What is a Soccer Penalty Kick?: Laws of the Game

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

What is a penalty kick in soccer? In the beautiful game, a penalty kick is a type of free kick that is awarded when a team commits a foul against an opposing player inside their own penalty area.

A penalty kick is basically a 1v1 between the penalty taker and the defending goalkeeper and these moments make up some of the most exciting and nerve wracking moments of them all during a soccer match.

In this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about one of the most important basic soccer rules, the penalty kick.

What is a Soccer Penalty Kick?

What is a Penalty Kick in Soccer?

A penalty kick is a type of free kick that is awarded to a team when the opposing team has committed a direct free kick offence inside their own penalty area. If a direct free kick foul occurs outside the penalty area, the team that got fouled will restart play with a direct free kick, not a penalty kick.

How is a Penalty Kick Awarded?

A penalty kick is awarded by the referee for various fouls and offense, but only if the ball is in play and inside the penalty area, such as:

  • Serious foul play
  • Dangerous play
  • Pushing, kicking, biting, head butting, throwing objects, or using excessive force
  • Deliberate handballs

How do Penalty Kicks Work?

Once an offense has occurred inside the penalty box and the referee has blown their whistle, it is time for a penalty kick. The laws of the game for a penalty kick are ruled by FIFA and by the International Football Association Board.

During a penalty kick, the fouled team gets a chance to take a shot at goal from the penalty spot, or penalty mark, which is found 12 yards from the goal line. These are the most important laws of the game to remember about a penalty kick.

  • The only players that are allowed inside the penalty area during a penalty kick are the goalkeeper and the identified kicker.
  • All of the other players must stay outside the penalty box until the shooter makes contact with the soccer ball.
  • The penalty taker can only shoot the ball forward
  • The goalkeeper must stay on their goal line, in between the two goal posts, underneath the crossbar, and should not be touching the goal net before the ball is kicked.
  • Once the ball is kicked, the kicker cannot touch the ball again until someone else touches it first

What is the difference between a penalty kick and penalty shootout?

A penalty kick can be awarded for foul play inside of the penalty area during regulation time, injury time, and extra time. Penalty kicks are a consequence of committing a foul on the opposing team.

On the other hand, penalty shootouts are a tie breaking method used only after regulation time and extra time, if the match ends in a draw and needs a clear winner. A penalty shootout is made up of five kicks per team and the team to score the most from those five wins the game.

If the match is still tied after those five kicks, the penalty shootout goes into sudden death, which means the team to miss first loses.

What is a Soccer Penalty Kick?

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of winning a coin toss during a penalty shootout?

Before the penalty shootout begins, there is a coin toss that must happen to find out which team takes the first penalty and on which side of the field. Research indicates that winning the coin toss and choosing to shoot first can provide a psychological edge.

The player who shoots first gets to put pressure on their opponent right from the start. Scoring this initial goal boosts confidence levels and sets a positive tone for the next players, improving overall performance. However, missing the first penalty kick can also set a negative tone so although the coin toss is important, it is just as important to score the penalty kick.

What is the most famous FIFA World Cup Penalty Shootout?

One of the most famous FIFA World Cup penalty shoot outs is the most recent World Cup final between Argentina and France, which Argentina won.

Can there be an indirect free kick inside the penalty area?

Yes, in soccer there can be indirect free kicks inside the penalty area, but only for minor offenses. For example, if the defending team passes the ball back intentionally to their goalkeeper, the goalkeeper is not allowed to pick it up with their hands and if they do that can lead to an indirect free kick inside the penalty box. Major offenses will lead to a direct free kick inside the penalty area, which is a penalty kick.

When was the first penalty shootout?

The first major international tournament to be decided by a penalty shootout was in the 1976 European Championship between Czechoslovakia and West Germany.

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How can I learn more about the game?

To learn more about soccer the most important thing is to join a team and play the game as much as possible. If possible, analyze high level games as much as you can and your own games as well by recording them with a soccer camera. Also read soccer books, listen to podcasts and interviews watch soccer documentaries, as well as some movies, tv shows, and anime.


In conclusion, a penalty kick is a very important part of a soccer game that happens when a player commits a serious offense against the opposing team inside their own penalty box. A penalty kick, and a penalty shootout, can be some of the most nerve-wracking moments for soccer players, youth or professional, coaches, and fans, but they also create some of the most exciting moments.

In this blog, I covered everything you need to know about penalty kicks, which are similar to direct free kicks, but inside of the penalty box.

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