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November 2008 Archive (II of III)


What are the U.S. Soccer requirements regarding numbering on uniforms. We would like to be compliant with U.S. Soccer, but cannot find reference in the Laws of the Game

Answer (November 14, 2008):
You cannot find it in the Laws of the Game because it is solely a requirement for the competition. However, the Laws do recognize that numbers are practical, as they are mentioned only once, in the back of the book under Procedures to determine the winner of a match or home-and-away You cannot find it in the Laws of the Game because it is solely a requirement for the competition. However, the Laws do recognize that numbers are practical, as they are mentioned only once, in the back of the book under Procedures to determine the winner of a match or home-and-away

- If, at the end of the match and before kicks start to be taken from the penalty mark, one team has a greater number of players than their opponents, they must reduce their numbers to equate with that of their opponents and the team captain must inform the referee of the name and number of each player excluded.

Our suggestion would be that you consult with the state youth or adult soccer associations in your area to see what they recommend.


U 17 higher level girl's game. Ball is played toward the goalkeeper and it is obvious that the goalkeeper will get the ball although there is an attacking player in an offside position a substantial distance away from the goal area. As ball is going toward the goalkeeper referee is distracted by other events taking place on the field and looks away and does not notice that the assistant referee has signaled offside although the attacker clearly was not going to get the ball and was not attempting to play the ball. Whistle is not blown and offside is not signaled by center referee. When center referee looks back, goalkeeper in reliance on the assistant referee's signal has carried the ball outside the penalty area in line with the assistant referee, placed it on the ground and is preparing to take kick. Attacking team wants hand ball called for carrying the ball outside the penalty area. Your opinion on the proper way to have handled the situation?

Answer (November 12, 2008):
The principal error here was the mistake was made by the player -- taking the assistant referee's signal as an indication that play has stopped (particularly given the "U 17 higher level" of the competition). We can apply these ancient words of wisdom to the situation: "The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players." The referee should either drive this point home to the goalkeeper by calling deliberate handling or, if feeling kindly at that time and perhaps a bit embarrassed, the referee could whistle to stop play, declare that the whistle was inadvertent, and restart with a dropped ball (because of the stoppage with no accompanying infringement or, as in this case, a trifling violation).


Attacker A has beaten the 2LD and has only the GK between himself and the back of the net. Attacker A moves along the 18 in a fashion parallel to the goal line. GK "takes him out" (match referee's description of the foul). Is this DGF (apart from possibility that it may also be SFP)?

Answer (November 12, 2008):
You don't tell us if Attacker A has the ball. If he does, it might or it might not be denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or penalty kick (aka DGF). If the referee determines that the that the player was able to shoot -- which is not clear from your question -- then the correct call could be DGF. If not, there is always the possibility of serious foul play.


Is there any record of how many goals have been scored by referees?

Answer (November 10, 2008):
No, and there never will be such a record. Referees do not score goals. If the ball rebounds from the referee into the goal, it is credited to the last player to have played it, no matter which team he or she is on. There are tales, mostly apocryphal, about referees shooting the ball at the goal, but we do not have any information them.


In a recent U13 girls soccer match, a coach (on the losing team) was actively abusing the center referee. As a result, spectators from the same team followed suit; in essence causing a free-for-all of verbal abuse. With 20 minutes left in the match the same coach's daughter was (slightly) injured. The reaction to this, by the coach, was a slew of curse words as he proceeded to step on the pitch and remove his daughter. When told by the center referee that the coach's behavior would be outlined in the match report, the coach proceeded to "abandon" the match; instructing his team to gather their belongings and leave. The referee did not abandon the match so would that mean that the team "forfeited"? To give some background, the match was not particularly physical and there existed no calls by that center referee which warranted this reaction. I couldn't find anything in the LOTG which covered this, could you please give me some guidance? Thank you so much!

Answer (November 10, 2008):
Guidance: The result of the match is not the referee's problem. Full details of everything that occurred must go into the referee's match report. The competition authority resolves the problem and the referee has done his/her job.

The guidance you request was quick and simple, but the entire problem could have been avoided by doing something fundamental early on. If, after issuing a warning to the coach about his behavior, he persisted, then he should have been expelled from the game for irresponsible behavior. The referee seems not to have given that warning and then allowed the problem to become worse.


What should be the proper call? U8 Girls game. An attempt on goal by the opposing team. The goalie blocks the shot and picks up the ball. The ball and goalie never leave the penalty area. She performs a drop kick that goes straight up in the air and lands in the penalty area. Can the goalie touch the ball again (foot or hand) before one of her teammates or does another player need to make contact with the ball first?

If there is a penalty for touching the ball before her teammates, what would be the proper call?

Answer (November 7, 2008):
Under the U8 rules published by U. S. Youth Soccer, there are no goalkeepers, so this question must be answered in accordance with the normal Laws of the Game.

Yes, any other player must play the ball before the goalkeeper may touch it again with her hands. If the goalkeeper touches it with her hands, the correct restart is an indirect free kick for the opposing team from the place where the infringement occurred. (If this was within the goal area, then it must be from that place on the goal area line that is nearest to the place where the infringement occurred.)


Here is the situation: Team A is awarded a goal kick when the ball crosses over the goal line out of bounds by the attacking team B. Team A's goal keeper takes the kick while a defender stays in the penalty area. The defender is only in the penalty area and not in the box directly in front of the goal. As soon as the kick crosses out of the penalty area the referee blows the whistle and stops play. Then awards Team B with a direct free kick on goal from outside the penalty box. I must add that no player touched the ball after the kick prior to it leaving the penalty box.

When asked to clarify the call after the game the explanation given by the referee was that no player other than the goal keeper may be in the penalty box unless they are in the box directly in front of the goal. If I read the rule correctly this is wrong and only the opposing players must remain outside the penalty box. In this case Team B.

Can you shed some light on this? Was this just a bad call or was there an infraction by having a player other than the goal keeper in the penalty box?

Answer (November 6, 2008):
Normally we would not offer an "official" response to this question, as it is something that every referee surely "knows." However, it seems clear that at least one referee may not be aware of the fact that only the opposing team is required to remain outside the penalty area until the ball has left the penalty area. I think we all agree that the original decision about the supposed offense was crazy but the follow-up decision about the restart was outright insane. I have to wonder how this referee would respond to a defender other than the goalkeeper preparing to take the goal kick (which is a common practice). Is it possible that you may not have reported correctly the referee's explanation? Maybe the referee was merely wrong rather than stupendously wrong.

Law 16 tell us:
* The ball is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
* Opponents remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play

"A player" means any player on the team, whether the goalkeeper or a forward or a midfielder or a defender. "Opponents" means the other team, not the kicking team.

We might also reiterate, as it was asked in an earlier question, that the ball must leave the penalty area to be in play. It may do so either in the air or on the ground. There is no requirement that the ball must leave the kicker's foot and remain in the air until it has left the area.


I was an AR in a recent game that was being assessed by a state-level assessor. While in proper position aligned with the second to last defender and monitoring for any offside infraction, the offense chipped the ball over the top of the defensive line that was playing in a flat-4 formation approximately 25 yards from goal. At the time the ball was played by the offensive player, his teammate was in an offside position and started to move towards the location where the chipped ball dropped in an effort to play the ball. There was also a second offensive player who was not in an offside position at the moment the ball was played who ran through in an effort to make a play on the ball. Normally such a situation would be a "wait and see" situation to determine offside. As the location where the ball dropped indicated (top of the penalty area) and taking into account the relative speed and distance between the defensive goalkeeper and the offensive player in the offside position, there appeared to be an imminent possibility of a collision between the goalkeeper who was charging out and the offensive player who was in the offside position. As instructed by the center referee in the pre-game, I raised my flag as a precautionary measure due to the pending collision with the goalkeeper before active involvement could be fully determined. The goalkeeper ultimately gained possession of the ball with his hands a split second before the player in the offside position was able to arrive at the ball and the player in the offside position did not become actively involved. As the AR, I stood at attention with the flag raised until the goalkeeper had obtained clear possession of the ball. The center referee did not see the offside flag and never acknowledged the situation. After the keeper obtained clear possession, I dropped the flag and moved on with the game assuming proper positioning for the ongoing play.

This seems like it was the right course of action based on the pre-game instructions and as described in the Guide to Procedures:
"If the referee misses the flag, [AR] stays at attention with the flag raised until the defense gains clear possession or until a goal kick or throw-in is awarded to the defense." The problem I have is that in post-game discussion with the assessor, he indicated this procedure to be incorrect. This was a fairly complicated situation with many things happening at the same time, but he indicated that there can not be an "advantage" call on an offside infraction (which based on my understanding of the LOTG is a correct statement) and that as the AR in this situation, I should have stood at attention with the flag raised until acknowledged in one form or another (calling the offside infraction or waiving the flag down) by the center referee. Note, the assessor did not dispute the judgment of the initial flag raising to indicate the offside infraction.

Obviously this problem could have been mitigated if the center referee had looked over and made eye contact. Whereas I agree with the assessor's general statement regarding advantage and offside, I do not believe this was a case of an AR inappropriately making an "advantage" call which is not within the scope of his authority, but rather simply following the instructions laid out by USSF for a missed flag.

Please advise on the appropriate mechanics for this scenario.

The second question that arises from this situation is in the eyes of USSF, does the pending goalkeeper collision decision trump the "wait and see" philosophy to determine active involvement when both determinations are required for the same play? The pending collision instruction seems to be a fairly common instruction given in many pre-games, but I can not actually find any reference to this in an official publication.

Thank you for your anticipated clarifications.

Answer (November 5, 2008):
If you have followed both the instructions of the referee -- you don't tell us what they were, but the fact that you followed them counts -- and the guidance given in the Guide to Procedures, you have done all that any assistant referee should do in this situation. We are uncomfortable about the feedback given to you by the state assessor.


I have a question about whether there is such a thing as referee interference.

My daughter scored her team's third goal, just before halftime, in what turned out to be a very one sided game. The referee said that it didn't count because he blocked the goalie's view. And if that weren't bad enough, he gave the other team a goal kick!

I know that a referee in American Football (NFL) as well as an umpire in baseball are considered part of the field. I would assume that the same would be true for soccer. I've never heard of a goal being disallowed because the referee was in the wrong place, and especially can't understand why he would turn the ball over to the other team for a goal kick when my daughter was in control of the ball, and taking a shot on goal when she committed the supposed infraction.

My daughter feels confused and cheated of her goal. I am trying to explain the situation to her and am not sure what to say. I assume that since it was such an obviously one sided game, that he felt bad for the other team and tried to keep the game close. With the final score being 5-0 my daughter's non-goal did not have an effect on the outcome of the game, but I feel she deserves an explanation of what occurred. Was this overturned goal an act of sympathy on the part of the referee towards an overmatched team, or is this an actual rule that she will encounter in her future games?

Answer (November 5, 2008):
It is likely that your daughter will encounter this "rule" only if this extremely ill-informed referee is assigned to one of her games again. We often rail here against "inventive" referees, but this person carries the concept of inventiveness a bit far.

Yes, the referee is considered to be part of the field. No, the referee should not have taken away the goal and should certainly NOT have awarded a goal kick for this totally imaginary offense. Your daughter was cheated. If you will tell us privately in what state. league, at which field and on what date and time this occurred (and the referee's name, if possible), we will ensure that your complaint is raised with the appropriate referee authorities.

We think -- who can "know" in a situation like this? -- we have figured out why the referee didn't "call" an offense against your daughter (she should be consoled that nothing here was HER fault). Instead, he disallowed a goal (for an inventive reason) but then took it to the next logical step -- the ball left the field, not counted as a goal, last touched by an attacker -- ergo, goal kick.


In response to a question of October 23, with regards to a missed signal for a goal and subsequent confusion, you wrote that "there is no way that dropping the flag and moving up field should be interpreted as an offside decision."

I'd like some clarification of this opinion with a view to your answer of August 18, when you wrote that in order to properly implement the "wait and see" principle without disadvantaging the defending team on their restart or pulling the AR out of position, the AR should follow play until the offside player is actively involved, then "when the referee sees the raised flag and blows the whistle, the AR makes eye contact with the referee and points the flag to the far, middle or near side, whichever is correct. The AR then moves back down the touch line to a point in line with the correct spot for the restart."

However, in the conclusion of your Aug 18 ruling, you note "there is no specific advice on the matter because it is left to the discretion of the referee to cover the issue in the pregame. The issue, simply put, is that the AR must continue to maintain proper position during the period of time between when an offside position is noted and when the offside violation is clear enough to be flagged. The AR's position must be maintained in this scenario because of the possibility that an offside violation may not occur. The issue outcome hinges on identifying the correct location of the restart."

The obvious difference between the signal for a missed goal vs offside is the AR giving the far/middle/near signal prior to running upfield. The latter procedure is covered in neither the Guide to Procedures, ATR, LOTG, or Q&A (please correct me if I am wrong).

Considering this, it is easy to envision miscommunication resulting from this procedure if the center has exercised his "discretion" in neglecting to cover the issue in pregame, done all too frequently, through levels of play such as PDL where waiting for a touch or impending collision to signal offside is imperative. This site is the only place where I have seen this specific procedure laid out; many referees would contend that the proper procedure is for the AR to hold position until the advantage is clear, then signal or recover.

While not the most frequently used AR routine, the "wait and see" offside is common, and miscommunication could easily have negative effects on man management. If this procedure is recognized as "proper," should it be included in Guide to Procedures and adopted as a recognized signal? At the very least, it seems that it should be reviewed by instructors sufficiently that confusion does not result.

Answer (November 5, 2008):
Although we applaud your faithful attention to the various Q&As published here, the issue you are raising below is based on a false premise -- namely, that these two scenarios are connected in any way. The potential confusion you point to could arise only if the officials involved acted in the way which we clearly stated was incorrect in each case.

In the October 23 scenario, the issue was the referee misunderstanding the AR's correct procedure for indicating that a goal was scored despite the fact that the ball appeared to have stayed on the field. We said then, and confirm again, that the referee simply was wrong in believing that the AR had indicated an offside violation and, in that context, said that the AR dropping the flag and running quickly up the touch line could not under any circumstances be considered proper mechanics for indicating an offside violation. All aspects of this situation are clearly covered in the Guide to Procedures and Advice to Referees.

In the August 18 scenario, we were asked about the proper mechanics for the AR when two attackers are making a play for the ball, one coming from an onside position and the other coming from an offside position. This is fairly clearly covered in the Guide to Procedures and the Advice to Referees, but we also acknowledged that the subsidiary issue of properly locating the restart (if an offside infringement occurs) does not have a definitive answer in these publications because it is left to the discretion of the referee, who should include the matter in the pregame.

We said then, and confirm again, that the AR should be maintaining proper positioning for offside even though, if the offense does occur, this might place the AR some distance away from the restart location. If the referee wants assistance from the AR in locating the restart, the AR should move up the field but only after giving the complete signal for the offside offense. In other words, although it might seem that the AR is merely dropping the flag and moving upfield, this is not what has signaled the offside offense. The offense was signaled in the correct way when the offense occurred (all in accordance with the Guide to Procedures and Advice to Referees) and then, only if this is requested by the referee, the AR could drop the flag and move up field in order to assist in locating the restart. In the alternative, the referee may decide that he or she needs no help advising players as to the restart location and would prefer that the AR stay back where the offense was signaled since, in all likelihood, this puts the AR closer to where the second last defender is at the time of the restart.


On a throw in, the player taking the throw in near the halfway line dose a correct throw but throws at an opponent that is the required distance away or more( 8'). This throw is not a slip or a tactical off the opponent redirect, as the opponent is facing the thrower. This throw was at the player body and not the head. The ball rebounded off the opponent and went out of play back to the thrower.

The thrower was being unsporting at the opinion of the referee and close AR, play stopped Thrower cautioned and play restarted with throw in by the player cautioned (thrower). Question is with the restart.

First we have a player "off the field", with a stoppage in play,dose this player that commits a misconduct at this time = a restart based on the original stoppage or is the the restart base on the ball being in play, and the ball being an object of striking which = DFK to the opponent at the spot of the contact, or is it a dropped ball as the thrower was off field? My main problem here, is the thrower committing a misconduct or a foul and a misconduct.

Answer (November 5, 2008):
If the thrower had released the ball, as it would seem from your question, then the ball was in play and the restart, after the caution for unsporting behavior (or more, if the referee thinks it was done using excessive force), is a direct free kick for the opposing team from the place where the ball struck the opponent. Why? you ask. Because the ball is an extension of the thrower's arm and the contact with the opponent took place on the field of play.


In a tournament game this summer, I awarded a penalty kick for Team A against Team B. After the goalkeeper and Team A's player were set to begin, I blew the whistle to signal for the penalty kick to be taken, at which point, I heard a "HOLD ON!!" from behind my back, and instinctively, I blew the whistle for the kick to stop. By this point though, Team A's player had already taken the shot and scored. Let me be clear, my second whistle occurred BEFORE the kick was taken.

Upon realizing it was a parent from Team B (parents on both sides) who had yelled, not my AR or a Coach, with an urgent problem (player having an asthma attack, seizure, whatever!), I immediately ran to my AR1 and because we both could not definitely point out which parent caused the distraction, I caused the entire sideline that the next outburst would elicit an immediate ejection.

Back to the game, I had Team A retake the penalty kick, at which point they did NOT score.

My crew and I were unsure if I was correct in blowing the whistle again after I initially signaled for the start of the penalty kick. We thought it could be argued both ways: because the keeper was scored upon, he could have said he was distracted by the obscenely loud outburst, but if the keeper would have made the save, Team A's kicker could make the same argument. My initial instinct was that I was wrong to have blown the whistle the second time, and should have allowed the kick to proceed and then see what the commotion was about, but the request sounded so urgent, I didn't hesitate in blowing the second whistle. So was I right to stop the penalty kick because of the yell? Also, what should I have done about the parents, not knowing who specifically yelled. Thanks in advance.

Answer (November 5, 2008):
A whistle blown means that the play has stopped and the kick, if not already taken before the whistle was blown, is negated. The Law requires that the kick be retaken. It may seem unfair in this particular circumstance, but it is the Law and must be followed.

It is unfortunate that you could not identify the particular parent, but it would have made no difference in the restart. You can ask the team to police its own spectators and keep them quiet, but unless the parent or other spectators break a civil law, there is little you can do other than terminating the game.


I would like to know when FIFA adopted the rule which requires an indirect free kick to be awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, controls the ball with his hands for more than six seconds before releasing it from his possession. My reason for asking is that I recently refereed a tournament in which I awarded an IFK in two separate matches. The reaction by the coaches clearly indicated their displeasure with my call, even though in my pregame routine I have made it a practice to remind the coaches, captains and the goalies directly to be aware of the six seconds and to release the ball from their possession within that time frame. To be honest I do not count just to six seconds and then blow the whistle. I count slowly to eight seconds and then blow the whistle. This assures me a high level of confidence that the six seconds have passed without resorting to watching my watch which would take my eyes and concentration away from the field and the players.

My other concern is that while I was watching other matches or when I was an assistant referee in other matches I noticed throughout the matches goalies keeping possession well beyond the six seconds and the referee paying no attention to it. As an assistant referee is it also my responsibility to enforce the rule and should I have raised my flag?

Answer (November 5, 2008):
The six-second rule was introduced into the Laws of the Game around 1993. This particular portion of the Law is noted for its not being called strictly to the rule -- and there is a reason for that. The six-second count does not begin until the goalkeeper is clearly in possession of the ball and ABLE to think about releasing the ball into general play. Not while the goalkeeper is on the ground; not while he or she is recovering from a fall; not while he or she is rising: Only after the goalkeeper is clearly alert and ready to function.

Anything beyond that time is a matter for the individual discretion of the referee, who is the sole judge of the passage of time in a soccer game.

Using the guidelines above, you can mention this in the pregame conference to the ARs who work with you or to the referee when you are AR, but never, never make calls on situations that are clearly visible to the referee.

Finally, a point we emphasize in our answers to this and similar questions about goalkeeper release of the ball: Most of the time the offense is trivial as long as you are seeing an honest effort to put the ball back into play. We also recommend that the referee warn the 'keeper about the time on the first offense before we do anything more about it.


What do you do when team A is ahead 1-0 and team B is about to score when all of a sudden a team A official comes out and interferes with play to stop the goal? Does team B get the ball for a DFK or PK or do you have to do a DB. From what I have read team officials can be sent off but they are considered outside interference and play restarted with a DB. Also, what about parents or spectators in this same situation? Common sense says do what is right, what do the rules say?

Answer (November 5, 2008):
The rules, as explained in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," tell us:
"(a) If the extra person is neither a player nor a substitute (as determined usually by the team's roster), that person is considered an "outside agent" and must be removed. That person, as an outside agent, has not committed misconduct and so no card may be displayed. In the special case of a player who has already been sent off and shown the red card but who returns to the field, no further action can be taken following removal other than to include full details in the match report. Play is restarted with a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped*."

Note: The asterisk means to see Law 8 for dropped ball restarts within the goal area.

If it is a team official, that person is expelled for behaving irresponsibly and must leave the vicinity of the field. If it is a spectator, that person must also leave the vicinity of the field. As noted in Advice 3.18(a), all details must be included in the match report.


I'm frequently doing high level U15-U16 boys and girls games where the following scenario occurs. Very fast attacking winger speeding up sideline with ball, slightly faster single defender on his (her) inside shoulder. Because of high speed there is a good 2-3-4 yard gap between attacker and the ball that fast defender is finally able to get into and touch ball first, getting in between attacker and the ball without more than legal shoulder contact. Defender then wants to control, shield and play ball, but because of momentum of all involved attacker goes into back of defender and all go flying. It is my judgment that defender has won ball possession and been fouled by attacker, but that call frequently gets belligerent dissent from attacker's coaching staff and parent sidelines. I would call a foul (impeding) the other way against defender if defender jumped in front of attacker or ran into that space so recklessly that attacker could not possibly avoid contact.

What exactly are criteria for foul in such a case; must defender actually touch ball to be considered winning possession, or is playing distance enough if defender in better position?

Answer (November 5, 2008):
What you describe is perfectly legal. You might consider looking closely at what the winger (former attacker) does after the opponent (former defender) has taken possession of the ball. In this case, possession means simply that the player is within playing distance -- see answer of November 4 on impeding the progress of the opponent. If the winger charges from behind to get the ball, then that is at least careless and, depending on what else happens, possibly reckless or worse.

We rarely take into consideration the reactions of the coaching staffs of either team. Their main purpose in life -- or at least in this game -- is to ensure that their team comes out on top. Anything that helps in this pursuit will be attempted. As long as you are confident that your decision was correct, let the shouts roll off your back. We should hear only what we need to hear, not everything that is said on or off the field.

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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