Taking a throw-in in soccer is a key part of the sport. You see it in every soccer game, and it can be a great starting point for launching an attack on the other team’s goal. Because of this, it is vitally important that you know the rules of soccer that apply to a throw-in and what they mean.
The soccer throw-in rules are:
- A throw-in is awarded when the whole ball passes over the touchline.
- The opponents of the last player to touch the ball are awarded the throw-in.
- The player taking the throw-in must stand facing the field of play
- The player taking the throw-in must have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline
- The player taking the throw-in must throw the ball with both hands
- The player taking the throw-in must throw the ball from behind and over the head
- The player taking the throw-in must throw the ball from the point where it left the field of play
- All players on the opposing team must stand at least 2 yards (2 m) from where the throw-in is to be taken.
- The player taking the throw must not touch the ball again until it has touched another player.
- The ball must not touch the ground before it’s entered the field of play.
- A goalkeeper can’t touch the ball with their hand/arm after receiving the ball directly from a throw-in
Law 15 of the Laws of the Game of soccer is dedicated solely to the rules surrounding a throw-in.
A throw-in in soccer occurs when the whole ball passes over the touchline on the side of the soccer field. The referee will decide which team will take the throw-in based on which player last touched the ball before it went out of play.
As the throw-in is so commonplace in any soccer game, it’s important for any player, referee, or fan to fully understand what the requirements are.
Rules for a Throw-In in Soccer
1. A throw-in is awarded when the whole ball passes over the touchline.
On a soccer field, the lines that run down either side of the length of the field are known as the touchlines.
If the soccer ball passes over one of these lines during a game then a throw-in is awarded by the referee.
It’s important to note that the “whole” ball must pass over the line for the ball to be considered out of play. If even a fraction of the ball is still on, or directly above, the touchline, the ball is still in play. This is the same for any time the ball goes out of play in soccer, including for a goal kick or a corner kick.
To find out more about the layout of a soccer field click here to go to my article giving you all the details.
2. The opponents of the last player to touch the ball are awarded the throw-in.
When the ball goes out of play the referee or their assistant will take note of which player last touched the ball. The referee will then award the throw-in to the opposing team.
This rule is in place to encourage the teams to keep the ball in play. In some sports, there can be an advantage at times to put the ball out of play. In soccer, this is discouraged to keep the game moving.
3. The player taking the throw-in must stand facing the field of play.
The player must be looking towards the field where the players are and where they are going to throw the ball.
This not only makes sense as the thrower is far more likely to throw the ball accurately to the player they intend to throw it too but also prevents the player from throwing the ball back over their head or even sideways.
4. The player taking the throw-in must have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline
This rule is in place to stop the player taking the throw from stepping onto the soccer field as they throw the ball.
The intention of this rule is to keep the player from gaining an unfair advantage by stepping onto the field and throwing the ball to another player from a position closer to them than they should be.
It also ensures that the throw-in rule stays consistent with Law 12 of the rules of soccer which restricts any player from handling the soccer ball while on the soccer field.
5. The player must throw the ball with both hands
The rules of soccer require a player to throw the ball with both hands and not only one. As most of us know from experience you can throw the ball much farther with one hand than two. So why limit players to throwing with two hands?
The reason for this is to prevent players from launching huge throws from one side of the field to the other this rule was brought in to make the throw-in a much shorter and controlled throw. A throw-in is designed to get the ball back onto the field not to be used as an opportunity to hurl the ball vast distances.
6. The player must throw the ball from behind and over the head, and
At a throw-in, the ball must come from behind and come over the player’s head. The reason for this part of the rules is to define the technique of how a throw-in should be taken.
If this wasn’t specified a player may throw the ball under-arm, or from the chest, or even sideways from the hip. There would be no set method of throwing the ball.
7. The player must throw the ball from where it left the field of play.
This part of this rules specifies that a player must throw the ball from the place where the ball left the field of play. Where the ball went off the field is where it must come back on.
This rule ensures that neither the attacking team is at an advantage or the defending team is at a disadvantage.
Although this is a requirement of a throw-in, if you’ve watched soccer for any length of time you will have probably noticed that the referee can be quite lenient with this rule. Sometimes you will see players taking the throw-in 5 yards (5m) or more away from the location where the ball went out.
This is mainly because the advantage to a team of moving a few yards up or down the field is relatively minor so a referee allows it to take place to allow the game to keep moving and not lose momentum.
8. All players on the opposing team must stand at least 2 yards (2 m) from where the throw-in is to be taken.
This rule applies to the specific point on the touchline where the player is taking the throw-in from not from the player themself.
A player may choose to take the throw-in from a few yards behind the touchline if they wish. However, this doesn’t mean the opposing players can come closer to the touchline. The rule requires the opponents to stay 2 yards (2m) from the touchline, not the player.
9. The player taking the throw must not touch the ball again until it has touched another player.
A soccer player cannot throw the ball in to themself. Once the player has released the ball from their hands they must wait until another player has come into contact with the ball before touching the ball again.
Interestingly, the player taking the throw-in is allowed to deliberately throw the ball at an opponent to bounce the ball off them and retake control of the ball as long as the player throwing the ball doesn’t use excessive force, isn’t careless, and doesn’t throw the ball in a reckless manner.
10. The ball must not touch the ground before it’s entered the field of play.
When a player throws the ball in it must not touch the ground until it has passed back over the touchline and into the field of play.
If the ball does touch the ground before this then the player, or team, taking the throw-in must retake it.
11. A goalkeeper can’t touch the ball with their hand/arm after receiving the ball directly from a throw-in
A goalkeeper can’t catch the ball from a throw-in if it’s thrown to them from a player on their own team. This is part of what is known as the back pass rule in soccer.
The back-pass rule prohibits a goalkeeper from handling the ball in two situations. When the ball is kicked back to them by a player on their own team, or when the ball is thrown to them from a player on their own team.
The idea behind this is to prevent a team from wasting time by passing to the goalkeeper who will then pick the ball up and hold on to it for as long as possible.
For a more in-depth look at what the back pass rule means check out this guide I put together explaining the back pass rule in an easy to understand format.
If you want to know more about the rules goalies have to follow, click here and check out my article “8 Rules for Soccer Goalies“.
Offenses and Sanctions from a Throw-in
Knowing the rules of soccer for a throw-in is obviously important. But equally important is knowing what the consequences are of not following the rules.
Offenses by the player taking the throw-in
There are far more opportunities for the player taking the throw-in to make a mistake than their opponents.
The first offense a player may commit is if the player taking the throw touches the ball again before it has touched another player. In this case, the referee will award an indirect free kick to the opposition team.
If when touching the ball again, the player uses their hand, then a direct free kick will be awarded to the player’s opponents. This is unless the offense takes place in the player’s own penalty area in which case a penalty is awarded.
If you want to find out more about the differences between direct and indirect free-kicks, check out my article – Free Kicks in Soccer: All the Details.
The only exception to a penalty being awarded would be if the goalie was the player who took the throw-in and then touched the ball in their penalty area. If this happened then an indirect free-kick would be awarded by the referee.
A Foul Throw
As the rules above show, there are 3 requirements the player taking the throw-in must follow:
- The must stand facing the field of play
- have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline
- throw the ball with both hands from behind and over the head from the point where it left the field of play
If a player throws the ball in any way that doesn’t follow these rules, then the player will have taken what is known as a foul throw.
A foul throw is when the soccer player taking the throw doesn’t follow all of the rules for a throw-in. The requirements must be followed every time a throw-in is taken regardless of where on the field the throw-in is or which team is taking it. If a player doesn’t meet the requirements, then a throw-in will be awarded to the opposing team.
Offenses by the opponent
The opponent at a throw-in is also at risk of committing an offense at a throw-in.
The main way is that a player cannot block a throw-in in soccer. The rules clearly state that a player cannot be closer than 2 yards (2m) from the place where the throw-in is to be taken. Any player closer than this will be considered to be blocking the throw-in.
This player will be cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown a yellow card. If the throw-in has not been taken at this point the player can then carry on and take it, but if the throw-in had already been taken then an indirect free-kick will be awarded to the team of the player who took the throw-in.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Hopefully, you now feel you have a much better understanding of the rules of soccer regarding a throw-in.
If you’re interested in knowing more about throw-ins in soccer click here to check out my article about whether a player can score from a throw-in.
If you’re looking for recommendations for the best soccer equipment to buy then click here to go to my Recommended Soccer Equipment page. I’ve put together all the best equipment out there for things such as cleats, goalie gloves, training programs, and even goals.
And finally, if you’re looking for more information on the rules of soccer click here to check out my Easy to Understand Guide to the Rules of Soccer.
[All the soccer rules in this article are taken from the official Laws of the Game.]