All articles Sport scoring

How does soccer scoring work?

A primer on how points are scored in soccer, including penalties and offsides. Also explains what is shown on a scoreboard.


A soccer ball that has just hit the back of the net

Scoring in soccer, or football as it's known in many parts of the world, is relatively simple compared to some other sports. The aim of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team, and the team with the most goals at the end of the game is declared the winner. Let's take a closer look at how scoring works in soccer.

Soccer is played with two teams, each consisting of 11 players. The teams play on a rectangular field with a goal at each end. The goalposts are set up at the center of each goal line, with a crossbar connecting them. The aim of the game is to kick the ball into the opposing team's goal to score a point, or goal as it is commonly called.

How to score

A goal is scored in soccer when the ball crosses the goal line and goes into the net. It doesn't matter how the ball gets into the net - it can be kicked, headed, or deflected off any part of the body, including the hands or arms (with some exceptions, which we'll get to later). As long as the ball fully crosses the goal line, a goal is awarded.

The goals on a soccer/football pitch

The referee is responsible for determining whether or not a goal has been scored. In most cases, this is a relatively straightforward decision - if the ball crosses the line and goes into the net, it's a goal. However, there are some situations where the decision can be more difficult, such as when the ball hits the goalpost or crossbar and bounces back into play.

Types of goals

There are two types of goals in soccer - regular goals and own goals.

Regular goals are scored when a player from the attacking team successfully puts the ball into the opposing team's goal.

Own goals are scored when a player from the defending team accidentally puts the ball into their own goal. This can happen if a player tries to clear the ball but it ends up deflecting off their body or if a goalkeeper makes a save that ends up rebounding off one of their own defenders.

The offside rule

One important rule to keep in mind when it comes to scoring in soccer is the offsides rule. This rule is designed to prevent attacking players from gaining an unfair advantage by hovering in front of the opposing team's goal. This is defined as when they are closer to the opposing team's goal than both the ball and the second-last defender (usually a defender or the goalkeeper).

If an attacking player is in an offside position when a teammate plays the ball forward to them, and they then become involved in active play (such as by touching the ball), the referee will blow the whistle and award a free kick to the defending team.

What is an assist?

In soccer, an assist is awarded to the player who makes the final pass or touch before a goal is scored. This is a way of acknowledging the contribution of players who help to create goals.

Penalty kicks during regular play

Another way to score in soccer is through penalty kicks. These are awarded when a defending player commits a foul inside their own penalty area. The attacking team is then given a free shot on goal from the penalty spot, which is 12 yards away from the goal line.

The penalty box and the penalty spot on a soccer field

If the ball goes into the net during a penalty kick, a goal is awarded. If the goalkeeper saves the penalty, or if the ball misses the goal, play continues as normal.

Penalty Shootouts

A penalty shootout is used to determine the winner of a match when the score is tied after regulation time and, if applicable, extra time.

This is common in knockout stages of tournaments where a winner must be decided. During a penalty shootout, each team takes turns taking penalty kicks. The standard format involves five kicks per team, taken alternately. If, after both teams have taken five kicks, the scores are level, the shootout proceeds to sudden-death rounds. In sudden-death, each team takes one kick each, and if one team scores while the other doesn't, the team that scores wins.

These shootouts are often very dramatic and have been the cause of much drama in the past.

What is shown on a soccer scoreboard?

A soccer scoreboard typically shows the current score of the game and the amount of time elapsed in the game. It may also display other information such as the team names, player statistics, substitutions, and any penalties or yellow/red cards given during the game. In some cases, the scoreboard may also display the name of the stadium, the date and time of the game, and the weather conditions.

Using scoreboard software

The easiest way of creating your own scoreboard is to use software combined with existing hardware such as a large TV or a projector. This is a great option for small leagues and teams that don't have the budget to purchase an expensive dedicated scoreboard.

A TV showing an online basketball scoreboard is one of the leading solutions for creating online scoreboards. We pride ourselves on being very easy to get started with. You can literally be up and running in under 30 seconds, no registration nor payment required. If you don't believe us, give it a try by clicking the button below.

What's very convenient is that you can control your scoreboard from anywhere, including a mobile phone.

Why are penalty shootouts controversial?

They are often seen as a controversial way to decide the outcome of a soccer match for several reasons:

  • Some critics argue that penalty shootouts involve a significant element of luck, especially for the goalkeeper who often has to guess which way the ball will be kicked. This is seen by some as an unsatisfactory way to decide a match, especially in important knockout games or finals.
  • Soccer is a team sport, and throughout a match, all players contribute to the team's performance. However, penalty shootouts involve only a subset of players, typically the five selected penalty takers and the goalkeeper. As a result, some believe that it is not a true reflection of the team's performance over the course of the game.
  • The immense psychological pressure on the players taking the penalties is another concern. A player who misses a crucial penalty may face severe criticism and emotional distress, which some see as an unfair burden for a young player or one who has otherwise performed well throughout the game.
  • The sudden-death nature of the penalty shootout after the first five penalties can be seen as harsh. One mistake by a player or a moment of brilliance by a goalkeeper can abruptly end a team’s campaign, even if they were the better side over the course of the match.
  • Some purists believe that deciding a game by penalty shootout detracts from the essence of the sport. They would rather see the game decided during open play, through the tactics and skills that are central to the game, rather than what they see as a simplified and somewhat artificial contest.
  • Teams that are aware that a match may go to penalties may play more defensively toward the end of regulation and extra time, aiming to simply survive until the shootout rather than seeking to win the game through open play. This can lead to less entertaining matches for spectators.