Soccer Kickoff Rules: Laws of The Game

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

What are the soccer kickoff rules? Although it may seem straightforward, a soccer kickoff is more than simply the start of the beautiful game because there are rules, tactics, and positions to consider.

Kickoff sets the tone for each half and restarts play after any team scores a goal, making it one of the most important parts of the game for soccer players, coaches, and fans to understand. In this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about one of the most basic soccer rules, the kickoff.

What is a Soccer Kickoff?

According to FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) a kickoff in a soccer game is used to restart play during both the first and second half of regulation time and extra time . Kickoff is also used to restart play during a soccer match after any team scores a goal during any half.

There are also other restarts of play if the ball goes out of bounds such as by corner kicks, goal kicks, or throw-ins, but only kickoffs are used to restart play after a team scores or to begin a new half. The center spot of the center circle at the halfway line of the soccer field is where kickoff takes place and this is where the one player is allowed to be during kick off.

All of the opposing team players must remain outside of the center circle until the ball has been kicked in any direction by the player taking the kickoff. Also all of the players must stay on their own half of the field.

To decide which team kicks off and which side of the field each team gets, the referee must first perform a coin toss with the team captains. The winning side gets first dibs on whether they want to kick off or choose a side to defend first.

The coin toss can have a huge impact on the rest of the match because by winning the coin toss a team can choose the side that benefits them the most, such as by having more supporters or better weather conditions during either the first or second half. After halftime, the teams will switch sides and defend the opposite goal that they defended in the first half to give the teams an equal chance of defending and attacking both sides.

Rules for a Soccer Kickoff

The rules for taking a kickoff are very easy to follow, but they must be followed correctly otherwise the player taking the kickoff will have to try again.

  • The ball must be stationary and it must be placed at the center mark of the center circle
  • All of the other players must remain outside the center circle until the ball is kicked and clearly moves. Once the ball has been clearly kicked it is in the field of play and the opposing team can begin pressing to win the ball back.
  • The player taking the kickoff must wait for the referee to blow their whistle and officially begin the game. The player can kick the ball in any direction during the kickoff.
  • No repeat touches are allowed until another player has interacted with the ball. This means that the player taking the kickoff cannot pass the ball to themselves.
    • If a player taking the kickoff does touch the ball immediately after kickoff, the referee can award the opposing team an indirect or direct free kick

Who takes a Kickoff in Soccer?

In soccer, a coin toss decides which team will kickoff first, but once that has been decided anyone on the team can take the kickoff from the forwards such as strikers and wingers, to midfielders, and even the center backs if they really wanted to. However, it is usually always one of the attacking players that takes the kickoff since it makes the most sense.

Soccer Kickoff Strategies

A kickoff is much more than just a simple way to restart play. It’s a chance for squads to make an impression with tactical moves that can affect the game and rate of action. Teams usually have a choice between launching quick attacks toward the opponent’s goal or maintaining controlled possession right from kickoff.

Taking Advantage of Space

A team looking to take advantage during kickoffs will strategically position themselves across the field, creating pockets of space ready for exploitation. This technique can catch opponents off-guard and open up avenues for advancing forward on the pitch.

Quick Attacks vs Controlled Possession

On the other hand, some teams prefer keeping possession of the ball instead. Rather than pushing forward immediately, they focus on retaining control over the ball by making short passes amongst themselves, similar to playing chess where every move counts.

Although less exciting than direct assaults, this tactic allows teams to maintain stability and control the game’s tempo more effectively.

Scoring straight from kickoff

Although it is very rare and hard to do, team’s can also aim to score directly from kickoff. One of the most recent examples of this is Germany Vs France, in which Germany scored within the opening seconds of the game.

Soccer Kickoff Rule Change

The game is constantly evolving from the equipment like soccer balls and cleats to the rules, or laws of the game, and the soccer kickoff rules are no exception.

Before 2016, teams were required by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) regulations to move the soccer ball forward into their opponent’s half at kickoff. This rule was later revised as it limited strategic options for teams initiating play since the opposing team knew that the kickoff team had to play the ball forward no matter what.

The rule today states that players can kick off going in any direction, backwards or forwards. Also, the old rule used to be that there had to be two players from the same team at the center spot during kickoff, but that rule has also changed and team’s only require one player at kickoff now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you score a goal directly from kickoff?

Yes, a goal may be scored directly against the opponent’s goal from kick-off. However, if the ball directly enters the goal of the team taking the kickoff, then a corner kick is awarded to the opponents, although that is very rare.

What are soccer kickoffs?

A soccer kickoff is a way for teams to restart play such as during the first half, to start the second half, to start any of the halves of extra time, as well as to restart play after any team scores a goal.


In conclusion, the soccer kickoff rules are very important for all players, coaches, and fans to understand since this is the primary way to restart play after a goal has been scored or its time for a new half to start.

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