Can A Soccer Goalkeeper Bounce The Ball? (Rules Explained)

The rules in soccer can sometimes be a little confusing. This is especially the case when it comes to goalkeepers. The rules around what goalies can and can’t do have changed a lot over the last few decades. So what about bouncing the ball? Is this something a goalie is allowed to do?

A soccer goalkeeper is allowed to bounce the ball. The rules state that the goalkeeper is only allowed to do this for up to six seconds. When a goalkeeper is bouncing a ball, this is considered to be in control. Therefore an opposing player cannot steal the ball while it is being bounced.

You now know that goalkeepers can bounce the ball in a soccer game. But when exactly are they allowed to do this? And why do goalies even bounce the ball in the first place? I will answer these questions and more in this article.

Can a Goalkeeper Bounce The Ball?

The official rules set by FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) state that a goalkeeper is permitted to bounce the ball for a maximum of six seconds.

When a goalkeeper bounces the ball, they are considered to be in control of the ball.

Once a goalkeeper has control of the ball in their hands, the rulebook states that they have six seconds to distribute the ball by either passing it or dropkicking it up the field.

If the goalkeeper fails to release possession of the ball within the six-second time limit, this is considered time-wasting. Too much time-wasting is then punished with a yellow card.

During this six-second period, the goalkeeper can bounce the ball as much as they want.

It is worth noting that this six-second rule is rarely enforced. Many goalies across the top level of soccer will often get away with holding onto the ball for much longer before releasing it.

(Click here to find out how long a goalkeeper can hold the ball)

When Can a Goalkeeper Bounce The Ball?

A goalkeeper can bounce the ball when they are in control. To be in control, the goalkeeper must have saved, caught, or collected the ball from an opposition player.

The rulebook states that to be in control, the goalkeeper must have achieved one of the following:

  • Have both hands on the ball
  • Have the ball caught safely between one hand and the grass, or their own body
  • Have the ball fully controlled with one hand

The ball is still considered to be in control if the goalkeeper is “bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air.”

Of course, the goalkeeper must also be inside their own penalty area whenever they are handling the ball.

When Can’t a Goalkeeper Bounce The Ball?

The only times a goalkeeper is not permitted to bounce the ball are:

  • If they have already used up their six seconds of ball control
  • They have released the ball from their hands after having it in control
  • They are outside of their penalty area
  • The ball is passed back to them by their own teammate

That’s right; a goalkeeper is not allowed to bounce the ball if the ball is passed back to the goalkeeper by one of their own players.

This is due to the pass-back rule.

In 1992, the pass-back rule was introduced after former Manchester United and Denmark goalie - Peter Schmeichel was seen to be taking advantage of the rules by having his teammates pass him the ball to pick up and control.

Once Denmark had the lead, Schmeichel would hold and bounce the ball for around six seconds, then roll it to a teammate. His Danish teammate would then pass it back to the goalkeeper for him to pick up and repeat the whole process.

Schmeichel’s Denmark team went on to win the 1992 European Championship.

However, the amount of time-wasting Schmeichel committed during the tournament led to the pass-back rule being implemented.

The video below shows how Schmeichel handled:

The rules now state that if a player passes the ball back to their own goalkeeper, the goalie is no longer allowed to touch the ball with their hands.

Instead, the goalkeeper must play the ball back with their feet just like an outfield player. This means the goalkeeper cannot bounce the ball if it is passed to them by a teammate.

What Happens if The Goalie Bounces The Ball Illegally?

If a goalkeeper bounces the ball for too long, the referee will usually give them a simple warning. If the goalie continues to bounce the ball for much longer than six seconds after already receiving a warning, the goalie will be shown a yellow card.

Two yellow cards will result in the goalkeeper being shown a red card and being sent off.

The referee can even decide to give an indirect free-kick inside the goalkeeper’s penalty area if they continue to repeat the offense. An indirect free-kick is also the punishment if a goalkeeper picks up a ball passed to them by their own teammate.

Why do Soccer Goalies Bounce The Ball?

You may be wondering why goalkeepers even need to bounce the ball in the first place. Well, there’s no real need for them to do this.

Goalkeepers bounce the ball more out of habit than any tactical reason. Some goalkeepers told me it’s comforting to bounce the ball and take a breath after a big save.

Some goalies claim that they bounce the ball a few times before a big pass or dropkick to have a good feel for the weight of the ball. Not too unlike a basketball player taking a free throw.

Can You Steal The Ball When The Goalie Bounces it?

The rules are very clear: an opposition player is not allowed to steal the ball from a goalkeeper while they are bouncing it.

However, that does not mean it hasn’t happened before. In fact, you may be able to think back to a time when you have seen this happen in a soccer game.

The reason you may have seen this is simple. It means the referee was not doing a very good job.

An attacking player can only steal the ball from a goalie when the goalie has put the ball down. Once they release it from both hands, they give up control.

There have been many examples of attacking players hiding behind goalies hoping that the goalkeeper releases the ball without knowing they are there.

The attacking player can then run in, steal the ball, and score into an open net.

Unfortunately, there have been examples of attacking players trying to do this while the goalkeeper is still bouncing the ball.

The referee may sometimes miss this and assume, or mistakenly believe, they have seen the goalkeeper release the ball rather than bounce it.

However, since the introduction of VAR (video assistant referees) in 2018, these mistakes have become a thing of the past across the top soccer leagues.


Goalkeepers are indeed allowed to bounce the ball. Goalies have a total of six seconds to control the ball with both hands before releasing it. During this time, they are permitted to bounce the ball as much as they like.

The only time a goalie is not allowed to pick up and bounce the ball is when it is passed to them by a teammate.

Opposition players are not allowed to steal the ball when the goalkeeper is bouncing it. Goalkeepers bounce the ball purely out of habit or to get a feel for the weight of the ball.

November 22, 2022
Published: November 22, 2022