Soccer Penalty Kicks Rules Explained

Soccer Penalty Kicks Rules Explained

Last updated on April 10th, 2023 at 08:39 pm

Soccer is certainly an exciting sport that is played and watched by millions of people across the globe. There’s not a lot of goals being scored from match-to-match. When there is, the crowd erupts!

Many special moments happen over the course of the game including possible fouls inside the penalty area. This results in a free kick also known as a penalty kick. It’s just a one-on-one battle between the kicker and the keeper.

What makes the game even more exciting is when the game goes into a penalty shootout during an important match.

In this article, we’ll explain the soccer penalty kicks rules, shootouts, and how it impacts the game.

What is a Penalty Kick?

If an offensive team is fouled inside the penalty area, the referee will award the team a penalty kick. 

A penalty kick is a direct free kick taken from 12 yards away centered in front of the goal. The abbreviation for a penalty kick is ‘PK’. 

The attacking team can choose any player that is currently on the field to take the PK. In most cases, this player is an offensive-minded player such as a Striker, Wing or Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM).

How Does a Team Get Awarded a Penalty Kick?

There are certain situations where a team is awarded a penalty kick. If the defending team commits the following offenses inside their own penalty area, the result is a PK.

  • Deliberate handball (other than the goalkeeper)
  • Careless, reckless or excessive force including: charging, jumping, pushing, striking or kicking a player
  • Purposely impeding progress with contact
  • Holding, biting and spitting at an opponent

Simple Penalty Kick Rules to Follow

In order to legally take a penalty shot, a player must adhere to all of the following:

  • The ball must be still on the penalty spot
  • Players – other than the kicker and goalie – cannot be in the penalty area
  • The ball must travel forward
  • Only the player who is identified by the referee can take the kick
  • The kicker can’t “juke” the goalie before their shot

How Penalty Kicks are Taken

The process of taking a penalty kick during a match is simple. Here are the steps in which the offensive team kicks a PK:

  1. After a foul has occurred, the soccer ball is placed by the referee 12 yards away on the penalty spot.
  2. The team chooses who takes the penalty shot and they identify themselves to the referee.
  3. Players on both teams except the defending goalie must stand behind the penalty area.
  4. The keeper must have one foot on the goal line (keepers can no longer dash forward) and facing the kicker.
  5. The referee will blow his or her whistle to indicate the PK can be taken.
  6. The kicker must proceed to kick the ball in a single motion.
  7. The ball becomes live after the penalty shot is taken (assuming that there’s time on the game clock).

What About Penalty Shootouts?

A shootout will occur if a soccer match needs to determine a winner (i.e. – tournament or playoffs) and the end of regulation and overtime ends in a draw. 

In a professional soccer match a game will last 90-minutes plus (2) 15-minute overtime periods. In the event that the game is still tied, the captains will meet with the referee to determine which end of the field that shootout will occur and to decide which team will shoot first.

Both teams will then select five players to take penalty shots. Each team will alternate who shoots.

The team with the most penalty goals after the five shots will win the shootout.

If the shots made are split evenly after 10 shots (five by each team) then the penalty shootout will continue. Also known as “sudden death”, whichever team scores without the other team scoring in the round wins.


Penalty kicks were adopted in 1891 when the International Football Association Board (IFAB) decided it was necessary.

In today’s game, it puts the responsibility of the defensive team to not commit a foul where there’s a good opportunity to score by the opposing team. Just imagine if there were no penalty shots? Things would certainly get rough inside the penalty area.

It does make the game more enjoyable but can also be heartbreaking during a youth soccer game.

My son has been in tournaments where the championship game was determined by a shootout. We’ve been on both sides and I can tell you that these kids feel the extremes of pure joy and sadness.

It’s best to just treat any penalty kick or shootout as “part of the game”. Win or lose; make or miss…it’s just one shot on one day. There’s plenty of soccer ahead!

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

Find a Club Near You

Be in the know for everything soccer in the U.S. 🥳️

SoccerNovo was built out of pure passion for the game of soccer. Our team provides helpful and entertaining content that helps players become better and enjoy the game more.
© 2023 SoccerNovo, LLC. Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
SoccerNovo is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases but there's no cost to you.