A term for the yard line past which a team needs to advance the ball in order to earn a new set of downs. For each new set of downs, the line to gain will be 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, and the team has four downs to advance at least that far. The location of the line to gain is indicated by a tall marker being held by an official, as well as a small orange rectangle that is placed at the base of the marker. On television, a projected line will show the line to gain across the field.
Also known as "necessary line".
Teams will call specific plays depending on their distance from the line to gain. On early downs, a premium is placed on reducing the distance that will have to be achieved on later downs. On third down, a team will run a play that gives them the best chance of reaching or passing the line to gain. Each time they reach the line to gain, a new set of downs is awarded and the line to gain is adjusted to 10 yards from wherever the previous play ended.