Does the Ball Have to Be All the Way Across the Goal Line to Score in Soccer?

One inch can mean the difference between a winning goal or a tied game. A soccer ball must be all the way across the line to score. Various rules apply to soccer scoring. For instance, the ball can cross the goal on the ground on in the air. As long as the ball completely corsses the line, the attacking team wins the point.

Close-up of a soccer ball going into a goalie net. (Image: Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images)

How to Score

According to the International Football Association, a goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the cross bar. The outside of the goal is determined by the outermost edge of the goal posts and cross bar. If the ball does not fully cross the plane created by these three bars, a goal is not awarded.

Referees Rule

During a soccer game, the head referee is responsible for determining whether a ball fully crosses the plane of the goal. In some games, a head referee is aided by linesmen who help advise the head referee on calls. Linesmen are especially useful for determining a goal because they follow the movement of the ball from the sidelines. Their position at the side of the field gives linesmen a perfect vantage point for seeing directly across the plane of the goal.

Crossing the Line

Another consideration for ball position in soccer is out-of-bounds calls. A ball is only out of bounds when it crosses over the out-of-bounds line completely. Often, out of bounds is a wide white strip of chalk or paint. The painted portion is considered in-bounds in soccer. The ball is only out when it crosses completely over the line. Furthermore, in cases where the ball is questionably out of bounds, the ball is only out of play when indicated by the referee.

Interference Counts

At times, the ball's direction is dictated by some sort of interference that can include hitting the referee, a corner flag or a goal post. In any of these cases, if the ball remains in bounds, it is still considered in play. If a ball headed out of bounds hits a referee and stays in bounds, play continues. If a ball headed into the goal hits a referee and is blocked, no goal is scored. And, if a ball hits a referee and ricochets into the goal, a goal is awarded.

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