LOTG: Law 8– The Start and Restart of Play


Law 8: The Start and Restart of Play

The name of this Law is slightly misleading if you are looking forward to a review of all the possible restarts in a game. The only two items covered here in this Law are the Kick-off and the Dropped Ball.  Other restarts are deemed so vital that they each get their own Law; stay tuned for detailed descriptions of the procedures, and possible infringements and sanctions, for the other restarts including Free Kicks, Penalty Kicks, Throw-Ins, Goal Kicks, and Corner Kicks (see Laws 13-17, respectively).

The Coin Toss and Kick-off

Before we can get our game started, we need to determine which side of the field the respective teams will defend (or attack). We also need to determine who is going to start the game with the Kick Off. The Kick Off is how both halves start (also both halves of Extra Time, if necessary) and how the game is restarted after a goal has been scored.

The team that wins the coin toss gets to choose which goal they wish to defend (or put another way, which goal they want to attack) for the first half. The team that loses the coin toss gets to start the game with the Kick-off. I suppose the reason for this outcome of “winning” the coin toss is that being able to choose your “direction” for each of the two halves is far more important (and rewarding) than being able to Kick-off to start the game. Factors such as direction of the sun, wind, slope of the field, condition of the field/goal areas, etc., will play a greater role in the outcome of a game than a moment of attention granted to that person/team being able to take the Kick-off.

For the second half the teams switch sides, defending the opposite goal they did during the first half. The team that won the coin toss will be the team kicking off to start the second half.


  • Winner of coin toss chooses direction; loser of toss takes the kick-off
  • (The team that won the toss will kick-off for the 2nd half)
  • The teams change ends of the field for the second half and attack the opposite goals
  • After a team scores a goal, the restart is a KO is taken by the team that was scored upon

For Every Kick-off

  • All players must be in their own half of FOP.  No “jumping the gun” before the ball is kicked and moves
  • Except the player taking the KO—he/she can be standing in the opponent’s half
  • All opponents of team taking the KO must be 10 yds from the ball until it is “in play.” This means the defenders will all need to stay outside of the Center Circle until the ball is kicked and moves. (AYSO: note different minimum required distances for different age divisions, different sized center circles, youngest divisions may not even have a center circle.)
  • The Ball must be stationary and on the Center Mark before being kicked
  • “The referee gives a signal.” The term ‘signal’ usually means the whistle is blown.  When Kicking-off to start a game you must blow the whistle to “signal” the start of play.
  • “The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves.” (The topic of many restart debates, the dreaded toe-tap stuff, but we won’t go into that.) The player can kick the ball in any direction and it must move before it is considered “in play.”  You can’t touch it a second time, if you took the KO, until the ball has been touched by another player (teammate or opponent); more on that (double touch) later.
  • A GOAL may be scored “directly” against the opponents from the KO. The term “directly” means it does not have to be touched a second time (by any player) before going into the goal for the goal to be awarded.
  • You cannot score an “own goal” directly from a KO—I know this sounds like a goofy point to make, but you never know when a big gust of wind pops up and the ball goes all the way back into your own goal without being touched by a single player… If this were to happen the restart would be a Corner Kick awarded to your opponents.


  • The player taking the Kick Off cannot touch the ball again (second time—double touch) before it has touched another player.
    • If player does—the referee stops play and play is restarted with an Indirect Free Kick, for the opponents, from where player touched it a second time. No sanction (card).
  • In the event of any other infringements of KO procedure the Kick-off is Retaken. For instance:
    • Opponents enter the Center Circle (“encroaching,” or breaking the 8-10 yard minimum required distance ) before ball is kicked/in play. No sanction (card).
    • Attacking (KO) team members cross the Halfway Line before the ball is kicked/in play (also considered a form of “encroaching). No sanction (card).

The Dropped Ball

When something/anything happens that causes the referee to stop play, and “the Law does not require one of the above restarts (FK, PK, TI, GK, CK)” play is restarted with a Dropped Ball.

Common scenarios where we restart with a Dropped Ball

  • An injury occurs, accidental/no foul being called—referee needs to stop play immediately if serious injury or allows play to continue if injury is not serious. In AYSO, kids go down a lot for getting bumped and, especially at the younger levels, it is prudent to blow the whistle and stop play (even if you know it is not a “serious” injury). Let’s be sympathetic and protective for our younger players and stop play. In these cases, the restart is a Dropped Ball from where the ball was when the referee stopped play (by blowing his whistle).
  • In a similar situation as above, a minor injury and no foul is called, but you are working a game with older players, it is occasionally more “acceptable” and even appropriate not to stop play and allow the team that has the ball to continue their attack. Sometimes players go down (and it’s really not a severe injury) and stopping play would be unnecessary (or unfair), in these cases you can either wait till the ball goes out of play and then check on the “injured” player or when the ball changes hands and the attack is no longer viable you might blow the whistle/stop play. Again, this will mean a “Dropped Ball” restart from where the ball was when you stopped play.
  • Referee stops play by mistake. “Oooops, I didn’t mean to blow the whistle there.” Or, “Wait a minute, I shouldn’t have stopped play there, my bad, I’m sorry.”

Hey, it’s ok to make mistakes and even better to admit it when you are wrong about something. Hopefully this happens in an area that does not put one of the teams in a precarious/risky position, or give somebody an unfair advantage.  In the unfortunate case where you do this (make a mistake or blow your whistle by mistake) when the ball is within the Goal Area, the Dropped Ball takes place from the Goal Area Line (6-yard line).

(Hopefully these sort of things only end up happening when the ball is in the middle of the field and not in front of someone’s goal!!!)


  • The referee drops the ball at the position where it was when play stopped
  • The ball is “In Play” when it touches the ground. This means that players are not allowed to touch it until it touches the ground. With the younger players, you may want to remind them of this when getting ready to drop the ball, otherwise you will have to redo the DB. Furthermore, in case you (who have read ahead in the LOTG) were wondering about the “double touch” rule that applies to FK’s, since the ball is “In Play” once it touches the ground on a Dropped Ball, the player that touched the ball first can indeed touch it again (multiple times if they wish—like dribble down the field with it!). No infringement.
  • “Any number of players may contest a Dropped Ball”; including the goalkeeper.
  • Per the LOTG, “the referee cannot decide who may contest a DB or its outcome.” These words are often applied with a degree of “What is fair here?” Sometimes there are situations when the referee does “decide the outcome.” For example, when a defending team has obvious possession of the ball in or near their own Penalty Area and the referee stops play (i.e. for a minor injury). Rather than restart with a DB with a player from each team participating, the referee may do a “DB” with only the goalkeeper present and the referee basically rolls the ball to the keeper in his/her Penalty Area…the referee did a DB but definitely had a particular outcome in mind! (This would be understood as the referee “[applying] the Laws within the ‘spirit’ of the game to help produce fair and safe matches.”)


  • The ball is “Dropped” again if it touches a player before it touches the ground
  • Ball is “Dropped” again if it rolls off of the FOP without being touched by a player
  • A goal cannot be allowed if it is kicked directly into the goal without touching at least two players
    • If the ball is kicked “directly” into an opponent’s goal (without being touched by a second player) play is restarted with a Goal Kick
    • If the ball is kicked “directly” into a player’s own goal (without being touched by a second player) play is restarted with a Corner Kick
  • In case you were wondering, there is no “double touch” infringement/offence on Dropped Balls. Therefore, as mentioned above, a player can touch the ball as many times as they wish– once the ball touches the ground, it is “In Play!”