The penalty area, also sometimes known as the penalty box, is a large rectangular area extended around the goal at either end of the pitch. This area is also the only section of the field in which the goalkeeper is allowed to use their hands to handle the ball.
There are three main lines and part of the penalty area: the penalty mark, the goal line, and the penalty arc. The penalty mark is the spot from which the ball rests at the start of a penalty kick. Like in American football, the goal line is the boundary a ball must cross to score points. The penalty arc is a special boundary during penalty kicks that an offensive player may not pass without it being considered encroachment.
The penalty area is also known as the 18-yard box. This is because the penalty area is 18 yards long. The full dimensions of the penalty area are 18 yards (16.5 meters) in length and extend 18 yards (16.5 meters) away from each goal post. While the dimensions of the field boundaries fluctuate based on the venue, the dimensions of the penalty area will stay the same.
The penalty area has different rules than the rest of the pitch. The penalty area is the only place on the pitch where the goalie is permitted to handle the ball with their hands. If the goalie handles the ball with their hands outside of the penalty area, the opposing team will be awarded a direct free kick from the spot of the foul.
The other major rule about the penalty area is that any foul committed by the defensive team within their box will result in the opposing team being given a penalty kick. A penalty kick is a one-on-one shot between a player and goalie, in which the player takes an unopposed shot from seven yards directly in front of the net. Since most penalty kicks result in goals, defensive players should be extremely disciplined when playing in the penalty area.
Penalty kicks, also called penalties, are taken within the penalty area. Any foul done by a member of the defending team while possession is within the penalty area results in a penalty kick. Certain fouls may also result in a penalty kick, such as unsportsmanlike conduct or handling of the ball.