The Goal Kick – Law 16



In soccer, when the ball is propelled over the end-line (goal line) by the attacking team, the defending team puts the ball back into play with a “goal kick.”  In the words of Law 16 of the Laws of the Game, “The Goal Kick:” “A goal kick is awarded when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, on the ground or in the air, having last touched a player of the attacking team, and a goal is not scored.  A goal may be scored directly from a goal kick, but only against the opposing team; if the ball directly enters the kicker’s goal a corner kick is awarded to the opponents.”  The goal kick is taken according to a specific procedure as outlined in this Law.


  • “The ball must be stationary and is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
  • The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves
  • Opponents must be outside the penalty area until the ball is in play”

Offenses and Sanctions

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

  • a direct free kick is awarded
  • a penalty kick is awarded if the offense occurred inside the kicker’s penalty area, unless the kicker was the goalkeeper, in which case an indirect free kick is awarded

If, when a goal kick is taken, any opponents are inside the penalty area because they did not have time to leave, the referee allows play to continue.  If an opponent who is in the penalty area when the goal kick is taken, or enters the penalty area before the ball is in play, touches or challenges for the ball before it is in play, the goal kick is retaken.

If a player enters the penalty area before the ball is in play and fouls or is fouled by an opponent, the goal kick is retaken and the offender may be cautioned, or sent off, depending on the offense.

For any other offense, the kick is retaken.”

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • The team taking the goal kick does not have to wait for the opposing players to clear the penalty area before taking the kick. The kicking team essentially “assumes the risk” if this is done.  If an opponent touches the ball before it is in play, the goal kick is retaken.
  • In the spirit of the Law, the team taking the goal kick should provide sufficient time to allow the opponents to clear the penalty area before taking the kick.
  • In the spirit of the Law, the players of the team not taking the goal kick are obligated to clear the penalty area quickly. An opponent who does not leave the penalty area expeditiously is subject to being cautioned.
  • A goal kick is awarded to the defending team when the ball is struck directly into the goal by the attacking team from an indirect free kick.
  • The ball must be kicked. A goalkeeper cannot just pick up the ball.
  • A goal can be scored directly from a goal kick against the opposing team. As such, a goal kick is a “direct” re-start of play, but only if the ball goes into the opponents’ goal.
  • An “own goal” cannot be scored directly from a goal kick. In the highly unlikely event that the ball happened to go directly into the kicking team’s own goal, due for example to the ball being hit with a huge gust of wind, a corner kick would be awarded to the opposing team.
  • A player cannot be called for offside when receiving the ball directly from a goal kick.
  • Coaches should remember to address goal kicks as the start of an attack.
  • At the higher levels, goalkeepers usually take the goal kicks in order to put another player into the attack. At the lowest levels, a youth with a “big kick” often takes a goal kick while the goalkeeper continues to cover the goal in case something goes wrong.
  • See® “Introduction to Offensive Goal Kicks.”

 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 whole or in part.  Supplemental wording presented by® should be provided in brackets.  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