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.


In futsal on a goal clearance the ball has to leave the penalty area in order for it to be in play. So if a goalkeeper saves the ball, establishing possession and trips over his own feet and the ball goes into net crossing the goal line, what is the correct restart?

Answer (February 22, 2013):
You are confusing two totally different parts of the Futsal Laws.

The fact that on a goal clearance (same as goal kick in outdoor) the ball is supposed to leave the penalty area before it is in play has nothing to do with a dynamic play play situation where a clumsy goalkeeper does an “opps” and scores on himself.

The answer to your question is a kick-off.


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.


Having a debate here about definition of ‘delay of game’.

On a kick-off from the half line, after a goal, or starting a game, if a team does an improper kick-off (i.e. ball does not move forward, and cross over the half line) several times, is this delay of game? I have seen teams do this in the past. I would allow this twice, then give an IDFK to the opposite team. I was recently told by a senior official that this is not a delay of game and not IDFK. Well, if so, what do you do about it?

USSF answer (November 17, 2011):
The tactic you describe could be considered to be delaying the restart of play. A number of examples are given in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The following are specific examples of this form of misconduct (some of which may also be committed by substitutes):

• Kicks or throws the ball away or holds the ball to prevent or delay a free kick, throw-in, or corner kick restart by an opponent

• Fails to restart play after being so instructed by the referee

• Excessively celebrates a goal

• Fails to return to the field from a midgame break, fails to perform a kick-off when signaled by the referee, or fails to be in a correct position for a kick-off

• Performing a throw-in improperly with the apparent intention of being required to perform the throw-in again, thus wasting time

• Unnecessarily moving a ball which has already been properly placed on the ground for a goal kick

• Provokes a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play

Because the ball was out of play at the delay, the restart after any caution in this case would still be the kick-off.


The revised format of the Week in Review contains representative video clips and expert description and commentary from Michael Kennedy that is greatly appreciated. This type of approach serves to clarify a
variety of game situations and provides explanations of correct decisions based upon the Laws of the Game (LOTG). Michael also invites viewers to submit questions. My question and request for clarification arises from a subject covered in week 7.

The first video clip from week 7 shows a player in an offside position that was not punished for being in that position because he received the ball directly via a throw-in from his teammate. As mentioned in the presentation, Law 11 Offside states “There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from: a goal kick or a throw-in or a corner kick.” Additional information on this subject is also provided in the USSF publication, “Offside Made Easy”, wherein the offside law is restated and the word “directly” is clarified to mean that no one else touched or played the ball.

Now, suppose that during the execution of a goal kick, throw-in, or corner kick, the ball is deflected off the head of: 1) a teammate, 2) a defender, or 3) both a teammate and defender (difficult to determine if just one) and goes to the player in the offside position. What is the correct decision?

For each of these three cases, please provide the correct decision based upon the LOTG along with any supporting reference in the LOTG or other official written documentation. If there are exceptions to Law
11 as written, please provide the rationale and reference to supporting written documentation (I haven’t found any, but there possibly could be–hence this email).

The aforementioned scenarios seem to have varying interpretations of law and resulting decision depending upon who one speaks with-referees, instructors and assessors. We would all probably agree that 1) referees need to make correct decisions based upon the written laws and other official publications that support sound decision making; and 2) official validation and written verification are preferred to unsubstantiated and unsupported individual views.

USSF answer (May 18, 2011):
In 2001 we ;published a document entitled “Speaking Directly,” which covers all these situations. Thank you for encouraging us to publish the article once again.

Speaking Directly

If a “direct” free kick is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal is awarded. (This is not the case with an “indirect” free kick, where a goal cannot be scored if the ball does not touch a second player — which can be the goalkeeper, who is, after all, also a player — before entering the goal.)

That is the primary meaning of “direct”; however, there are references in the Laws of the Game to “direct” or “directly” which do not apply to scoring goals. These references seem to confuse some referees:
– Law 11 states that there is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick
– throw-in taken by a teammate
– Law 13 and Law 16 declare the ball kicked from within a team’s own penalty area to be in play from a free kick or a goal kick only when it leaves the penalty area and goes directly into play
– Laws 16 and 17 tell us that a goal may be scored directly from a goal kick or a corner kick, but only against the opposing team
The use of “directly” in Laws 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 is fairly clear: if the ball goes from point A to point B without interference, something can or cannot happen. That is not true of the use of “directly” in Law 11. Tradition and custom give us a slightly different meaning of the word “directly” in the context of offside.

If at a goal kick, throw-in, or a corner kick taken by his team, a player receives the ball directly from the restart, there is no problem. Nor should there be any problem at a corner kick, as it is physically impossible for a player on the field of play to be offside directly from a corner kick. The confusion arises at throw-ins or goal kicks when the ball is deflected or misplayed by an opponent and then comes to the teammate of the thrower or kicker who is in an offside position. In such cases, the referee must disregard the deflection or misplay of the ball by the opponent, as there has been no infringement of the Law. However, if the ball were to be deflected or misplayed instead by a teammate of the thrower or kicker on its way to the player in the offside position, that player must be declared offside.


If a player puts the ball down for a goal kick and then moves it to the other side of the goal area is it a IDFK or just a warning and a possible caution for delay of the game?

USSF answer (January 26, 2011):
Unfortunately, we cannot lay our hands on a particular document, but the general rule is that If, upon being awarded a goal kick, the defending team blatantly wastes time by placing the ball within the goal area for the restart and then subsequently moves it unnecessarily to another location within the goal area, this act can be deemed as timewasting.

The option of placing the ball anywhere in the goal area was intended to speed up play.  Given that guideline and goal, the only factor then is to avoid undue delay or timewasting. If moving the ball after being placed is not permitted, what should the referee do?

As with most questions of this nature, the only correct answer involves how the referee interprets the action and how he or she uses common sense and.  If there were a real, worldwide problem in this area, the IFAB would include the answer as a Decision under Law 16. Here is a clear and simple rule: Moving the ball around like that is wasting time, pure and simple. Unless the movement is blatantly outrageous and used in the closing seconds of a tight game by the goalkeeper or other player of the team in the lead, the referee should warn first and, on repetition, caution the guilty player.


Just read your response about opponents in the penalty area during a goal kick.

Follow up question: if the last thing you said is true: “if the ball leaves the penalty area, is therefore in play, and then goes to an opponent who, at the time the goal kick was taken, was in the penalty area, play should continue (no matter where the opponent has moved to by that time)” then why is their a requirement for all opponents to be outside the penalty area until the ball has actually left the area?

From time to time I have told fellow refs to look out for this so that an opponent does not (to borrow a phrase from Law XI) gain an unfair advantage from being in an “illegal” position.

The only question for the referee to ask himself is at what point does this infringement go from being unfair to trifling, i.e. the greater amount of time between the taking of the goal kick (or defensive free kick) to the time that the “illegally” positioned player becomes involved in play, the more likely that it becomes trifling and the referee should let play continue.

Does that make sense to you, or am I all wet?

USSF answer (January 21, 2010):
The reason there is a requirement for opponents to be out of the penalty area at the taking of a goal kick (and to stay out until the ball is in play) is exactly the same reason there is a requirement that opponents be at least ten yards away from a free kick (and stay ten yards away until the ball is in play). However, we routinely and properly allow the team with the ball to take a free kick if there are opponents closer than ten yards so why should we not also allow the team with the ball to take a goal kick if there are opponents within their penalty area? And, having allowed it in either case, why would we not — once the ball is in play — require the team with the restart to live by their decision to take the restart quickly even if this results in a disadvantage since it was their decision in the first place?

At all times, it is the responsibility of the referee to prevent or punish play which is contrary to the Law if such play in fact is unfair or unsporting because it had a non-trifling impact on the game. But is also the responsibility of the referee to avoid stopping play for admitted breaches of the Law where such a stoppage is unnecessary based on the needs of the game.


I’m an assistant coach with a GU14 team. We were awarded a goal kick and my keeper setup the ball in our goal area very quickly. At this time there were players from both teams (opposing and ours) in the penalty area. I wanted my goalkeeper to do a quick restart because we had an advantage at midfield. But she waited until the penalty area was cleared of all players before taking the kick. My question is:

1. Could my goalkeeper execute a goal kick with players from the opposing team standing in our penalty area to gain an advantage for our team?

USSF answer (January 19, 2010):
Correct procedure for the goal kick requires that all opposing players be outside the penalty area when the kick is taken.

We suppose that your player could take the kick with opponents in the penalty area, but doing so might cause problems for all sides, including the referee and assistant referees. If the ball is played/contacted by anyone inside the penalty area, the goal kick must be retaken because the ball is not yet in play (unlike the free kick where it is in play the moment it is kicked and moved) If the ball leaves the penalty area, is therefore in play, and then goes to an opponent who, at the time the goal kick was taken, was in the penalty area, play should continue (no matter where the opponent has moved to by that time)


Why is the “goal box” markings required, when all the rules that I’m aware of apply only to the “penalty area”? What special rules apply only to the “goal box”?

USSF answer (October 16, 2009):

There is no “goal box,” but there is a goal area within the penalty area. The goal area has changed shape, size, and role several times during its history. Nowadays its primary roles are to provide a place for the goal kick to be taken and to act as a buffer zone for dropped balls and for opposing indirect free kicks within six yards of the goal.

If play is stopped inside the goal area for some reason other than a foul or misconduct, the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped (Law 8).

A free kick awarded to the defending team within the goal area may be taken from any point inside that area (Law 13)

An indirect free kick awarded to the attacking team inside the goal area must be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred (Law 13).

A goal kick is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team.


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.