Toronto Soccer Association

Retreat Line Information U9 - U12

The Retreat Line has been introduced in the Toronto Soccer Association YDSL and TDYSL (U11/U12) Development Leagues to allow our young players to learn and gain confidence in how to play the ball out from the back and play forward to attack, as opposed to the goalkeeper “Sending It” aimlessly down the field.

The Retreat Line will be positioned at the 1/3rds point of the field for all ages U9- U12. As shown in the diagram below:


The Retreat Line will come into effect at two points during the game:

  1. At a goal-kick
  2. When the goalkeeper has the ball in his hands.

At these times, the “attacking” team is required to drop back to at, or behind, the Retreat Line. The goalkeeper can then pass the ball to one of his team-mates without the pressure of an opposing player nearby.

Below, we have listed some reminders/ clarifications regarding the use of the "Retreat Line", and this information will be updated as required.

Opponent Activation Point
The opposing players are only permitted to move inside the "Retreat Line" once the the goalkeepers team-mate has touched the ball, or if the Referee deems that the player has the ball "under control" for a period of 3 seconds, no touch will be required.

The 3 second rule avoids a situation where a coach advises his player to not touch in order to waste time!
After all, the Retreat Line has been introduced to aid the technical development of our players not to be a time wasting tactic!

Referees and coaches are therefore reminded of this and that fact that the goalkeeper releasing the ball is NOT the activation point.

Ball Across the Retreat Line
In some instances, instead of the goalkeeper choosing to "play out from the back", they may decide to kick the ball directly over the Retreat Line.

Referees and coaches are advised that this is not against the rules (although clearly against the "spirit" of the Retreat Line), and so the game should not be stopped.
Also, be advised that when the ball crosses the Retreat Line, it can be touched by any player on the field and can be deemed "live and in play".

We would hope that should this happen, the coach would calmly remind the goalkeeper of the benefit of playing out to a team-mate, and ask that they try that next time around.

Goalkeeper Release
In the 11v11 version of the game, when the goalkeeper takes possession of the ball in their hands, and then decides to drop it to their feet, the ball is deemed to be "live".

Not when using the Retreat Line!

Should the goalkeeper elect to release the ball from their hands, and hence, obviously plans to play out to a team-mate, the opposing team are still required to wait until the first touch of the team-mate (or use the 3 second rule explained above) before moving inside the Retreat Line.

Referees should be watchful of the time taken by the goalkeeper to pass the ball to a team-mate, and should enforce the 3 second rule here also if they feel time-wasting is occurring.

Game Restart
Should the opposing team enter inside the Retreat Line too soon, or touch the ball inside that area before the team in possession outfield player does, the Referee must blow their whistle, and order a retake of the initial distribution (i.e the goal kick should be retaken).

Its about Development!
Coaches are encouraged to work with their players on the developmental benefits of the Retreat Line, and to incorporate "Playing out from the back" in the playing style of their teams.

Remember, mistakes will happen but coaches and players should look at these as part of the development process, and keep working with the confidence that improvement will come with time.

The TSA recently recorded a discussion with Bobby Lennox, Manager Grassroots Development at the OSA. The interview discusses the Retreat Line in detail and can be found here:

We would ask all coaches, game officials and parents to review the information above and where necessary, adapt their approach in line with the above directives.

For any questions, or further clarification, please email: agould@soccer.on.ca.