Soccer Throw-In Rules

While the whole intent of a throw-in is to quickly resume game-play after the ball has been kicked out of bounds, there are still rules that must be followed.

Both teams, the one that is awarded the throw-in and the opposing team, are expected to follow the rules. Failure to follow the throw-in rules could result in the throw-in being awarded to the other team or required to be redone.

Making a mistake on a throw-in could prevent your team from gaining possession of the ball and getting the opportunity to score. Avoid making mistakes on the field by reading our detailed outline of the soccer throw-in rules.

Rule #1: Ball Must Completely Cross the Touchline

A throw-in is only awarded when the soccer ball completely crosses the touchline. Touchline, or sideline, are the long edges of the soccer field.

Even if a very small amount of the ball is directly on the line, the ball is still considered “in play” and the game continues. It isn’t until the entire ball rolls or goes over the line that game-play stops and a throw-in is awarded.

Rule #2: Throw-Ins are Awarding to the Opposing Team of the Last Player to Touch the Ball

Referees determine who is awarded a throw-in by who was the last to touch the ball. The opposing team of the player who last touched the ball is awarded the throw-in.

For example, if a player from the Red Team knocked the ball out of bounds, the referee would award the throw-in to the opposing team, the Blue Team.

Rule #3: Player Taking the Throw-In Must Face the Field

The player who is taking the throw-in must be facing the field when they throw the ball. They cannot be facing sideways or even backwards.

Rule #4: Both Feet Must Remain Off of the Field When Taking a Throw-In

Both feet must remain off of the field when taking a throw-in. The player’s feet can either be touching the touchline or on the outside,but they cannot be touching the inside of the field.

Requiring players to stay off the field during a throw-in not only prevents the team taking the throw-in from getting an unfair advantage, but it protects the most important rule of soccer – no hands (unless you are the goal of course).

Rule #5: Both Hands Must be Used to Throw the Ball

Both hands must be used equally when throwing the ball back onto the field during a throw-in. The ball won’t travel as far as it would if only one hand was used, but it will get the ball back onto the field.

The standard way to take a throw-in is to place one hand on each side of the ball with the thumbs up. Then, throw the ball onto the field.

Rule #6: The Ball Must be Thrown from Over the Head

The rules of soccer explain in detail the technique a player uses to throw the ball during a throw-in. The player must take the ball and pull it backwards up and over their head. The ball must touch the back of the neck or the upper shoulder. Once the ball is taken up and over the head and in the right position, the player can launch the ball onto the field.

Rule #7: Throw-Ins are Taken Where the Ball Left the Field

The ball must re-enter the field at the same spot it left the field. If the referee or ther assistant is unable to determine exactly where the ball left the field, a best guess estimate is made.

This rule is intended to prevent a team from gaining an advantage during a throw-in and moving up the field without any opposition.

It should be noted that how this rule is enforced depends solely upon the referee. Some referees may be strict about where the throw-in must be taken and determine that it has to be exactly where the ball crossed the line. Other referees may be more lenient and allow a player to take the throw-in a few yards away from where it left the field.

The reason why there is leniency with this rule is because the intent of the throw-in is to quickly resume game-play. If the throw-in had to be taken at the exact spot it left, valuable time could be wasted as the referee or their assistant worked to determine the exact area where the throw-in is to be taken.

Rule #8: Players on the Opposing Team Cannot Stand Directly in the Way of a Throw-In

Players on the opposing team will want to try and block other players from getting the ball during a throw-in. However, they must make sure they are following the rules and staying the proper distance away from the player taking the throw-in.

Players of the opposing team are required to stand 2 yards away from the touchline.

It is important to note that the distance is from the line that is drawn for the field, not the player. The player taking the throw-in has a little leeway on where they stand off the field, but the opposing team’s players must still be 2 yards away from the outlined touchline.

Rule #9: The Player Taking the Throw-In Must Wait for the Ball to Touch Another Player Before Playing

The player who takes the throw-in cannot simply take the ball, toss it onto the field and then run and take possession of it. The rules state that the player who takes the throw-in has to let another player, either from their own team or the opposing team, touch the ball before they can take possession of it.

A player who wants to keep possession of the ball after a throw-in may consider using a player on the opposing team. They can throw the ball at an opposing team’s player and let the ball bounce off of them. Once it touches the player on the opposing team, the throw-in taker can then take possession.

If you are planning on using this strategy as part of your game play, it is important to make sure that when you throw the ball at the opposing team’s player you aren’t doing so in a way that will harm or hurt the player. As long as the ball wasn’t thrown recklessly, the throw-in can be considered “good”.

Rule #10: The Ball Cannot Touch the Ground Until it is on the Field

After the player has possession of the ball and is ready to take the throw-in, the ball must not touch the ground. The ball may not touch the ground until it is on the field.

If the ball should happen to touch the ground, such as if the player were to drop it or it slips out of their hands, the referee will require the throw-in to be redone. If the ball keeps falling to the ground, the referee may award the throw-in to the opposing team.

Rule #11: The Goalie May Not Use Their Hands/Arms When Receiving a Throw-In from Their Team

A player may take a throw-in and toss the ball to their own goalie, but there are specific rules for how the goalie may handle the ball. The goalie may not use their hands or arm after receiving the ball from a throw-in. They may kick the ball back up the field, but they cannot pick up the ball and throw it down the field.

How to Perform a Throw-In

We created a detailed guide that describes exactly how to perform a throw-in. You will learn tips and tricks that will help you improve your throw-in skills and techniques.

What Happens if You Don’t Follow the Throw-In Rules?

The penalty for not following the rules depends upon what rule was broken and who broke the rule. The following is an outline of the penalties that can occur for not following the rules:

  • Player taking the throw-in touches the ball before another player – the opposing team is awarded an indirect free kick
  • Player taking the throw-in touches the ball with their hands before another player touched the ball – opposing team gets a direct free kick
  • Player taking the throw-in touches the ball with their hands before another player when in the penalty area – opposing team gets a penalty kick
  • Goalie touched the ball with their hands/arm on throw-in – opposing team gets an indirect free kick
  • “Foul” throw occurs (throw-in rules were not followed by the individual throwing the ball) – opposing team is awarded the throw-in
  • Player on the opposing team is not standing more than 2 yards away from the touchline during a throw-in (before the ball is thrown)- referee may give a verbal warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. However, this may also result in an automatic yellow card. It depends on the referee.
  • Player on the opposing team is not standing more than 2 yards away from the touchline during a throw-in (after the ball is thrown) – an indirect free kick is awarded to the player who took the throw-in

The throw-in rules may seem overwhelming at first, but they quickly become second nature to you the longer you play soccer. Just make sure you follow the rules, regardless of if you are taking the throw-in or on the opposing team, and you will be able to enjoy the game of soccer.