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October 2008 Archive (I of IV)


During a recent U-11 girls soccer game, our goalie was positioned on the goal line when she caught and maintained the ball at chest level. However, within a second or two of catching the ball, she took one step backwards to regain her balance but continued to maintain her hold on the ball. No one thought anything of it, the goalie came out of the box to punt the ball, the other teams parents did not react to this in any negative way, nor did the center (main) ref question that pay continue. However, the side line ref called raised his flag saying that the goalie crossed the line, therefore it counts as a goal for the other team, even though she maintained possession of the ball.

I am seriously confused by this. Numerous times we see professional goalie catch the ball within their goal box and behind their line and it is NOT counted as a goal. The only specific rules I can find are Law 10 that says the ball must completely cross over the line, but no where does it define whether a goal can be made if it is caught prior to crossing the line but if a goal takes a step backwards after the catch is made.

Could you please tell me if there have been any clarifications to this rule or previous precedence's set that would clarify this?

Answer (October 3, 2008):
Law 10 (The Method of Scoring) tells us:
Goal Scored
A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar, provided that no infringement of the Laws of the Game has been committed previously by the team scoring the goal.

This means that any time the ball, while still in play, completely crosses the goal line between the goalposts and beneath the crossbar, a goal is scored. It makes no difference if the ball goes there from a shot, a deflection, or is carried there by the goalkeeper. Conversely, no goal is scored if only the goalkeeper and not the entire ball crosses the goal line.


The recent events in the NFL made me think of writing in to discuss a call from several years ago:

In a recreation level tournament, I was involved in the following call and while I think I blew the call, I want to get your opinion. In a well played but very aggressive match at the U-17 level(several yellows had already been issued to both teams), with less than 5 minutes left in the second period, player A1 was fouled while on the attack just outside the penalty box. Player B1 was called for the foul (not serious enough to warrant a card) and Team B proceed to set up a wall in preparation for the direct free kick. Player A1 asked for his 10 yards, so when I walked it off, it put the wall of Team B inside the penalty box. As player A1 took the shot, one of the players from Team B within the wall stepped forward toward player A1. I was the ref watching for any offside and as soon as the player from Team B stepped forward, I blew the whistle. The unfortunate thing is, the ball went into the net for what Team A thought was a score. In that split second, I realized that I blew the whistle too early and had to proceed forward from there. I waved off the goal, carded the player from Team B for the "failure to retire" and since the foul occurred within the penalty box, awarded Team A the penalty kick. Unfortunately, the shot off the penalty kick did not go in the net. One of my question is this, while I know there is no such things as a delayed foul, could I have applied "advantage", waited to see what happen to the shot, and then carded the player on Team B for "failure to retire" and re-awarded the direct free kick which as a result of the foul would have made it a penalty kick? Am I correct that while the ball is in actively in play, any whistle basically immediately make the ball "DEAD"? Team A did not need the goal that I waved off to win the match, but I went up to the Coach of Team A and explained myself as best as possible with regards to the fact that I felt like I blew the call.

Answer (October 3, 2008):
You are correct that the whistle stops play and we were with you until you awarded the penalty kick. Whatever for?? The correct restart was a retake of the original direct free kick. As we state in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," Advice 13.3: "If one or more opponents fail to respect the required distance before the ball is properly put into play, the referee should stop the restart to deal with this infringement as required by the Law. The free kick must be retaken even if the momentum of play causes the ball to be kicked before the referee signals."

And the entire problem would have never come up if you hadn't whistled too soon. Consider holding off a moment unless there is some mischief that MUST be dealt with NOW.


I was center referee for a U14G Class I Select tournament game this weekend. Standings for the tournament were based on points for each flight's round robin games. This particular event deducted a game point if the goal differential was greater than four. Shutouts also earned an extra point, but that didn't factor into this game.

During the course of this game, one team had a clear advantage over the other. At a certain point during the second half, they exceeded the 4 goal differential limit by a score of 6-1. Not wanting to hurt their game points in the standings, they allowed their opponents to score a free goal with no pressure at all--the entire team stood like statues (6-2). They scored another goal and then repeated the process (7-3).

Clearly at this point the team which was behind got very frustrated with these tactics. However, since they were complicit by scoring the freebie goals, I just kept on with my normal referee duties. And yet again, the team scored bringing the score up to 8-3. The losing team put the ball into play, but their players didn't actually challenge for the ball. The winning team did not want to lose their point, so they dribbled down and scored an own goal against themselves (8-4).

The sidelines got extremely verbal at this point.

The coach of the losing team called his players off to stand on their side of midfield and everyone just stood around. After 10-15 seconds, I told the center forward to put the ball into play. After she did, I blew the whistle and ended the game 2 minutes prior to the actual end time.

After the game, there was a lot of complaints about sportsmanship from the losing team, and a lot of grousing about the rules of the tournament from the winning team. I kept the situation under control, but it should have never gotten to that point.

So my question is this:
What is the best way to handle this situation? As referee, my decisions shouldn't really be informed by the scoring rules of the tournament, but I need to be able to control a potentially inflammatory situation. It's not a good position to be in.

The center referee for the following game and I talked about the situation later; he had seen it unfold. His suggestion was to issue a yellow card to the captains of the winning team for unsporting behavior once they stopped playing defense and letting their opponents score. This would send a signal to the coach that this behavior is not tolerated. I suppose this could be considered "acting in a manner which shows a lack of respect for the game" but I'm not quite convinced there isn't a better way.

Any suggestions? (Besides eliminating the goal differential rule for an event of this caliber)

Answer (October 2, 2008):
The referee who accepts a game in such a competition thereby accepts the rules of the competition, no matter how incredible they may seem, and has no authority to act in such a situation. He or she simply includes full details in the match report.

That means no cautions for reasons not covered by the Law of the Game, no lectures, no pleading. Just put it in the report. Let the competition authority defend its own rules.


I am a fairly new referee (since July 2007), but I have worked and enjoyed about 100 matches this year in youth select soccer. I have been coaching soccer for about 6 years, but I was never actually a soccer player, which has left me with a few holes in my soccer knowledge at times.

I was a center referee on an 11 year old premiere level boys game recently and I would like some clarification about the goalie position in regards to the laws of the game.

Please note that I had previously spoken with a goalie coach who had told me that the goalie was not considered to have control of the ball until he had pulled the ball into his body or until his hand (or hands) were on the ball and the ball was between the goalie's hand and the ground. I am not sure if this information was correct or not.

In my game situation, the ball had been kicked towards the goalie by an attacker and the goalie was jumping for the ball in the goal box. Another attacker had entered the goal area and was following the trajectory of the chipped ball. Just prior to the goalie making contact with his hands; the attacker headed the ball and subsequently ran into the goalie while scoring a goal. The goalie was not injured on the play and I awarded a goal. The goalie's coach became very upset and began screaming at the midline that I had not protected his goalie, until I finally warned him that he was showing dissent. The coach quieted down after that, but his body language made it quite obvious that he was very angry.

I am assuming that I made the correct decision, and my AR's, who were experienced referees, stated that they believed that my call was the correct one, but I want to add some additional questions to this scenario because this is an area that I feel a bit unsure about. I am assuming that the collision between the goalie and the attacker was legal as this was an obvious goal scoring opportunity and I don't believe that either player was attempting to do anything but play the ball.

1.) Assuming the ball would have struck the goalie's outstretched hands in the air prior to the attacker arriving - would it had then been appropriate for me to call a penal foul?

2.) Assuming the ball was headed into the goalie's hands and then rolled into the goal with a collision between the players still occurring - would this had also been an instance appropriate for a penal foul?

I understand that we as referees have a duty to ensure each player's safety, but I don't want to stifle or take away what would otherwise be deemed a fair challenge.

Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.

Answer (October 2, 2008):
Just so you and the coach both know what is correct, here is the guidance we give to all referees, taken from the 2008 edition of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e.g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper's body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm. Once established, possession is maintained, when the ball is held as described above, while bouncing the ball on the ground or throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, after throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to hit the ground. For purposes of determining goalkeeper possession, the "handling" includes contact with any part of the goalkeeper's arm from the fingertips to the shoulder.

While the ball is in the possession of the goalkeeper, it may not be challenged for or played by an opponent in any manner. An opponent who attempts to challenge for a ball in the possession of the goalkeeper may be considered to have committed a direct free kick foul. However, a ball which is only being controlled by the goalkeeper using means other than the hands is open to otherwise legal challenges by an opponent. The referee should consider the age and skill level of the players in evaluating goalkeeper possession and err on the side of safety.

1. No, not if it was clear that both were playing or attempting to play the ball.

2. No. See 1.

All players are entitled to the same protection under the Laws of the Game. The goalkeeper has no right to special protection. The goalkeeper's role is, by the very requirements of that role, inherently dangerous. Goalkeeper's know this going in and most operate accordingly.

The coach's outburst was, as you note, an expression of emotion, but without foundation in the Laws. (And coaches all work to exert influence on your calls, so we might suggest that there might also have been that factor at work.)

Note: We regret and apologize that we have lost the email address of the person who sent this question.


Corner kick for team A. The corner kick is taken and cleared away. After the ball has left the penalty area and is in the air an attacker and defender become tangled up. The attacker and defender square up to each other and the defender attempts to kick the attacker from team A (they are in the penalty area). At this point the referee sees this blows the whistle and issues a caution to defender b for usb, and sends off the attacker for violent conduct.

What is the proper restart (the ball was near midfield in the air)?

If the defender made contact with the attacker is the restart different?

Answer (October 1, 2008):
And why is the defender not being sent off for violent conduct? We haven't heard what the attacker did, but what the defender did is clearly violent conduct.

If what the attacker did also constituted violent conduct and preceded the attempted kick -- under the Law that is EXACTLY like actually making contact -- then the correct restart is a direct free kick for the defender's team at the place where the infringement occurred. In this case, the location of the ball -- as long as it was on the field of play at the time -- is totally irrelevant.


Have had some discussions recently in regard to one of the more simple components of play which is the throw-in. The discussions always seem to migrate to the rear foot and contact with the ground and generate a number of differing views. Primarily the rear foot coming up at the end of the motion and is it after the throw or during the throw? Obviously the younger the age group the more latitude you work with for the players so my reference is the competitive levels from U11 thru U18.

So the question is, at what point during the execution of a 'throw-in' does foot contact with the ground no longer matter?

Answer (October 1, 2008):
The throw-in is completed when the thrower releases the ball. If the foot was lifted after the throw-in, there is no infringement. If the foot was lifted during the throw, then it is an infringement. We must remember is that the point of the throw-in is to get the ball back into play quickly. Most infractions of Law 15 are trifling at best.


I have been refereeing for about 4 years now. I now referee using both high school and FIFA laws of the game, and came upon a difficult call the other day. Basically what I would like to know is whether the defender's arms and hands can be counted in the offside call. Here is the situation explained the best I can without a drawing.

While I was refereeing a game, there was a corner kick, which was passed back to the kicker, who I thought was in an offside position, standing just inside the goal line. I called the player offside, and then I thought about the call after the game. The issue was that there were two defenders standing about a foot and a half from the goal line with their arms fully extended and resting on the goal post. I was (and still am) under the impression that the defender's arms and hands should not be used in determining whether the attacker is offside or not. If the attacker's arms and hands are not a contributing factor in the decision, I believe that the defender's arms and hands should not be either.

After this game, and reviewing the laws of the game and advice to referees a few times, I emailed the interpreter for the high school association that I referee through. (This was a high school game.) He replied to me and said that the player that I called offside was in fact onside. I did not agree with that, so I started asking other officials that I worked with. I asked another official that I officiate with at the high school level and he agreed with me. I also asked the head referee for the recreational league that I officiate through, and he agreed with me as well. (The recreational league follows FIFA LOTG)

I would simple like some clarification as to whether I made the correct call or not. I am aware that the game was a high school game, and the rules are slightly different, but the offside call is very similar. If this were a game using FIFA LOTG, would that have been a correct call?

Answer (October 1, 2008):
The Law is quite clear about this. Any part of the body that can LEGALLY play the ball is considered when the referee looks for offside. That excludes the hands and arms, as they cannot legally play the ball. The same is true of the hands and arms of the opposing players.


This is a question regarding Law 14. While I know the kicker can stutter step or even change direction as they approach the ball, I believe that the kicker cannot come to a complete stop and then proceed to continue to approach the ball for the kick. Is this correct or have I misinterpreted something?

Answer (September 28, 2008):
According to the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the 2008/2009 Laws of the Game:
Feinting to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the feinting is considered an act of unsporting behavior, the player must be cautioned.

Feinting at a penalty kick is allowed, including a brief stop along the way to the ball.

The issue of "feinting" underwent a significant change in 2000. Prior to that time, the kicker was expected to make one continuous, uninterrupted move to the ball; in and after 2000 (based on the FIFA Q&A), certain forms of deception were allowed.

FIFA clarified in 2002 that the kicker may seek to misdirect (or feint) at the taking of a penalty kick. USSF, in a memo of October 14, 2004 on this subject, identified four specific actions by the kicker that could constitute misconduct:
- he delays unnecessarily after being signaled by the referee to proceed,
- he runs past the ball and then backs up to take the kick,
- he excessively changes direction during the run to the ball, or
- he makes any motion of the hand or arm which is clearly intended to misdirect the attention of the goalkeeper.
In such cases, the referee should suspend the procedure, caution the player involved, and then signal once again for the kick to be taken. If the kick has already been taken, the referee should order it retaken only if the ball enters the goal. The player must still be cautioned for his misconduct regardless of the outcome. If the kick is not to be retaken (see above), the game is restarted with an indirect free kick for the defending team where Law 14 was violated.
As to the goalkeeper leaving the line early, all referees are expected to order a retake of a penalty kick or a kick from the penalty mark if the 'keeper's movement off the line has interfered with the kicker's ability to score the goal.

Referees should watch for the sorts of feinting described in the position paper of October 14, 2004, but should not consider all deceptive maneuvers to be a violation of Law 14 or of the guidelines on kicks from the penalty mark in the section of the Laws pertaining to "Procedures to Determine the Winner of a Match or Home-and-Away." They should ensure that the run to the ball is initiated from behind the ball and the kicker is not using deception to delay unnecessarily the taking of the kick. The kicker's behavior must not, in the opinion of the referee, unduly delay the taking of the kick in any feinting tactic. Others would include changing direction or running such an an excessive distance such that, in the opinion of the referee, the restart was delayed; or making hand or arm gestures with the intent to deceive the kicker (e .g., pointing in a direction).

The referee should allow the kick to proceed. If the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken. If the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and restarts the match with an indirect free kick to the defending team.

To this we can add only that more and more liberal interpretation is taking place throughout the world. The kicker is permitted to approach slowly, stop, take few quick steps, and shoot.


A defender is physically off the field of play, (feet, legs, and torso), but reaches ONTO the field of play to either 1) hold or push an opponent, or 2) strike an opponent. The question is the determination with regard to "on the field of play" and therefore foul versus misconduct?

With striking, the guidance is pretty clear that the offense is committed where the contact is made or would have been made if the attempt is unsuccessful. A punch thrown by a defender who is inside the PA at an opponent who is outside the PA results in a DK, not a PK, but a defender who is outside the the PA and strikes an attacker who is inside the PA results in a PK because the striking offense is where the contact occurs, not where it was initiated. What is confusing in this situation is determining what happens when the offender is physically off the field of play but strikes a player who is on the field of play? Is the person doing the striking considered to be off the field of play even though his "fist", and the offense, are ON the field of play?

Holding, Pushing, etc.
Same situation(s). Most of the person committing the offense is physically off the field of play, but they reach onto the field of play to hold or push an opponent. Is the person committing the offenses considered to be off the field of play, therefore guilty of misconduct, or on the field of play, therefore foul?

Methinks it is misconduct, but I've been wrong before.

Answer (September 28, 2008):
If the player has left the field during the course of play and that player reaches a hand or a foot (or any other body part) back onto the field of play to interfere with an opponent, that is considered to be a foul. The restart would be in accordance with which particular foul was committed.

However, if the player has left the field with the permission of the referee and reaches a hand or a foot (or any other body part) back onto the field of play to foul or interfere with an opponent, that is considered to be both a foul and an act of misconduct -- entering the field without the permission of the referee. The player is cautioned for re-entering the field of play. If the foul itself is deserving of a caution the player will be sent off for receiving a second caution in the same match. Play is restarted in accordance with the nature of the foul.


Assume you are the AR.

The center referee calls a direct kick. He stops play to mark off the ten yards. All the defenders line up evenly across the field. An offensive player lines up next to the wall even or slightly in front of the wall (less than 10 yds).

Just before the kick is taken the players in the wall step forward to do an offside trap. The ball is chipped over the wall to the offensive player that was even with the wall and he scores.

Since the wall moved forward within the 10yds, it is actually encroachment. The offensive player that was where the wall was originally placed now looks like he was in an offside position.

How should the AR rule? Offside, or allow the play to continue and the goal count.

Answer (September 28, 2008):
Provided all is precisely as you say -- and the kicking team's player remained where he was when the wall was set and that all the opponents moved forward, making them all nearer to the ball than the required ten yards -- there is no offside infringement to worry about. Why? Because the defending team committed the first infringement by violating Law 12's requirement that a player must respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in. Thus the referee may simply invoke the advantage and allow the goal. In fact, if the referee felt so inclined, he or she could easily caution all members of the wall for committing that infringement.

In this case, the AR should leave the flag down. The team that lives by the offside trap also dies by the offside trap.


This subject has become a debate between coaches and referees. Perhaps you can shed some light on it.

At the beginning of the game, and at the beginning of the second half the referee will normally count the number of players on the field to ensure they have enough players to begin a game. So question #1, if there are less players than the max allow, but enough players to meet the min requirement, does the referee need to say anything to the coach?

Question #2 In some leagues, they do not allow free subs, but rather break half way through each half to allow subs. In a case where a team has been signaled to return to play, and a coach does not respond by allowing his players to return to the field of play ( without addressing delay of game here ) and the referee decides to signal to begin play... hence the coach now scrambles to release his players, who fault is it that the correct number of players are not on the field of play? If the coach had kept the time to substitution the referees could have confirmed the number of players on the field. But in this case, the ball had been put into play and it was discovered after the restart that the team was short a player ( or in other cases had too many players ).

Is this not the fault of the coach for not communicating to his team properly?

Answer (September 28, 2008):
1. The referee should tell the coach that there are enough players to begin and to get them on the field. The referee should also tell the coach that when more players arrive, they should get the attention of the assistant referee on that side of the field, so that the players, their passes (if necessary), and their equipment can be checked for entry into the game.

2. It should never come to this. The referee must manage the break and alert the coaches and captains that the time for restarting is near. Any numbers under the allowed maximum limit of players on the field are the fault of the coach; any numbers over the allowed maximum are the fault of the referee.

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 Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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