How to Set Up a Goal Kick: This Is What You Need to Know!

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

Taking a goal kick is more COMPLICATED than it looks.

That is… if you don’t know how to set them up correctly.

Life can become much easier by knowing a few basics…

…that will benefit you both defensively and offensively.

In this post (and video), I’m going to teach what those basics are and how to set up a goal kick correctly.


Goal kicks can be one of the most stressful moments of any youth soccer match for a player, coach and parent.

At any moment this seemingly innocuous restart of play can turn ugly for the team that is taking the kick.

We have even seen it go wrong at the professional level before, so no one is completely exempt from the ill effects.

Today, we are going to look at how you should be setting up for goal kicks to ensure that you don’t compound one mistake into another!

NOTE: Also check our other article here goal kick strategies for more advanced stuff.

Learn Some Goal Kicking Basics

Before we proceed, I believe that understanding the basics behind goal kicks is essential for our global understanding of what we are learning here.

To do so, I’ll enumerate a series of common questions about the topic and offer you my answers.

#1. What Is a Goal Kick?

A goal kick is used to restart play after the attacking team kicks the soccer ball over the end (goal) line.

#2. Can a goal kick be taken by any player or just the goalkeeper?

Any player may take a goal kick though there are several advantages to having your goalkeeper take it. (We’ll get back to this later on in this article.)

#3. Does the football have to be placed on the corner of the goal box related to the side where it went out?

A goal kick does not have to be placed on the very corner of the box on the side where the ball went out of play.

This is a common misconception that many players and coaches have. The soccer ball simply needs to be placed anywhere inside the box to be legal.

#4. When can another player (besides the goal kick taker) touch the ball?

The ball must go all the way across the goal box line before it can be touched again. It cannot be touched by the same player more than once until a second actor has gotten involved.

How to Set Up a Goal Kick

In our “How to Set Up a Goal Kick” short guide here, we’ll discuss which player you should select to take it.

We’ll then proceed with some precautions you must take and finish off by explaining what you can do in terms of attacking straight out from the goal kick.

But… first things first!

By now you might be asking yourself:

«How do I set up a goal kick the right way?»

That’s what you can learn from this short video where expert soccer coach Guillermo Gomez explains how to set up a goal kick to avoid giving your opponents a chance for an easy score.

Who Should You Pick to Take the Goal Kick

Now that we have the basics down, it’s time to pick our kicker.

Many would believe it’s all about which player can kick the longest and highest, but this isn’t everything.

You also want someone that pays attention to the instruction and knows what to do if they are presented with a new situation.

If you are looking to kick the ball as far down the field as possible, then take the player that is the strongest and have he/she kick it.

However, if you are looking for someone to make solid decisions and, at the same time, be able to kick it decently far that does not mean they are the same person!

Should Your Goalkeeper Take the Goal Kick or Not?

Having your goalkeeper take the goal kick is very much ideal; so much so that all professional and most college teams do this.

Goalkeepers are preferred because they train specifically to kick the football as far as they do and, most importantly, because of the offside rule.

If the goalkeeper does not take it, then the opposition can simply camp a man out on the edge of the box, leaving them onside.

This will require your taker to rush out so as to catch up with the rest of the defense. This is a worry that you will have to combat.

This takes us back to the “Which is the best player to take your kicks” question:

If your team likes to play short and/or quick, then your goalkeeper is the best option.

They can simply roll the ball out to someone quickly which might just nullify the other team from pressing you too much.

If you aren’t 100% sure that your keeper is the best option, you can always stand a player in goal while they take it. Nevertheless, you will have to be wary of keeping the other team onside.

Protecting the Middle of the Field

Goals and goal scoring opportunities can come from a wide range of situations in the game of soccer. The vast majority of them, though, are going to come from the center of the field.

Therefore, on a goal kick, your team needs to be set up very narrow, unless you are going to take a goal kick wide.

You need to set up players in the middle of the field anyway — regardless of taking a goal wide or not — to ensure that you don’t get attacked there after you potentially lose the soccer ball.

This is a very important tactic that will help you make up for a lack of a strong foot in your team.

Even if you have a strong kicker, they may not always clear it over the “first third”.

If you can’t clear a third of the field at least on a goal kick and you leave the middle unprotected, you are in a real spot of bother.

NOTE: The first third is the third of the field in which your defense is in. The second third is the midfield, and the other third is the attacking part of the field.

Using the Umbrella Tactic

One such way to set up to protect the middle and still have an option to kick the ball out wide is the Umbrella tactic.

This set up is simple and easy to communicate to youngsters because everyone understands the umbrella.

Here is how it would look on a tactical chart:
X  X  X  X
   X  X

By using this shape with your back players and midfielders, you are heavily covering the middle and are also able to kick it out wide and get support from the others as well.

What to do With Forwards and Wingers?

Forwards and wingers are very responsible as well on goal kicks.

Not only are they active in trying to start an attack, but they also have to be proactive in making sure they are also defending potentially dangerous situations.

Using a Target Man

A target man is a player that is tall and/or good at heading the ball.

If you have one of these and a strong kicker, you can kick the ball over the top of everyone else and have him flick it on toward another player.

But to be most successful, you need to have a player or two near them in order to have the best chance of scoring!

Work on this, find out which players react quickest and know where to be based on the runs of their teammates.


There are a number of possible pitfalls facing goal kicks that you have to watch out for.

Whether it’s a worry about kicking the ball too short or to the middle of the field, you can rest much easier when you and your players have a firm and clear strategy of what to do.

Instead of playing to your team’s weaknesses and the other team’s strengths, switch it up and make sure you are the ones on the front foot by employing some of these tactics!

If you’re looking for more advanced soccer goal kick strategies and tactics, be sure to read our article here about that topic specifically.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Don’t forget to share it with your friends!

Keep practicing!

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.