Soccer Throw In Rules (A Complete Guide)

soccer throw in rules

Soccer throw-in rules govern how the ball is put back into play after it goes out of bounds along the sidelines.

Knowing these rules is essential for both players and fans to fully appreciate the game’s flow.

What Is a Soccer Throw In?

A throw in is used to restart the game when the ball goes out of play along the sides of the pitch. Players use their hands to throw the ball overhead and back into play. It’s the only time an outfield player can pick up the ball with their hands during a game.

When is The Ball Out of Play?

The ball is considered out of play when the whole of the ball has crossed the whole of the white lines which mark the perimeter of the pitch.

If the ball goes out along either of the two sides of the pitch then a throw in is used to restart the play. If the ball goes out behind the goal then either a goal kick or corner kick is used instead.

Where Does a Soccer Throw In Happen?

The location where the ball crosses the line determines where the throw-in is taken.

The throw-in is taken from the spot where the ball left the field, ensuring the game continues fairly.

However, many players try to move forwards a few yards when taking throw ins as this helps the team get a bit further up the field. Referees will usually allow a few additional steps but if a player goes too far the referee should direct them back.

soccer throw in area

Who Takes the Throw In?

The team that did not touch the ball last before it went out of bounds is awarded the throw-in.

Typically, this responsibility falls on the nearest player to where the ball exited the field. Therefore if the throw in is awarded on the left of the pitch, the left sided full back or winger will often take the throw.

There is no rule dictating which player must take the throw. In fact even a goalkeeper can take a throw in if they wanted to.

Tactical considerations might prompt a team to designate a player known for their long throwing skill to take it.

Technique of a Throw In

Executing a throw-in correctly is crucial, as improper technique can result in a foul throw and the throw in being awarded to the opposition instead.

The soccer throw-in rules specify several key points:

  1. Both Feet on the Ground: The player must have both feet on the ground when releasing the ball.
  2. Feet on or Behind the Line: The player’s feet must be on or behind the touchline.
  3. Two-Handed Throw: The ball must be thrown with both hands.
  4. Over the Head: The ball must be delivered from behind and over the head in one continuous motion.

Failing to follow these rules results in a throw-in awarded to the opposing team (foul throw).

Additional Soccer Throw In Rules

The following rules apply to throw ins.

  • A goal keeper cannot pick up the ball if another player from their team throws it to them.
  • The player throwing the ball on cannot touch the ball again until at least one other player touches it first.
  • Opposing players must stand at least two yards away from the thrower.
  • Opposing players must not block or interfere with a player in order to prevent them from taking a throw in.
  • A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw in.

Strategy Behind the Throw In

While a throw-in might seem straightforward, it carries strategic weight.

The first objective of a throw in is to keep possession of the ball once it returns to play. This is important if a team is taking a throw in in their own half because a turnover of possession will quickly lead to a goal scoring chance for the opposition.

From an attacking perspective teams can use throw-ins to quickly restart play and catch the opposition off guard. The use of the multi ball system means that spare balls are left around the outside of the pitch and a player can, if desired, quickly restart the game using the nearest ball available to them instead of waiting for a ball boy or girl to retrieve the exact ball which went out of play.

Some clubs have trained their ball boys and girls to assist their own players by quickly passing them a ball to be used for a throw in before the defending team can react.

A great example of this happened during a Champions League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Olympiacos of Greece.

A quick thinking ball boy returned the ball to Tottenham for a throw in which then lead to Harry Kane scoring a vital goal.

A well-executed throw-in can lead to a scoring opportunity, especially if taken quickly.

Players with a Long Throw

In soccer, having a player with a long and powerful throw in can also be a significant advantage.

These players can launch the ball deep into the opponent’s territory, similar to a corner kick.

One notable example is Rory Delap, a former player for Stoke City.

His long throw-ins were so effective they were almost like set pieces, creating numerous scoring opportunities for his team.

Other players with a notably long throw include:

  • Megan Campbell (Republic of Ireland Women)
  • Andy Legg (Notts County)
  • Dave Challinor (Tranmere Rovers)

Common Mistakes in Soccer Throw Ins

Despite its apparent simplicity, players often make mistakes during throw-ins.

One common error is lifting a foot off the ground before releasing the ball.

Another frequent mistake is not delivering the ball from behind the head, resulting in a foul throw.

However, a foul throw is not as costly a throw in aimed in the wrong direction or to the wrong player. Throw ins should be directed away from danger so that if there is a turnover in possession it doesn’t lead to an attack for the other team.

Throwing the ball up the line rather than into the middle of the pitch is desirable.

Also making sure that the ball is thrown to feet or chest makes it easier for the receiving player to control the ball. A common mistake is for the thrower to make the ball bounce in front of the player which makes it harder to control and potentially allow the opposition to make a tackle.

Practicing throw-ins during training can help players avoid these errors.

Coaching Tips for Effective Throw Ins

For coaches, emphasizing the importance of throw-ins during practice can yield significant dividends.

Encouraging players to work on their technique and practicing different throw-in scenarios can make a noticeable difference in matches.

Coaches should also identify players with a natural aptitude for long throws and develop their skills further.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, understanding and applying soccer throw in rules is crucial for any player or coach.

This knowledge ensures the game flows smoothly and can provide a strategic edge.

By focusing on proper technique and strategic use, players can turn even routine throw-ins into a vital component of their game plan.


Can you score from a throw in?

No, you cannot score directly from a throw in. The ball must touch at least one player before it goes in the goal for it to count.

What are the two basic rules for a soccer throw in?

Two basic rules for throw ins are that the ball must be thrown overhead and from where the ball previously left the pitch.

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