Soccer Goalkeeper Rules

A simplified guide to everything you have to know about goalkeeping laws.

Soccer goalkeeper

A goalkeeper is special because he is the team’s last line of defense and the first line of offense. Being the last person on the defensive gives him the privilege to handle the ball.

But in performing his job, there are rules and regulations a goalkeeper must follow. Below are all the goalkeeping rules you need to know simplified through questions.


What is the necessary equipment for a goalkeeper?Glove and headgear for goalkeeper

Like all the players on the field, goalies are required to wear a uniform, long socks, shin guards, and soccer cleats. However, Law 4 of FIFA’s Laws of the Game requires that a goalie’s equipment should be distinctive from the rest of the players and officials.

Wearing of soccer gloves is not mandated by the game laws but goalkeepers almost everywhere use gloves to protect their hands from injury and improve grip on the ball. A protective headgear may be worn as long as it does not present threat to other players.
Can a team play without a goalkeeper?

No, a team must have a goalkeeper at all times as mandated by the international rules of football.

Can the goalkeeper play outside the penalty box?

Yes, a goalkeeper may join outfield players in the attack. This usually happens when a team is trailing during injury period and they need to attack in full force.

When can the goalkeeper hold the ball with his hands?Petr Cech handling the ball

The goalie can handle the ball when he is inside his own penalty area. However, there are situations when he cannot touch the ball:

  • After a throw-in made by a teammate
  • When the ball is not yet touched by another player after it he has parried or punted it


If any of those violations are committed, the opposing team will be rewarded with an indirect free kick where the goalkeeper made the infraction. This means that an indirect free kick can sometimes take place very close to the goal.

How long can a goalkeeper hold the ball?

A goalkeeper cannot be in possession the ball for more than six seconds. Otherwise, the opponents will be given an indirect free kick. In the past, goalkeepers were not allowed to take more than four steps with the ball but it has been replaced with the six-second rule.

A keeper is considered in possession of the ball when he holds the ball with his hands, it is in between his body and the ground, or when he is bouncing or throwing the ball in the air.

Is it legal for a goalkeeper to take a penalty kick?

Yes, a goalkeeper may take a penalty kick . There is no law that prevents him from doing so. However, it is not strategically wise for a team to make their keeper take the penalty because this will allow the opponents to score an easy goal on the counterattack.
Goalkeepers are also allowed to participate in penalty shootouts, and such is not a rare case.

Can the goalkeeper be substituted?

Yes, a substitute goalkeeper may come in during the match as long as they follow the rules for substitution in football. Also, a keeper may swap places with any of the outfield player as long as it is done during stoppage time.

What are the rules for the goalkeeper during a penalty kick?

When guarding against a penalty kick, the goalkeeper must stay on his goal line and in between the goalposts. He is free to move sideways or make other movements as long as he does not move forward before the kick is taken.

What happens if the goalkeeper is sent off with a red card?

If the goalkeeper is sent off after a red card violation, any of the outfield player can takeover his position. The team also has the option of fielding a substitute keeper on the condition that one of the outfield players must be substituted out.