Strategies for Soccer Goal Kicks

It’s critical to have a good strategy for goal kicks in youth soccer. If done incorrectly, they can give the other team a major advantage and an easy shot on goal.

Follow these tips to help your team execute good strategy for soccer goal kicks.

What is a Goal Kick in Soccer?

Before diving into strategy, make sure you know the rules of a goal kick.

Basic overview of a soccer goal kick. A goal kick is taken from the goal box and becomes live after leaving the penalty box.
A goal kick is taken from the goal box and becomes live after leaving the penalty box.

A goal kick occurs when the attacking team kicks the ball out of play on the end line. This often happens when the attacking team shoots and misses the goal sending the ball out of play. When this happens, the official awards the defending team a goal kick to put the ball back into play.

For a goal kick, the defending team places the ball anywhere inside the goal box and kicks the ball to restart play. The player kicks the ball from a stationary position on the ground.

Starting with the 2019 Fall season, there are new soccer goal kick rules. Under the updated rules, the ball is in play as soon as it is kicked. Previously, the ball had to leave the penalty box before any other player could touch it. Now, either team may play the ball inside the penalty box after it is kicked.

The Dangers of Goal Kicks

In youth soccer, the players usually don’t have the ability to kick a stationary ball very far. And if they pass to a teammate, that player is usually not yet skilled at maintaining control of the ball.

A poorly executed kick can result in the other team winning the ball and getting another shot on goal. In fact, I have had players score many goals off of winning back the other team’s goal kicks.

Therefore, it’s a great idea to have a few strategies for safely executing a goal kick. And when you’re on offense, some strategies for winning back the other team’s kick.

Strategies for Executing a Goal Kick

Build-Out Line Explanation

This strategy works great in the 10U age division when a build-out line is being used. For more information on what the build-out line is, refer to A Guide to Your First Time Coaching Soccer.

Explaining the build-out line rule for goal kicks. On a goal kick, the attacking team must retreat behind the build-out line.
On a goal kick, the attacking team must retreat behind the build-out line.

When the ball goes out of bounds on the end line, the attacking team must retreat behind the build-out line. This rule reduces the risk that the attacking team wins the ball from your goal kick and scores off it. But it doesn’t completely eliminate that risk.

The build-out line prohibits deep kicks encouraging the use of good goal kick strategies. Even if you have a kicker that can launch the ball far down the field, they will not be able to when using the build-out line. The build-out rule states the kicker must pass to a teammate behind the build-out line before moving down field.

Build-Out Line Goal Kick Setup

When your team has a goal kick, have your keeper take the kick. Have the keeper place the ball on one of the corners of the goal box. They can place the ball anywhere in the goal box, but putting it on the corner keeps it away from the goal and closer to the target.

The build-out line goal kick strategy. Pass the ball out to a defender positioned on the side even with the ball. The defender then can dribble and pass up to the midfielder.
Pass the ball out to a defender positioned on the side even with the ball. The defender then can dribble and pass up to the midfielder.

Position one defender outside the penalty box, about even with the ball. This person is your primary target for the pass. Have another defender move over and protect the middle of the field. Finally, position a midfielder down field past the build-out line on the same side as the target defender.

When the keeper takes the kick, they will pass out to the defender at the side of the field. Once the ball is kicked, it is in play and the other team will likely charge past the build-out line after the ball. Keeping the defender back gives them time to control the ball before the other team arrives.

Ideally, the defender can get control of the ball and get in a couple dribbles up field. At that point, they should pass up to the midfielder who is waiting and ready to start the offensive attack.

Other Tips for the Build-Out Line Strategy

  • Place the ball on the same side as your target defender. This teaches good practice in not kicking the ball back across the middle of the field.
  • Have your target be the defender that is a stronger ball handler. Have the weaker one play the help defense in the middle of the field.
  • If one of your defenders is a strong kicker, consider using them as the target. After receiving the ball, they can send the ball far down field to a forward.
  • Since the ball is in play as soon as it is kicked, the pass needs to get to the target quickly. Remind your players to make sharp passes.

Simple Two Target Strategy

This simple strategy is best for 12U/14U and has several similarities to the Build-Out Line Strategy. If you have your team learn the Build-Out Line Strategy in 10U, this strategy will be a natural progression from that.

The simple two target goal kick strategy setup. Line up a defender out of the box and even with the ball and a midfielder down field from the defender. That gives the kicker two targets.
Line up a defender out of the box and even with the ball and a midfielder down field from the defender. That gives the kicker two targets.

When awarded a goal kick, place the ball on the corner of the goal box on either side. Have one of your defenders take the kick allowing your keeper to stay closer to the goal. However, if you have a keeper who can kick well and is quick to get back into position, you could consider having them take the kick.

Position a defender even with the ball but outside the penalty box. Ensure that your middle and backside defense are still in position to protect your goal.

Position the same-side midfielder down field from the target defender. How far down field? That will depend on the age of the players and their kicking strength. Finish reading the rest of the strategy and then work with your team to find the right distance.

The kicker now has two targets to choose from: a defender and a midfielder.

Target Option 1

The simple two target goal kick strategy option one. Pass the ball out to the defender who gets in a few dribbles and passes up to the midfielder.
Pass the ball out to the defender who gets in a few dribbles and passes up to the midfielder.

If they use the first target, they will pass to the defender positioned even with the ball. The defender should start dribbling up the side and pass to the midfielder when they meet resistance from the other team.

For this to work, the kicker needs to make a strong pass so it is not intercepted by the other team in the penalty area. Since the ball will be moving quickly, the target player needs to receive it softly so it doesn’t bounce off their foot.

That target player also needs to gain control of the ball. If they are being tightly guarded, teach them to step in front of the person guarding them and to shield the ball. Shielding means to keep the ball in front of you and the other player behind you.

When they receive the ball, they need to turn it toward the sideline and up field. This is a safe move to keep control of the ball. If pressured, the worst thing that should happen is the ball goes out of bounds on the side.

Target Option 2

The simple two target goal kick strategy option two. The midfielder breaks toward the kicker who passes the ball to the midfielder.
The midfielder breaks toward the kicker who passes the ball to the midfielder.

If the defender is being guarded and a pass to them is not safe, the kicker can use the midfielder as their second option.

The midfielder will be positioned at the furthest distance the kicker can reliably kick. But they won’t just stand their waiting for the ball. Instead, when the kicker starts their kick, they will start moving toward the ball.

This will allow them to break free of anyone guarding them. It also means the ball won’t have to go quite as far to get to the target. That makes it a bit safer in case the ball is not kicked squarely.

Other Tips for the Simple Two Target Strategy

  • Do not kick the ball back across the middle of the field. This is the danger zone and almost always results in your team being back on the defensive. This may even result in another shot on the goal for the other team.
  • Kids always think they can kick further than they can. Their teammates do too. Midfielders will often position themselves too far down field to be effective. Work with them to find the right distance to start at.
  • The key is to win the ball and that takes movement to break free from the other team. Don’t let your targets stand still. They either need to move to get open or physically position themselves to win the ball.
  • To be successful, use strong passes and soft pass receptions.

Advanced Two Target Strategy

This strategy simply adds extra movement to the Simple Two Target Strategy. Position your defender and midfielder in the same spots you did for the Simple Two Target Strategy.

The advanced two target goal kick strategy. Midfielder breaks toward the kicker to receive a pass. Then the defender streaks up the side to receive a pass from the midfielder. Defender should have room to dribble.
Midfielder breaks toward the kicker to receive a pass. Then the defender streaks up the side to receive a pass from the midfielder. Defender should have room to dribble.

When they make the kick, have the midfield sprint toward the kicker. This breaks them free of their defender. The kicker will pass the ball out to the midfielder who should be open to receive it.

As the midfielder receives the ball, the defender sprints up the sideline breaking free from anyone guarding them. The midfielder then immediately passes out to the defender moving up field.

The defender now has some space to dribble and should be able to get off a good pass to the forwards.

Since this is just a variation on the Simple Two Target Strategy, you should be able to use them both in a game and keep the other team guessing.

Offensive Strategies for Goal Kicks

So far, this article has been about how to execute a safe goal kick. However, when you are the attacking team, you want to disrupt the other team’s safety.

I love it when my teams are able successfully regain control of the ball and get an easy shot on goal. We have scored many times on this scenario using the following simple strategies.

Build-Out Line Attack Strategy

In 10U with the build-out line, there’s nothing fancy about the attacking strategy. It’s simply putting the kids in the right spot and ensuring they know when to attack the ball.

I like to line my offensive attackers right on the build-out line. That usually means a forward in the center of the field and midfielders on the right and left side. All of them right on the build-out line. I then put my middle midfielder 10 yards back from the line to catch any ball that does get through.

When the other team kicks the ball into play, have the players on the line attack right away. They will often catch the other team off guard and get a nice opportunity to score. If they don’t immediately win the ball, the middle midfielder is in a position to get any balls the make it past the line.

Attacking Forwards Strategy

I added the Attacking Forwards Strategy in 2019 when the goal kick rule was updated. This strategy is very similar to the Build-Out Line Attack Strategy, but it works for the older age divisions.

Attacking forwards lining up on edge of penalty area for a goal kick.
Line up forwards on edge of penalty area and attack any slow passes for quick goals.

In this strategy I take one or two forwards, depending on team size, and place them right on the edge of the penalty area. The updated rule allows the ball to be played as soon as it is kicked, so the the forwards are looking for quick goals.

If the other team makes a slow-rolling kick, the forward will immediately charge into the box to win the ball. They don’t even need to gain control, they just need to shoot right away for an easy score.

If the kicker sends a long kick, the midfielders will have to be in position to win the ball. Ideally, the midfield will gain control and be able to feed it back to the forwards for a scoring attempt.

Step In Attack Strategy

This strategy is basically the same as the Step In for Throw-Ins. You can learn about that strategy in the Strategies for Soccer Throw-Ins article.

Let’s review that strategy in the context of a goal kick. When the kicking team lines up their players to receive the kick, have your offensive players mark (guard) each potential target.

They should position themselves close to, but behind their marks. This gives the kicker the impression that the player is open and they will attempt to pass to them.

When they make the kick, have your player step in front of their mark and shield the ball as they steal the pass. On top of winning the ball your player will often have an open path to the goal. They should be able to get in a couple dribbles and then an easy shot.

Putting It All Together

Many youth coaches don’t consider strategy when it comes to their goal kicks. They’ll often just have a player attempt to kick it as far as they can. The ball usually doesn’t go that far and often goes back to the middle of the field.

Use the strategies presented here to execute safe goal kicks and to win kicks back from the other team for easy goals.

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