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September 2004 Archive (II of II)


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SLIDE TACKLING

Question:
Is there an official US Soccer position regarding slide tackling in youth play? It seems many players are not trained to do it, increasing the potential for an injury.

How does position affect whether a foul occurred - is it a foul if from behind where the player cannot see it coming? If the sliding player hits the player with the ball regardless of position (from front or behind) - is it a foul? Does hitting ball matter as to whether a foul occurred? Does hitting the ball first and then the player lessen any foul? If the cleats are pointing forward towards the player with the ball as the tackle is made - is that automatically a foul?

I look forward to your reply.

Answer (September 29, 2004):
What follows is what we teach our referees. Unfortunately, that does not always mean that they put it into practice correctly. Cleats exposed and pointing at someone should be considered dangerous play where younger, less skilled players are involved. At higher competitive levels, the referee should determine if the player is exposing the cleats to intimidate or cause injury to an opponent.

A slide tackle is legal, provided it is performed legally. There is nothing illegal about a slide tackle by itself-no matter where it is done and no matter the direction from which it comes. In other words, it is not an infringement to tackle fairly from behind-if there was no foul committed.

There is nothing illegal, by itself, about sliding tackles or playing the ball while on the ground. These acts become the indirect free kick foul known as playing dangerously ("dangerous play") only if the action unfairly takes away an opponent's otherwise legal play of the ball (for players at the youth level, this definition is simplified even more as "playing in a manner considered to be dangerous to an opponent"). At minimum, this means that an opponent must be within the area of danger which the player has created. These same acts can become the direct free kick fouls known as kicking or attempting to kick an opponent or tripping or attempting to trip or tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball only if there was contact with the opponent or, in the opinion of the referee, the opponent was forced to react to avoid the kick or the trip. The referee may warn players about questionable acts of play on the ground, but would rarely caution a player unless the act was reckless.

How can tackles become illegal? There are many ways but two of the most common are by making contact with the opponent first (before contacting the ball) and by striking the opponent with a raised upper leg before, during, or after contacting the ball with the lower leg. Referees must be vigilant and firm in assessing any tackle, because the likely point of contact is the lower legs of the opponent and this is a particularly vulnerable area. We must not be swayed by protests of "But I got the ball, ref" and we must be prepared to assess the proper penalty for misconduct where that is warranted.

FIFA has emphasized the great danger in slide tackles from behind because, if this tackle is not done perfectly, the potential for injury is so much greater. Accordingly, referees are advised that, when a player does commit a foul while tackling from behind, it should not be just a simple foul (e.g., tripping) but a foul and misconduct. The likelihood of danger is greater when the tackle is committed from behind and the probability of a foul having been committed is greater solely for this reason -- due in large part to the "can't prepare for the tackle" element when it comes from an unseen direction. In fact, if the referee decides that the foul while tackling from behind was done in such a way as to endanger the safety of the opponent, the proper action is to send the violator off the field with a red card.

The referee must judge each situation of a tackle from behind individually, weighing the guidelines published by FIFA and the U. S. Soccer Federation, the positions of the players, the way the tackler uses his/her foot or feet, the "temperature" of the game, the age/skill of the players, and the attitude of the players. What might be a caution (yellow card) in this game might be trifling in another game or a send-off (red card) in a third game. To make the proper judgment on such plays, the referee must establish early on a feel for the game being played on this day at this moment and must be alert to sudden changes in the "temperature" of this game. Much depends on the level of play, whether recreational or competitive, skilled or less developed, very young or adult. Only then can the referee make a sensible decision.


IS THIS TOUCH LEGAL?

Question:
Player A makes a throw in. Player B passes the ball back to player A. Player A is still outside the touchline and he plays the ball to keep it from crossing the line. Did player A illegally touch the ball the second time? If so, would it have been legal for Player A to touch the ball if he was standing on the touch line instead of outside the touch line?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
This play is legal because, having thrown the ball in, A has not touched it again directly (B's touch intervened) and it is also legal because A's play of the ball was on the field even if most of the rest of him was not. Player A is then expected to return fully to the field as quickly as possible.


NO "COUNTDOWN" ALLOWED!

Question:
My son plays in a youth league. The ref in the game, as a courtesy, counts down the final ten seconds of the game. A player on my son's team, on a breakaway, launches a powerful kick from 40 yards out while the ref's countdown is between 1 and 2. The ball goes in, over the out stretched hands of the goalie. However, the goal was disallowed because the ref said the ball crossed the goal line after the clock ended. If this is true, what would have happened if there was a penalty on the play? I guess that I am used to basketball (where as long as the shot left the player's hands before the buzzer) or if the quarterback throws a pass that is caught in the end zone after time is expired, it stills counts as being good. I realize that if a defender stopped it and we kicked in the rebound, it should not count. But if the ball is in the air (untouched) why are we being penalized for 1 or two seconds on the clock? In addition, this was the head referee who either had to be watching his watch to count down correctly, therefore not seeing the play, or not watching his watch and just counting down. What is the correct ruling? I have been a coach for 10 years now, and I have never seen this play. It occurs to me that in most major games with injury time (not the case in this youth league); the referees tend to end the game when there is still some threat to score. Once that threat ends, THEN they end the game. I've never seen a major soccer game that ends as one player has a clear breakaway with no one between him and the goalie, because time ran out.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Courtesy has nothing to do with it; the referee should not be counting aloud the time remaining in a match. There is too much chance that something will occur, even in the "final" second, that could extend the game. (Now, if the game were being played under high school rules, with an official timekeeper and a field clock visible to all, the answer would be different.)

Under the Laws of the Game, the game ends when the referee deems it to have ended, whether the ball is in the air or on the ground. However, the wise referee will recognize that ending the game when a shot is being taken is a sure way to create trouble for oneself. We have only to think of the FIFA Referee who, during a 1978 World Cup match, blew the whistle just before the ball entered the goal totally uncontested from a corner kick by Brazil. The referee, widely experienced and not near the mandatory retirement age, never received another assignment from FIFA.


GOALKEEPER DOWN

Question:
Situation: A competitive Youth match -- A forward is approaching the goal and defender is at their side. The keeper approaches to make a play. The keeper makes a good play on the ball but the keeper and forward collide. The ball rebounds and stays in play. While the ball rebounds and during the keeper/forward collision, the keeper is shaken up (not faking it) and lies still on the ground. The keeper is not obviously hurt -- no blood showing, no obvious broken bones, so no immediate need to stop the match for a serious injury. The ball rebounds off several players and within a few seconds (say < 5 seconds) another attacker kicks the ball into the goal.

What is the letter and then also the spirit of the law in this situation? Should the referee allow play to continue, as they would most likely do if a field player was shaken up? Or is the letter and spirit of the law such that it says a team must have a keeper and since the keeper is shaken up, lying on the ground and not trying to get up to make another save or trying to keep the rebounding ball from entering the goal, the team really does not have a keeper. In the later, the should the referee really stop the match -- due to the fact the team, in essence, does not have a keeper?

Appreciate your perspective. The question is, when a keeper is shaken up and not playing as a keeper because they are lying on the ground, what is the advice for referees -- to stop play or to keep play going (as we would do with a field player shaken up) until the play is neutralized and then stop the match.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Law 3 requires that each team must have a goalkeeper, but there is no requirement that the goalkeeper always be on the field of play or in an upright position. While we generally give goalkeepers the benefit of the doubt in case of injury--to wit, they do not have to leave the field when being treated for injury--neither are referees required to stop the game for anything other than serious injury. However, some consideration must be given for the age and skill level of the players. The intelligent referee will apply common sense to each individual situation.


PLAYERS OFF THE FIELD OF PLAY

Question:
Two relatively similar situations. In the first, two players from the team taking the kick are both completely off the field. One of the players taps the ball, the other player starts dribbling toward the goal. Is this a legal play. Should the second player be cautioned for illegally entering the field of play, since his leaving the field is not in the normal course? The second situation is similar, except that one of the players is on the field and taps the ball. The other one who was off the field dribbles toward the goal. I'm guessing that the answer is the same.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
While there are a number of occasions during which a player may be off the field of play without the permission of the referee, there is no need in the cases you describe for more than one player to be off the field to put the ball back into play. Neither is there any need for either of the players to be cautioned, provided the referee exercises common sense and suggests that the player return to the field NOW if he or she wishes to avoid the consequences.

Yes, it is perfectly legitimate for one player to simply tap the ball and for the other to begin dribbling toward the goal. In the second instance, there was no need for the second player to have been off the field. The referee should have acted to prevent this.


SUB REMOVED BY REFEREE MAY BE USED LATER

Question:
An answer posted in July (see "PLAYER ALLOWED TO STAY ON AFTER SECOND CAUTION; WHAT TO DO?," dated 28 July 2004) asks whether the substitute removed from the game after it was discovered that the player for whom he had been substituted should have been sent off because of a second caution may enter the game at a later substitution opportunity.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Yes, the substitute who was removed may be used as a substitute later in the game.


LEAVING THE GAME WITHOUT PERMISSION

Question:
Quick Question ... U13 Rec, 11v11, full field, 35 minute halves ... gold vs green ... about 20 minutes into the first half ... play was stopped for a throw-in for gold ... as I [cr] was moving into position for the throw-in I noticed a gold player at the line and ar1 signaling for a substitution ... so far so good .. then, ar1 pointed across the field toward ar2 ... he was standing at attention with his flag straight up ... I asked the sub to stand @ the line and the thrower to hold the ball ... ar2 informed me that a gold player had left the field .. where? ... there! ... and he pointed to the parking lot at the far end of the field where a player with a gold jersey was leaving the park ... the player did not return ... how should I have handled this? .. leaving the field w/o the referee's permission is a yellow card offense, but there was no one to card.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Not a problem! Technically the referee should imply write up the infringement and include it in the match report, and let the team officials know this is being done. However, with youth players there is always the possibility that "Mom" has come and taken "Sonny" or "Sis" away for another family event, so the referee should inquire before taking drastic action.


MISCONDUCT AFTER THE GAME IS OVER

Question:
In regards to the new prohibition on the display of cards after a match, what is the proper procedure by which to deal with post-game misconduct? Specifically, what are you to do when a player commits a sending-off offense? Are we to withhold his player pass, as we would for a send-off during the game?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
The referee may no longer show the card after the game has ended, but the rest of the procedure remains the same: Note the player's name, team, number, time, offense, etc., and write it up for the match report. Whatever other things are required by the competition for a send-off or caution should also be done. Just don't show the card.


FOOLISH REFEREES AND BOORISH COACHES

Question:
What is the appropriate way to question the legitimacy of a goal during a game? We were involved in a game where the winning goal was scored on a handball which the referee did not see but the linesman called it. The referee called goal...then no goal after the linesman called the hand ball.... then goal again after the opposing coach ran out onto the field and told the ref that he could not change his initial call of goal no matter what. We stayed on our line and did not know what to do.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
There is no appropriate way to question the legitimacy of any call by the referee during the game. The referee should have consulted with his assistant referee (aka "linesman") and based the final decision on that information. The fact that the referee then once again changed the decision because the other coach said that a decision once made cannot be changed was a deplorable error and mistake. Unfortunately, once the game was restarted with a kick-off, no further change was possible.

We apologize to you for this foolish behavior by the referee. There's not much we can do about the boorishness of the opposing coach.


INADVERTENT WHISTLE--USE YOUR HEAD, REF!

Question:
U9 boys travel game: The whistle was blown inadvertently while a player is dribbling the ball unchallenged down the field. The ref immediately says "my mistake play." (The ball was still in the field of play.) Play continues for about 1 minute and a goal is scored. The coach who had the goal scored against him argues that the goal should not be allowed because the referee didn't "drop the ball" after the inadvertent whistle. The referee reversed the goal.
1. Since the referee would have the option of returning a drop ball to the sole possession of the team the whistle effected, and then let play continue for the amount of time it continued one could argue the goal should be allowed.
2. The other coach argued that in wasn't a drop ball so the later goal should not be allowed.

What would your advice be in this situation.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Whether or not a goal was "scored" and then taken away makes no difference. (No goal is possible under these circumstances unless the referee has compounded the error by allowing the game to be restarted with a kick-off.) The only possible thing for the referee to do once he or she has blown the whistle inadvertently is to restart with a dropped ball. The drop would be taken at the place where the ball was when the referee stopped play.


PROPER KICK-OFF

Question:
I got a question regarding the execution of a Kick-off. This happenend in a High School game. The Referee starts the game and blows the whistle. The player who takes the Kick Off has one foot on the ball. She pushes the ball forward but still keeps the foot on the ball. So the ball is kicked and moves forward which normally constitutes a legal Kick-Off. But now she passes the ball back to a teammate who is standing on her side of the field. She never took her foot of the ball until she played it to her teammate. The referee let this happen because he didn't know what to do about it but I'm pretty sure that's wrong. We were talking about that situation in one of our referee meetings and I heard all different answers like "two-touch" or "Illegal Kick-off". In my opinion this is trickery which should be penalized with a caution and an IDF. Mabe you can give a answer to that matter.

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Under the Laws of the Game, the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward. In addition, the kicker may not touch the ball a second time until it has touched another player. "Kick" means to impel the ball with the foot and then release it; it does not mean to roll the ball with the foot on top of the ball. The "kick-off" you describe was not properly taken and should have been called back and retaken. There is no requirement for a caution.


AGE DATES FOR YOUTH COMPETITION

Question:
Who decides the age/ birth date cutoff dates? National or State or Local Associations? Where can I go to find the ages for the age brackets?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
All of the above, depending on the particular competition. For national data, check with USYS at usyouthsoccer.org. For state data, check with your state association (whose Internet data you can find at the USYS site). For local data, check with your local association or club.


BLAZING CARDS!

Question:
In a youth league, can a referee give a yellow card to a coach because the coach and substitute players are closer then 1 yard from the side lines ?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Under the Laws of the Game the referee may not show a card to any coach. On the other hand, the rules of some competition do permit this, just as some competitions limit how close the non-playing personnel and team officials may be to the touch line. The referee should always seek to avoid giving cards to anyone if there is another way to solve the problem without sacrificing good game management. One good way to do that is to advise the team officials of the rule of the competition, rather than rushing in with cards ablaze.


RULES FOR UNDER 8S

Question:
Are all fouls committed in the penalty box by the defense taking from the spot of the foul as indirect kicks?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
According to the rules adopted by the USYS for 2004, Law 12, "all fouls shall result in a direct free kick." In addition, Law 13, "all kicks are direct and all opponents are at least four (4) yards from the ball until it is in play." There is no penalty kick in Under 8 soccer.

Local rules might be different. You will have to check with your local competition.


USING THE ADVANTAGE CLAUSE

Question:
Last night while calling a highschool game, an attacking player beat the defending team's sweeper (3 feet outside the penalty box), the sweeper seeing that he is beaten throws his hip into the attacking player taking the attacking player off his feet. At the same moment the Attacking player's teammate (Outside midfielder) runs onto the ball in the "box" and regains the advantage and subsequently miss handles the ball out of play. What is the right decision for the referee?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
The "right decision" is to make a decision. Award the advantage for the "hip throw"--advantage sustained long enough (2-3 seconds)--teammate with the ball subsequently doesn't score, but not as a result of the original foul. The only remaining question would be whether the "hip throw" was reckless or performed with excessive force and therefore cardable at the next stoppage.


PROPER MECHANICS ON A GOAL SCORED

Question:
There was a shot on goal, it bounced off goalie's arms and slowly heading into the goal net, the goalie turned and dive toward the ball at about waist height and grabbed the ball, threw the ball back into field of play, the goalie's teammate kicked the ball upfield right away.

The center ref was not sure the ball had passed the plane of goalie line, so he looked at the AR, and the AR was running toward the upfield, the center ref thought the AR's running was just keeping up with the ball movement and hence no call was made. Later the AR told the center ref the ball did break the plane and his run toward upfield was to indicate a goal.

So my question is, should the center ref stopped the play to ask the AR and resume the play with an drop kick if it was not a goal, or the AR shall flag the center ref to verbally communicate the call for goal?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
Correct procedure for the lead assistant referee when a goal is scored and the ball returns to the field is to raise the flag vertically to get the referee's attention. When the referee stops play, the lead AR puts flag straight down, runs a short distance up the touch line toward the halfway line to affirm that a goal has been scored. The lead AR then takes up the position for a kick-off and then records the goal after the trail assistant referee has recorded it.

If this procedure (from the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees and Assistant Referees" 2004) had been followed, there would not have been any problem.


AR POSITIONING AND MECHANICS

Question:
A team took a shot on the opposing teams goalie and the goalie stopped it near the line. The center looked at the AR to see if it was a goal but there was no signal at that time mainly due to the fact that the AR was 25-30 yards from the end line. The goalie then played the ball out to a team mate which then passed it to another team mate. After 25-30 seconds after the goalie "saved" the ball the AR then raised his flag and signaled that it was a goal. I know if the ball had been kicked out of bounds and a stoppage of play took place and then a restart occurred then the goal would not have counted. So my question then becomes what is the correct course of action or was that the correct course?

Answer (September 28, 2004):
According to the information you supplied, the assistant referee was in no position to make the call. Therefore no decision other than whether or not to "score the goal" should or could have been made. The answer is no goal. We are prepared to join the party to tar and feather the AR.


NO OFFSIDE, BUT POSSIBLE IMPEDING

Question:
Corner kick, player in offside position in front of GK (player on goal line and corner kick with ball 1 yd off goal line). Ball kicked directly into goal. However, player in offside position interfered with play by screening keeper. A clear offside violation if restart was DFK near corner.

Exception in Law 11 is when "player receives ball directly from" Goal Kick, Throw In or Corner Kick. Here player never received ball but violated another aspect of the offside law. My first thought is guilty - but ???????

Answer (September 28, 2004):
The player in this situation may not be punished for infringing any aspect of Law 11, as it is impossible to be offside directly from a corner kick. However, it is an offense if the player who is standing in front of a goalkeeper when a corner kick is being taken takes advantage of the position to impede the goalkeeper before the kick is taken and before the ball is in play. And, even if the referee is so naive as to fail to deal with that offense, a player who impedes the goalkeeper's ability to play the ball, without attempting to play the ball himself, must be punished by the award of an indirect free kick for the goalkeeper's team.


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.

Submit your questions via e-mail to askareferee@ussoccer.org.

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