The Difference Between Goals and Points in Lacrosse

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Lacrosse resembles sports such as soccer and hockey, with two teams that move up and down a field trying to propel an object into a net. In lacrosse, players carry a long stick, called a “crosse,” with netting on the end that allows them to carry a small rubber ball. Players can also pass the ball to a teammate, scoop up a loose ball or direct the ball at the net. The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the net. With the exception of Major League Lacrosse, a goal in lacrosse is always worth one point.


Lacrosse, originated by Native Americans, is the oldest known sport in North America. By the 17th century the sport was played by at least 48 tribes in what is now the United States and Canada. Lacrosse served several purposes for Native Americans. Not only was it a recreational game, but it could be used to help resolve conflicts, or even serve as a prelude to war. Oral histories recount games with as many as 1,000 players per team played on fields up to 15 miles long. Lacrosse rules were first standardized in Canada in 1867. U.S. college and high school teams began playing lacrosse in the latter half of the 19th century.

Game Play

Lacrosse features different rules at different levels of play, although the NCAA men’s rules are fairly standard across the board. Under NCAA men's rules, lacrosse teams feature 10 players per team, including one goalkeeper. The field is 110 yards long by 60 yards wide. The goal line is 15 yards in front of the end line. Games are 60 minutes long, divided into 15-minute periods. Players carry sticks as long as 72 inches, made from wood or a synthetic material. Goalie sticks feature larger pockets at the end than field players’ sticks.

In the women’s college game, teams have 12 players and games are divided into 30-minute halves. The field can range from 110 to 140 yards long and 60 to 70 yards wide, while the goal line is placed 10 to 20 yards from the end line. The women’s crosse is no longer than 48 inches.


At all levels of play, a goal is scored when a ball crosses the goal line completely, or is in the air and breaks the plane of the goal line. The ball must be loose before crossing the goal line, so players can’t slam-dunk the ball into the net with the crosse. If a shot is in the air when the period ends, then crosses the plane of the goal line, the goal doesn’t count. Likewise, a goal is disallowed if an attacking player is in the crease, interferes with the goalkeeper or touches the net before the ball crosses the goal line.

Major League Lacrosse

The professional Major League Lacrosse organization was formed in 2000 and features teams in the United States and Canada. The MLL features some unique lacrosse rules, including a 60-second shot clock, plus a 16-foot, two-point scoring arc. If a player’s feet are completely behind the line when he shoots the ball into the net, his team receives two points.