The Start and Restart of Play – Law 8



The procedures in soccer to be followed for a Kick-off and for a Dropped Ball are the two items addressed in Law 8 of the Laws of the Game, “The Start and Restart of Play.” Although indirect free kicks, direct free kicks, penalty kicks, throw-ins, goal kicks, and corner kicks are also forms of restarts in soccer, they are each addressed in other Laws of the Game.


A kick-off is used to start the game; to start the second half; to start both halves of extra time (overtime), if used; and to restart the game after a goal has been scored.  For every kick-off, all players, except for the player taking the kick, must be in their own half of the field of play and the opponents of the team taking the kick-off must also be at least 10-yards from the ball until it is in play (this is the purpose of the center circle – see Law 1 of the Laws of the Game, “The Field of Play”).  In addition, the ball must be stationary on the center mark before the kick-off is taken.  After the referee gives a signal that the kick-off may be taken, usually by blowing his whistle, the ball is in play when it is kicked in any direction and it clearly moves.

To determine the initial kick-off to start the game, the referee first tosses a coin.  The team that wins the toss decides which goal to attack in the first half or to take the kick-off. Depending on the decision, the other team either then takes the kick-off or decides which goal to attack first.  The team that did not take the kick-off to start the game takes the kick-off to start the second half.  Prior to the kick-off for the second half, the teams change ends and attack in the other direction from the first half.

After a team scores a goal in accordance with Law 10 of the Laws of the Game, “Determining the Outcome of a Match,” a kick-off is then taken by their opponents.

A goal may be scored directly against the opponents from a kick-off.  In the extremely rare case that the ball should go directly into the kicker’s goal own goal without touching anyone else, a corner kick is to be awarded to the opponents.

The player taking a kick-off may not touch the ball a second time before it has touched anyone else. If the player taking the kick-off touches the ball again before it has touched another player, an indirect free kick is to be awarded to the opponent.  If the touch is a  handball offense, a direct free kick is to be awarded to the opponent.  In the event of any other infringement of the kick-off procedure, such as players entering the other half of the field or the center circle too soon, the kick-off is retaken.

Dropped ball

A dropped ball is used to restart the game when the referee has had to stop play and there is no other provision in the Laws of the Game for how play is to resume.  A player from one team participates in a dropped ball.

  • “The ball is dropped for the defending team goalkeeper in their penalty area if, when play was stopped:
    • the ball was in the penalty area or
    • the last touch of the ball was in the penalty area
  • In all other cases, the referee drops the ball for one player of the team that last touched the ball at the position where it last touched a player, an outside agent or, as outlined in Law 9.1, a match official.
  • All other players (of both teams) must remain at least 4-1/2 yards from the ball until it is in play.”

The ball is in play as soon as it touches the ground.  If the ball touches a player before it has touched the ground or if the ball leaves the field of play after it touches the ground, but without having been touched by a player, then the ball is to be dropped again.  If a dropped ball enters a goal without having been touched by at least two players, play is restarted with a goal kick if the ball enters the opponents’ goal or a corner kick if the ball enters the team’s goal.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

–       On kick-offs, players need to be taught that they can’t enter the other half of the field just because the referee blows the whistle to start.  They must be taught to wait until after the ball actually moves before crossing the halfway line or, as a defender, to enter the center circle.

–       Note that, since the ball may be kicked backward on a kick-off, the player taking the kick-off may actually be in the opponent’s half of the field when he takes the kick.

–       Because a goal may be scored directly from a kick-off, without having to touch anyone first, it can be considered to be a “direct” kick.

–       The general procedure for the performance of a dropped ball by the referee is for the referee to hold the ball waist-high in the palm of a flat hand and then to pull the hand down and away from the ball, allowing gravity to take it to the ground.

–       Players need to be reminded not to kick a dropped ball until it has touched the ground.

–       Dropped balls can become problematic if they are near the goal.  If this occurs, it is common to place a number of defenders goal-side to ensure that any caroms are covered.

–       A goal may not be scored directly from a dropped ball.  Assuming the ball is touched first during the drop, a second player must touch the ball before it goes into the goal for it to count.  In this sense, a dropped ball can be considered to be an “indirect” kick.

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