Soccer Rules for Goalies: Conclusive Guide

Quality goalies are made from a different material than the rest of us. The best goalies know all of the rules.

It takes a certain kind of person to voluntarily dive into the path of a soccer ball moving in excess of thirty miles an hour and deal with the pressure of being the last defender for 90 minutes.

What are basic soccer rules for goalies?

  • Handle the ball for 6 seconds
  • No picking up the ball from team-mate
  • Goal kicks within the 6-yard box/goal area
  • The keeper stays on the line for a penalty
  • Handling the ball outside of the box is a freekick

I’ve gained a lot of respect for goalies, for putting their bodies on the line each game.

As well as the knowledge required to play the position.

Can the goalie leave the box in soccer?

Goalkeepers can leave the box in soccer, they move anywhere on the field. Once a goalie leaves the box they cannot touch the ball with their hands.

Youth game - mid penalty  (Soccer Rules for Goalies)
Youth game – mid penalty

This article will review the written rules for goalies and some insights and tips to assist you in playing the position.


Goalkeeper Equipment for Soccer Training/Games

All soccer players that enter the field of play must wear;

  1. Shirt/jersey with sleeves – Different from oppositions goalkeeper, officials, and outfield players
  2. Shorts – Team supplied shorts or ones that allow movement
  3. Socks – Tape or material must be the same color as the garment it covers
  4. Shinguards – Made from suitable material and be worn behind socks
  5. Footwear – Dependant on the playing surface

Optional Equipment

  1. Tracksuit bottoms- worn underneath shorts and the same color as the lowest part of shorts
  2. Undershirts – same color or pattern as shirt/jersey
  3. Goalkeeper glove – specific soccer gloves for grip and safety
  4. Goalkeeper cap – To give protection from the weather
  5. Headcovers – for protection must be black or the same color as the shirt
  6. Supports – knees, arms, legs as a lightweight padded form of protection
  7. Sports spectacles – used for protection of the eyes

Different from field players, goalkeepers may wear pants with or without padding to protect the player’s legs when diving.

As well as padded caps to protect from head injuries in such a physically risky position.

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⚽ German Latex ⚽ 5 Finger Saver ⚽ 360 Wrist Strap
Reusch Soccer Prisma Prime S1 Evolution Finger...
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⚽ Soft Gel Foam ⚽ Natural Latex ⚽ Breathable
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⚽ Punch Pads ⚽ German Latex ⚽ Thumb Support

While all field players can wear gloves to protect skin from the elements.

Goalkeepers typically wear gloves with padding and materials to better grip the ball and metal or plastic braces behind the fingers.

This is to prevent sprains from occurring and the bones from breaking.

penalty kick saved
A Goalkeeper saving a penalty kick

Soccer Rules for Goalies


  • Holding the ball for 6 seconds

This includes when the ball is on the ground and is touched by the keeper’s hand, held in the air, or held against the body with one hand.

  • If the ball is held for longer than 6 seconds an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposition.

When the goalkeeper has gained possession, the opponent cannot challenge the ball.

Goalkeeper Cannot Handle When…

  • After 6 seconds, the goalkeeper drops the ball – it cannot be picked up again until it’s touched legally by another player.
  • When the ball deliberately touched by a team-mate – it’s considered a back-pass and an indirect freekick are given from the position that the ball is touched with the hands.
  • The ball is thrown by a team-mate on a throw-in

Offenses against the Goalkeeper

  • Releasing the ball -The goalkeeper must be allowed to release the ball from their hands, otherwise, it’s an offense, and a freekick
  • Allowed to distribute – The goalkeeper must be freely allowed to throw or kick the ball when in possession
  • Dangerous play – in danger of injuring a player
  • Blocking – preventing the goalkeeper from playing the ball

The exception to Outfield Players

When an outfield player is injured they must leave the field of play before they can be allowed back into play.

For a goalkeeper, they can stay off the field.

Handling the Ball Outside of the Box

If the goalkeeper handles the ball outside of the box it will result in a freekick and a caution if;

  • Yellow card – if the handball stops a promising attack
  • Red card – if the goalkeeper stops and obvious goalscoring opportunity

Interesting Rule

If the goalkeeper throws the ball directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal kick is awarded

soccer coach and player

Substitutions rules for a goalkeeper

As was the case with my team down 3-0 before the half, sometimes a change in keeper is necessary.

This could be due to injury, performance, changing personnel due either to 1) the strengths of individual players or 2) shifting positions after the loss of a player because of a red card.

This past week in the Champions League, Manchester City had to substitute their starting keeper at halftime due to an injury.

Late in the second half, their backup goalie was sent off for the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity and Kyle Walker.

He had to take the backup’s jersey and gloves to play the remaining minutes of the game in goal.

He held his ground well and kept the ball out of the back of the net to preserve his team’s result.

  • Whatever the reason for the change, the goalkeeper can be substituted off to make way for the replacement as normal or a field player can switch spots with them.

This is done by notifying the referee who can hold play at the next stoppage at which point the swap can be made.

If the players make the change without first clearing it with the head official, both will be given yellow cards at the next stoppage in play.

Changing Places with the Goalie

Outfield players can change position with the goalkeeper as long as the referee is told before the game.

This is to change the starting goalkeeper or during the game, but it must be done during a stoppage in play.

Changing a Goalkeeper During a Penalty – If the goalkeeper is injured a substitution may take place before the penalty is taken.

Soccer pitch coaching

The penalty box keeper rules

Also known as the 18-yard box, the penalty area is the source of great anxiety for defenders, keepers, and coaches alike.

Games have been won, lost, and drawn in the dying moments of a game due to a handball or foul in the box.

Keepers have the privilege of legally using their hands in this area in most cases.

The only exception to this rule is when the ball is deliberately kicked to the keeper by a teammate.

If the keeper picks up this pass, an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team.

Passes to the goalie played with the thigh, chest, or head will not incur this penalty, and play will continue without stoppage.

Illegal back pass rule

An indirect free-kick is awarded to the other team from the place the ball is picked up.

The opposing team can shoot, but as it’s an indirect free-kick, the ball must touch another player for it to count.

If the goalkeeper handles the ball when not allowed an indirect freekick is given and no caution is given


A box is a dangerous place and it’s important that constant and clear communication is kept between the goalie and their defenders when the ball is in or around the box.

6-yard box/Penalty area

Within the penalty area, there is the penalty spot and the goal area also known as the 6-yard box.

When the ball rolls over the goal-line, a goal kick ensues. Goal kicks must be taken from within the 6-yard box.

Opposing players must stay outside the penalty box until the ball is played by the goalkeeper.

Messi penalty kick vs Argentina e1576487994417
Messi penalty kick vs Argentina

When is a penalty kicks given

Fouls committed by the defending team within the penalty box results in a penalty kick for the attacking team.

The rules for a keeper have recently been revised to more specifically define the movements allowed by the keeper during the procedure of a penalty kick.

New penalty kick rule for keepers

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

  • Touching the posts or crossbar prior to the kick is also prohibited
  • The goalkeeper must not move off the line until the penalty is taken
  • During a penalty shoot-out, the opposing goalkeeper not involved must stand on the goal line out of the penalty box

I remember watching a knockout round match between the Netherlands and Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup.

The Netherlands goalkeeper, Tim Krul was subbed on just before the game went into penalty kicks.

He was brought on because of his size and the mind games he played with his opponents during spot-kicks and had a great record of saving kicks.

He jumped up and down, slapping the crossbar with his hands, and pointed to the places he thought the opposing player would shoot.

These antics, though effective in that match, would not be allowed under the current rules.

Penalty kicks and rebounds

If the penalty is taken during regulation or overtime periods if applicable, a blocked shot can be rebounded and scored by the attacking team.

Only in penalty shootouts is the ball dead once it’s blocked or is denied by the woodwork.

10 Goalie Fouls

Denial of a Goal Scoring Opportunity

The denial of a goalscoring opportunity commonly referred to as a DOGSO is a foul that stops an attacker from taking the chance to score.

A DOGSO is commonly called when the last defender or goalkeeper fouls an attacking player or commits a handball offense to prevent a goal.

This is punished with a red card to the guilty party as well as a penalty kick if the foul is committed within the penalty area.

  • It’s hard to predict when a one-on-one will occur but recognizing that conceding a goal is better than going down a player and gifting the opponent a penalty kick.

Be wise in the decisions you make in those situations.

Free kick rules

Free kicks are great goal-scoring opportunities for attacking teams.

It’s important to note if the kick will be direct or indirect.

  • Direct kicks can be scored without the ball touching another player while indirect free kicks must be touched by at least two players prior to entering the goal.
  • If an indirect free kick is scored without being touched by more than one player, the goal is disallowed and a goal kick is awarded.

To differentiate between the two types of free kicks, check the referee’s signal;

“The referee indicates an indirect free kick by raising the arm above the head;

this signal is maintained until the kick has been taken and the ball touches another player, goes out of play or it’s clear that a goal cannot be scored directly.”


IFAB Direct free kicks will not have such a signal.


Offside is not applied to throw-ins and corner kicks but did you know that a player who receives a ball directly from a goal kick cannot be flagged as offside?

Take that into account when the opportunity arises to catch a defense napping or counter on an over-committed opponent.

  • The goalkeepers’ arms are not included for an offside position

Goalkeepers Life

There are many rules to the game of soccer and a fair portion of them apply to the goalkeeper either directly or indirectly.

Take some time to better understand different parts of the game and try to find ways to use the rules in your strategy as a player.

Whether you’re a goalkeeper or a field player by trade, understanding these parameters will improve your soccer IQ and assist you in elevating your play.

The rules for soccer goalkeepers take a bit of getting used to, but knowing them will give your more confidence in the goal.

How can I become a goalie?

In order to play any position, it’s important to research the rules, requirements, and characteristics of each.

To become a goalkeeper, you’ll also need to practice blocking shots, punting, and goal kicks.
One more key responsibility of the keeper is to communicate and organize the players in front of them.
The goalie should be able to direct the attack as well as the defense due to their perspective on the field.

Can a goalie play offense?

Yes, the goalie can play anywhere on the field but can’t touch the ball with their hands outside the penalty area.

Some goalies have scored and it’s not uncommon to see goalies join the attack on corner kicks late in the game when their team is down a goal.

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