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Ask A Referee Update: May 6, 2010



Especially at the professional level (MLS), are referees looking to see the players have some type of shinguard on their legs, but nothing more?

As you are well aware of, Law 4 - The Players' Equipment states:

Shinguards -provide a reasonable degree of protection

Two examples of almost no protection would be Colorado's and former USA International Pablo Mastroeni and Chivas USA's Blair Gavin (I'm sure there are more).

Again, at what level of play does it not become necessary to provide a reasonable degree of protection? Or is it necessary, even at the professional level, but not always enforced by the referee? Do FIFA referees enforce this law or let it go as trifling and simply make sure everyone has some type of shinguard?

Answer (May 6, 2010):
In general, the decision on the "reasonable degree of protection" is made using The Seven Magic Words, "If, in the opinion of the referee." Referees must remember that at the professional level, the players and trainers must take responsibility. What is sufficient protection to one, may not be to another.


A referee brought up this question at our association meeting tonight. It started quite a debate and we would like to know the correct answer to put this to rest: A shot on goal is made by an attacker. The goalkeeper is too short to stop the ball from entering the goal with his hands so he pulls on the back of the net thus preventing the ball from completely crossing over the goal line.

What should the referee do in this case? If he stops play, what action should he take and what is the restart?

Answer (May 6, 2010):
In using the net as an artificial aid (and extension of his hands), the goalkeeper has theoretically denied the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball. However, as we know from Law 12,the goalkeeper is expressly excluded from the requirement for a send-off in this case, "(this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)." Solution? After the caution is given for unsporting behavior, award an indirect free kick for the opposing team on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.


Do all of the lines on a field need to be of uniform color?

While common sense would prevail that they should be of the same color that is always not the case due to fields being utilized by more than one sport. In this case it was a grass field, not an artificial surface. It was a U9 "travel" game.

The touch lines were of different colors, the goal lines were different than the touch lines and the penalty area was yet another color. I know there is a law regarding the size of the lines but I could find nothing requiring the uniformity of color for all boundaries. "..all lines must be of the same width, which must not be more than 12cm (5inches)..." the game was played but our coach told me that his team and the referee had difficulty throughout the game identifying if a ball was in or out of a particular are of the field.

Answer (May 4, 2010):
While Law 1 states only that the goal posts and crossbar must be colored white, it is traditional that all field markings are in white. And traditional means that this is the way it is supposed to be done. Field managers should not be artistic geniuses; they should prepare the field in accordance with the expected: White lines.

We understand that some competitions use multipurpose fields and that the participants must cope with that.


During the game, the center referee (CR) issued a yellow card to a player for a (presumed) reckless tackle. After showing the yellow card, the CR was called over to the sidelines by another referee who was mentoring the game (GU15). If the center referee issues a yellow card for a reckless foul, can a 5th referee (the mentor) recommend to change the yellow to a red, and have the center referee change the yellow to a red on the spot? The 5th referee being a mentor but is not a 4th official and not having no active part of the game.

Answer (May 4, 2010):
Unless there is some special rule in your state that does not exist in other states, the mentor (or the assessor) is not allowed to interfere with the referee's handling of the game until after the game has ended; not at a stoppage, not at halftime. He or she cannot intervene to make the referee change a call or take back a card or anything else. That sort of thing is done in the postgame conference.

However, the mentor (but NOT the assessor) could quietly suggest to the nearer assistant referee that the referee might wish to do this a bit differently -- provided that the game has not already been restarted. The AR could then pass this information on to the referee.


My understanding is during a stoppage for an injury a coach (the team not with the injured player) is not allowed to call his players over to the bench area (technical area) and provide coaching instruction. Likewise, the coach of the injured player who comes on the field with permission cannot gather his field players and provide coaching /tactical advise. I cannot find this in the Laws, Guide to Referees, and Advise to Referees.

Can you direct me where in the USSF I can find this? Also, what is the ruling and where is it for NISOA and NFHS?

Answer (May 3, 2010):
We cannot provide official answers for NISOA or NFHS games. However, we can provide official answers regarding the Laws of the Game.

There is no rule against either coach or other team official calling his or her players over to the touch line to discuss tactics during a stoppage for injury. However, if a coach or other team official is permitted on the field to see to the status of a seriously injured player -- the only reason for stopping play for an injury is if the referee believes it to be serious -- he or she may not share any information with any players of that team who are on the field. That would be regarded as irresponsible behavior, forcing the referee to expel the coach.

However, the intelligent referee will preempt the coach from coaching by stopping him early and letting him know that coaching on the field is not permitted. If the coach persists, then the referee should take more drastic action.


was the center referee in a youth (U-9 through U-18) tournament this past weekend. Due to the size of the tournament, we had an acute referee shortage. I was forced to do two games with a club line. I know that the local select league has a rule that indicates club lines are not to be paid. Further, I was told that there is a FIFA directive that says under no circumstances can a club line be paid. The 10 year old boy was the ONLY person to volunteer.

I gave him $10 for his time (he did a nice job and his mom had come over to my side following the game rather irate that her daughter's team had paid big $$$ only to have to have her son "work" the game).

My question: Is there anything illegal about offering compensation to a club line?

My second question: Could we have legally used a two-man (I HATE IT, just for the record) system for a USSF-sanctioned tournament?

Answer (May 4, 2010):
We are unaware of any rules anywhere in the world that prohibit paying club linesmen (as they are called, whether male or female); however, while it would be unusual to do so, there is no reason not to give someone who has sacrificed his or her body for the cause a bit of compensation.

As to the dual system of control ("two-man system"), it is forbidden by the Laws of the Game, which require a referee and two assistants, but will allow two club linesmen. In fact, probably at least 90 percent of games played throughout the world are run with one referee and two club linesmen. Nevertheless, some leagues or tournaments run their games with two officials -- and sometimes even they are not affiliated with USSF. It is up to the state associations to police these matters.


In a U-19 mens match, a player went in for a hard challenge, missed the ball and fouled his opponent. My immediate reaction was to caution him for the reckless foul but when the two players got up they started swinging at each other. The near AR and I quickly sorted things out, then I sent off (red carded) both of the players.

Now I wonder if I should have first shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior, then the red card for violent conduct. Since the player did not have a prior caution, that might seem confusing to the coach and spectators, but in some leagues disciplinary points are issued for every card.

What is the proper procedure in this case?

Answer (April 27, 2010):
The referee should IMMEDIATELY think preventive refereeing and get between the players BEFORE they start swinging. If that fails, the showing of the yellow card first may be confusing but is the correct action. The referee should always punish the initiator first in these situations. After the caution, then send off both players. If there is any confusion, explain it in the match report.


In the April 16 question about failure to respect the distance, my question is how do we call this at the lower levels when it is not called at the higher levels? I don't think I've ever seen failure to respect the distance enforced in a professional match in spite of it occurring on nearly every foul called.

Answer (April 27, 2010):
The argument given by those who are reluctant to enforce the distance at a free kick is that the players do not expect the rule to be enforced and are willing to put up with it. It is clear that this is not true and the Federation has launched a campaign on this problem. Ask your State Director of Referee Instruction to let you know when there will be a clinic on the "Managing the Free Kick" module.

In addition, please note that this is an important consideration at the professional level and is certainly called at every level of the professional game. However, we acknowledge that referees at all levels are sometimes a bit lax and need to be more forceful in enforcing the law.


Today I was a single ref in a youth soccer boys game. My question concerns an offsides call that I made.

The offensive player was bringing the ball into the PK area on the right side (near post). The goalie was approximately in the middle but favoring the far post a little. An offensive player was clearly in the offsides position about 4 feet inside the far post waiting for a pass. He didn't get the pass. The player with the ball shot the ball on the ground at the near post and scored. I did not see the goalie move toward the offsides player who remained 4 feet inside the far post. Of course I couldn't read the goalie's mind and I don't know if he was partially focused on the offsides player. I don't know if the goalie would have moved closer to the shot if the offsides player wasn't a threat at the far post.

As soon as the goal was scored I disallowed the goal and called offsides. (the coach opposed my call saying that his man was not involved in the play) I based my call on the possibility that, by necessity, the goalie was frozen and couldn't move toward the player with the ball or couldn't move toward the near post. In essence the off-sides player could have made the goal wider by making the goalie stay near to him. I thought that was an advantage. Again I didn't see the goalie move toward the off-sides player and I couldn't read his mind.

What call would you have made?

Answer (April 27, 2010):
Not offside. Referees should not attempt to read the minds of players or attribute to them actions that are not clearly evident. Referees act only on facts and the results of player actions. In this case the opponent was in the offside position, but you present no evidence that the player acted to interfere with an opponent, so he could not be declared offside. (There is no such thing as "offsides" in soccer.)


I have been looking for clarification on how referees should consider a ball released by the goalkeeper. The Laws of the Game Guide states "It is an offence for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands." My situation: attacker within yards of keeper leaps at the punted/thrown ball in hopes of intercepting it at the beginning of its trajectory. The ball has been physically "released," but is it considered released under the Law? At what point in the above situation is the act of releasing completed?

Answer (April 26, 2010):
There has been considerable interest in this topic since Jaime Moreno of D. C. United violated the Law by cavorting and gesturing to interfere with the goalkeeper's release of the ball into general play. This memorandum on the matter was issued by USSF on April 14, 2010:

Subject: Interfering with the Goalkeeper's Release of the Ball
Date: April 14, 2010

Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) includes the words "prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands" as an offense punishable by an indirect free kick. By tradition and interpretation, this violation is described more generally as any action by a player which interferes with the opposing goalkeeper's ability to get the ball back into active play freely and quickly.

A goalkeeper is considered to be in the process of "releasing the ball" from the first moment when he or she has clearly taken hand control of the ball until the moment when the ball has been clearly released into play. This includes any time when the goalkeeper is:
• bouncing the ball
• running with the ball
• in the process of dropping the ball in preparation for kicking it
• throwing the ball.

During the time the goalkeeper has control of the ball and is preparing to release it into active play, an opponent may not stand or move so close as to restrict the direction or distance of the goalkeeper's release.

In the 70th minute of a match between D.C. United at Philadelphia Union on April 10, 2010 (clip found here), D.C. forward Moreno followed, moved in closer to, waved arms at, and made various head and body "movements" toward Philadelphia goalkeeper Seitz while Seitz was holding the ball and preparing to distribute it. During the course of this interference, Seitz dropped the ball and Moreno shot the ball into the net. These actions by Moreno constituted a violation of Law 12. The goal should not have been allowed and an indirect free kick should have been given where Moreno interfered. Moreno's behavior additionally could have been cautioned as unsporting behavior.

Whenever a goalkeeper has taken possession of the ball and an opponent is either nearby or begins moving toward the goalkeeper, referees and assistant referees must recognize the possibility of interference and allow their attention to continue to focus on the goalkeeper. More proactively, a quick word to the opponent might well prevent this sort of offense.

The most important part of the memorandum is the final paragraph, reminding referees to be proactive in controlling the movement of opposing players near the goalkeeper. That brings us to the final sentence of our answer of April 12, 2010, on this topic and the answer to your question: "The referee should have blown the whistle immediately and awarded the indirect free kick to the goalkeeper's team."

A few words on how to judge interference with the goalkeeper: The key question is whether "in the opinion of the referee" the goalkeeper, who is in the process of releasing the ball, has been influenced by the opposing player. The referee can only judge by the ACTIONS of the opposing player in question and the DISTANCE of the player to the keeper. If the player jumps in the air to intercept the ball while being 10 yards away, that should not constitute interference. On the other hand, a player who is as much as four yards away and jumps in the air to reach the ball would most certainly be considered to interfere. The referee is the final judge.

U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff and National Assessor ret., assisted by National Instructor Trainer Dan Heldman, 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); Jeff Kollmeyer, National Instructor, indoor and Futsal; and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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