Soccer Goal Rules: Laws of the Game

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What are the soccer goal scoring rules? Soccer or association football, usually referred to as the beautiful game, gets much of its beauty from the art of scoring goals. The rush of the soccer ball hitting the back of the net, the eruption of cheers from the crowd, the celebrations—it all adds to the magic of scoring goals.

FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, is responsible for creating the rules, or laws of the game, including the soccer goal scoring rules. In this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about one of the most exciting skills of the game, scoring goals.

Soccer goal rulesImage by ​​Lars Bo Nielsen

Soccer Rules: What is a goal in soccer?

In soccer, a goal can be defined in two different, but important, ways.

Firstly, a soccer goal is the physical structure, consisting of two upright posts joined by a horizontal crossbar that sits at each end line. Each team gets their own goal, and the team’s goal keeper is in charge of not letting the opposing team score.

Secondly, a goal is the ultimate act of scoring, the exhilarating moment when the ball successfully crosses over the opponent’s goal line, between the two goal posts and beneath the crossbar at either end of the field.

Soccer goal rulesImage by Waldermar

Who Can Score a Goal in soccer?

Scoring a goal in soccer is not limited to a specific position on the field. Any player from the attacking team can contribute to the team’s scoreline. From the forwards to midfielders to defense, anybody on the field can score at any given moment.

Even the goalkeepers are able to score goals, which may happen more during set pieces like corner kicks, penalty kicks, and free kicks. Goalkeepers can also score from open play, but that is very rare and hard to do, although it has happened before even at the highest levels.

It is also important to note that players can score “own goals” if they accidentally kick the ball into the back of their net. An own goal is also rare, but does happen from time to time, even at the professional level.

In simple terms, only players that are inside of the official field of play can score goals, regardless of their position. This means bench players will have to wait until they are substituted on to score goals.

Soccer goal rules Image by Chaos Soccer Gear

Goal Scoring Rules in Soccer

When it comes to soccer goal scoring rules, the laws of the game are relatively simple, but they can be a bit confusing if you are a youth or new player. Each goal counts as one point to the scoring team, regardless of where it is scored from or how it is scored.

The winning team is the team that scores the most goals at the end of 90 minutes. If both teams are tied at the end of regulation time, depending on the type of match it is, there will either be extra time, a penalty shootout, or the match will end in a draw.

Soccer goal rules

How do you score a goal in soccer?

Scoring a goal in soccer is arguably the most exciting part of the game. In order to get a goal awarded to your team you have to make sure that the entire soccer ball crosses over the goal line, between the goal posts and beneath the crossbar.

Players can use any part of their bodies to score, except their hands, and the ball does not have to touch the back of the goal net, but the entire ball does have to cross the goal line. Also, in order for a goal to count, the play leading up to the goal has to be clean, meaning no fouls or offenses were committed in the build up to the goal.

Nowadays in high level professional matches, match officials use technology, such as goal-line technology, to make sure they are making the right calls. If the ball passes the goal line, goal-line technology will let the referee know, via a watch, so they can signal a goal.

The rules for scoring a goal in soccer are the same from youth soccer all the way up to the professional level and these are the various ways that soccer goals can be scored.

Open play:

During open play, players can use any body part to score, such as their feet or head, but they cannot use their hands to score. There are a variety of ways to score from open play such as by dribbling through players and shooting, passing with teammates until you get close enough to shoot at goal, sending through balls, and much more. In order for the goal to count there must be no offenses present in the build up to the goal

Free Kick:

A free kick is awarded to a team when the opposing team commits a foul or offense and there are two types.

  • Direct free kick means that the player can shoot the ball directly to goal or look for an open teammate.
  • An indirect free kick means the team cannot shoot directly at goal unless someone touches or taps the ball first

Penalty Kick:

A penalty kick is also awarded to a team when the opposing team commits a foul or offense, but this time inside of the penalty box. When a player gets a penalty kick they get a clear chance at goal because this is essentially a 1v1 between the kicker and the goalie.

There are many ways to execute a penalty, one of the most famous ways is the “panenka” A penalty shootout differs from a penalty kick and although a player can score a goal during a penalty shootout, it does not count towards that player’s official stats, like a penalty during regulation time does.

Corner kick:

Similar to a free kick, during a corner kick, players can cross the ball to other teammates so that they can either volley the ball or head the ball towards goal in an attempt to score. Players can also score directly from the corner kick, although it rarely happens because it is hard to do in-game. This is called an “olimpico” goal.

Throw in:

Players can technically score from a throw-in, if they can reach the ball that far towards goal, and if the goalkeeper touches the ball first, such as if they are trying to save it, but it goes in. This means if a player throws the ball directly at goal and it goes inside, but the goalie does not touch it, it does not count.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to become a better player and score more goals than other players?

To become a better player and score more goals make sure to practice shooting at goal a lot through team training, pickup games, individual extra training with a rebound board, individual barefoot training, and also check out these tips to help improve every aspect of your life that impacts your performance and confidence on the field.

What is it called when a player scores three goals in a single game?

When a player scores three goals in a single game that is called a hat trick. A brace is when a player scores two goals.

Does the ball have to touch the back of the goal net to be a goal?

No, the ball does not have to touch the net to be a goal, but the entire ball does have to go past the goal line. If the ball is right on the line it does not count as a goal.

Can goalkeepers score a goal from a goal kick?

Yes, goalkeepers can score directly from a goal kick although that is very hard to do. This is one of the few rare cases in which this event has happened.


In conclusion, understanding the soccer goal scoring rules is important for any beginning or continuing player or coach. To win a soccer game, you have to score more goals than the opposing team and to do this you have to know the soccer goal rules.

In this blog, I covered everything you need to know about the official FIFA goal scoring rules, the two types of goals, who can score a goal, and the different ways to score a goal. So now that you understand the rules of scoring goals, it is time to go outside, practice, and score a goal during your next soccer game.

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