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May 2008 Archive (II of III)


I watched this one from the side line and wanted to know the correct application of the rules.

During a U13 girls match, the referee awarded a penalty kick. After the referee gave the signal but before the girl kicked it, the coach of the kicking team yelled out for the team to "watch #2". The entire team turned to the coach and yelled, "got it, watch #2". As they yelled, the girl took the penalty kick and scored while the referee and everyone on the defending team was confused and distracted by the yelling. The referee allowed the goal.

I thought the correct call should have been to stop the play, award a yellow card to the team captain (caution the coach as well) for unsportsmanlike conduct, and make the girl retake the penalty kick. I spoke with other refs and they disagree and would have awarded the yellow card to the coach, taken away the kick and awarded a IFK to the defending team. What's the correct call? I see too much gamesmanship starting to creep into these youth games

Answer (May 9, 2008):
Some aspects of gamesmanship are perfectly legitimate, such as players from the team with the ball feinting at free kicks or giving misleading information to deceive or distract their opponents during the attack. Giving misleading information would be when a player calls for the ball, knowing full well that the teammate will not pass it. (Although it does not apply in this situation, the defending team is NOT allowed to do the same thing. That would be unsporting behavior.) The referee must learn to differentiate between those tactics which are legal and those which are not.

This orchestrated shouting, clearly an unfair tactic and counter to the Spirit of the Game, was a violation of the penalty kick procedure by a teammate of the player taking the kick. The referee should have disallowed the goal, certainly warned and possibly cautioned at least one of the kicking team players, and at least warned if not expelled the kicking team's coach for behaving irresponsibly. Because the ball entered the goal, the kick would be retaken. (If the ball had not entered the goal, the referee would still have warned or cautioned the kicking team player, warned or expelled the coach, and would then have awarded an indirect free kick to the defending team from the place where the infringement occurred; in this case at the place just outside the penalty area where the player had been.)



I would appreciate your comments on the following question. I am a a father of five (three in soccer and I coach two of them), a former college player, and have been a soccer ref for

If, during the course of play, a player clears the ball out (of the defensive end of the field - although I don't think it matters) can the referee issue a caution (yellow card) for delay of game to the player who cleared the ball? Does it matter whether the player has done it (cleared the ball) several times before during the course of play? How does the referee distinguish between a weak clear and a strong clear?

Does it matter?

As I have always understood the rule, and always seen it applied, a player should only be issued a yellow card for delay in the RESTART of play. Meaning player conduct after the play has been stopped. Until yesterday, I had never seen a ref - and I have never thought it proper(and still don't) for a ref - to issue a yellow card to a player for clearing a ball. Refs should not be in the position of dictating how hard or where a player decides to clear a ball. See

Answer (MAY 9, 2008):
The Laws of the Game do not support disciplinary action for clearing the ball down the field. Nor, in fact, do they support a caution for constantly clearing the ball by kicking it out of play, given by many referees who are as inventive as the one whom you observed.



The match requires a winner. Regular and Extra time have expired and the score is tied. A blue player received a send off and the referee correctly reduces to equate leaving each team with 10 players. Kicks commence with no team gaining advantage. After the 9th kicker for each team the score is tied. Neither goalkeeper has kicked. The referee signals for a field player (blue) to be sent from the center circle and allows this player a KFTPM and the player scores. The referee then signals for a white field player to be sent from the circle.

At this time the white team coach notifies the 4th official that not all of the players have taken a first kick before his white team player is about to take a second. The 4th realizes there is a mistake before the white team player kicks. He is unable to get the referee's attention and the white player takes the KFTPM and misses. Blue thinks they have won the match. 4th correctly does not allow any players or bench personnel onto the pitch and calls the referee over to consult. Referee decides to disallow both of the two kicks from players who had kicked twice and have the goalkeepers take their first kick instead.

You can probably guess what happens. White wins.

In conversation with other referees the difference of opinion lies with whether it is permissible for the referee to disallow the two kicks and then permit other kickers to take their first.

One group maintains that once the blue player takes the kick, on a signal from the referee, there is no going back as the match has been "restarted" when the ball is put into play. Since the restart was taken at the instruction of the referee once the ball is kicked and moves the outcome counts (barring any misconduct) and the referee, and the teams, must live with the outcome. (and the referee must make a full report to the competition authority) This opinion is further supported when the referee instructs the white team's kicker to take their kick. The match has been restarted improperly after a goal is scored. No goal can be disallowed after the next restart.

The other group maintains that 'fair play' mandates that the two 'second' kicks be disallowed and that the referee correctly decided that the "restart(s)" had been improper.

Which would be more correct?

Answer (MAY 9, 2008):
In this case it is not a matter of fairness, but of fulfilling the requirements for properly executed kicks from the penalty mark -- all players on the field must take their kick before any player may take a second kick. Despite the referee's and other officials' initial error in failing to keep a proper count of the kickers, the referee finally made the correct decision in voiding the two kicks taken in error and having them taken in accordance with the procedure laid out in the Laws of the Game. The officials will have a lot to talk about and learn from after this experience.



During a U16 game, I was center and had a team that was two goals behind. The team behind scored and the defensive player from the winning team (2 goals) was taking the ball out of the goal when the player that scored (1 goal) -- tried to grab the ball out of the hands of the player. Both were trying to get the ball to the center, the offensive player, in my opinion "felt" the defensive player was not fast enough. So -- a pulling match began. I was close enough to control the issue and give both a "yellow" card for Delays the Restart of Play (DR), I thought both were in the wrong, even if the one player initiated. After the match, the coach from the winning team (defensive player) argued that the offensive payer cannot touch the ball after a goal and I should not have given a "yellow" to his player. Was his statement correct about who can touch the ball after a goal and was I incorrect to give the "yellow" to his player?

Answer (MAY 8, 2008):
After the referee has stopped play for a goal, the ball, although "dead" until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Team A). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See the Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2007/2008.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (B) who was interfering with the Team A player carrying the ball to the center of the field.

The team which has possession (A) may "allow" the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i. e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In your game, Team B, perhaps believing that A was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that "belonged" to Team A. Team B has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to grab the ball or punch the ball out of the Team A player's control.

Rather than immediately cautioning either player, the true owner (against whose team the goal was scored) and the "wannabe" owner (whose team will be defending at the kick-off), it would be better if you simply spoke quickly to both players, admonishing the wannabe owner to leave the ball alone. You could also tell the player that you will judge whether there is any "delay" in getting the ball back to the center spot and will, if necessary, add time to make up for any time lost.

There is little reason to immediately caution either player if you do what we suggest above. In any event, the possibility of a caution would depend on HOW the defender attempts to gain possession (i. e., how aggressively, how prolonged, etc.). We cannot see how the mere fact of attempting to gain possession is itself cautionable.



I was refereeing a U17 girls game. It seemed like every time a ball was played in to the half of one of my assistant referees, she raised her flag signaling offside. The team complained to me with about 5 minutes left in the half about the calls of this AR saying that she was signaling offside for people that were not interfering with play but were in an offside position. I explained to them that the AR was in the best position to make the call but that I would monitor it. I had waived one offside call off as well as an illegal throw-in signal that was given by this AR. With play going the opposite direction in the second half, I noted that only a quarter of the offside calls were being made by the AR compared to what the first AR was making.

How should a referee handle the situation where there is some doubt in the calls that the AR is making? If the AR is continually waived off, they could shut down and not call anything. There seems to be a fine balance in maintaining the cohesiveness of the referee team.

Answer (May 8, 2008):
You don't tell us what your instructions to the assistant referees were before the game, so we cannot be certain whether or not this AR knew what was expected of her. As leader of the officiating team, the referee must establish during the pregame conference how the team will work and cooperate. If this is not done, then we can expect nothing but problems as the ARs fill the gap in the instructions by inventing their own. Did you attempt to make any adjustments during the halftime break? One way might have been to suggest to the AR that she should remember the requirements of the various Laws, such as active involvement for offside or position of the feet in Law 15 and not be overly picky.

Finally, you need to remember that part of what you said about offside is not quite correct: Although the AR is in the best position (usually) to judge offside POSITION, it is the referee who must make the final decision regarding offside INVOLVEMENT and this decision falls more heavily on the referee's shoulders the farther away the play is from the AR.

If all else fails, then the final paragraph of Law 6 gives you all the information you need for such cases:
"In the event of undue interference or improper conduct, the referee will relieve an assistant referee of his duties and make a report to the appropriate authorities."



Sometimes I referee a game in which a coach continuously shouts very specific instructions to one or several players for the entire game - essentially telling them every move they should make. Is there any restriction on this?

Answer (May 8, 2008):
As long as the coach or other team official does not behave irresponsibly by shouting abusively at the players or attempting to influence the opposing players through shouting false information, there is little restriction on that person's activities. However, in that regard, we cannot forget the importance of the competitive level of the players as a factor in deciding what is permissible. After all, although there is no formal definition of "tactical instructions," we have commonly recognized that this would not include choreographing every move, particularly for any match above mid-level youth.



I am a new 09 ref although at age 59 and a parent of 3, I have many seasons experience as a parent/fan, coach and assistant coach at the rec and classic level. I have been out of it long enough to note the small sided match approach as a great improvement in that it allows more kids to have more touches on the ball! I am however having a slight problem with the variation of the rules that exist between the official brochure I received at my 09 certification training (US Youth Soccer Handbook for Small-sided Games) and the "local" rules that coaches tell me they are following under our local soccer association.

Perhaps my experience will better illustrate this. Last Saturday I was scheduled to be the sole referee at 2 U-8 matches. I studied up on the rules at this level as described by the manual named above and noted that it involved 4V4, no goalie, throw-ins with repeat for first foul throw, etc. when I got ready to start the first game, I noticed goalies warming up and asked the coach what was up with that. I was told that this was U-9 and that it was 5V5 and that goalies were added at this level. In the interest of letting the kids play the way they were used to, I let the game go on. It was a little awkward having the goal area be the "penalty area" (in terms of the keeper handling the ball) but the game went smoothly. Also the coaches said that the teams were not used to switching halves at half time (despite what the handbook says) so I let that pass also. The next game I was also told it was U-9 despite what the scheduler (Arbiter). These coaches also said the same thing about the number of players (5 with one of them a goalie) but this time they said there were no throw-ins but rather kick-ins instead. As a new ref without a set of rules to refer to other than the Handbook which does not refer to a U-9 level at all (And trying to apply the U-10 rules on a field designed for U-8 creates a whole other set of problems!!!).

I don't want to sound like an obsessive/compulsive but I think that at some point the rules should rule the game although I recognize that at these age levels the primary focus should b having fun. I am going to forward this to my assignor who I hope will be able to give me guidance on this but I wanted to get a "state" answer as well. Thanks,

Answer (May 7, 2008):
You can download the current USYSA rules for small-sided soccer from their website. The rules may be found at and more information on small-sided competition may be found at .

As to local rules of competition, the intelligent referee will always obtain a copy of these rules before accepting any assignments. That way he or she knows what lies ahead and he or she can determine whether or not to accept assignments/appointments to those games.

In addition, a key element here is the assignor -- the assignor should know what age level the assigned match is played at and should be able to provide the referee with, if not the rules themselves, some indication of where they can be found.



If (during play) a fight breaks out between 2 opposing players. you (as center ref) blow the whistle for the fight. Neither you nor the AR saw who started the fight, you Red Card BOTH players.

Which would be the restart?
1. Restart where the ball was at the time you blew the whistle with an IFK to the team that had possession of the ball
2. Drop ball at the point of the Serious Foul Play
3. IFK at the point of the SFP to a team of your choice (just like choosing a team for a throw in that went out and you could not determine who last touched the ball)
4. DFK at the point of the SFP to a team of your choice (just like choosing a team for a throw in that went out and you could not determine who last touched the ball)

Answer ((May 7, 2008):
The Federation has stated quite clearly that the referee must make a decision in all cases of infringements of the Laws, if that is at all possible. If it is not possible to determine who began the fight and both parties appear to be equally involved, then the correct restart is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped, bearing in mind the special circumstances involving the goal area.

If the nearer AR has not seen the incident, it never hurts to ask the AR who is farther away (or the fourth official, if there is one).



What is the proper or preferred procedure for checking player and coach passes before a game? Everytime I AR a game, I see a different procedure. When I CR a game, I have my own way of doing it. Does it matter as long as it gets done or is there a procedure we should all follow?

Answer ((May 7, 2008):
There is no standard nationwide procedure for checking passes. Each competition authority has a different sort of pass and a different set of criteria for what information is on the pass and how they should be checked. The referee is best advised to be fully aware of what the competition's criteria and rules are.



I attended a tournament this past weekend for my U11 Boys team. After arriving at the fields I noticed that none of the younger teams, U11 included, were being officiated by the required 3 referees. So before the start of my game, I asked the tournament Administrators if we could have 3 refs for our games. They stated that it was their tournament and there-for their rules, they didn't have to provide AR for a U11 game. I said that I thought that was illegal and that I thought they had to follow sanctioned rules. They simply restated "It's our tournament, our rules." What are my rights as a team manager for our team? What is the rule about the number of referees required for tournaments?And is there a difference with the age of the players? What should I do before going to my next tournament to insure this does not happen again?

Answer ((May 7, 2008):
Unfortunately, we must give you the same response we give to referees who question the crazy rules used in some tournaments. If as a referee you accept the assignment to the tournament, you must follow the rules of that competition. The same is true for teams: If you enter the tournament and play, you must accept and follow the rules of that competition.

There are other methods that can be used. These are spelled out in the USSF Referee Administrative Handbook, available to all referees. It explains what options are available if there is not a full three-man crew. The diagonal system of control must still be used, but the Handbook provides various alternatives for absent, missing, or even unassigned crew members. (We have published this numerous times in the past. The full details may be found in the archives. Good luck!)

An alternative that is perfectly acceptable is for the the referee to ask each team for a club linesman, i. e., a person who will hold a flag, run up and down the line, and inform the referee when the ball is out of play. The club linesman may not show direction or indicate fouls or offside. In this alternative system, that is the job of the referee. Someone might even suggest to the tournament committee that they make this system part of the process for each team in the affected age groups.



During a U/15B match being refereed by a Grade 6 referee, the referee admistrator stopped the game during play from the touchline without consulting the center referee. The match was stopped because one team wore two different colored socks. The entire team had matching socks. There was no color conflict with the opposing team. The certer referee was taken aback by this action and stated there was no written law or rule disallowing this, that simply the entire team had to be dressed alike with no color conflict. The admistrator openly chastised the center referee for not knowing the law. The players changed socks and the match resumed.

I went to the the 2008 Laws of the Game and could find no reference not allowing the wearing of different colored socks. Can you clarify this for me?

Answer ((May 7, 2008):
There is indeed a requirement for uniformity of socks. While nothing is specifically written in Law 4 regarding the color of socks, tradition and common practice dictate that all members of a team (with the possible exception of the goalkeeper) wear socks of the same color, rather than each wearing his or her own choice or wearing socks of one color on one foot and socks of a different color on the other foot.

The ruling will be found in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," which is based on the Laws, memoranda from FIFA and the International F. A. Board, and in memoranda and policy papers published by the United States Soccer Federation.

It is implicit in the Law that each side wear a distinctively colored jersey, that shorts and socks be uniform for each team, and that the uniforms be distinguishable from the uniforms worn by the other team. However, the details of the uniform are governed by the competition authority and can vary widely from one match to another. The referee must know and enforce the rules of each competition worked. Players' jerseys must remain tucked inside their shorts, socks must remain pulled up, and each player must wear shinguards under the socks. All undergarments (slide pants, undershirts, etc.) which extend visibly beyond the required uniform must be as close as possible in color to the main color of the uniform part under which they are worn.

All players must wear jerseys or shirts that distinguish them from the referee and assistant referees. If the colors are the same, the players, not the referees, must change.

Remember that jersey/shirt and shorts must be two separate items, not a single unit.

We are concerned that the overzealous referee administrator interfered and actually forced a stoppage of the game to take care of this matter. By waiting for a stoppage called by the referee, the administrator could have "pointed out" the sock color issue and, if he could, cited a local league or competition rule which clearly required the socks to be of the same color from foot to foot. Otherwise, butt out!!



want to bounce of your question from last month on preventing the keeper from releasing the ball.

Team A shoots on Team B and team B's keeper catches the ball and starts to run forward to punt the ball out. Team A's player try's to run into or stop in the keepers path for the punt. In other words is trying to hinder the kick by stepping in front of the keeper. So as I read this should be a direct kick given to team B but should it be a yellow card also?

Answer ((May 8, 2008):
Opposing players may not interfere with the goalkeeper's right to release the ball back into general play. Law 12 tells us:
An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player, in the opinion of the referee:
- plays in a dangerous manner
- impedes the progress of an opponent
- prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
- commits any other offense, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or dismiss a player
The indirect free kick is taken from where the offense occurred.* (see page 3)

The USSF "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" tells us
"An opponent may not interfere with or block the goalkeeper's release of the ball into play. While players have a right to maintain a position achieved during the normal course of play, they may not try to block the goalkeeper's movement while he or she is holding the ball or do anything which hinders, interferes with, or blocks the goalkeeper who is throwing or punting the ball back into play. An opponent does not violate the Law, however, if the player takes advantage of a ball released by the goalkeeper directly to him or her, in his or her direction, or deflecting off him or her nonviolently."

And, if the referee attempts to stop the interference but is unsuccessful -- and it makes a difference in the goalkeeper's ability to release the ball -- then a caution for unsporting behavior is in order.


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. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Referee Programs (administrative matters); David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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