The lines and markings on a soccer field are all there for a reason. This includes the 6-yard box that sits just in front of the goal at either end of the field. Having spent years playing and watching soccer, let me tell you exactly why it’s there.
The 6-yard box in soccer indicates the area on the field from where the defending team can take a goal kick. It also marks the only location on a soccer field where the attacking team cannot take an indirect free-kick.
Keep reading to find out:
- The significance of the 6-yard box
- The alternative name for the 6-yard box
- If the 6-yard box is always 6-yards
- If the goalie can be touched in this area
- and whether or not a soccer player can be offside within the 6-yard box
You may be surprised what you find out!
What Is the Point of the 6-Yard Box?
I have to admit that when I first started watching soccer, I was confused about the significance of the 6-yard box. But now I understand its purpose, its position on the field makes a lot of sense.
The main point of having a 6-yard box in soccer is to show the area on the field from where a player on the defending team can take a goal kick.
If the ball travels over the goal line and an attacking player was the last player to touch the ball, the referee will award a goal kick. A goal kick can only be taken from within the defending team’s 6-yard box.
In my recent article covering all the details about goal kicks, I explained why the rules restrict the location from where a player can take a goal kick.
But essentially, restricting goal kicks to the 6-yard box means the defending team can’t take the kick from too far up the field and gain an unfair advantage.
The second reason for the 6-yard box is to mark the edges of the area on a soccer field from where the attacking team cannot take an indirect free kick.
The official rules of soccer state that when a referee awards a team an indirect free-kick for an offense that takes place within a 6-yard box, the attacking team must take the free-kick from:
“the nearest point on the goal area (6-yard box) line which runs parallel to the goal line.“IFAB Laws of the Game
This means that the attacking team must take the free-kick from the edge of the 6-yard box and be no closer to the goal.
This rule prevents a player from taking a free-kick too close to the goal and giving the attacking team an unfair advantage.
If you want to understand more about indirect free kicks, check out my article – Indirect Vs Direct Kicks in Soccer.
Otherwise, you will have probably noticed that the official soccer rules referred to the 6-yard box as the “goal area”. Here’s why…
The 6-Yard Box Is Also Called the Goal Area
Although people often refer to the small rectangular box around the goal on a soccer field as the “6-yard box”, this is only a colloquial term that has become popular since the time the first game of soccer was played.
The official term for this rectangle is actually the “goal area”.
The reason people started calling it the 6-yard box rather than the goal area is because of the distance the box extends from the goal line.
Is the 6-Yard Box Actually 6 Yards?
It may seem strange to ask about the measurements of an area that has a specific distance in its name, but not everything is as it sounds. So wondering if the 6-yard box is actually 6 yards is a fair question.
In this case, the name is an accurate representation of the area.
The size of the goal area in soccer, also known as the 6-yard box, is 6 yards x 20 yards. The shorter lines of the rectangle extend 6 yards onto the soccer field from the goal line and connect to a 20-yard line that runs parallel to the goal line.
If you want to know how big this area is in meters:
The goal area is 18.3 meters wide and 5.5 meters deep.
In my article – How Big is a Soccer Field? – you can discover more about the dimensions and markings on a soccer field.
Can a Goalkeeper Be Touched in the 6-Yard Box?
You may sometimes hear people question whether the goalie can be touched within the 6-yard box or if they have an extra level of protection within this area.
This question usually comes from the impression that the referee is more lenient towards the goalie here.
The reality is that there is nothing in the rules about this.
Another player can touch the goalie within the 6-yard box as long as the contact is acceptable within the rules of the game. Contact with the goalkeeper that the referee considers careless, reckless, or using excessive force will be penalized.
Check out my article – Using Your Shoulder in Soccer: What is and isn’t permitted – to find out more about the type of contact that is ok and what isn’t.
Can You Be Offside in the 6-Yard Box?
Another thing to consider is whether a player can be offside within the goal area.
Because a player is so close to the goal, you may think that the rules would be different here. But the truth is they are not.
A player can be offside within the 6-yard box. The offside rule applies to the entire attacking half of the soccer field, including the goal area. If a player commits an offside offense within the 6-yard box, the referee will award a free-kick to the defending team.
Offsides are a significant part of any soccer game. You will see a striker often doing their best to avoid being caught offside.
Being as close to the goal as the 6-yard box doesn’t give them an excuse to forget about the offside rule. Any player should make sure they understand what is expected of them in this position.
Check out my article – Offsides in Soccer: A Complete Guide – for a simple and easy-to-understand breakdown of the offside rule.
What Kind of Kicks Are Taken in the Goal Area?
As I mentioned before, not every element of a soccer game is permitted to take place within the 6-yard box. This applies to the types of kicks that the rules allow.
The only kicks that the rules of soccer permit a player to take within the goal area are goal kicks and direct free kicks. Any other set-piece must be taken from outside of the 6-yard box.
- Players must take an indirect free-kick that occurred within the goal area from the edge of the 6-yard box.
- Players must take a penalty kick from the penalty mark.
- Players must take corner kicks from the corner arc.
- And players must take a kick-off from the center mark.
Although we’ve covered a lot of details about the goal area in soccer in this article, all these facts relate to the 6-yard box on a full-size or professional soccer field.
To find out the details of this area on a youth soccer field, I recommend you check out my article – Youth Soccer Field Dimensions: Everything you need to know.