In ice hockey, teams that are losing will sometimes pull their goalkeeper late in the game and bring in an extra attacker to increase their chances of scoring and tying the game.

Do teams ever pull their goalie in football and bring in an extra attacker when they are losing? Is this even allowed?

  • I'm trying to look at the rule, but you are enforce to have a goalie all the time in the field...
    – gbianchi
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 19:46
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    @gbianchi - this is true, but you can put an outfield player in a different shirt, and technically that's enough to make them the goalkeeper. Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 1:27
  • I've seen the Mexican national team have their goalie move forward into the attack for the final corner kick in extra-time. Unlike hockey, where the goal-tending equipment is so cumbersome, it's just easier to use the goalie, him/herself as the extra attacker, since there are no rules preventing it. In water polo, only a goaltender may substitute for a goaltender, and the goaltender can't cross into the offensive half of the pool, but I'm not aware of similar restrictions in football/soccer. Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 15:16

8 Answers 8


It would certainly be allowed, but it would likely be a failed strategy in soccer.

  • In professional soccer, you only get 3 substitutes per game. If you burn one on pulling out your keeper, then if you accomplish your goal and tie the score, if you go to overtime, you're stuck with no keeper on the field.

So subbing in a field player for a keeper is probably a loser as it's a poor use of resources and leaves you in a bind if you succeed.

However, most keepers are capable players and can play the field in a pinch. Thus it's not hugely uncommon for you to see the keeper pushed way up in a situation where his team must score.

However, there are some good reasons to not do this in normal play:

  • Most soccer league regular season games aren't hugely meaningful, but it can be a lot better to lose 1-0 than it would be to lose 2-0. Which means risking a greater loss to try to tie the game is not beneficial.

  • Keepers aren't usually good field players. While they may be capable, and they usually have a solid kick, they aren't strikers, and at best, a keeper playing high frees up a mid or back to go up and play a striking role.

  • It's a long run from the defending third to the attacking one. Most of the time it doesn't make much of a difference to have an extra player on the attack (see how often a team of 10 can play even with a team of 11), so it doesn't make a lot of sense for the keeper to come forward and play a role he's relatively unfamiliar with.

Overall, this strategy can pay, especially on very late set piece opportunities, but in general, it just doesn't seem worth it.

  • 3
    "most keepers are capable players" -- we can thank the passback rule for that. It used to be said that the keeper is keeper because he can't play football. In practice though, the role of the keeper upfield might just be to have your corner-taker try to score in-off his head ;-) Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 22:26
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    in this situation, there is a complication with the offside rule that catches people out. two players are required to play an attacker onside (usually the goalkeeper and one defender). if the goalkeeper is way out of goal, two defenders are required to play an attacker onside.
    – innisfree
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 15:49
  • This is probably a stupid question, but why is a 2-0 loss worse than a 1-0 loss? A loss is a loss is a loss right? Your won-loss record is still the same. Does goal differential really come into play on tiebreakers that often? Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 20:05
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    @Bachrach44 many tournaments take into account goal difference, so a 2-0 loss is more damaging than a 1-0 loss.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 20:06
  • There are numerous instances of goalkeepers scoring in both domestic and international fixtures, most notably Peter Schmeichel en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Schmeichel
    – openshac
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 13:43

As has been noted, keepers do sometimes come up to act as an attacker during the game, though they are never really subbed out for another attacking player. A couple things to keep in mind from The Laws of the Game.


Page 15: "A match is played by two teams, each consisting of not more than eleven players, one of whom is the goalkeeper"

Page 16: "Any of the other players may change places with the goalkeeper, provided that: • the referee is informed before the change is made • the change is made during a stoppage in the match"


Page 19: "• Each goalkeeper must wear colours that distinguish him from the other players, the referee and the assistant referees"

So if you did substitute off a goalkeeper, the sub would have to have a different shirt, or if you swapped a field player with the goalkeeper, they would have to change jerseys. I have seen this happen when the goalkeeper is injured and the team has no more substitutes left - they'll put a midfielder or attacker (sometimes, but rarely, a defender) into goal, but the midfielder will play as a goalkeeper, not as an attacking player.

That being said, the goalkeeper is almost never subbed out except for another goalkeeper. The cost is too high.

EDIT: More often I've seen this happen when the goalkeeper gets a red card and the team has no more subs left. If the goalkeeper interferes with a player trying to score, he can get a red card and if the team has no more subs, they'll have to put a player already on the field into the goal, in which case he'll have to get a different shirt.

  • 1
    BTW if you want to get your bullet points on a new line (for example in your quote from page 16, where you have two of them), you can use <br/> or end the line with two spaces; see here. Or you can create bulleted list using markdown, see here. (Editor also has a button for such lists and also a shortcut Ctrl+U.)
    – Martin
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 9:29
  • This is the correct answer, although for all intents and purposes the goalkeeper could play outfield you need to have one player designated as goalkeeper (in a different coloured shirt to the rest of the team) on the pitch at all time.
    – AlexC
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 13:51
  • Thanks Martin - I know about addressing bullet points. Since there were only two I figured I'd just leave 'em.
    – Duncan
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 17:44
  • +1 for references. NB: the more common scenario is not when GK is injured, but when he's sent off.
    – gdrt
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 9:46

You don't see this in soccer. If a team is desperate to score a goal, the goalie comes out of his net and plays in the middle or front. For example when there is a corner kick, the goalie could go all the way to the opposite box to score.

However, this happens often in indoor soccer. The goalie comes out at the end of the game replaced by an attacker. But this extra attacker should still be wearing a goalie's uniform, since team are required to have designated jersey for goalies and each team must have a goalie.


Yes, it does happen, although not very often. Goal difference can be important at the end of the season, so if your team was losing in a regular game, there's no point going all out to tie when the risk of conceding a goal is very high without a goalie in the net. On the other hand, during cup matches where a team is about to be put out unless they score a goal, you would often see the goalkeeper advance to the other half of the pitch for corner kicks. Two that come to mind:

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    .. or Neuer in practically every game he plays, seriously I think he gets bored in the goal :)
    – posdef
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 7:25
  • Arguably the most famous example is Jimmy Glass scoring from a last-minute corner to keep Carlisle United in the Football League.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 9:49

A point that hasn't been made in the other answers is that this tactic would be numerically much less effective in football than in ice hockey because of the larger teams. In ice hockey, pulling the goalie gives you six outfield players against five, which is a 20% increase over your opponent. In football, it would only give you eleven against ten, a 10% increase of manpower. So, not only is it very expensive (three substitutions in football, versus unlimited in ice hockey), it's also likely to be much less effective.


In soccer the goalkeeper can act just as another player. He can also use his hands in the penalty area, but he can play anywhere. It is relatively usual in play-out matches that the goalkeeper goes to attack, when there is a corner kick in the last minute and they lose by just one goal. This way the goalkeeper can try to score with a header. For instance, this is how Seville beated Shakhtar Donetsk in UEFA Cup 2007, with a goal of the goalkeeper in the last minute. You can google "palop goal" to watch it. It is permitted to pull out the goalkeeper and put any other player in his place, if you have not made all the changes. In this case the team must decide which one is the goalkeeper. But this is not a good idea. You lose more time like this, and it will not make a big difference. You'd better change a defender.


While rare, it does happen. Generally speaking, after an intensive match players are exhausted, but that probably won't apply to the goalkeeper, so if he were a fairly good field player it may be worth for him to leave the box.

I've seen it happen (without an official role switch) during the just finished World Championship in the last minutes of one match, but I'm not sure which that was. Maybe Honduras? (see below)

Honduras captain and championship keeper Noel Valladares said in a german interview he actually scored, albeit after officcially switching role, in their national professional league games. He says his total score is five goals!

The interview in german.

  • The question is about taking the goalkeeper off the pitch and replacing them with a dedicated outfield player, not just having the goalkeeper move up the field. Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 11:35

They don't pull their goalie, but goalies can go anywhere they want on the field, so if they need an extra attacker on a free kick or something they may bring the goalie up to take the free kick so that they can have everybody else attacking, or they may just get the goalie to participate in the attack. This strategy is only applied if the team needs to score at the end of the match, because if they lose the ball they won't have anybody back so the opposing team can just lob the ball and try to score.

tl;dr the goalie is just another player but one that has special privileges (i.e. can pick up the ball in his/her box), so they don't pull the goalie they send the goalie up onto the attack.

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