What is the Scoring for Lacrosse? (A Helpful Guide)


If you are new to the sport of lacrosse, one of the very first things you probably want to know is what the scoring looks like. Although it seems fairly simple to understand, you could never be too sure.

In lacrosse, a team is awarded 1 point for putting the ball in the back of the opponent’s net, otherwise known as a goal. Exclusively at the professional lacrosse level, there is a designated 2 point arc on the field. Teams that record goals from behind this 2 point arc are awarded with 2 points.

That is the basic gist of scoring in lacrosse. We will analyze the nitty gritty of this basic scoring system in greater depth below. Stick around until the end to see real live examples of how some of the best lacrosse players in the world score their goals!

The Scoring System at the Youth, High School, and Collegiate Level

The youth, high school, and collegiate lacrosse associations all adhere to the same basic scoring system.

How Lacrosse Goals are Scored

As aforementioned, 1 point is awarded to a team every time that the ball crosses into the interior of the goal. The ball only needs to travel past the imaginary plane created by the framework of the cage itself. Thus, the ball does not have to physically touch the back of the net per se.

For example, say that the ball ricochets off of the top pipe and crosses the imaginary plane while moving at a severe angle downward. But when the ball touches the ground, the ball bounces back out of the goal because of extreme back spin. Is this still considered a goal even though the ball did not touch the back of the net?

The answer is yes. Although the ball did not remain in the interior of the goal for long, it does not effect how the shot is scored. Since the ball passed the imaginary plane created by the framework of the cage, the shot is still considered a goal.

Does the Location of Where the Shot Came from Impact the Score?

At these levels, only one point is awarded with every goal that is scored, regardless of where the player shot the ball from. So even if an offensive player is able to pull off a low angle shot that had an extremely low chance of reaching success, it is still only worth 1 point. It may earn you some extra street credit though.

For this reason, there is no real reason for offensive players to attempt shots from 15 to 20 yards out. These are low percentage shots that are not awarded with any extra points whatsoever. In fact, players that take these kinds of shots in game will quickly find themselves benched by the coach.

Does the Location of Where the Ball Crossed into the Goal Impact the Score?

Furthermore, it does not matter where the ball crosses into the goal. All shots that cross the imaginary plane of the cage are awarded with a single point. In terms of scoring, a high velocity shot that burns past the goalkeeper up into the top corner is treated the same as a little rinky dink shot that somehow sneaked its way into the goal. Again, can’t overlook the boost in street credit though.

To witness some of the electrifying ways that goals are scored in lacrosse, check out the scoring compilation from the 2019 college season!

The Scoring System at the Professional Level

In contrast to the youth, high school, and collegiate lacrosse scoring system, the professional lacrosse level opted for a different route.

Currently, there are two different professional lacrosse associations: Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). Rather than implement the same old scoring system, these leagues elected to incorporate a 2 point arc into the game.

The 2 point arc is the equivalent of the 3 point arc in basketball. At every point on the 2 point arc, the cage is positioned 15 yards away for the PLL (source). Players that shoot from behind this arc and score are awarded with 2 points instead of the normal 1 point. Players must position their feet completely behind the arc in order for 2 points to be awarded.

It is a rare sight to witness a successful 2 point goal in professional lacrosse. The majority of the time, the points come from within the 2 point arc. However, I must say that it does add another exciting variable to the scoring.

How Often Do Teams Score in Lacrosse?

I actually conducted a study on this very topic to see just how often teams score in lacrosse. To get all the details of the research study, click over to my article 7 Statistics that Prove Lacrosse is a High Scoring Game.

From the data gathered, I found that the average D1 collegiate lacrosse team scored 12.01 goals per game. Penn St. held the highest goals per game average at 17.94 goals per game, while St. Bonaventure held the lowest goals per game average at 6.23 goals per game.

The general trend for most lacrosse teams is to score above 10 goals per game at the high school and collegiate level. Since players have yet to grasp the fundamental skills of lacrosse at the youth level, the scoring does not hit double digits all that often.

In contrast, professional level lacrosse average well beyond 10 goals per game due to numerous rules in place to help promote a fast-paced, dynamic scoring style. Besides the presence of the 2 point arc, the PLL has also implemented a 52 second shot clock and a shortened lacrosse field. With the combined effect of all thee rules, it is well within reason for one lacrosse team to record 20 goals within the span of a single game.

Why Did Professional Level Lacrosse Introduce the 2 Point Line?

You may be wondering why the scoring system for professional level lacrosse is so different from the norm. I know I sure did when I first found out about the 2 point arc.

Attracts More Viewers to the Sport

The foremost reason that they adopted this rule was to make lacrosse more enticing to viewers. The sport of lacrosse is still trying to gain traction at the professional level. To make it as appealing to the casual sports fan as possible, they had to experiment with some fresh, original ideas.

One of the first ideas that sprung up was the notion of the 2 point arc. We have all seen how the 3 point arc forever changed the basketball world for the better. The professional lacrosse rules committee had a strong desire to see if the 2 point arc would accomplish the same for lacrosse. Thus far, a great deal of fans agree that it certainly adds another layer of suspense to the game.

Just to show you that the 2 point goal is possible, I provided a clip below of Kyle Dixon scoring three 2-point goals!

With regular old scoring rules, a team is practically out of the running if they are down by four goals. At the professional level, it is a completely different story. No lead is safe here because of the prospect of the 2 point arc. To overcome a four goal deficit, all you need is a couple of 2 point bombs and your team is back in it!

At the end of the day, even if the 2 point arc makes games slightly more captivating, it is considered a victory in the eyes of the rules committee. They want to grow the game more anyone else, so if this rule change serves as a step in the right direction, they are willing to commit to it.

Spreads the Field and Opens Up Even More Scoring Opportunities

In addition, another overlooked aspect of the 2 point arc is that it forces the defense to spread out and respect players positioned at a far distance from the goal.

At the lower rungs of lacrosse, this isn’t an issue. It is unlikely that an offensive player will attempt a shot from 15 yards out because there is no incentive to do so. Think about it. Why would you take a shot from 15 yards out if you could earn the same amount of points from 5 yards out?

The 2 point arc keeps the defense honest. They don’t want to have to deal with a 2 point swing. It is simply too much of a potential threat. As a result, defenders are more hesitant to hedge off of their assigned man and provide defensive support where it is necessary.

Consequently, dodgers have a bit of extra time and room to work with since the help isn’t there. This equates to higher percentage shots, which leads to more goals.

Will the Other Lacrosse Levels Also Adopt the 2 Point Line?

With all of these benefits, this brings up the question of whether all levels of lacrosse will eventually adopt the 2 point line.

No one can predict the future, but I highly doubt that this will ever be instituted in the coming years. Although the 2 point arc definitely makes the game more dynamic and suspenseful at the professional level, that does not necessarily mean it will translate nearly as well at the lower competitive tiers.

Shooting with power and accuracy from 15 yards out is a novelty.

Certain professional lacrosse players are not even equipped to take on this task. As far as my opinion is concerned, I am not sure whether the lacrosse community is ready to take on this step yet, particularly at the youth and high school level.

It is imperative that younger lacrosse players grasp the fundamentals of the game as soon as possible. If the 2 point arc is suddenly introduced at the youth and high school level, I am worried that players will be more tempted to attempt these low percentage shots that lie well outside of their skill set. Rather than performing shooting repetitions from 8 yards out, they will be jumping to 15 yards out before they are ready. This may hamper their player progression in the long run, preventing them from ever reaching their true shooting potential.

Out of all the lacrosse levels, the collegiate level is definitely the most likely to follow the lead of professional lacrosse. However, I have to admit that I think the chances are slim at best.

Sources: 1

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of Lacrosse Pack. I enjoy hitting the local lacrosse fields and honing in on the craft in my free time.

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