The Throw-In – Law 15



Soccer throw-in rules are contained in Law 15 of the Laws of the Game.  The procedure for getting the ball back into play when it goes over the sideline is very specific.

In soccer, when the ball is propelled completely over the sideline (touchline) by one team, the other team puts the ball back into play with a “throw-in.”  In the words of Law 15 of the Laws of the Game, “The Throw-in,” “A throw-in is awarded to the opponents of the player who last touched the ball when the whole of the ball passes over the touchline, on the ground or in the air.”  Like in American basketball, the player uses his hands to throw the ball back into play from the spot where it went out. Unlike basketball, however, it must be done with both hands simultaneously, according to a very strict set of procedures.


“At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must:

  • stand facing the field of play
  • have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline, [and]
  • throw the ball with both hands from behind and over the head from the point where [the ball] left the field of play

With the soccer throw-in rules, all opponents must stand at least 2 yards from the point on the touchline where the throw-in is to be taken.

The ball is in play when it enters the field of play. If the ball touches the ground before entering, the throw-in is retaken by the same team from the same position. If the throw-in is not taken correctly it is retaken by the opposing team.

If a player, while correctly taking a throw-in, intentionally throws the ball at an opponent in order to play the ball again but neither in a careless nor a reckless manner nor using excessive force, the referee allows play to continue.

With the soccer throw-in rules, the thrower must also not touch the ball again until it has touched another player.”

A throw-in is an “indirect” re-start of play.  As such, a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in.  If the ball goes directly into the opponents’ goal from a throw-in, without having been touched by any other player, a goal kick is awarded.  If the ball goes directly into the thrower’s goal from a throw-in, without having been touched by any other player, a corner kick is awarded.

Offenses and Sanctions

“If, after the ball is in play, the thrower touches the ball again before it has touched another player, an indirect free kick is awarded; if the thrower commits a handball offense:

  • a direct free kick is awarded
  • a penalty kick is awarded if the offense occurred inside the thrower’s penalty area unless the ball was handled by the defending team’s goalkeeper in which case an indirect free kick is awarded

An opponent who unfairly distracts or impedes the thrower (including moving closer than 2 yards to the place where the throw-in is to be taken) is cautioned for unsporting behavior, and if the throw-in has been taken, an indirect free kick is awarded.

For any other offense, the throw-in is taken by a player of the opposing team.”

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • – See Introduction to the Soccer Throw-In.
  • – See Intermediate Throw-Ins.
  • – See Advanced Throw-in – The Flip Throw
  • – A player cannot be offside upon receiving the ball directly from a throw-in.
  • – An improper throw-in is commonly called a “foul throw,” but it is not a “foul” in the sense used in Law 12, “Fouls and Misconduct.”
  • – A goalkeeper cannot handle a ball thrown directly to him by a teammate. This includes the goalkeeper first receiving the ball with his feet.  If this offense occurs within the goalkeeper’s own penalty area, then an indirect free kick is awarded.  If this offense occurs outside the goalkeeper’s penalty area, a direct free kick is awarded.
  • Local rules may be modified for really young players to employ “kick-ins” or to be allowed to try to throw the ball a second time, after a “foul throw,” before the ball is given over to the other team.

NOTICE:  This article is based on the soccer Laws of the Game as maintained by The International Football Association Board (IFAB).  As represented in the article, the Laws may be paraphrased, edited for “American English” readability, or quoted in part or in whole.  Every effort has been made to be faithful to the letter, spirit and intent of the Laws however, since the Laws are subject to modification annually by the IFAB, recent changes may not be currently reflected.  Although national associations are permitted to institute local rules changes to the Laws, particularly for “youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football,” the IFAB is the original source for the official English-language version of the Laws of the Game.  If there is any question, the Laws of the Game may be found at

© Copyright, John C. Harves