the 11th pair of kicks with two and only two players (one from each team) who are eligible to kick in the 11th pair.  The team which started each pair of kicks is up and its 11th player kicks.  The opposing team by rule must also have the opportunity to kick using its 11th player.  Note that, so far, it doesn’t matter whether the first kicker of the pair scored or not.  The referee, who has been keeping track of who has kicked so far (assisted by the AR in the center circle), calls for Red #55.  No one comes forward.  Calls again but still no one.  Maybe Red #55 isn’t even there (not a likelihood in a high level match), maybe he or she has become ill (but has not officially withdrawn), or perhaps (as in this question) Red #55 is merely feigning injury for unsporting reasons.  With some variations, it really doesn’t matter why Red #55, the last eligible Red player, will not come forward to proceed with the 2nd kick of the current pair.

There is nothing in the Law dealing directly with this.  The closest “on point” guidance is in Law 10: “Kicks from the penalty mark must not be delayed for a player who leaves the field of play. The player’s kick will be forfeited (not scored) if the player does not return in time to take a kick.”  Note that this language is specifically directed at a player who has left the center circle where all eligible players are required to remain(excepting only the goalkeepers), hasn’t returned, and therefore is delaying the taking of the next KFTM.  It is a fundamental principle of interpreting the Law to find the core issue and expand from there and this delay is the prime issue.

Red #55 is clearly delaying the KFTM by not coming to the penalty mark when called to do so as the last possible player eligible to kick.  Law 10 says that we should declare Red #55 to have forfeited his or her opportunity and to be marked as having not scored … and now, finally, it makes a difference as to what happened when the last Blue player took his or her team’s 11th kick.  If it was successful, then the Red team failed to score and the KFTM is over, favoring Blue.  If the 11th Blue player had missed, then so also had the 11th Red player (our unresponsive #55): the two teams remain tied and so the referee must move to the 12th pair (thus beginning a new round).

Red #55 could be cautioned for all sorts of reasons — leaving the field without the permission of the referee, delaying the restart of play (if you count a KFTM as a “restart”), or simple unsporting behavior (showing a lack of respect for the game, which might be particularly pertinent if Red #55 were feigning an illness or simply willfully refusing to take the kick entirely despite being present).  Whether cautioned or not, this behavior must certainly be included in the match report, as well as any factually supportable evaluation of the player’s reasons (it would be up to the competition authority to determine punishment, if any, for the recalcitrant Red #55).

Anything beyond this is pure speculation.  For example, in a 2nd round, would Red #55 still be eligible?  If no longer eligible, then does “reduce to equate” apply and the Blue team must drop one before proceeding to round 2?  Let’s save these and related issues for another day.…


A couple of months ago, I was watching the UEFA U-17 Championship final, and it went to kicks from the penalty mark. It seemed like every single player was trying to place the ball at the very edge of the mark in order to have the ball a few inches closer to the goal. And every single time, the referee intervened. He made every player reposition the ball, and it seemed he wasn’t satisfied until the ball was at the center of the mark. To me, the referee was wrong.

Law 14 says the ball must be placed on the mark. And Law 1 says that the lines are a part of areas which they define. I know the penalty mark isn’t a line, but doesn’t the same principle apply to it? Just as a ball that is touching the imaginary plane above the touchline or goal line is in play, shouldn’t a ball that is touching the imaginary cylinder above the penalty mark be considered on the penalty mark?

Answer (July 22, 2012):
In order to ensure uniformity in penalty kicks and kicks from the penalty mark, the IFAB established the penalty mark in the form of a circle 9 inches in diameter; not a box or a simple line. The Law specifies that the ball “must be placed on the penalty mark” and “the ball is properly placed on the penalty mark,” not elsewhere.…


A coach I know recently thought up a strategy for giving his team an advantge that should win if the game goes to penalty kicks in the very final game of a tournament. Theory goes like this, after the initial five pk takers are designated and before the first player on his team, who is his best penalty taker, takes the pk, he will have every one of the 10 remaining players eligible to take penalties step up to the official and insult him sufficiently to be red carded and dismissed from the game. This will insure that his best penalty taker will take all of the pks while the other team will have their lesser skilled players taking kicks.

What would you do as it seems to be perfectly suited to exploit the reduce to equate as currently practiced?

I could only state that while technically accurate and seemingly legal, I would disqualify his team for prolonged and repeated infraction of the laws.

Answer (July 13, 2012):
We have seen similar questions in the past (e.g., the coach simply declared these players “unable to play” due to injuries or whatever) but the principle is the same: There are things that can happen on a soccer match which are “wrong” (against the Spirit of the Laws), but over which we have no authority to fashion a correction. Another example would be the situation that occurred in Asia some years ago where one team TRIED to lose by scoring against itself and then the other team, because of what such an outcome would mean (it had to do I think with determining a field site for the next round of competition), began matching the opposing team’s goal for goal by doing the same thing. The referee does not have the authority to prevent this. In fact, the referee cannot make anyone play nor force any substitution.

Accordingly, the coach’s ploy will succeed and his team will be reduced to 1 player. However, (1) the opposing coach could do the same (or have the other ten players become injured and unable to participate in the kicks) and then ultimately there would be Kicks done 1 v. 1 (with the nonkicking player serving as the goalkeeper); and/or (2) the Kicks could proceed with 11 v. 1, but the ploy could backfire since the one player would have to kick each time against a new and fresh opposing kicker; and (3) the referee would include full details (facts and reasonable inferences from those facts) in his game report (which is what the referee in the Asian game did) and let the competition authority decide if the behavior of the team should be allowed — the action was not upheld in the Asian case, and there were fines and/or suspensions involved.

And lest we forget, under the Laws of the Game kickers are never “designated” nor put on a checklist for the referee. Players go to take the kick as a slot is available.…


A match was tied at the end of regulation time, and competition rules state that kicks from the penalty mark will be used to decide the winer of the match.

The scenario: Team A & Team B both have 11 players on the field prior to the start of the kicks. The coin toss resulted in Team A kicking first, then Team B kicking second. The first set of kicks resulted in a goal credited to both teams, which makes a preliminary score of 1-1 (pen.).

Now, in the second set, the second kicker for Team A is carrying a caution he received in the second half of the game. The referee signals for Team A’s kick to be taken. the kicker goes up for the kick, commits an act of unsporting behavior, and scores. The goalkeeper from Team B DID NOT infringe the laws of the game. The referee blows the whistle and issues a second yellow card, followed by the red card, to the player from Team A, the kicking team.

Now, there are a few points of discussion that arise from this scenario:
1) Since the kicking team infringed the laws of the game, and a goal was scored, should Team A’s kick be retaken as the next kick in the sequence?
2) If so, is the designated replacement kicker (who is presently on the field waiting in the center circle) from Team A considered to have kicked after he completes the retaken kick?


3) Does the offending player who was sent off get the credit for the penalty because he was the initial kicker for this kick in the sequence?

It is also my understanding that Team B does not have to “Reduce to Equate”, because the send-off for team A occured after the start of the kicks.

Answer (July 7, 2012):
Because the ball entered the goal (but cannot be scored as a “goal”), the kick must be retaken after the dismissed player has left the field and before anything else happens. Any teammate currently on the field who has not yet kicked in the kicks from the penalty mark may take the kick. Therefore, the player who was sent off does not and cannot be given credit for his “goal,” which would not count in any event.

No, the opposing team does not have to reduce to equate in this case; reduce to equate applies only before the kicks actually begin.…


I had a quick question about the women’s world cup final. I noticed that team officials were clearly allowed onto the field to give instructions to players before the taking of the penalty kicks. I was under the understanding that under no circumstances were team officials allowed onto the field in this situation, am I mistaken? I’ve always been told to kept team officials, no matter the age group of the teams involved or whatever level of play, on the sidelines.

USSF answer (August 8, 2011):
During the period between the end of full time and the actual start of kicks from the penalty mark, the referee should allow eligible players to receive water, treatment, equipment repair, or other such assistance on the field near their bench. Team officials may temporarily enter the field but must exit the field when directed by the referee.…


In the taking of KFTPM to decide a tournament winner the teams make 10 goals each. The 11th player makes a goal but now the opponent’s 11th player is missing.

What should happen now?

USSF answer (July 2, 2011):
Provided the team’s 11th player was on the field at the beginning of the kicks from the penalty mark, this portion of the Advice to Referees applies:

Once the procedure of taking kicks from the penalty mark has begun, players are not permitted to leave the field, even if they have already taken a kick. If a player leaves the field and is not available to take the prescribed kick (either for the first time or subsequently), the referee can declare the missing player no longer eligible and then proceed with the kicks from the penalty mark without him/her. A full report regarding the situation must be submitted.


A recent Internet video clip shows a kick being taken during KFTPM, in which the ball strikes the crossbar, rebounds high into the air, and lands (with lots of backspin) about 7-8 yards out from the goal line. While the ‘keeper is paying no attention to it, having already begun celebrating the save (and presumedly returning to the instructed position, to allow the opposing ‘keeper to prepare for the next kick), the ball slowly bounces and rolls across the goal line, between the goal posts and under the cross bar.

Since this is during KFTPM, not at a penalty kick, is there a “time limit” on how long the referee should wait before deciding that this kick has been completed? It seems that the governing authority (not under USSF) has declared that, since the referee allowed this goal, the match must be replayed.

What is the USSF position on this?

USSF answer (June 10, 2011):
We are unaware of any ruling on this play by a “governing authority,” but the PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE THE WINNER OF A MATCH OR HOME-AND-AWAY, listed at the end of the Laws of the Game, tell us, “Unless otherwise stated, the relevant Laws of the Game and International F.A. Board Decisions apply when kicks from the penalty mark are being taken.” The decision for a kick from the mark should be treated exactly like a penalty kick in extended time. Under the Laws of the Game the ball remains in play until the referee determines that it has gone out of play. See Advice to Referees 14.13 which states “So long as the ball is in motion and contacting any combination of the ground, crossbar, goalposts, and goalkeeper, a goal can still be scored.”…


Two questions about KFTM: 1) What determines which AR will supervise the players in the middle of the field and which will accompany the referee to the goal, and 2) what is the correct action in the following circumstance? Team A wins the toss and chooses to kick 2nd. A player from team A is mistakenly allowed to kick 1st. The coach of team A brings this error to the attention of the referees before a player from team B is sent to the PA for his/her kick.

USSF answer (May 23, 2011);
1) The decision as to which assistant referee takes charge of the players in the center circle and which AR works along the goal line is up to the referee.

2) This is an error by the referee and AR, who should know which team kicks first — as should the teams themselves. Cancel the goal and begin the kicks in the proper order. The referee should apologize profusely to both teams and must include full details in the match report.…