What Is a Set Piece In Soccer? UnderStanding the Basics

If you’ve ever witnessed Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo donning their cleats. Then chances are you’ve seen them engaged in a set piece. 

Both Messi and Ronaldo are regarded as some of the finest specialists in executing set pieces in the history of the sport. 

However, as soccer comprises various plays that fall under the category of set pieces, it can be difficult to distinguish them all.

Here’s a comprehensive explanation of what a set piece means in soccer:

Meaning of a Set Piece in Soccer

In soccer, a set piece denotes a particular offensive play executed during a stoppage or when the ball is out of play. Typically occurring during free kicks, corner kicks, or throw-ins according to the soccer rules. The primary objective of a set piece is to progress the ball forward strategically. 

These plays frequently present excellent scoring opportunities for the team initiating the set piece. As players are strategically positioned to increase their chances of scoring a goal.

Types of Set Pieces in Soccer

what is a set piece in soccer

Indeed, in soccer, there are various types of set pieces, each offering unique opportunities and challenges. These include:

Free Kicks

Awarded to a team when the opposing team commits a foul. The team can take a direct shot at the goal or create a play to advance the ball strategically.

In soccer, a free kick is awarded to the offensive team when a foul occurs outside the penalty box. The designated free-kick taker for the attacking team takes the kick. Which can either involve delivering a high cross to their teammates or attempting a direct shot at the goal, depending on the distance from the goal. Typically, free kicks are taken in the final third of the field. Which refers to the area approximately 20 to 30 yards around the opponent’s penalty box.

To counter the attacking team’s free kick, the defensive team forms a wall with a specific number of players. This wall’s purpose is to obstruct the direct path to the goal, making it more challenging for the taker to score directly. Meanwhile, the remaining defenders are responsible for marking and guarding the offensive players who are not taking the free kick. Those players are aiming to prevent them from capitalizing on any potential rebounds or loose balls. Effective execution and defense during free kicks can significantly impact the outcome of a match.

In soccer, there are two main types of free kicks: direct kicks and indirect kicks.

Direct Kicks 

A direct kick allows the player taking the kick to score a goal directly. This is without the ball having to touch another player before entering the net. Direct kicks are typically awarded for more severe fouls, such as dangerous tackles or hand-balls outside the penalty area.

When a direct kick is given, the player taking the kick can aim to shoot directly at the goal. Passing the ball to a teammate, or attempting any other type of play. This all is without the need for another player to touch the ball first.

Indirect Kicks

An indirect kick requires that the ball touches another player (either from the same team or the opposing team). This is before a goal can be scored. Indirect kicks are usually awarded for less severe infractions, such as obstruction, dangerous play, or offside offenses.

The key distinction from an indirect free kick is that the player executing the kick cannot directly aim for a goal. Instead, they need to pass the ball to a teammate or make it touch another player. Only then can a goal be counted.

Both direct and indirect kicks are essential elements of soccer. Both free kicks offer their own strategic possibilities for teams to create goal-scoring opportunities or take advantage during a match.

Corner Kicks

what is a set piece in soccer

Awarded to a team when the ball crosses the goal line after being last touched by the defending team. The attacking team takes the kick from the corner of the field and attempts to create a scoring opportunity.

In soccer, when the ball crosses the goal line and was last touched by the defending team. The offensive team is awarded a corner kick. The corner kick is taken from either the right or left corner of the field. This depends on which side the ball went out.

During a corner kick, the designated corner-kick taker aims to deliver a high cross into the penalty box area. They provide their teammates with an opportunity to use their heads and attempt a header to score a goal. At the same time, defenders work diligently to head the ball out of their penalty box. They stop the attacking team from scoring.

In intense and closely contested matches, especially in the final minutes, the significance of a corner kick is amplified. To increase their chances of scoring, the offensive team may employ various strategies. Such as bringing the goalkeeper up to participate in the attack.

This tactic adds an extra player in the opposition’s penalty box. Making it more challenging for the defenders to defend against potential headers or shots on goal.

Corner kicks can be decisive moments in a game. Teams often dedicate time in training to develop effective plays and positioning to capitalize on these opportunities. Conversely, the defending team focuses on organizing their defense to thwart any scoring attempts during corner kicks.

Penalty Kicks

Awarded to a team when the defending team commits a foul inside their own penalty area. A player from the attacking team takes a one-on-one shot against the goalkeeper from the penalty spot.

A penalty kick in soccer is a critical and decisive moment in a game. 

Here are the key points about penalty kicks:


A penalty kick is awarded when a player is fouled inside the penalty box. Moreover, when a defender commits a hand-ball offense within the penalty area.

Potential Cards

Depending on the severity of the foul or hand-ball. The defending player may receive a yellow card (a caution) or a red card (a sending-off) from the referee.

One-on-One Situation

Unlike a free kick, which involves a defensive wall. A penalty kick is a direct one-on-one situation between the penalty-kick taker and the goalkeeper.


The penalty spot, a white circle on the field, is located 12 yards away from the goal line. The ball is placed on the penalty spot for the kick.


Once the referee blows the whistle, the penalty-kick taker runs up to the ball and attempts to score a goal past the goalkeeper.


If the penalty-kick taker successfully scores, they get to celebrate, and the game restarts from the usual midway line. On the other hand, if the penalty is missed or saved by the goalkeeper. The game resumes from that moment, depending on whether the goalkeeper retained possession or if the ball went out of bounds (e.g., hitting the post/crossbar or going out of play).

Penalty kicks can have a significant impact on the outcome of a match. They often generate intense moments of pressure and excitement for both players and fans alike.


what is a set piece in soccer

Awarded to a team when the ball goes out of bounds on the sideline. The ball is thrown back into play by a player from the team that had no last contact with the ball.

Here are the key points about throw-ins:

Awarded to Opposing Team: 

The team that did not touch the ball last before it went out of bounds receives the throw-in.

Method of Throwing

To perform a throw-in, the player must use both hands to throw the ball from behind and over their head. The player’s feet must remain on or behind the touch line while the throw-in is being taken.

Spot of Throw-in

The throw-in must be taken from the exact spot where the ball went out of play.

Inbound Direction

The player throwing the ball in can choose to move the ball either forward or backwards along the touch line. This depends on the position of open teammates.


If the player taking the throw-in fails to throw the ball properly or violates the rules (e.g., lifting a foot off the ground while taking the throw), the throw-in is awarded to the opposing team.

Cannot Score Directly

Unlike other set pieces like free kicks and corner kicks, a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in. The rule is that a player must come in contact with the ball before a goal can be scored.

Throw-ins are essential for restarting play after the ball goes out of bounds. They provide an opportunity for the team to create attacking moves or retain possession of the ball. Players often use specific techniques to execute throw-ins effectively and deliver the ball to their teammates in advantageous positions.

These set pieces are crucial moments in a soccer game and can significantly influence the outcome of a match. Skilful execution and strategic planning during these plays can lead to goals and ultimately determine the winner.

Conclusion What Is a Set Piece In Soccer

In conclusion, set pieces play a pivotal role in the beautiful game of soccer. 

These strategic offensive plays, including free kicks, corner kicks, penalty kicks, and throw-ins, offer teams valuable opportunities to gain an edge on their opponents. 

Understanding the significance of set pieces empowers players and teams to capitalize on these moments. This makes the sport even more exhilarating for players and fans alike. 

Hope you found the information useful! That’s a wrap. 

FAQs What Is a Set Piece In Soccer?

Is a throw in a set piece? 

Yes, a throw-in is a set piece in soccer (football) where the ball is thrown back onto the field from the sideline by a player from the team that did not touch the ball last before it went out of bounds.

Is a corner a set piece in soccer?

Yes, a corner kick is a set piece in soccer (football) where the ball is kicked from the corner of the field by a player from the attacking team.

What is a set piece goal in soccer?

A set piece goal in soccer is when a team scores a goal directly from a planned play during a set piece situation, such as a free kick, corner kick, or throw-in.

Related Articles

Soccer Ball Control Drills For Beginners To Improve Skills

How To Stretch Out Laceless Soccer Cleats? Complete Guide 2023

What Does OG Mean in Soccer?


  • James Harden

    Hi! My name is James. you can contact me on [email protected]. for Guest posts and niche edits. I've been playing soccer since childhood. I have played for several academies and leaded multiple soccer clubs. Moreover I've watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about soccer, plus I would love sharing my findings and articles with you all

Leave a Comment