The Penalty Kick – Law 14



In soccer, a “penalty kick” is awarded if a player (defender) commits a direct-free-kick offense inside their own penalty area.  (There are other instances where a penalty kick may be awarded, as indicated in Law 12, “Fouls and Misconduct,” and in Law 13, “Free Kicks.”)  A goal may be scored directly from a penalty kick.

A penalty kick is a restart of play, after play has been stopped by the referee because of the offense, that utilizes a very strict set of procedures which allow a player to take a shot on the goal while it is defended only by the opposing team’s goalkeeper.  The shot is taken from the penalty mark, which is 12-yards from the goal line and centered between the two sidelines.  See Law 1, “The Field of Play,” for identification of the Penalty Area and the Penalty Mark.  The ball is kicked from the penalty mark, no matter where the foul occurred within the penalty area.


“The ball must be stationary on the penalty mark and the goalposts, crossbar and goal net must not be moving.

The player taking the penalty kick must be clearly identified to the referee.

The defending goalkeeper must remain on the goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts, until the ball is kicked.  The goalkeeper must not behave in a way that unfairly distracts the kicker, e.g., delay the taking of the kick or touch the goalpost, crossbar or goal net.

The [rest of the] players, other than the kicker and goalkeeper, must be:

  • at least 10-yards from the penalty mark  [This is the purpose of the partial circle at the top of the penalty area known as the Penalty Arc, “bubble,” or “D.”  See Law 1, “The Field of Play,” for identification of the Penalty Arc.]
  • behind the penalty mark
  • inside the field of play
  • outside the penalty area

After the players have taken positions in accordance with this Law, the referee signals for the penalty kick to be taken.

The player taking the penalty kick must kick the ball forward; backheeling is permitted provided the ball moves forward.

The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves.

When the ball is kicked, the defending goalkeeper must have at least part of one foot touching, in line with, or behind, the goal line.

The kicker must not play the ball again until it has [after it has been] touched [by] another player.

The penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any offense.

Additional time is allowed for a penalty kick to be taken and completed at the end of each half of the match or extra time. When additional time is allowed, the penalty kick is completed when, after the kick has been taken, the ball stops moving, goes out of play, is played by any player (including the kicker) other than the defending goalkeeper, or the referee stops play for an offense by the kicker or the kicker’s team. If a defending team player (including the goalkeeper) commits an offense and the penalty is missed or saved, the penalty is retaken.”

Offenses and Sanctions

“Once the referee has signaled for a penalty kick to be taken, the kick must be taken; if it is not taken the referee may take disciplinary action before signaling again for the kick to be taken.  If, before the ball is in play, one of the following occurs:

  • the player taking the penalty kick or a teammate offends:
    • if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
    • if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and restarts with an indirect free kick
  • except for the following when play will be stopped and restarted with an indirect free kick, regardless of whether or not a goal is scored:
      • a penalty kick is kicked backward
      • a teammate of the identified kicker takes the kick; the referee cautions the player who took the kick
      • feinting to kick the ball once the kicker has completed the run-up (feinting in the run-up is permitted); the referee cautions the kicker
  • the goalkeeper offends:
    • if the ball enters the goal, a goal is awarded
    • if the ball misses the goal or rebounds from the crossbar or goalpost(s), the kick is only retaken if the goalkeeper’s offense clearly impacted on the kicker
    • if the ball is prevented from entering the goal by the goalkeeper, the kick is retaken

If the goalkeeper’s offence results in the kick being retaken, the goalkeeper is warned for the first offense in the game and cautioned for any subsequent offense(s) in the game.

  • a teammate of the goalkeeper offends:
    • if the ball enters the goal, a goal is awarded
    • if the ball does not enter the goal, the kick is retaken
  • a player of both teams offends, the kick is retaken unless a player commits a more serious offense (e.g. illegal feinting)
  • both the goalkeeper and the kicker commit an offense at the same time,
    • the kicker is cautioned and play restarts with an indirect free kick to the defending team

If, after the penalty kick has been taken:

  • the kicker touches the ball again before it has [been] touched [by] another player:
  • the ball is touched by an outside agent as it moves forward:
    • the kick is retaken unless the ball is going into the goal and the interference does not prevent the goalkeeper or a defending player playing the ball, in which case the goal is awarded if the ball enters the goal (even if contact was made with the ball) unless the ball enters the opponents’ goal
  • the ball rebounds into the field of play from the goalkeeper, the crossbar or the goalposts and is then touched by an outside agent:
    • the referee stops play
    • play is restarted with a dropped ball at the position where it touched the outside agent” 

Summary Table of Offenses and Sanctions

                                                       Outcome of the Penalty Kick
                     Goal           No Goal
Encroachment by attacking player Penalty is retaken Indirect free kick
Encroachment by defending player Goal Penalty is retaken
Encroachment by defending and attacking player Penalty is retaken Penalty is retaken
Offense by goalkeeper Goal Not saved: penalty is not retaken (unless kicker is impacted)

Saved: penalty is retaken and warning for goalkeeper; caution for any further offense(s)

Goalkeeper and kicker offend at the same time Indirect free kick and caution for kicker Indirect free kick and caution for kicker
Ball kicked backward Indirect free kick Indirect free kick
Illegal feinting Indirect free kick and caution for kicker Indirect free kick and caution for kicker
Wrong kicker Indirect free kick and caution for wrong kicker Indirect free kick and caution for wrong kicker


Soccer Coaching Tips:

–       Penalty kicks may be used in some tournaments to determine which team advances after a tie or to determine a champion. These are governed by slightly different rules, most notably that once the ball has been kicked there is no follow-up allowed.  See Law 10, “Determining the Outcome of a Match.”

–       Coaches must instruct their players that within-game penalty kicks must be followed-up.  Historical studies have shown that only approximately 70% of penalty kicks are scored from the initial kick.

–       A penalty kick must not be taken until the referee signals to do so.

–       Since a penalty kick is a re-start of play and the ball is “live” as soon as the ball is tapped forward, it is legal for a second player to rush in and shoot the ball next.  This is known as a “tap” penalty kick.  (This is not recommended.)

–       Coaches need to determine, in their own best interest, if their goalkeeper should try to react to a penalty kick or to guess which way a kicker might direct the ball.

–       Coaches need to ensure that they are ready with prepared kickers when a penalty kick is given.  (The player who was fouled does not have to take the kick.)

–       At the highest levels, goalkeepers may scout (usually by video) and “keep book” (make a record of) a kicker’s penalty-kick-taking tendencies in order to try to increase their chance of making saves.

–       At the highest levels, prospective kickers tend to have at least two practiced shots in order to ensure that goalkeepers can’t just easily guess where they are going to kick the ball.

–       Up to a certain point, goalkeepers may engage in attempts to distract a kicker from their mission.  This can include waving arms, pointing, jumping up and down above (but not out from) along the goal-line, or talking to the kicker, before the kick is taken.  There is a fine line, however, between distraction and unsporting behavior, which may result in a yellow card.

– Referees have been instructed to apply particular attention to cases where the goalkeeper encroaches before the ball is in play, and saves the ball, to ensure that the kick is retaken.

– There are many aspects to taking a penalty kick.  Coaches should see, “Penalty Kick – Attacking Team.” and “Penalty Kick – Defending Team.”

– Coaches should also see “Penalty Kick Taker” for the training to be provided to the players who take penalty 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