When a player breaks a rule in soccer, a member from the opposing team gets to kick the ball from a stationary position with no opposing player closer than 10 yards from the ball-a free kick. Free kicks are awarded from the position of the infraction, and anyone on the violated team can take the kick. The majority of free kicks are short passes, made quickly just to get the game going again-with about as much excitement as the average in-bounds pass in basketball. But when the free kick is from a dangerous position (that is, near the goal), you start to see set plays develop.

A free kick from anywhere within 25 yards is dangerous business for the defending team because there are players who specialize in scoring from those long range kicks. So in this case, the defending team assemble a "wall" in front of the kick. This wall must be at least 10 yards from the ball.

There are actually TWO kinds of free kicks: direct and indirect. "Direct" kicks are ones where the ball is allowed travel directly into the net to score. "Indirect" kicks are ones where a player in addition to the kicker must first touch the ball before it travels into the next to be considered a goal.

This leads to the almighty question: when do you get a direct kick, and when do you get an indirect kick? Not surprisingly, it depends on the severity of the foul. You have to commit a more serious foul to be punished with a direct (such as kicking, tackling from behind, spitting, pulling shirts, and the ever-feared handball). An indirect is awarded for less serious things like dangerous play (high kicking at someone's knees), obstruction, and offsides.

Into this mush, we add one more type of kick: a penalty kick.

1. Whenever a foul occurs within the penalty box (the box that extends 18 yards from the goal line), where the foul happened has nothing to do with where the kicker takes his kick. If a defender commits any foul within the penalty box that merits a direct free kick, the offending team doesn't take the kick from the site of the infraction.

2. The defending team does not get to set up a wall. Instead, the referee orders the penalty area cleared of all but two players: the kicker and the goalie.

3. The ref will place the ball on the penalty mark, a soccer ball-sized dot 13 yards from the center of the goal, and the kicker takes a whack at it. Just like free throws, the presumption is that the kicker will score; if a goalie saves a penalty, it is cause for much celebration and the removal of sports bras.

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