The Ultimate Guide to Soccer Goalie Rules

Table of Contents

Soccer is a highly dynamic game where all the players have distinct characteristics and roles during a match.

While there are general soccer rules, certain positions have rules designed specifically for them. Soccer goalie rules are meant to be followed by all goalkeepers to maintain a smooth game. 

Regulations are used to govern all players’ actions and maintain fairness.

This list of soccer goalie rules includes restrictions on handling the ball outside the penalty area, limitations on the time they are allowed to hold the ball, and specific procedures for goal kicks. 

Goalkeepers and soccer fans should understand these rules. They shape the outcome of a soccer match and contribute to the excitement of watching a game. 

Soccer Goalie Rules

Here are the goalie rules for soccer.

A Goalie Must Wear Colors Distinguishable From Other Players, and the Game Officials

In soccer, the rules state that goalkeepers should wear colors that distinguish them from their teammates. These colors are also different from the opposing team’s colors and the match official’s colors. 

This rule is implemented to maintain clarity on the field during a match so the audience and referee can easily identify the goalkeeper. This helps in a fast-paced game as well. 

Whenever you watch a soccer match, the bright and distinct color of the goalkeeper’s jersey is bound to catch your attention.

The role of a goalkeeper is set apart from other team members. The rules ensure that all goalkeepers wear distinguishable colors from the rest of the players. 

While the goalie is on the same team, he is different when it comes to the uniform. During the mayhem of a game, It’s easier to identify the color of the jersey rather than the face of the goalie. 

The players and referee need to be able to instantly tell the goalie apart from the rest of the players. You can imagine how slow it would be to identify the goalie if he wore the same uniform as his teammates. 

Other equipment used by a goalie may include a cap to prevent the sunlight from distracting him during a game. Protective headgear may also be used in certain cases. 

The gloves worn by soccer goalies aren’t necessary, as per the rules. However, you may not find many goalies without gloves during a soccer match; they provide extra protection to the goalie. 

There Must be One Goalie on The Soccer Field at All Times

The goalkeeper is a critical player on the team whose responsibility is to defend the team’s goal and prevent the opposing team from scoring. Hence, the rule for a soccer match is that at least one goalie should be on the field at all times. 

For the entire game, the person chosen as a goalkeeper has to retain that position and can’t change it during the game. 

Each team has a total of eleven players. One player has to play the role of a goalie until the game ends. This rule is the standard followed regardless of what happens in the field. 

In cases where a goalie is given a red card or has an injury, another team member replaces him instantly. Moreover, if a goalie leaves the field, he must be substituted before the game restarts. Usually, there are substitute goalies available. 

When the replacement goalie is unavailable or when all players have been used, another team player switches to become the goalie on the field.

Whenever you’re watching a soccer match next, keep an eye out on the goalie and notice how these players never leave the field. 

This is due to the integral role that they have in the game. Goalkeepers are vital to the strategy and success of a team. 

A Goalie Can Only Use Their Hands Within the Penalty Area

If you’re a keen soccer fan, you’ll know the rule that players are not allowed to touch the ball with their hands. This is one of the fundamental rules of soccer. 

However, you might have seen the goalie hold or throw the ball. Another rule for soccer goalies is that they’re allowed to use their arms and hands to touch the ball within the penalty area. 

This area is the rectangular area in front of a goal. This rule is called the ‘handball rule.’ If a goalie uses their hands to throw a ball outside this area, it is considered a foul. 

If this happens, the opponent team gets a free kick from the exact spot where this foul occurred. This rule is set to ensure that goalies don’t use their hands for an unfair advantage or handle the ball when it is completely unnecessary to do so.

While the goalie is allowed to leave the 18-yard penalty area, they are confined to the rules in the field and are treated like the other players. Therefore, they are not allowed to touch the ball under any circumstances. 

When discussing the penalty area, you should be aware that it is the ball that must be inside the penalty area when a goalie handles it. 

If the goalie is outside the penalty box, he can go inside the box to touch the ball. The rule also allows the goalie to dribble the ball inside the penalty area if it is right outside of it. 

A Goalie Can’t Pick Up the Ball if It Was Last Kicked by a Player on Their Team

In soccer language, this rule is called the ‘back pass’ rule, where the goalie isn’t allowed to pick up the ball if their own team member has kicked it inside the penalty box.

If team members continue to kick the ball inside the penalty areas of their respective goals, it will only halt a game. 

This rule was developed to ensure that a team doesn’t slow the game down by passing it to the goalie, who then picks and holds the ball.

However, goalies can hold or touch the ball if it is passed by playing it from the chest or head. As an essential part of soccer goalie rules, this one prevents both teams from wasting time and causing the game to slow down. 

By disallowing the goalies from touching the ball in such circumstances, this rule supports the efforts to encourage open and continuous play. 

A Goalie Can Only Hold the Ball for 6 Seconds at One Time

Since goalies are the only members of a team who are allowed to touch the ball with their arms and hands, they are also subject to certain rules. The maximum time allowed for a goalie to hold the ball is 6 seconds. 

You must have noticed in some matches that when a goalie exceeds this time limit, they receive a warning from the referee, who will then stop the game. Holding the ball longer than the set time may also lead the referee to give a free kick to the opponent. 

As soon as the goalkeeper has the ball in his hands, the referee begins the countdown. Within these 6 seconds, the goalie is expected to release the ball back into the field. 

A goalie can pass the ball to other team players by throwing, punting, or rolling it to the desired teammate. 

According to the rules of soccer, it is considered an offense if the goalie holds the ball longer than the 6 seconds granted. It is also an offense if another player challenges the goalie for the ball while they’re in control of it. 

Without this rule, the goalie could hold onto the ball for the entire game, and no player could do anything about it. Moreover, this rule ensures that no team delays the game by holding the ball for too long. 

A Goalie Can’t Score a Goal in Their Opponent’s Goal With Their Hands or Arms

The main rule of soccer states that no team player, including the goalie, is allowed to score a goal with their hands or arms. Even though this is a general rule, it also applies to the goalie. 

A goalie is only allowed to touch and handle the ball with their hands or arms when the ball is within the penalty area. The laws of the game are quite strict in this regard and state that a goal scored by a player’s arms or hands doesn’t count as a goal. 

As you may have seen in soccer matches, if such a case occurs, the opponent team is granted a ‘goal kick.’ Furthermore, a goalie could also get a red or yellow card if this continues to happen. 

There are many instances where a goalie needs to step out of the penalty box and play within the field. In these cases, it is important for a goalie to keep his hands to himself to ensure that he doesn’t grab the ball. Otherwise, it is considered a foul.  

A Goalie Must Stay on The Goal Line for a Penalty Kick

A penalty kick can occur in certain cases. For instance, if the game has come to an end and the score is a tie, the referee will reward penalty kicks to both teams. 

Since the goalie is the one defending the goal, he has to face the player kicking and ensure that the opposing team is unable to score a goal. Here are some rules that the goalie must follow before the ball is kicked by the opponent player:

  • Stay on the goal line.
  • Face the player kicking the ball.
  • Stay between both goalposts. 
  • Do not come in contact with either goalpost, crossbar, or goal net.

When the ball is kicked, the goalie must have one foot or a part of their foot on the goal line. Or, if the goalie is making a jump, he must be in line with the goal line. 

The goalkeeper isn’t allowed to come forward from the goal line until the ball is kicked. This rule is set to ensure that there is fair play between the penalty taker and the goalkeeper. 

When the referee awards penalties to both teams, all players have the chance to score a goal. These penalties are then counted, and the team with the most penalties is declared the winner. 

During penalty kicks, the goalies have to follow another set of rules as well. If a teammate is taking the penalty kick,  the goalie has to remain on the field but not inside the penalty area. 

He should be on the goal line, where it meets the corner of the penalty area line. A goalie is also the only team member who can be replaced during penalty shootouts in case they are unable to continue. 

A Goalie Can Change Places With Another Player During a Game if the Referee Is Informed

As you must know by now, the goalie can be subbed during a game. However, this substitution can only occur according to certain rules.

One of the rules mentioned above clearly states that one goalkeeper’s presence is mandatory on the field during the entire game. 

This is why if a goalie is unable to perform, they can be replaced. In most cases, when a goalie is injured, sent off, or unable to play further, he is replaced with either a substitute goalie or another team member who becomes the goalie. 

However, keep in mind that only 3 substitutions are allowed in a soccer game. There might be instances where a goalie is unable to play after a third substitution has been made. 

In this rare scenario, the rule allows the goalie to switch positions with another player on the field. This rule is only applicable in that case. 

The only thing required when making this substitution is that the team informs the referee, and this switch of players should occur at a stopping point in the game.

The players can end up getting a warning from the referee if they make a switch without informing him. 


Soccer is a highly exciting game with set rules that the goalies are supposed to follow. While soccer rules have existed for a long time, many fans are still unaware of them or may not know specific player rules. 

After going over these eight soccer goalie rules, you will understand how a soccer match is made fair for both sides. So, next time you watch a game, you’ll know which rules are being followed and why certain players get warnings.

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