The Retreat Line Rule

The Retreat Line Rule

I think the Retreat Line Rule that has been introduced to Mini-Soccer (at all age groups up to u10s) is such a good idea, that it’s a shame it wasn’t implemented years ago. For those of you unfamiliar with this rule, it means that from a goal kick, the opposing team must retreat to their own half of the pitch until the ball is played.

It is aimed at encouraging youngsters to play out from the back, as opposed to getting goalkeepers to lump it down the pitch as far as they can. Many teams have taken this approach in years gone by, whether it is to relieve pressure when struggling to progress up the pitch with the ball, or just to take advantage of a big, strong kid who can kick the ball further than anyone else.

Shifting the Problem?

The new ruling is still in its early days yet, with most junior teams only playing a few games so far since the 2013/2014 fixtures began. And I’ve read a mixture of comments from coaches on twitter. One coach commented that it hasn’t actually helped, and all it has done is shift the pressure onto whoever the goalkeeper passes the ball to. Initially I thought this could be a valid point. The goalkeeper takes the goal kick by passing it to a player in their half, who is immediately swarmed by 2 or 3 opposition players charging after the ball. Then, under pressure and at an age where the sight of 3 players charging straight at you can be intimidating, the player panics and just launches the ball away.

However, with a little help, it doesn’t need to pan out this way.

Let Them Play

My Waltham Lions u7s have shown great courage in always trying to calmly play from the back, holding onto the ball themselves or passing to a nearby player in their own half. Even when under pressure and in one game where we suffered a heavy defeat, the boys have stuck with this way they are trying to play. And this isn’t through me, as a coach, shouting at them what to do. Neither I nor any of our parents are shouting the kids to “get rid of it” or “kick it up the pitch”. So the kids themselves are choosing to want to play with the ball, rather than kick it and run after it. Which is great, and what does that tell you about how creativity can be coached out of kids at any age?

Anyway, with a bit of 5v2 practice before the last couple of games, the boys are now becoming very handy at playing from goal kicks. We don’t have the situation mentioned by some people on Twitter because once we’ve played a short goal kick to the defender, the boys have shown they’re quite calm when someone charges at them, choosing either to pass around them, dribble a bit themselves, or (as two of the lads do quite often) just put their foot on the ball, turn to face away from the player and just shield it until they can safely turn to one side to get away. They’re even learning that they can wait for the charging player to get really close to them before they pass, meaning the pass bypasses that player and takes him out of the game.

The key is making sure your own team don’t all charge off up the pitch towards the halfway line themselves. If the goalie passes it up to a player near the half-way line, he’s going to get closed down straight away by an opposition player from the half-way line. There’s no rush. Encourage the goalie it is ok to take a short goal kick and then have at least some of the team stay close enough to offer some help to the player in possession.

Patience and Long-Term Development Focus

All in all, the Retreat Line is a fantastic adjustment to the rules of junior football. Hopefully the masses will take to it and try to change the British culture that a goal kick must be launched long. Hopefully people will show patience to the kids playing the game at such a young age and not give up on them playing it short from the back. Hopefully coaches and parents won’t drain the confidence that some youngsters have to keep hold of the ball and be more creative, even if it is a little more risky. At the end of the day, it is junior football, which is all about fun and development, so who cares if they try something in their own half that doesn’t come off and the other team score? Applaud and praise their bravery, attitude and intentions.

What’s next?

The thing I think could be the next progression in terms of Mini-Soccer rules, is a mandatory centre-circle marked onto the pitch to force a mini retreat for kick offs. Some areas may already have this, but the pitches we’ve used so far don’t, meaning the opposition don’t end up more than a few feet back from the centre-spot and it is easy for them to swarm the 2 taking the kick off as soon as it is taken.

So…..the Retreat Line…..great stuff….better late than never eh!


  1. For our Under 9s the retreat rule is daft. We spend most of the time in the opposing half only to have to keep running back to the half way line so their goalie can pass out.
    It does not help young players learn how to pass the ball from the back, how can it when they are not under any pressure from an opposing player ?
    All that happens is good teams push forward, pile on the pressure, ball goes out for a goal kick so they have to run back to half way line. Then the goalie passes it out to a defender only to find two strikers sprinting at him, defender panics and hoofs it out. By the end of half time our boys are totally cream crackered.
    Just my 2pence on the rule.
    Great blog btw.

    1. Thanks for the reply and comments David. I think it’ll take time to see the benefits of it. I think it will help because the GK is making a pass out to a player rather than trying to punt it upfield as far as possible. And as you say, one or two players close down the player that the GK passes to, meaning there is an element of pressure, it is just a few seconds delayed compared to previously. In time and with practice, kids should be able to remain calm when they’re being closed down, and wait for the right time to pass the ball around the advancing player (of if its just 1v1 maybe try and beat the player). I’ve got my u7’s playing short to a deep player, then with a player on either flank (just from goal kicks), the player can go it alone or pass to either side if he feels he’s been closed down to the point where he’s going to get swamped and outnumbered. Already making progress with it in the 4/5 weeks it’s been going. Perhaps different with current u8s and u9s that have played before this year without the rule, suddenly having to use it, as opposed to the new u7s that will have only ever known this rule.

      1. Hi Tommy and thank you for taking the time to respond i appreciate that.
        It is a rule that is enforced so it will be a rule our boys will need to get used to and play to. It was introduced to use in a pre season tournement and many teams agreed it wasnt a rule that favoured them.
        It does stop keepers from punting the ball forward as the rest of the opposing team are in their own half.
        Is this a good thing or a bad thing ? Im not sure and only time will tell. Either way our team are strong enough to adapt but ive seen other teams and keepers very confused as to what to do.

  2. My Team is also at under 9’s and I feel this rule has really improved the game. Even with the rule in place we still see teams just hoof the ball long into our half which I find very disappointing.
    We have scored several times this season by playing the ball short from the GK and working the it forward with a series of short passes. Surely this is how we should be teaching the game? Asking kids just to launch the ball long is just lazy coaching and trying to bypass the learning experience for the kids.
    Teams who previously have dominated games by taking long goal kicks because they have the “Big Lad” are the only teams who have lost out.

    We lost 4-2 yesterday and 3 of their 4 goals were from Long Hopefully boots forward to their striker, who to be fair took the chances well. But I cant help thinking the other 5 players on the pitch might like to have been a bit more involved. When possible they were even taking throw-ins near their penalty area and throwing back to their keeper so he could then kick the ball into our penalty area. I know this is a legitimate tactic but my Lad we not play for that team if they paid him.

    Our 2 goals were scored from at least 5 passes from one end of the pitch to the other.
    At the end of the game which team actually got the chance to learn?

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