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September 2004 Archive (I of II)

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I have seen new gold referee shirts with checks available. Are they authorized for use?

Answer (September 20, 2004):
No, those shirts are not approved.


This situation occurred in a recent U-13 Boys competitive tournament game: The attacking team, one goal down, brought the ball into the opponent's penalty and put a shot on goal that appeared to be headed into the goal. The ball struck the goalkeeper's water cooler (about 12 inches in diameter) which was setting just inside the left goalpost with its front edge just beyond the goal line. The ball rebounded into the field of play having never completely crossed the goal line and the referee allowed play to continue. Several of the attacking players complained to the point where the referee stopped play, yelled at one of the attacking players and eventually dismissed an angry parent who had come out onto the field. He awarded an IFK for the defending team at the spot where he stopped play.

Was the referee correct to allow play to continue after the water cooler prevented a goal from being scored? What would be the correct restart if he was not correct? Should the goalkeeper be cautioned for setting his cooler where he did?

It seems this could all have been avoided if the AR had properly checked the nets and goal area prior to the start of the second half.

Answer (September 10, 2004):
Don't put all the blame on the assistant referee. The referee should have been closer to the scene than any AR and should have told the goalkeeper to move the water cooler well away from the goal immediately, long before the ball struck it.

As to the goal, the referee should have stopped play immediately when the ball rebounded from the cooler and restarted with a dropped ball at the place on the goal area line (the "six-yard line") nearest to where the outside agent (the water cooler) interfered with the ball. No caution is necessary for anyone in this case.


At a tournament with games scheduled on the hour all day long; the first game at 8:00AM was delayed by fog. The fog was very thick, but the ref, standing in the center circle could see both goals and all four corner flags; wanted to start the game. Standing at one goal you could not see the opposite goal and the assistant refs could not see each other. The coaches could not see the full pitch and did not want to start play until the fog cleared. Is there a USSF "fog" guide line to follow?

Answer (September 10, 2004):
As long as the goalkeeper releases the ball before leaving the penalty area-and does it within six seconds of having taken possession-he or she may kick the ball wherever and whenever it seems best. Marginal offenses of this nature are either trifling or doubtful and hence, even though an actual infringement of the Law, should be ignored (or, at most, noted with a warning).

The lawmakers have established that at least a portion of the ball must be in contact with either the corner arc or that portion of the goal line or touch line that is within the corner area.


The AR in the picture is always standing even with the offending attacking player, not the second last defender. Do they/did they used to do it this way, or is this an artist assuming something that did not get caught?

Part II
Seems if an attacker was WAY offside - like near the goal area and the 2nd last defender was near the halfway line, then restarting with an IFK where the attacker was would be unfair. In practice I generally see the kick taken from where both the AR usually is - the 2nd last defender.

I know what the ATR says - but it does not match what I see (no big deal).

Answer (September 10, 2004):
If the attacker has advanced beyond the second-last defender, then the assistant referee is expected to move with that attacker. Although the AR may appear to be with the attacker in some situations, in reality, the AR has followed the ball when it was played past the second to last defender (as he should) and then stopped, squared, and signaled when it became evident that the attacker in the offside position had become involved in active play.

The restart for offside is where the offside player was when he or she became offside, not where the second-last defender was.

As for Part II, what can anyone say when confronted with the suggestion that, perhaps, just maybe, some referees are not performing their duties as prescribed in Advice to Referees or Guide to Procedures? All referees should resolve not to make the same mistake that apparently a number of our colleagues are apparently making. In any event, fairness is not the issue. An attacker has violated the Law and the Law prescribes the how, when, and where of the punishment. It doesn't need to be "fair," only just.


Is there any statement by us soccer or an appropriate youth soccer organization that addresses nepotism and refereeing? We have two teen brothers, one who refs games in which a team is coached by his brother and mother. The mother (the youth soccer president) claims no one else is qualified, and refuses to recognize that this might be a conflict of interest. What do you think? Thanks for your time!

Answer (September 9, 2004):
In the 2004 edition of the Referee Administrative Handbook, p. 38, it suggests that assistant referees should not be related in any way to either team participating in the game unless it is impossible to get other affiliated officials assigned. Unfortunately, sometimes the referee game assignors do not have enough bodies to go around and ask parents or siblings to referee games in which their kin will be playing. The pertinent text says that referees "should not referee in any match in which they have a vested interest." If a family member is playing and/or coaching, the referee has a vested interest. A complaint should be sent to the league and the state association.


I was watching a Mexican League match on T.V. and saw a play where the G.K. had the ball in the palm of his right hand (not extended) and was slowly walking the ball toward the edge of the penalty area. Everyone except for one attacker had cleared the penalty area and was in front of keeper. The lone attacker then came in from behind the keeper and knocked the ball from his hand using only his head. There did not seem to be any other contact other than the ball being "headed" out of the keepers hand. The attacker then collected the ball, pivoted and shot the ball into the net. The center referee then blew his whistle and disallowed the goal. Obviously, there was no clear explanation from the official as to what he had sanctioned. On the replay (and it was replayed quite a few times!) you could see AR2 raising his flag. There was no way to know if the center blew his whistle as a result of the flag or if he saw something on his own. Unfortunately the replay stopped short of showing if the AR "wiggled" his flag or simply raised it (I was thinking that the AR was signaling that the attacker was offside since he was not behind the ball).

To make matters worse, in the second half of the same match, the same thing occurred again! A different attacker "headed" the ball out of the keepers hand. As the attacker attempted to pass the keeper in order to collect the ball, the keeper basically grabbed the attacker and pulled him down! This time the referee swallowed his whistle and did not sanction either the "heading" of the ball or the fact that the keeper committed a major foul. The referee should have awarded a PK and the keeper should have been sent off!

I am not making this up! This was the opening match for Pumas of Mexico against the University of Guadalajara (Tecos). You have got to get a copy of this to review.

So, what is the correct ruling?

Answer (September 9, 2004):
The referee's decision on the ball headed from the goalkeeper's hand non-dangerously should be "no infringement." This is the result of a new question and answer in the IFAB's Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game for 2004.

As to the possible penalty kick, there isn't much we can say about that, as we haven't yet seen it.

NOTE: If anyone has a spare copy of the Pumas-Tecos game, please let us know at


Question:I was just reading through the FIFA Q& A for 2004 and I have come upon 2 points which interest me and also confuse me to some degree. According the the document:
Law 12 21. If a goalkeeper is bouncing the ball, may an opponent play the ball as it touches the ground, provided he is not guilty of dangerous play?
22. After taking possession of the ball, a goalkeeper allows it to lie on his open hand. An opponent comes from behind him and heads the ball from his hand. Is this permitted?
This is permitted since the goalkeeper does not have full possession of the ball and the action of the opponent is not dangerous.

When I read ATR 12.16 and 12.17 I would have to interpret different things regarding such challenges for possession with the GK. I'm slightly surprised that FIFA would interpret the law in this way, but I can see it coming as part of their emphasis on supporting attacking soccer. My question is, what should we referees in the USA do regarding this tweak in interpretation. I'm assuming the USSF will be coming out with a revision to ATR or a position paper eventually) Until, something does come out, should we be enforcing the law in the way the ATR notes, or the way the Q&A notes? Thank you for any advice you can offer.

AMENDED answer (September 8, 2004)(was August 4, 2004)::
We are pleased to see that you are keeping up with more than just The Laws of The Game. FIFA's Questions and Answers is an important document which has been used in the past to announce important changes in how to interpret various aspects of the Law. You have pointed to two of them (and there are others in the new version of the Q&A. Since FIFA officially published this on July 1, it becomes effective immediately world-wide and we are all obliged to officiate in accordance with our understanding of its guidelines. USSF is in the process of seeking clarification from FIFA regarding several of the new interpretations and, when we are clear about them, it is likely that there will be an announcement to assist referees in understanding what is new in the 2004 version. Where this means changes in Advice to Referees, we will include that information as well.

Meanwhile, our understanding of the provisions you have identified is that the ball is playable by an opponent at the moment the ball hits the ground when the goalkeeper has obviously released it-but not if the goalkeeper is in the process of actively distributing the ball. The ball is playable by an opponent attempting to head it if the ball is being held in the open hand of the goalkeeper-but not if the goalkeeper is in the process of distributing the ball. However, in either case, the opponent's action must not be dangerous.


In an adult amateur game, I the center referee called a DFK at 20 yds. from goal for the attacking team. After showing the 'no restart until the whistle sounds', moving the defense 10 yds. from the ball and positioning myself; I blew the whistle, shot and goal occurred. I was then surrounded by the defense and approached on the field by the manager telling me I should have made sure the goalie was ready for play to restart. He claims that he was still positioning his wall. I said that was his problem, a wall is not a right, I told him to leave the field which he did. We restarted with a kickoff, the goal stands. It took about 2 to 4 seconds after moving the wall back that I was in position and blew the whistle. Does all look well to you?

Answer (September 1, 2004):
The goalkeeper should be ready at all times. There is no need to alert the goalkeeper at kick-offs, at penalty kicks, or at free kicks or corner kicks. In fact, the defending team has no "right" under the Laws of the Game to form a wall, as this is simply a way to waste time. The kicking team has the right to be able to take the kick quickly and without interference.


Your recent response to the offside query about the Olympic Women's USA-Japan game was done while I was composing the same question about those 3 USA players trapped offside while another USA player dashed forward and scored the winning goal. This situation also occurred in an Olympic Men's game (I forget the teams) where a 15 foot pass was made to a player who was way offside. He nonchalantly let the ball slip in front of him while an onside player (you now use the term 'onside' I see) ran behind him, got the ball and scored the winning goal. In prior times these were automatic calls of offside. A sleepy referee could feel comfortable where a player was offside knowing that any pass forward would get a whistle toot.

So, without any re-wording of the laws we have a dramatically changed game. We now have a 'tactical offside' in the game. The offside traps that teams practice so much are questionable practices now. This new emphasis on application of the laws should have been preceded with drum rolls, fanfare and sky rockets because that much of an impact has been made.

Three well-schooled referees can administer a re-emphasized offside call, but it will be an extreme problem for all those many, many games controlled by a single referee. Spotting the offside positioned player was previously enough, and that's not so easy a feat for a lone ref. Now the other attacking players will also have to be monitored with precision. I foresee great problems at all amateur levels. What we need now is advice to referees - and to coaches, and to fans by multiple publications.

We have three levels of rules for soccer. Those drawn up by FIFA, those devised by competitions, those applied by referees. I can see lone referees announcing before the game that they will not apply the New Offside Call (NOC) - they won't NOC the game.

What advice is pertinent now?

Answer (September 1, 2004):
There has been NO major change in any portion of Law 11 nor in the Federation's interpretation of the Law. We have used the term "onside" for many years and even issued a list of correctly-spelled terms a few years ago that removed the Anglicized hyphen from on-side, just as it is removed from off-side. The information in the Advice to Referees continues to apply.

The player in the offside situation in the men's game in the Olympics clearly indicated his noninvolvement in play, as is required by the Law, by standing at attention. This is a legal tactic approved at the highest levels and perfectly permissible to play at any level. In fact, it was used to good effect by Brazil at the 1994 World Cup held here in the United States.

As to the three sorts of rules for soccer, they do exist: the Laws of the Game, the rules of the competition, and the way the referee chooses to call the game on any given day. And there is nothing that can be done about it, as long as state or national administrators are lax in ensuring that competitions follow the Laws of the Game, rather than going off on their own; as long as assessors and administrators are lax in failing to reprimand and punish referees for not following the Laws of the Game and the directives of the Federation; and as long as instructors fail to provide the proper path to enlightenment.


A ball is played forward towards the goal from approximately mid field. The ball lands approximately equal distance between the Defending GK and the attacker. A 50-50 ball; both players charge towards the ball (the attacker is not offside), The defending GK leaves her PA to play the ball. Both players arrive at the ball nearly at the same time and the defending GK fouls the attacker in the process of playing the ball. Does this foul warrant a caution or an ejection?

Answer (August 31, 2004):
If the goalkeeper fouls the opposing player while "in the process of playing the ball," the referee would call the foul. The referee would then apply the Four D's (see below) in determining whether or not to send off the goalkeeper for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.

A position paper of late 2002 from the Manager of Referee Development and Education on obvious goalscoring opportunities (affectionately known as "The 4Ds"), which applies to Reason 5 under Law 12, and states:
In order for a player to be sent off for denying an "obvious goal-scoring opportunity," four elements must be present:
- Number of Defenders - not more than one defender between the foul and the goal, not counting the defender who committed the foul
- Distance to goal - the closer the foul is to the goal, the more likely it is an obvious goalscoring opportunity
- Distance to ball - the attacker must have been close enough to the ball at the time of the foul to have continued playing the ball
- Direction of play - the attacker must have been moving toward the goal at the time the foul was committed
If any element is missing, there can be no send off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Further, the presence of each of these elements must be "obvious" in order for the send off to be appropriate under this provision of Law 12.

And there is always the possibility that the foul itself might have warranted a send-off and red card, whether there was an obvious goalscoring opportunity or not.

In all cases, the final decision is based on the opinion of the referee.


Team A lines up for a goal kick. Team A's coach indicates to the youth linesmen that he wants to substitute a player. The youth linesmen raises his flag momentarily, but the youth ref does not see it. At this time, one player for Team A begins to leave the field. Team A proceeds to make the goal kick, and the linesmen puts his flag down and runs to get in position with the last defender. Another 3 -5 seconds go by and Team A's extra player runs on the field, while the exiting player is still on the field by about 10 yards or so.

The goal kick is short and goes to Team B. Team B gets the ball dribbles to the goal and scores.

The coach for Team A is upset and wants the goal called back. However, the center Ref never gave him permission to substitute even though the linesmen tried for a moment to get his attention.

The center ref let the goal stand. He did not card the subs. He could have cared them for entering and leaving the field, but since it was a youth game and they just got scored on he let that go. Should he have disallowed the goal since the team was substituting in the middle of the goal kick being taken?

Answer (August 31, 2004):
The referee took the correct action by doing nothing. Score the goal and get on with the game, after admonishing the two players for their illegal actions. The referee could caution both players for leaving (the player going out) and entering (the new player coming in) the field without permission, but if no harm was done the offense seems trifling in this particular situation.

The coach of Team A has no authority and no reason to complain. Substitutes may not enter the field until the player they are replacing has left, and no player may leave or enter the field for any reason without the permission of the referee. If the coach protests too much, he or she is behaving irresponsibly and should be asked to leave the vicinity of the field. The referee should give a complete summary of the incident in the match report.


In a recent tournament championship match a player from the opposing team was admittedly fouled (though not hard, he never left his feet). Before the referee blew the whistle, the player picked up the ball and began positioning it for his indirect kick. Since the ball was still in play until the whistle sounded, was this not a hand ball? The officials response when I questioned him was, "I was getting ready to blow the whistle." What was the proper procedure in this situation?

Answer (August 30, 2004):
While the player's act was a bit premature, there is no need for punishment in this case. Once the referee has decided that an infringement has taken place, play has been stopped, whether or not the referee has announced the decision by blowing the whistle. The referee should allow the free kick to proceed, but should also warn the player to wait for the whistle the next time, as not all referees are as quick witted or understanding as in this instance.


Late in a tied game, a free kick is awarded to the Red team, three yards beyond the penalty area, within the penalty arc, obviously a very dangerous opportunity. After the usual delay, the Blue team is moved back the specified ten yards and all seems ready. The referee blows the whistle to indicate the kick is to be taken. As the Red player runs to the ball, in an obviously well-choreographed maneuver the players in the "wall" all spin around, now facing their goal, and put their arms straight up from their shoulders. The kick is taken and the ball hits one of those extended arms, deflecting in such a way as to be easily recovered by the Blue GK.

I couldn't justify a handling call, at least not to myself, although certainly many Red players were of that opinion. I decided that the "spinning and stretching" constituted Unsporting Behaviour, and taking place before the kick, I could rule that the kick never officially happened. I Cautioned the Blue Captain (he was in the wall), reset the ceremonial free kick and saw it converted for the winning goal.

Was I correct in my decision?

Answer (August 30, 2004):
The referee must recognize that while members of the wall are allowed to jump about when opponents are taking a kick, choreographed actions that are unnatural and designed to both intimidate and to shock and distract their opponents constitute bringing the game into disrepute. As this occurred before the ball was in play, the correct call could be unsporting behavior on the part of the player who played the ball with the hand. Caution and show the yellow card; restart with the free kick.

However, it would be more reasonable-and more just-to decide that a handling offense occurred. After all, the hands/arms were not being carried in a "natural position" and the action was taken deliberately to increase unfairly the "size" of the wall. Even a defender at the end of the wall putting his hand on his hip with his elbow out is considered to have handled the ball if it strikes the elbow-and this action is far less extreme than the example given. That would make the restart a penalty kick (based on your description of the location of the kick), rather than a retake of the original free kick.


I am becoming more concerned about the safety of 12 year old soccer players for the following reasons. In recent tournaments over HOT & HUMID August weekends, these 12 year old children, playing in u13 tournament competition, played 2 games of 70 min each (starting at 8am) on Saturday and finished (by 5pm) on Sunday with two additional games of 70 min each plus two overtimes of 10 min each.

By my calculations these children played 300 min of soccer in less than 34 hours! Are the USSF youth tournament directors trying to teach these kids about soccer or trying to "burn them out" (literally) in the August heat? We would certainly never ask our adult professionals to compete in three full games in a day and a half, so why the children?

What are the USSF rules and regulations for children's games over a weekend?

Answer (August 27, 2004):
You should send your concerns to your state association and then to US Youth Soccer, . We don't set the tournament rules of play.

U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff/National Assessor), assisted by Dan Heldman (National Instructor Staff), for their assistance in providing this service.

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