What is the six yard box in soccer for?
Does it serve any purpose at all? and if not, why is it even here in the first place?
The goal area - colloquially known as the six yard box - serves a number of purposes.
Its primary purpose is to designate the location from which goal kicks are to be taken.
On p. 51 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of The Game:
A goal kick is a method of restarting play.
The ball is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
It also serves a number of other purposes. It limits how close to the opponents' goal an indirect free kick may be taken from. On p. 42 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of The Game:
Indirect free kick to the attacking team:
- an indirect free kick awarded inside the goal area must be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred
It also limits how close to goal a dropped ball is taken from. On p. 32 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of The Game:
Definition of dropped ball
A dropped ball is a method of restarting play when, while the ball is still in play, the referee is required to stop play temporarily for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game.
The referee drops the ball at the place where it was located when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped.
Finally, if the defending team is awarded a free kick (either direct or indirect) in their goal area, they may take it from any point in the goal area. On p. 42 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of The Game:
Direct or indirect free kick to the defending team:
- a free kick awarded in the goal area may be taken from any point inside that area
Historically, the goalkeeper could be charged when holding the ball, as long as they had passed outside their goal area. However, since the great rewrite of the Laws of the Game that occurred in 1997, this is no longer the case. From Law 12 of the 1993 FIFA Laws of the Game.
A player committing any of the five following offenses:
charging the goalkeeper except when he
(a) is holding the ball;
(b) is obstructing an opponent;
(c) has passed outside his goal-area.
shall be penalized by the award of an IFK to be taken by the opposing side from the place where the infringement occurred, subject to the overriding conditions imposed in Law 13.