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.…


Recently, one of our players was called off sides after receiving a long punt from our goalie who just made a save. In the laws of the game, it states that a player can not be off sides on a goal kick. The rules also describe a goal kick as a kick that occurs after the ball travels over the end line, last touched by attacking player. But what happens if the goalie makes a save and punts the ball? Is the goalie punting the ball the same as a goal kick regarding offsides? Any clarification on goalie punts vs. goal kicks and offsides would be greatly appreciated.

USSF answer (April 10, 2009):
Law 11 (Offside) tells it all — There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick. The goal kick is a way of putting the ball back into play. The goalkeeper punt is a way for the goalkeeper to get rid of the ball within the amount of time for him or her to do so , but the ball is already in play.

Your player was probably called offside correctly when he or she received the ball from the goalkeeper punt.…


This is an accumulation question that comes to mind only over years of watching games.

Referees are typically generous in placement of the ball for the taking of a free kick unless it’s advanced unreasonably closer to the goal (sometimes, just sometimes an inch beyond the corner arcs) OR when the ball is advanced beyond the penalty area or beyond the halfway line. There is no instruction I’m aware of that says that placement must be within the bounds of either area. But, I keep seeing referees force the ball back before the kick is accepted. This seeming pettiness goes against the ambition of keeping the game flowing without unnecessary interruption.

Why do referees do it?

USSF answer (March 9, 2009):
To prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage.…


Situation: I am the CR for a U-12B recreational match. I have just awarded a goal kick and the keeper has placed the ball to take the kick. I then stop play for a substitution, as allowed by local rules (I wasn’t taking away a quick kick opportunity since the substitution was requested by the keeper’s coach). Upon signaling for play to resume, the keeper picks up the ball, and places it in a completely different area of the goal box (still legally placed, though), then takes the kick. After the match, one of my AR’s informs me that the ball cannot be re-placed like that and that I should have made the kicker take the kick from the spot where he originally placed it.

Question: I have read LOTG , GTP, and ATR and have been unable to locate anything on this. I have enjoyed working with this other referee many times and have respect for the advice, but I would still like to know where this is drawn from. Have I missed something? Where is there a reference to this?

Note: I do realize that, in some situations, this type of action may be considered as delaying a restart and, therefore, should be sanctioned as such. But, in this situation, I had already stopped the game for a legal substitution and did not see any harm in allowing this (the keeper did not take an excessive amount of time to re-place the ball).

Your wisdom would be appreciated.

USSF answer December 1, 2008):
At one time the ball had to be put into play at a goal kick from the side on which it left the field. This requirement was dropped some years ago in the interests of reducing time wasting, and play may now be restarted with the goal kick taken from any spot in the goal area. This was of some help in reducing the time wasting, but clearly not enough. The IFAB (the people who make the Laws of the Game) and FIFA (the people who administer the game worldwide) launched a campaign in 2000 that continued into 2002: Its theme was to eliminate excessive delay from the game. U. S. Soccer’s position can be found in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” where it has been since 2001. Advice 12.28.4 indicates that one reason for cautioning a player for delaying the restart is the act of unnecessarily moving a ball which has already been properly placed on the ground for a goal kick. Clearly the referee will not caution where there is no measurable loss of playing time, such as in the situation you experienced.

Not sure what your local rules of competition say, but the Laws of the Game permit substitution at ANY stoppage of play.…


eam A is awarded a goal kick when the ball crosses over the goal line out of bounds by the attacking team B. Team A’s goal keeper takes the kick while a defender stays in the penalty area. The defender is only in the penalty area and not in the box directly in front of the goal. As soon as the kick crosses out of the penalty area the referee blows the whistle and stops play. Then awards Team B with a direct free kick on goal from outside the penalty box. I must add that no player touched the ball after the kick prior to it leaving the penalty box.

When asked to clarify the call after the game the explanation given by the referee was that no player other than the goal keeper may be in the penalty box unless they are in the box directly in front of the goal. If I read the rule correctly this is wrong and only the opposing players must remain outside the penalty box. In this case Team B.

Can you shed some light on this? Was this just a bad call or was there an infraction by having a player other than the goal keeper in the penalty box?

USSF answer (November 6, 2008):
Normally we would not offer an “official” response to this question, as it is something that every referee surely “knows.” However, it seems clear that at least one referee may not be aware of the fact that only the opposing team is required to remain outside the penalty area until the ball has left the penalty area. I think we all agree that the original decision about the supposed offense was crazy but the follow-up decision about the restart was outright insane.  I have to wonder how this referee would respond to a defender other than the goalkeeper preparing to take the goal kick (which is a common practice).  Is it possible that you may not have reported correctly the referee’s explanation? Maybe the referee was merely wrong rather than stupendously wrong.

Law 16 tell us:

• The ball is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
• Opponents remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play

“A player” means any player on the team, whether the goalkeeper or a forward or a midfielder or a defender. “Opponents” means the other team, not the kicking team.

We might also reiterate, as it was asked in an earlier question, that the ball must leave the penalty area to be in play. It may do so either in the air or on the ground. There is no requirement that the ball must leave the kicker’s foot and remain in the air until it has left the area.…


I ran across a situation last night while I was doing a U10 game. During goal kicks some of the players were having difficulty kicking the ball directly beyond the penalty area. Meaning the ball would sometimes bounce or roll out of the penalty area from a kick. I had them retake the kick again so that they understood what they needed to do and because they are U10 if, after the second kick the ball still rolled or bounced out of the penalty area I let them play it.

Anyway one of the coaches (who is also a referee) and one of his parents approached me at the half and asked why I made that call. I explained to them that according to Law 16 the ball is in play when it is kicked directly beyond the penalty area. Their interpretation of what directly means was different than mine. I explained to them that when I was coaching, referees would make my players re kick the ball if it touched the ground before leaving the penalty area.

Is my interpretation correct? I’m going to be doing a lot of U10 games this season and the information will come in quite handy.

USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
The use of the word “directly” in Law 16 does not mean that the ball magically flew from the foot of the kicker to a point just outside the penalty area. It means that the ball left the foot of the kicker and somehow it left the penalty area without being touched by a human being. (In this case, referees and assistant referees do not count as human beings; instead they are regarded as part of the field.) The ball may leave the penalty area in the air or on the ground, but it must leave the area to be in play.

We are sorry that you learned the wrong techniques from what we call “inventive” referees, those who make up their own rules as they go along.…


Where should the AR stand when indicating a goal kick? The Guide To Procedures does not specify a position. In our training classes, the instructor said that it is customary to be standing in the corner behind the corner flag when signaling. The rationale given for this is that the AR should have traveled all the way to the goal line to verify the ball was out, and therefore that is where he is left standing and thus the signal should be given there. However, there are a few reasons to challenge this.

One reason is consistency. For all other indications of ball placement by the AR, the position is directed to be perpendicular to the point where the offense (foul, offside, misconduct) occured. In an offside situation where the AR is still moving with the players while waiting for active involvement, once that involvement occurs, the AR moves back to the point of the restart and indicates the restart by pointing his flag. So it would be more consistent to have the AR move to a point perpendicular with the top of the goal area and indicate the goal kick restart with his flag (acknowledging that while the ball can be placed anywhere in the goal area, in practice it is rarely placed far from the top of the goal area). This procedure would have the additional benefit of making the restart more clearÊto all participants and spectators who may have missed the flag signal: the restart is a goal kick when the AR is at the 6, and it is a corner kick when the AR is at the corner. As an aside, I have noticed while watching EPL games that the EPL ARs signal goal kicks when perpendicular to the top of the goal area.

Another reason to challenge this convention is that due to a shortage of referees, many refs are pressed into service to handle multiple games a day. A referee who wishes to follow the proper procedures finds himself running needlessly all the way to the corner to indicate each goal kick, even on blasts that are taken from 30 yards out. While it might seem trivial to save 6 yards on every run down the touch line to indicate a goal kick, it would serve to save energy that is wasted unnecessarily in the desire to follow the customary procedures.

USSF answer (December 19, 2007):
We see no reason at all to challenge your instructor’s statement that it is customary to stand at or very near to the corner flag. As your instructor said, the AR is expected to run each and every ball to the goal line, no matter how “certain” it is that it will either pass out of play or that the goalkeeper will get it before any opposing player does. The Guide does not give this guidance to the AR for ANY restart. Nowhere does the Guide specify this for either the referee or the AR, because where a restart is signaled is a function of positioning during the dynamic play which immediately precedes whatever event causes the restart.

Your point about consistency is actually apt — though not for the reasons you suggest — even though there is a major difference between fouls or misconduct and a ball passing out of play over the goal line. The AR must be at the place to indicate as closely as possible where the infringement will be punished or the restart will be taken. The only possible exception would be in the case of offside, which will often not be punished at a point perpendicular to the AR, but at a point farther back up the field. (Remember that the restart for offside is taken at the place where the player was when he or she was when the the ball was last played by a teammate, not where the ball was received or the player finally became actively engaged.)

What you describe as needless expenditure of energy is what we think of as doing the job right. If there is a shortage of referees, help out by doing some recruiting to make the job easier for you and your colleagues.…


I am trying to figure out why a deliberate handling infringement by the kicker is discussed in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17. It seems that once the ball is in play, a deliberate handling infringement as discussed in Law 12 would cover this. Is there something about denying a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity that requires this to be distinguished from a Law 12 infringement?

Answer (September 5, 2007):
We need to remember that the Laws are written for the players, too, even though most of them do not ever bother to read them. Although the same might be said for most referees after their first year of refereeing. The emphasis on deliberate handling in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17 (and you forgot 15) is to remind both players and referees that the game must be restarted for more serious offense if two infringements are committed simultaneously. In this case they are: a second play of the ball before someone else has touched or otherwise played it and deliberate handling. The second play of the ball is usually simply an indirect free kick offense, whereas the deliberate handling is a direct free kick offense. Most referees would recognize that, but some would not.…