Soccer Goalie Box Rules : What You Need To Know

When you know the rules of the game you’re going to be better equipped to take advantage of loopholes and limits within the rules. When it comes to soccer goalie box rules, there are a couple of these “rules” that are not necessarily written. However, there’s a bit of a world consensus on how things are called inside the box. As a goalkeeper knowing a lot of these rules is going to help you in a variety of ways. I mentioned being able to exploit some of the loopholes. These “loopholes” are things that I’m going to want to talk about surely. 

Another important thing about knowing the rules is having the ability to hold down a conversation with a referee. I’m not just saying this so that you can complain about a call that they did, or didn’t make. At times each referee is going to have a different line on certain calls. It’s a good idea to talk through some of these things with the refs prior to the match. For example, in theory if as you’re punting the ball out you incidentally move your hand out of the box with the ball still in your hands that’s a foul. The ref would have to call a hand ball on you. Yet this is usually not something that is called. Here are some of the rules that you’re going to want to know. 

Why The Small Box Exists  

There are a couple of reasons why the small box exists and is typically used. For example, goal kicks need to be taken on the line of the small box. This is one of those rules that isn’t necessarily enforced all that much. With the new rules that allows goal kicks to be played inside the box apparently players need to be located outside of the small box for the goalkeeper to be able to give them a pass. While the opposing players need to remain outside of the 18 yard line until after the ball has been played.

Essentially goalkeepers are “protected” while going up to get a ball in the air inside of the small box. You can’t make contact with a defenseless goalkeeper if he or she is trying to cut a cross in mid air. The problem with this particular rule and making goalkeepers feel protected is that when there is contact the ref is going to be the one who decides whether it’s a foul or not. A lot of times regardless of what the rule actually states the refs are going to have a final say on what type of contact they are going to allow. 

Many goalkeepers “abuse” the protection that they get inside of the small box. It’s very rare that you see for example a penalty being given when a goalkeeper strikes an opposing player in a failed attempt to cut a cross out. These are all things that are essentially open for interpretation. You can talk to the referee before the game about some of these situations to see where the line is going to be.   

Can A Goalkeeper Grab The Ball With Their Hands At Any Point Within The Soccer Goalie Box? 

The “soccer goalie box” exists to limit the area where a goalkeeper can touch the ball with his or her hands. That’s essentially the main reason why we could say that the box exists. Yes, but that doesn’t mean that the goalkeeper is going to be able to use his or hands at all times within the soccer goalie box. If a teammate gives the goalie a pass back with his or her foot the goalkeeper cannot pick up the ball. The ball can be played with any part of the body besides the hands. If you get a pass back from a teammate and you pick the ball up with your hands you’re going to be called for a foul. The punishment is an indirect free kick from inside the box.   

If the ball is coming from an opposing player you’re going to be able to pick the ball up with your hands no matter what. If your teammate unintentionally kicks a ball in your direction you are going to be able to pick it up. Although this non intention is going to be judged by the ref, and the ruling could go either way. As with many of the rules involving goalkeepers it’s left up for debate and the ref has a final say. When in doubt don’t use your hands. A teammate can make a pass to the goalkeeper with their head, shoulder, or thigh to allow the goalkeeper to pick the ball up with his or her hands. 

Goalkeepers Can Leave The Soccer Goalie Box … At Their Own Risk 

One of the “soccer goalie box rules” is without a doubt that the goalkeeper can’t touch the ball outside the box. That’s pretty much the main purpose of marking the box down. Should a goalkeeper leave the box at all? Well, this is good or bad depending on who you ask. A goalkeeper can leave the box at any point without any type of problem. You’re not going to get a penalty like in hockey or anything like that. You just become a regular player. In some of the articles on the site, I’ve talked about how some goalkeepers are very comfortable outside of the box. 

When you’re comfortable outside of the box you’ll have the option of cutting through balls before an attacker can get to them and head towards goal. The reason why you’ll be doing this at your own risk is that if opposing players are seeing that you’re playing too far of the line they may get the courage to hit long shots that could easily go over your head. As with anything in life being a goalkeeper outside of the box should be a balancing act. You want to be out far enough to where you can get to some of those through balls. Yet, you also want to be close enough to the goal where you can take a couple of steps and dive to save any incoming shot.   

Why Is There Typically A Semicircle At The Edge Of The Box? 

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One of the soccer goalie box rules that not allow people know is the purpose of the semicircle at the edge of the box on a regular field. This rule is so ignored by people that you see a lot of fields being painted without the semicircle these days. There’s a particle reason for this semicircle though. That’s where players need to stand during a penalty kicker. Only the goalkeeper and the penalty kick taker are allowed inside the box. The rest of the players that want to rush the box when the kick is taken should stand outside of the semicircle.  

If you’re wondering whether a goalkeeper can touch the ball with their hands inside the semicircle the answer is no. Essentially that part of the box is ruled as outside of the box. It serves a purpose only on penalty kicks. In all of the other instances during a game it really doesn’t serve any type of purpose. You’ll see that many indoor fields or other types of variations of soccer don’t feature the semi circle. When we are talking about small fields this is just because the owner of the field didn’t feel like painting a semicircle. There is no other explanation most of the time.     

Punting Outside Of The Box 

I talked about this scenario briefly, but I want to bring it back up because it’s really the most common loophole within the rules within the box that we see. Again, if you hold the ball in your hands outside of the box that’s a foul. Yet, this is a foul that virtually no referee is going to call. I mentioned in a previous article where I covered rules that this was something that a ref called on me in the youth game. I would say to refs out there, unless it’s extremely clear like the goalkeeper is putting from the edge of the semicircle for example, just let it go.  

As I most refs do let it go. Speaking about things that refs let go when it comes to soccer goalie box rules, the rule states that as a goalkeeper you can only hold the ball with your hands for 6 seconds. When you actually take a clock and time how much some goalkeepers are taking its way more than 6 seconds. If you see games from Mexico or South America you’re going to see that goalkeepers get a yellow card for taking too long on goal kicks. Other than the yellow card though there is no subsequent punishment for taking too long. When you’re holding the ball with your hands too long the punishment should be an indirect free kick from the position of the foul. Usually, that’s going to be inside of the box. 

This is one of those loopholes though. As long as you are not standing there for hours you won’t get anything called on your for wasting time. If you do waste a lot of time on a consistent basis there’s a chance that the ref is going to warn you first. After they warn you they may make the call. Again, this is something that is so rare though that a lot of people have no idea what the rule is and what the consequences are meant to be.   

You Can’t Drop The Ball & Pick It Back Up 

One of the main soccer goalie box rules is that the goalkeeper can use his or her hands inside the box. Here’s something that you can’t do though. You can’t catch the ball, and then drop it to play the ball out with your feet. To then pick the ball back up with your hands to throw it out. That’s going to get called a foul more often than not, particularly if the ref is paying attention. This is another one of those rules that is essentially open for the ref’s interpretation. You’ll see some goalkeepers block the shot and let the ball sit in front of them without picking it up. When an attacker comes close, they’ll pounce on the ball. This is because blocking is not the same as catching the ball. 

Essentially, you can’t possess the ball, drop it and then pick it back up. However, that “possession” action is one that is up for debate. At the end of the day everything is going to depend on what the referee deems as actually possessing the ball. You’re not going to see this called too often. Yet, it is an action that you are going to want to avoid.        

Soccer Goalie Box Rules Conclusion  

These are some of the main rules that as a goalkeeper you would do well to be aware of. There are a couple of things that I might have missed. For the most part though, I got the feeling that a couple of these are things that people who are not very knowledgeable of the game might not know. If you have a kid that is starting to play goalkeeper it’s a good idea to make sure that they know and understand some of these rules.   

One of the things that I want to highlight is that certain places can essentially make up their own rules. I mentioned that certain indoor fields and other types of small soccer competitions, if you will, can have unique rules. It’s always a good idea to talk to refs and discuss what you can or cannot do. Particularly if you’re going to be playing a new venue that you’re not accustomed to. There are two reasons why this could be a good idea. One you get a perfect sense of what you can’t do. Plus, refs usually respond well to positive interactions with players. You never know if you’re nice to the ref they could remember that if they have to make a questionable call in your favor!