What is the Arc on a Soccer Penalty Box? (with Rules)

What is that odd, “D”-shaped arc at the edge of the penalty area in soccer? Well, it’s more than just for show but only serves a single purpose at a particular, high-stress moment during a game.

The arc at the top of the penalty box in soccer designates the minimum ten-yard distance a player can stand during a penalty kick. It’s the closest a player can be to the penalty spot before the kick is taken. Players are not required to stand on the arc during penalty kicks but must be at least ten yards from the penalty spot.

The penalty arc’s only purpose is to keep players a fair distance from the penalty spot and penalty kick taker during a penalty kick. It gives the kicker enough space to take the shot and simulates a breakaway opportunity.

Keep reading for more information on the rules of the penalty box, its arc, and penalty kicks.

What is the arc on a soccer penalty box?

The arc on a penalty soccer box isn’t just for show. I know what you’re thinking, it looks a bit wonky, but it’s there for a reason. However, it exists for only one reason. Can you guess why the arc is there?

The arc on the penalty box is ten yards from the penalty spot and designates the minimum distance a player from either team, except for the goalkeeper and the player taking the kick, must stand during a penalty kick. All players must be at least 10 yards from and behind the penalty spot when the kick is taken.

Players not standing on the arc are allowed to stand on the edge of the penalty area outside the arc but must at least stand behind the penalty spot. No players except for the goalie and designated penalty kick taker are allowed inside the 18-yard box or penalty arc during the penalty kick.

Players can go inside the arc and penalty area the moment the kick is taken.

Encroachment can be called on either team during a penalty kick if they go inside the arc or penalty area before the kick is taken.

If a player from the attacking team is inside the penalty arc when the kick is taken, and the ball goes into the net, the referee will call a foul resulting in an indirect free kick for the defending team.

A goalkeeper saving a penalty kick during a soccer game.
This goalie made a penalty kick save. Notice that the rest of the players from each team have moved into the penalty area after the kick was taken.

There are many rules for penalty kicks. I know this can get confusing, so I made a table explaining all potential outcomes for a soccer penalty kick.

OffenseIf kick is scoredIf kick is not scored
Encroachment by an attacking playerPenalty kick is retakenIndirect free kick
Encroachment by a defending playerGoalPenalty kick is retaken
Encroachment by players on both teamsPenalty kick is retakenPenalty kick is retaken
Offense by goalkeeperGoalNot saved: penalty is not retaken (unless kick is clearly impacted)

If saved: penalty kick is retaken, and a warning is issued to goalkeeper; cautioned for subsequent offenses
Goalkeeper and kicker both commit an offenseIndirect free kick and caution for kickerIndirect free kick and caution for kicker
Ball kicked backwardIndirect free kickIndirect free kick
Illegal feintingIndirect free kick and caution for kickerIndirect free kick and caution for kicker
Wrong kickerIndirect free kick and caution for person who kicked the ballIndirect free kick and caution for person who kicked the ball
A table explaining a penalty kick’s potential outcomes during a soccer game.

What is the penalty area in soccer?

To further understand the arc on a soccer penalty box, we need to look at the penalty box as a whole. The penalty area makes up a lot of space at either end of the field, and plenty of rules apply. What is the penalty area, and what are some of the rules?

The penalty area is an outlined, rectangular space at either end of a soccer field. It designates the area of the field where a defending team’s goalkeeper can use their hands and is the space where fouls from the defending team result in penalty kicks for the attacking team. It reaches 18 yards from each goal post and the goal line.

Inside the penalty area is a six-yard box where the defending team must take goal kicks from inside. Also known as “the six” or “goalie area,” this box stretches six yards from either post.

The penalty spot is the other marker inside the penalty area. The penalty spot is where penalty kicks are taken. It’s 12 yards away from the goal line and is centered with the goal.

Penalty kicks are given to attacking teams when a defender commits a foul inside their own penalty area. Goalkeepers can touch the ball anywhere inside their own penalty box, including the six-yard box. All players are allowed in the six.

Can you score from the arc in soccer?

For those of you wondering if you can score from inside the penalty arc in soccer, here’s your answer.

Players can go inside and score from the penalty arc in soccer. The penalty arc is only applicable during penalty kicks and can be ignored during the run of play. Goalkeepers cannot use their hands inside the penalty arc.

The penalty arc can essentially be ignored during the game. It’s only there to designate the minimum distance a player must be from the penalty spot during a penalty kick.

Free kicks can be awarded inside the penalty arc for both teams and do not result in a penalty kick.

Can a goalkeeper handle the ball in the soccer penalty arc?

A goalie can go anywhere on the field their heart desires. However, they can only handle the ball in their respective 18-yard box. Does the same go for the penalty arc?

The penalty arc is different than the penalty box, and goalkeepers are not allowed to handle the ball inside the arc. Goalkeepers are only allowed to use their hands inside their penalty area but are permitted to move and use their feet anywhere on the field.

Goalies often find themselves stepping outside the penalty box to clear the ball upfield or help connect passes between teammates during the run of play. Although they can only use their hands inside their penalty area, goalies can use their feet, head, or other playable body parts anywhere on the pitch.

Sean Tinney

I’m Sean Tinney, a lifetime soccer player and Ball At Your Feet owner. This website is a hub for practical soccer advice, information, and insights from one player to another.

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