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March 2003 Archive

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What is the current USSF position on the acceptable length of fingernails for players?

Answer (March 31, 2003):
There is no official position on the length of players' fingernails. Players are not allowed to "wear" anything that is dangerous to themselves or another player. The acceptable length or shape or adornment of fingernails is up to the good judgment of the referee.


I recently got my referee grade 8. My question is beside the referee patch are we allowed to have a USA Flag patch on our uniform and where if allowed.

Answer (March 28, 2003):
The USA Flag patch is to be worn on the left sleeve, between elbow and shoulder.


Where can I find info regarding standards of the "fair charge"? That is, what contact is permissible under what conditions, and what is not?

Answer (March 28, 2003):
[This is a repeat of an answer of March 26, 2002]
The only instance in which a charge would be punished under the Law is one in which the player charges an opponent carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.

Although you will have to search very hard to find it written anywhere, the world accepts a fair charge of the opponent if the players make contact shoulder to shoulder, with the charging player's arms in at his side, while both players have at least one foot on the ground. The charging player may not use excessive force. At the youth level, particularly in the early teenage brackets, where players of the same age may experience growth spurts differently, a "best effort" at a should-to-shoulder charge is accepted.


This is a situation that has occured in several games. This normally happens when team A is moving its defenders up the field quickly leaving an attacker on team b in an offside position in the middle of the field. Team B gains possesion of the ball and plays it long to the wing where a player for B runs from an onside position, dribbles then crosses the ball. In the meantime the player that was offside in the middle of the field has sprinted down the field to receive the cross, (the center defender unable to make up the 5 yard offside advantage). At the point the ball is crossed the defender covering the sprinting winger is now keeping the team B central attacker onside and there is no flag.

There was clearly a huge advantage created from being in the offside position in the middle of the field. The explanation I have been given is that the initial pass forward was to an onside player and that the player in the middle of the field was not involved in the play and when he recieved the cross he was onside. The central defender had no chance of making up the 5 yards.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Answer (March 28, 2003):
This is a tried and tested tactic to avoid the offside call -- and it is allowed, provided that the attacking player in the offside position does not become actively involved in the initial play of the ball to his teammate who was onside. Once the attacking player has been put back onside by the central defender in this situation, he may not be called offside if he remains no nearer the goal than at least two opposing players.


Attacker with back to the goal, defender right behind him, facing his back. Does defender have any rights, he can't possibly play the ball? That is, must he yield to the attacker, i. e., back out of his current position or as in basketball he most certainly has rights, the attacker must go around him. Specifically, he is allowed to stay right where he is. Seems to me ATR 12.14 applies, so the attacker has the right to move toward the defender.

Answer (March 28, 2003):
A player who establishes his position is not required to move out of an opponent's way (with the sole exception of doing so while in an offside position; see below). Impeding consists of moving into the way of an opponent, not just being in his way. If the defender was there already (behind the attacker, between the attacker and the goal), it is the attacker's responsibility to move around rather than back into him. This is very different from the defender who moves into the path of the attacker with the result of forcing the attacker to stop or swerve in order to avoid making contact. The right to BE is not the same as the right to GO.

As stated above, however, none of this applies to someone who is in an offside position, where Law 11 clearly requires that he not interfere with an opponent.


I was the center of a high school game. An attacker broke away and went 1 v 1 with the goalie, who came out of the box to challenge him, and they met about 15 yards out to the left side of the penalty area. The goalie made a stab for the ball, and in the process tripped the attacker, who regained his balance and the ball, pressed on, and kicked the ball over the goal line (all within 2-3 seconds of the foul). I pulled the ball back to the point of the trip/attempted trip and awarded a direct kick. In my opinion there was no OGSO.

I am having some internal and external arguments about my application of advantage. My understanding of the LOTG is that advantage is something that is a benefit to the team that was fouled as determined by the referee. I believe that the "benefit" does not always include a shot at goal, but it certainly doesn't preclude it. However, my refereeing mentor believes that (and I quote from an email) that "the taking of the shot is advantage enough .... if he is fouled during the shot, then no.... but if he has a free shot, then this is his prescribed advantage..... change in thought from a few years ago... just like interpretation of dangerous tackles at the 1998 WC.... the FIFA referees really hosed all of their calls for a few days because they were lacking interpretation from FIFA.... or better yet, correct interpretation... The goalie made a stab for the ball, and in the process tripped the attacker, who regained his balance and the ball, pressed on, and kicked the ball over the goal line. ==== the advantage was when the attacker regained his balance and had the ball at his feet... when he kicks the ball over the goal line, then he has squandered his advantage..."

So, please, clarify for me the application of advantage, particularly the assertion that the taking of a shot is advantage enough. If I need to adjust my understanding and application of the LOTG then so be it. Also, please do not answer with a recitation of the LOTG and Advice to Referees. I read both those documents as well as the stuff on the USSF web site, and they aren't giving me any more clarification. What I need and want is your insight as a referee based on experience and nuance.

Answer (March 28, 2003):
There is no single, black-and-white answer to your question, so if you are determined that the Laws of the Game and the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game have nothing more to teach you, then you will have to do with this:

You appear to be looking at advantage the wrong way. Advantage is not something a team which has been fouled GAINS by the referee not stopping play; it is something the FOULING TEAM gains if the referee did stop play. In other words, we don't ask ourselves if the team is better off by not stopping play but, rather, if the opponents are better off if we DO stop play.

Looked at this way, your puzzlement should clear up. The player was fouled, the player retained control of the ball (or, possibly, his team retained control if he had been able to pass the ball, before falling down, to a teammate), the player took a shot on goal, and the player missed for reasons which, in the opinion of the referee, had nothing to do with the prior foul. Advantage called properly, foul gone, play should not have been stopped subsequently simply because the player was not successful. We call the play back for the original foul only if the player's subsequent loss of control (or advantage) is attributable to the original foul. (If it were otherwise, every player who was fouled and who kept control (or his team kept control) would be justified in having the original foul called if they screwed up (tripped over shoelaces, hillock, etc.) shortly thereafter.)

And you might want to thank your mentor for his good advice.


I have two questions, and I guess you could say they are related...

  1. If a player receives a caution earlier in the match, and it is necessary to issue another caution later on, does the referee show the yellow card for the second offense and then show the red card or does one just issue the red, bypassing the yellow?
  2. Also, if two cautionable offenses are committed simultaneously (a player leaving the field w/o the referee's permission and then re-entering without permission, persistent infringed with dissent, etc.) does one issue just the red? Or, should the yellow be issued first?

Answer (March 28, 2003):
If a player receives a second caution in the same match, he must be sent off. The correct procedure is to show the yellow card, immediately followed by the red card. The referee presents each yellow card separately, followed by the red card, jotting down details as he goes. In preparing the match report, the referee writes up each caution separately and then writes up the dismissal.


I [have] a question regarding a recent new procedure adapted by [another National] Federation regarding the offside.

It appears that this new procedure involves the Referee's assistants (linesmen) whereby it is required that the signal to the referee of an offside violation is delayed until the ball is received by the attacker, instead of the previous procedure which required that the offside violation should be flagged at the moment the ball was played.

I would appreciate your opinion and if this rule by the [other National] Federation has been approved by the International Board.

Answer (March 28, 2003):
We have not seen anything on the procedure you describe and do not want to be accused of saying that any other National Federation is doing something wrong. Perhaps it is simply a matter of differing mechanics.

In the United States, our assistant referees and referees are instructed to be certain of both offside position and active involvement before flagging for and deciding on offside. We do not define active involvement as actually making contact with the ball. A player becomes "actively involved" in the play only when he is in the "area of active play." This area shifts, widens, narrows, lengthens, or shortens, according to where the ball is going and who is "involved." Involvement includes attempting to play the ball or preventing others from having a fair play at the ball. Active involvement can occur without the ball being directly nearby. There are three elements in "active involvement": "interfering with an opponent," "interfering with play," and "gaining an advantage."

If an assistant referee is in any doubt as to whether a player is actively involved or not, he is expected to decide in favor of the attacker; in other words, he should refrain from signaling offside. The referee, too, must be certain that there is active involvement before deciding for offside. This may or may not include waiting until the ball last played by a teammate has reached the player in the offside position.

To put our answer in the proper perspective, we should note that you seem to be setting up a false dichotomy -- either flag at the moment the ball was played by an attacker or flag when the attacker in the offside position actually plays the ball. The first is incorrect because, at that moment, the only decision that can definitively be made is offside position. The second is incorrect for two reasons -- first, not all offside violations involve interfering with play (e.g., interfering with an opponent) and, second, by the time the ball and attacker "connect," the officiating team has likely dug itself a hole from which it will be difficult to escape. We are looking at involvement in active play which may or may not include actual contact with the ball -- we penalize the attacker in an offside position for being in the area of active play and, while there, failing completely to take concrete steps to avoid being considered as even potentially involved in play.


I have a question that has gotten me into several heated discussions and never the same answer.

First I will set the playing stage. I was involved in (and still am) in a fall recreational soccer league and had finished my games for the day so I went over to watch the Seniors League play their second half. The seniors are 16 to 18 years of age and co-ed and did not make the High School team and do not have a Select team to play on and are kids who just want to play soccer for the fun of playing soccer. So you have a varied mix of talent. The game was a good high energy contest with a score of 2 to 1. The Refs had to run a reverse diagnal due to the side line conditions, these fields are used by three or four different leagues from ages 14 to adults and it had rained for a few days. Here is the rough part, the uniform shirts were black and navy blue. The black team (team A) had on red pennies the navy blue team will be team B.

Now team A drove down and took a shot on goal about 20 min. into the second half the ball was blocked by team Bs keeper. Both teams had about 4 to 5 people in the top of the box (between the 6 and the 18). The Center reff was to the far side of the field just about the 18 but out of the box and the AR was down between the 6 and the gaol line when I saw her.Now remember I was at mid field in the stands about 5 seats up in my reffing shorts and socks which were pulled down and a white t-shirt with the parents and friends of these kids and they all knew me I have Reffed their games before (for about 6 years). now after the keeper deflected the ball it popped up and back out to about the PK mark between the center and right side of the field but still in the box. Now the ball gets to the group of players from both team A and B just over head high and an arm comes up smacks the ball into the net just under the cross bar in the far corner. At the same time both teams are jumping to head the ball but you could plainly see the hand or arm strike the ball from where I sat. to the best of my knowledge I do not remember seeing a shirt or sleeve to distinguish a team member, but it happened so fast I do not remember seeing more than an elbow to hand.The goal was allowed and tied the game (it did end in a 2 to 2 tie). Parents went nuts, and I just sat there biting my tongue. after the game I did ask the reffs about the no-call and was told they did not see it.

Now comes the question "IF" it was seen by either the center REFF or the AR which team did the infraction? Who gets the card (is it a RED)? What is the restart?

Please try to get the answers to me I would really like to hear from you on this one, and so would several other reffs.

Answer (March 28, 2003):
Based on the information you have given, it is impossible to answer your question meaningfully. We are left with the IFs you point to:
- IF the referee or the assistant referee saw the incident, then the perpetrator should be dealt with in accordance with appropriate portions of the Laws of the Game and the IFAB/FIFA Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game. There is no way of knowing from your description whodunit, so your question must remain unanswered.
- IF the player is identified with certainty, then the restart is either a kick-off -- IF the culprit was a member of the defending team -- or a direct free kick for the defending team -- IF the culprit was a member of the attacking team.


I am the coach of a U-13 competitive soccer team. Recently we had the unfortunate circumstances in an indoor soccer tournament where our goalie's arm was broken by a player on the offensive team trying to kick the ball into the goal. The goalie had deflected the ball down, then was pushing it away. His arm was hit because it was in the place where the ball had been, and where the offensive player was aiming. The referee did not see the infraction clearly, and a goal was scored on a third kick. It took the goalie about five seconds before the pain from the broken arm registered with the goalie, who fell to the ground in considerable and obvious pain. It was clear to the coach and Emergency Medical Technician (a parent) on the scene immediately that the boy's arm was broken. The goalie was quickly walked off the field, using his shirt to pin his arm against his body. The referee let the goal stand. The other coach let the goal stand. The tournament director let the goal stand. The parent's on my team are quite upset that goalie interference was not called, no red card was given, and no attempt at sportsmanship was made (i.e., not claiming the goal).

It seems to me that by the consequences it was by definition a dangerous play. Additionally, it was goalie interference, and "unsportsmanlike conduct." What are the actual rules that cover what happened?

Answer (March 28, 2003):
It is unfortunate that your goalkeeper was injured, but this does not appear to have been dangerous play (actually called "playing dangerously") by the attacking player and may not even have been a foul. How can that be, you ask? Because you have not demonstrated that the goalkeeper was in possession of the ball, which is defined below.

Law 12, International F. A. Board Decision 2 tells us: "The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms. Possession of the ball includes the goalkeeper deliberately parrying the ball, but does not include the circumstances where, in the opinion of the referee, the ball rebounds accidentally from the goalkeeper, for example after he has made a save."

We also tell our referees (in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game"):

    The goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball while bouncing it on the ground or while throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, while throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to strike the ground. As noted in Section 12.10, handling extends from shoulder to tip of fingers. While the ball is in the possession of the keeper, it cannot be lawfully played by an opponent, and any attempt to do so may be punished by a direct free kick.

We might add that there is no such foul as "goalie interference" and "unsportsmanlike conduct" is termed "unsporting behavior" in soccer. And, unfortunately, a foul unseen is NOT a foul under the Laws of the Game.


From a DFK 30 yards from the Goal the attacker kicks the ball over the wall of defenders and toward the goal. The ball appears that it would have scored were it not for the defender who hung from the goal and headed the ball back onto the field. What is the action from the referee?

Answer (March 28, 2003):
The defender has committed unsporting behavior, for which he must be cautioned and shown the yellow card. If the referee believes that the defender's act of misconduct denied the opponent an obvious goalscoring opportunity, then, based on USSF guidance, for which we are presently seeking an official ruling from FIFA, the player may be sent off and shown the red card. The offense was punishable by an indirect free kick restart and otherwise met the requirements of Law 12.


In a game where the keeper often made a save, brought the ball to the 18, and dribbled it forward himself, I had trouble deciding what was permissible by the defenders regarding "preventing the goalkeeper from putting the ball back into play." Can they shadow the keeper's movements to stay close? What if he decides to punt the ball instead of dribble it? Can a defender leap in front of a punted ball in an effort to catch the keeper off his line? At what point is the ball "in play"?

Answer (March 28, 2003):
There is a distinction between the ball being "in play" and being "playable." The ball is considered to be "in play" while the goalkeeper has it in his hands, but it is not "playable." If the goalkeeper has possession by means other than his hands (e.g., dribbling with the feet), an opponent is not only free to but is expected to challenge the goalkeeper in any otherwise permissible way.

The makers of the Laws of the Game changed the Law some years ago to prevent time wasting by the team with the ball, such as the goalkeeper standing around holding the ball. Now that a limit has been set on the time during which the goalkeeper may hold the ball, the Law expects all players to refrain from delaying or otherwise interfering with the goalkeeper's right to release the ball into play for all players. Any interference with the movement of the goalkeeper who is trying to release the ball into play is illegal, particularly any movement to block the goalkeeper's line of sight or motion. Interference with the release of the ball is purely a positional thing, regardless of whether the goalkeeper is moving at the time.


Lots of confusion on when a kick is direct or indirect. Second half of the question is goal scored on direct or indirect

Answer (March 28, 2003):
Free kicks are awarded for fouls, misconduct, a combination of the two, or offside. A direct free kick is given if a player commits any of the ten fouls specifically listed at the beginning of Law 12. An indirect free kick is given if play is stopped for any other foul or if play is stopped solely to deal with misconduct committed on the field by a player, or for offside. A free kick may be taken in any direction. (This does not apply to penalty kicks. See Law 14.)

A goal may be scored "directly" from a direct free kick. Another player must have somehow made contact with the ball for a goal to be scored from an indirect free kick.



  1. I know that in youth soccer matches it is not common practice to add stoppage time. I happen to coach select soccer as well as referee matches from U8 through adult. Recently in a tournament qualifying match for the U12 girls team that I coach, we were trailing 1-0 just before halftime when one of my players won the ball near midfield, made some good moves to defeat two defenders and was headed to goal on a breakaway when the CR blew his whistle for halftime (my player was 35-40 yds. from goal and closing at full speed). There were a couple of stoppages for minor injuries during the half. I personally would have allowed the play to reach its conclusion had I been CR. What do you think?
  2. My U12G team is trailing by a goal and has just been awarded a goal kick. Our opponent sends five substitutions on, but only four girls come off (unbeknownst to anyone but the AR). The CR signals for play to start and my GK sends the ball into play. As players are contesting for the ball, I happen to notice the AR frantically waving his flag trying to get the CR's attention. I begin shouting to assist in that effort. The opposing coach finally realized what was going on, and called his closest player to come off the field. His team had won possession and were attacking when we finally got the CR's attention (the AR took his flag down when the extra attacker reached the sideline) and informed him that the other team had had too many players on the field when the restart occurred. He replied that they did not have too many presently and allowed play to go on. What should the CR have done? This just happened to be a tournament championship match.

Answer (March 27, 2003):
Well, no one ever said that referees were infallible. (Or did they? See an article of March 13, 2003, in The Guardian on "illusory superiority," available at

As to your questions:

  1. Laws 5 and 7 give the referee responsibility for timing the match and for making allowances for time lost due to excessive delays or unusual stoppages. Competition rules sometimes try to limit the referee's authority in this area by forbidding any lengthening of a half to account for time lost. This is contrary to the requirement that only certain specific parts of the Law can be modified for certain categories of players and that making allowance for time lost would not fall within these limits. That said, the practice to which you refer is common in tournaments, has a very practical rationale, and is only one among many local rule exceptions of which we are aware that are not sanctioned by the Laws of the Game. If such a rule were proposed for a competitive level of play and officially presented to USSF for approval, the answer would be that the rule could not be used.

    The book answer to your question is yes, with the single exception of a penalty kick having been awarded. The practical answer is also yes, but with more latitude (the intelligent referee will normally not stop play if the ball itself is in flight toward the goal and it will either go in or it won't).

  2. The assistant referee should have taken action as soon as he noticed the extra player -- before play was restarted by the referee. As that was not done, the referee's only recourse would have been to do as he did, stopping the game and talking to the AR, and determining from the AR that the extra player came off at the coach's request. Because the AR observed the infringement when it occurred, play would then be restarted with a dropped ball at the place it was located when play was stopped. No caution would be given, because the extra player entered with the referee's permission.


An interesting question came up during a training class that created some good discussion. We think we have the right answer, but would like to hear from the expert.

Play is being restarted with a goal kick and the ball is properly put into play by the red team. The ball contacts a blue player, but was not intentionally played by him, and is then played by a red player who was in an offside position at the taking of the kick. Has an infraction occurred, since he did not receive the ball directly? Our consensus was that there was no infraction because at the time of the kick by his teammate the player was allowed to be offside.

Answer (March 24, 2003):
The deflection by an blue-team opponent does not affect the status of the red-team player in this case. No offside from a goal kick.


You could really help us out here in [our state]. I know this forum is USSF, but I need desperate help. Our State Board of Control for High School Sports has just passed a mandate that officials will wear in 2003 forward ONLY the solid black referee shirt. I f there is a conflict with team colors, (get this) the team is to provide a contrasting "pinnie" for the referee to wear on top of the official uniform. (This is not a joke - I am telling you the truth) It would really help if you could poll the country and ask what alternate shirt or shirts are allowed in other states. For example, the cover of the NFHS Publication in 2002 showed a young referee wearing a USSF gold shirt (badge on sleeve) shirt. While I realize this may be a USSF concern, I thought the whole idea is for all of us to work together for the good of the game. I personally see no problem with the USSF shirt as long as the USSF BADGE is NOT worn. I guess what I am asking is if you could form this into some form of question and publish results. I am appalled that our current [state] answer is to wear a "pinnie". I feel this is degrading to the official and demeaning to the professionalism that we preach in every communication. I really need some help here.

Answer (March 24, 2003):
This is a matter between your state's high school body and the referees who choose to work games controlled by it. The United States Soccer Federation has no jurisdiction in competitions that are not affiliated with it. If you have a concern, we suggest you contact the National Federation of State High School Associations directly.

[NOTE: The situation in this state has been resolved since the question came to our attention.]


I do not see anywhere in the laws about substitutions occurring during corner kicks, kick offs, etc. Is that a U.S. or state law?

Answer (March 24, 2003):
In youth play (see the USSF Administrative Handbook, p. 53), substitutions are permitted for either team before a kick-off (following a goal), at halftime, and before a goal kick. A team given a throw-in may substitute but not the opposing team. And substitutions by either team are permitted when the referee stops play for an injury.

However, the world game of soccer uses Law 3 to regulate substitution opportunities and Law 3 permits either team to substitute at any stoppage of play regardless of the reason (goal kick, corner kick, foul, throw-in, injury, etc.). Of course, Law 3 also prevents a substituted player from ever returning to the field during that game!


When an attacker is shielding the ball from an opponent, how may he use his arms, elbows, and hands? Is it permissible to back through the defender, that is, use his backside to force his way through? May the defender push his shoulder into the back of the attacker and attempt to force him off the ball? What sort of "bumping" should be permitted?

Answer (March 24, 2003):
No player shielding the ball from another is allowed to use any part of his body for other than maintaining balance. No backing, no pushing, no nothing. Nor may the opponent charge the player in the back -- that is considered to be serious foul play and should result in a send-off/red card. As long as the shielding player is within playing distance of the ball (i. e., meaning capable of playing the ball), then he cannot be obstructing. If his movement includes holding his arms out and making contact with the opponent as a means of keeping the opponent away, then the player is guilty of holding. If his action includes falling down and "covering the ball" and this gives the opponent no safe way to play the ball, then the player is guilty of playing dangerously (within the meaning of Q&A 12.5) and potential misconduct. No "bumping" is permitted for either player.

Physical contact between the player and the opponent is normally absent. If physical contact occurs, the referee should, depending on the circumstances, consider instead the possibility that a charging infringement has been committed (direct free kick) or that the opponent has been fairly charged off the ball (indirect free kick). However, nonviolent physical contact may occur while impeding the progress of an opponent if, in the opinion of the referee, this contact was an unavoidable consequence of the impeding (due, for example, to momentum).


I was told you had to be officially assigned a match to be covered by the member insurance coverage. According to my policy however, you are covered if the match is between U.S. Soccer-affliated teams and leagues. Would you clarify this please?

Answer (March 24, 2003):
For insurance coverage to be in effect for referees, the referee must be registered with U.S. Soccer and the teams and players affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The insurance coverage does not depend on who makes the assignment. Referees are independent contractors and that status assumes that the teams hire the referees. Assignors are a matter of convenience and organization, and, while important, do not impact the insurance coverage of referees one way or the other.


Much controversy exists over this one. Attacker A1 shoots. The ball deflects off the keeper to A2 who is in an offsides position. Offsides!

If the keeper had intentionally parried the ball with his hands toward the area where A2 was standing, should offsides be called? If not, what standards should be applied to determine "deflection" versus "parry"?

Answer (March 21, 2003):
No controversy here at all. The offside call is clearly correct. As to "deflection" versus "parry," the answer is clearly and specifically stated in the Laws of the Game:

    Law 12, International F.A. Board Decision 2
    "The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms. Possession of the ball includes the goalkeeper deliberately parrying the ball, but does not include the circumstances where, in the opinion of the referee, the ball rebounds accidentally from the goalkeeper, for example after he has made a save."


I don't remember how this situation came about. Perhaps a defender had slipped, but there was no chance of anybody else being in the play. The attacker was alone with the keeper about 22 yards out. The ball had been deflected high into the air and would come down about three yards to the attacker's right. The keeper was with the attacker, facing him, between him and the goal. The keeper jumped and punched the ball out of bounds, well aware that he was outside of the penalty area.

The handling call is obvious. Does this constitute an "obvious goal-scoring opportunity" simply by being alone with the keeper? Should the keeper be cautioned? Sent off?

Answer (March 21, 2003):
Referees should read the position paper "Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity Denied (The 4 Ds," dated September 16, 2002, available for download from this site and elsewhere. If the referee believes that the situation meets the criteria in the position paper for an obvious goalscoring opportunity, then the goalkeeper should be sent off and shown the red card for denying the opposing team an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball.

In the case you describe, it is unlikely that a red card would be justified because the criterion to be applied is "but for the handling, would the ball have gone into the goal?" This was simply a handling foul or, at most, a caution/yellow card for unsporting behavior (illegal handling to break up attacking play).


The attacker dribbles in on goal all alone. He slips and falls. The ball is inside the penalty area. While prone, and with the keeper reaching for the ball with his hands, the attacker kicks the ball back out of the PA to a teammate. Is this a legal play? If so, under what circumstances should play be stopped for kicking the ball while down?

Answer (March 21, 2003):
[Note: This answer is a repeat of an answer of October 10, 2001.]
There is nothing illegal, by itself, about playing the ball while on the ground. It becomes the technical 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.

If this is not the case (for example, the player had no opponent nearby), then there is no violation of the Law. If the referee decides that a dangerous play violation has occurred, the restart must be an indirect free kick where the play occurred (subject to the special rules that apply to restarts in the goal area).

By the way, even if a dangerous play violation has been called, the referee should never verbalize it as "playing on the ground" since there is no such foul in the Laws of the Game.


Here is the background of my inquiry: I was attending my local coaches meeting last night and our District Referee Coordinator informed us that players are now being required to provide a USSF issued form to refs prior to the start of a game, signed by their physician in order for them to wear ANY kind of elastic support bandage. In his description he stated that players could no longer wear ace bandages, neoprene support sleeves or soft support braces (soft = no hard surfaces like plastic or metal) UNLESS this form was completed and given to the ref.

He stated that there have been many occurrences where players with a cast or appears to have some kind of injury will arrive at a field, their coach would cut it off and pad or cover it with some kind of soft bandage so that the player could play. He also stated that if a referee sees a player warm-up in a knee brace for example and that player during check-in no longer is wearing the knee brace but is wearing an ace bandage for example - that the ref should not allow that player to play because their safety is at risk -- meaning if they are already injured enough to wear a support brace prior to the game and get even more injured during the game then the ref is liable???? He also clarified that taping an injury with athletic tape is fine - because it isn't elastic.

Well - to my questions:

  1. Can players wear support braces as long as they are covered with a neoprene sleeve or other suitable padding? If so - must they provide the ref this USSF signed form?
  2. Will a ref actually not allow a player to play because she may have a slight quad pull and is wearing a neoprene sleeve for extra support & protection of the muscles?
  3. Lastly, if this form exists - where can I obtain a copy of it?

Answer (March 21, 2003):
Please refer to the recently-published USSF position paper on player equipment, available for download on this site and elsewhere.

Finally, the United States Soccer Federation is not aware of the form you describe, which may be a requirement of your state association or other competition. There may be some confusion between USSF and high school rules in your area, as the national high school federation does, under some circumstances, require written physician approval for some things.


A coach asks: Just curious if you would agree with this call? A player has the ball and enters the box, the defender is running with them stride for stride. The offensive player pushes the ball in front and the ball is clearly going to miss the goal, the defender bumps the player, after the ball has been played, the offensive player falls, the referee calls a Penalty Kick.

Answer (March 21, 2003):
The referee must evaluate each situation on its own merits. In this case, there is no need for the ball to be anywhere nearby. If the defender "bumped" the player illegally in a careless manner, meaning that the defender has not exercised due caution in making the play, then a foul has been committed, for which the punishment is a direct free kick or, in this case, a penalty kick.


This is in response to an indoor game that had an unusual call. The ball was in the penalty area and the defender handled the ball. Before the play was stopped, one of our forwards kicked the ball into the goal. The referee blew the whistle for a hand ball and took the ball out of the goal and placed it on the penalty spot. Should this have been an advantage call and allowed the goal? Or is this not an area where advantage comes into play?

Answer (March 20, 2003):
The advantage may be invoked at any moment when the ball is still in play. Sometimes referees do not allow their brains to become properly engaged before acting and they blow the whistle too quickly.


I have been recently informed that if a keeper "parries" a ball he could have just as easily caught, he may no longer handle the ball. Is this true? I could find no such scenario in my rule book.

Answer (March 20, 2003):
International F. A. Board Decision 2 of Law 12 tells us that the goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms. Possession of the ball includes the goalkeeper deliberately parrying the ball, but does not include the circumstances where, in the opinion of the referee, the ball rebounds accidentally from the goalkeeper, for example after he has made a save.

The rule on parrying was introduced by the IFAB to deal with timewasting tactics by the goalkeeper. Now that the goalkeeper has six or so seconds to get rid of the ball once he establishes possession by either parrying or catching the ball, the utility of parrying as a timewasting device has diminished greatly. Formerly the goalkeeper could waste time by pushing the ball to a place where he could play it later. Now he is simply wasting his own limited time by so doing. For all intents and purposes, parrying can now be disregarded as a timewasting tactic. Goalkeepers take heed: Six seconds are six seconds; waste them at your peril!


It seems that every time I watch a Premiere or Brazilian game on Fox World Sports, the encroachment on PKs get more rIdiculous. I know USSF doesn't control the actions of referees in England or South America, but why do YOU think that these flagrant violations are finding so much acceptance at the professional level? I had a U-14B player tell me on Saturday that encroachment on PKs was OK because "that's what the English dudes do on TV."

Answer (March 20, 2003):
Far be it from us to criticize in any way the officiating in other countries. Let us simply say that the acts you describe are against both the Letter and the Spirit of the Laws of the Game and should not be allowed.

And as we already know, IFAB will be delivering a stern warning on the subject as a result of its just concluded meeting.


I've read the rule book at least 2 times per year for the last 15+ years. This time I've noticed that it seems I have misapplied a rule. What do you think?

Rule 16 (Goal Kick) Art 2 and 3
If A1 is taking a goal kick, A2 cuts in front of B1 to get the ball before it goes directly to him and collects the ball in the penalty area.

In the past I have generally allowed a re-kick because the ball never left the penalty area. I now read this as it was prevented from leaving which is different from the ball was not kicked hard enough to exit the penalty area. Accordingly the restart would be an indirect free kick for the B team at the point of contact by A2. Likewise if B1 entered the penalty area to beat A2 and collected the ball, the restart would be indirect free kick for A team at the point of contact of B1 with the ball inside the penalty area.

Thank you for your answer.

Answer (March 20, 2003):
You appear to be citing a situation from the high school rulebook. The United States Soccer Federation cannot speak to high school rules. If you wish an answer that would apply under the Laws of the Game, read on.

By entering the penalty area to play the ball before it is in play, a player has not allowed the goal kick to be completed in accordance with Law 16. Because the ball was not in play when the interference occurred, the only correct solution in either case is to retake the goal kick.


5.8 of Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game appears to directly contradict Law 4 of the LOTG. 5.8 states that if a player has been instructed by the referee to leave the field due to illegal equipment (or bleeding), "Once the correction has been confirmed, the player can be permitted to return to the field if beckoned by the referee, even if play is continuing. The objective is to bring the team back to its authorized strength as soon as possible." However, Law 4 states that for any infringements of Law 4 (in other words, whenever a player is illegally equipped), the player must be instructed by the referee to leave the field of play to correct his equipment, and "the player is only allowed to re-enter the field of play when the ball is out of play." At advanced referee clinics and during assessments, I have been told to allow illegally equipped players back on the field as soon as their equipment is corrected, but it seems black-and-white in FIFA that they should only be allowed back on the field at a stoppage. What is the correct interpretation?

Answer (March 20, 2003):
Although the IFAB directive in 2001 did not expressly include players off the field to correct illegal equipment, USSF is of the opinion that this situation is indeed covered by the intent of the directive and, accordingly, expects referees in the country to act accordingly. To this end, USSF issued a memorandum on April 23, 2001, on "Players Temporarily Off the Field," which officially provides this guidance.

This situation is an excellent example of why referees must keep up to date with memoranda and position papers published by USSF. These documents are distributed to all state referee organizations and are available on the USSF website.

While the IFAB did not deal with this issue over the weekend, as they were scheduled to do, the Board's directive of 2001 remains in effect. It states that a player off the field (with permission) for an injury or ordered off to correct bleeding can return even during play provided the referee gives permission and, in the case of bleeding, has been inspected by the fourth official or assistant referee in accordance with pregame instructions. This is provided that the referee chooses to delegate the authority to inspect the equipment to the fourth official or the assistant referee. If the referee chooses not to delegate, then obviously the return has to be at a stoppage since a stoppage is the only realistic opportunity for the referee to perform the inspection.

Ninety percent of the games played in the world use only a single referee with no supporting assistant referees or fourth official. That is why the words you cite are left in the Laws. Where assistant referees and are fourth official are available, the PRACTICE is to allow this to take place.


If a G/K receives the ball outside his Penalty box area and dribbles it in the box, can he then pickup the ball with his hands? I thought that would not be allowed. During one of my kids (U13) state cup games a G/K did that and the referee confirmed that was OK! It was a surprise to me so looked in the FIFA Laws book and could not find any thing specifically on that. What is the proper call? Play on, no offense?

Answer (March 20, 2003):
You appear to have been confused by the references in Law 12 to the goalkeeper touching with his hands a ball passed to him by his teammates. Under the terms of Law 12, the goalkeeper may dribble the ball back into his own penalty area and pick it up only if it was not last deliberately kicked by a teammate or received directly from a throw-in by a teammate. The goalkeeper may handle (touch with the hands) only those balls that have been played to him legally. That means that if a teammate last played the ball, it must not have been thrown in nor kicked deliberately, but either misplayed in an attempt to clear it away or in some legal manner without resorting to trickery to get around the conditions of Law 12.

If an opponent last played the ball or it was played legally by a teammate (outside the goalkeeper's penalty area), the goalkeeper may dribble the ball into his own penalty area and then pick it up to put it back into play.

The 'keeper may not handle the ball, release it, and then kick the ball to himself. That is called a "second touch" or "double touch," meaning that no other player has played the ball between the moment the goalkeeper released it from his hands and then touched it again.

The goalkeeper may play with his feet any ball passed to him in any manner -- unless the referee believes some trickery was involved. In such cases, the other player, not the goalkeeper, would be punished.



  1. If a marking player, in an attempt to tackle an offensive player, clearly gets to the ball first but in the process trips up the offensive player, is that considered a foul?
  2. 2. Are all tackles from behind, whether clean or not, considered fouls? I thought that FIFA, prior to the 2000 European Championships, declared them as such?

Answer (March 20, 2003):

  1. Players may trip over or fall over an opponent as a result of natural play when no infringement of the Law has been committed. The first six penal fouls listed in Law 12 -- "kicks or attempts to kick an opponent," trips or attempts to trip an opponent, "jumps at an opponent," charges an opponent, "strikes or attempts to strike an opponent," pushes an opponent -- are punished if they are performed in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force. If the referee believes that the tackling player played the ball and that the opponent tripped over the outstretched foot or leg after the fair tackle, then there has been no infringement of the Law. However, if the tackling player tackles fairly but then raises the foot or leg and thus trips the opponent, then a foul has been committed.
  2. According to International F. A. Board (IFAB) Decision 4 to Law 12, "A tackle from behind which endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play." This decision means that the player guilty of such an offence has to be sent off in accordance with Law 12.

    The statement does not mandate a send off for every tackle from behind and it does not make all tackles from behind illegal regardless of how they are performed. Referees continue to have the full range of options available to them for dealing with actions that are careless, reckless, or performed with excessive force. The IFAB has emphasized, however, that any tackle "which endangers the safety of an opponent" must be sanctioned with a send-off/red card for serious foul play.


A couple of years ago, while officiating in a competitive league, I had the following experience in a U-19 boys game (this happened not too long after the throw-in rule was modified to disallow a throw in from a teammate to the GK if the GK then controls the ball with his hands):

Near the goal line of the defending team the ball went into touch for the defenders. One player set up to throw, his teammate lined up between the thrower and the GK. The thrower threw the ball to the head of the field player who then headed it to the goalkeeper who controlled the ball with his hands. I blew the whistle and awarded an indirect free kick to the opposing team. My reasoning was that this was a clear attempt to circumvent the Laws regarding throw ins to the keeper. Was I correct? Should I have cautioned one of the players for trickery? If so, which one?

I told this story to a number of experienced coaches and referees over the next few days and the range of replies was really very surprising. About half thought my decision was correct, about half thought I was incorrect.

(For the record, no goal was scored from the IFK).

Answer (March 20, 2003):A part of your answer will be found in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

    A goalkeeper infringes Law 12 if he touches the ball with his hands after he receives it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate. The goalkeeper is considered to have received the ball directly even if he plays it in any way (for example, by dribbling the ball with his feet) before touching it with his hands. Referees should take care not to consider as trickery any sequence of play that offers a fair chance for opponents to challenge for the ball before it is handled by the goalkeeper from a throw-in.

So, if the opposing team has a fair chance of challenging for the ball when it is thrown to the player who heads it to the 'keeper, then there is no offense.


I am currently a Grade 8 and am interested in upgrading to a Grade 7. As part of the upgrade process, my local referee association is holding a couple times when we can complete the physical fitness tests.

My question involves the endurance test (12 minute run) and whether it it permissable to use the "Run/Walk Plan" technique endorsed by Runners World (link) to achieve the time and distance prescribed as I have started a running program within the last month?

Answer (March 20, 2003):
The referee participating in the 12-minute run must run for the entire 12 minutes.


How is a coach to handle a "Referee" who is...out of uniform (baggy street clothes, hat, etc), has a non-chalant attitude (couldn't care less about his job), and who makes absurd comments to the players on the field ("I'm thinking throw-in for that one. Oh, I'm the one with the whistle!", etc.) and incorrect calls (offsides on a throw-in?). With regard to the zero tolerance by-laws, there really isn't any room to question a call or situation like this. The players got discouraged and couldn't get a handle on the game because it was so bizarre. We were out of state at a tournament (for which the club and team members had paid a bit of money) and the tournament board acknowledged they'd "had a bit of a problem" with this referee, but they were short-handed. This just looks bad all the way around (for Refs, for tournament board, for players and coaches). As it was, we never got our "guaranteed" games.

What to do? How do we eliminate this from happening without getting in the Ref's face or showing our frustration on the field?

Answer (March 20, 2003):
The correct procedure is to submit a full report to the appropriate authorities in the tournament committee and follow it up with a copy to the state association in which the game was played, and to the State Referee Administrator of that state association. (If you can document it with a videotape, so much the better.) It won't do you much good for games past, but it might help other teams in the future.


Situation 1: Team A is kicking near Team B goal. Team B wall set up approx 10 yards. Player A-1 in kicking position in line with goal. Player A-2 comes out of wall area while crossing in front of Team B wall and passes the ball back to A-1 player who then tries to kick to the goal. Is A-2 player causing a distraction and causing an unfair advantage? Any Law that applies here?

Situation 2: Team A is kicking to Team B: Team B set up wall approx 10 yards. Player A-1 inline with ball and goal. Player A-2 standing next to ball. Referee motions to proceed. Player A-2 taps balls causing small ball movement and moves back, then Player A-1 plays through with a bigger kick. Again is A-2 causing any unsporting behavior or advantage in this situation? Any Law that applies here?

In both situations, the referee made no calls.

I was taught that a quick kick where you catch the team off guard and little time is wasted on kicks and played by one player with a 10-yard gap. How is this any different with the kicker plainly identified for the opposing team. Please explain.

Answer (March 20, 2003):
There has been no infringement of Law 13 or Law 12 in either case. Play on.


This subject has come up in many games last season, and I suspect it will again. I know there is a point at which the goal keeper is considered to have "control" or "possession" of the ball ... at which time the opposing team is no longer allowed to intentionally kick the ball. I have heard that this rule changed last season.

Exactly at which point is the goal keeper considered to have control or possession and at which point must the opposing team refrain from making plays on the ball (i.e.. kicking ball into goal when keeper has hand on top of ball)?

Answer (March 20, 2003):

    Law 12, International F. A. Board Decision 2
    "The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms. Possession of the ball includes the goalkeeper deliberately parrying the ball, but does not include the circumstances where, in the opinion of the referee, the ball rebounds accidentally from the goalkeeper, for example after he has made a save."

We also tell our referees (in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game"):

    The goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball while bouncing it on the ground or while throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, while throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to strike the ground. As noted in Section 12.10, handling extends from shoulder to tip of fingers. While the ball is in the possession of the keeper, it cannot be lawfully played by an opponent, and any attempt to do so may be punished by a direct free kick.

To the best of our knowledge, there was no change in the Law regarding this subject last year (or, indeed, in recent years). As a practical matter of applying the Law, the intelligent referee will define control more liberally at lower age and skill levels.


As an AR, I am positioned at midfield with play in the Red teams end of the field. Red kicks the ball through toward the Blue goal. Red #9 is standing just over the midfield line in an offside position, but is not immediately actively involved in the play. However, as the ball rolls closer to the Blue goal and before it is played by the Blue team, Red #9 runs onto and plays the ball. I now raise my flag to signal that player to be offside. What is the proper method of pointing the flag to indicate the offside location on the field? Do I point from where I am standing when I raised my flag? Or after raising the offside flag do I move back towards midfield to be even with where Red #9 was first in the offside position and point to the restart location from there?

Answer (March 20, 2003):
As you imply, offside is punished where the infringement occurred. The indirect free kick should be taken from the place where the offside player was when his teammate played the ball.

That leaves us with your original question of what the assistant referee (AR) does next. We recommend that the AR stop where he is at the moment, give the offside signal, and then (assuming the referee has stopped play) move to be in the correct position for the restart (even with the second-last defender or the ball, whichever is closer).

Locating the restart exactly is often a trifling exercise -- if the referee doesn't like where they are setting up, he can tell them -- better for the AR to be in the correct position for the restart. Of course, there is no reason why the AR cannot assist verbally in helping to locate the restart position if needed and if this doesn't interfere with being properly positioned for the restart.


I am a grade 8 becoming a grade 7. My question is: which arm is correct to signal an offside and a goal kick? left or right?

Answer (March 19, 2003):
It makes absolutely no difference which arm is used.


In Youth Soccer, a player has just received their 2nd Yellow card (for whatever foul/dissent). The Ref shows a yellow then the Red card. The player leaves the field. The question that keeps causing major concerns with coaches is "does that team finish the game with 10 players or can a substitute be brought in for the removed player"?

I always thought that whatever the reason, when a Red card is shown to a player that team must finish the game with 10 players.

Answer (March 19, 2003):
If a player is sent off and shown the red card after the game has begun, he or she may not be replaced. If the team wanted to put in another player, they would have to substitute for one of the ten remaining players. They would still play with no more than ten players.


In my last soccer game as a goal keeper, I stopped a penalty kick (PK). However, the referee had the PK retaken because I moved before the ball was in play. So, I have a question for you that Law 14 did not answer: Can the goal keeper move BEHIND the goal line before the ball in touched by the player taking the kick?

Answer (March 19, 2003):
Law 14 (The Penalty Kick) tells us that the defending goalkeeper remains on his goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked. So, no, you may not move either behind the goal line or ahead of the goal line, but you may move along the goal line before the kick is taken.


I am the coach of a U14 girls team. I was told of that when the opposite team scores on your team, your goalie can send the ball as fast as she can to middle of the field and your team can restart the game even if the other team still in your half of the field and your team doesn't have to wait for the referee. Is this a FIFA rule?

Answer (March 19, 2003):
No. Law 8 requires that both teams be in their own half of the field of play for the kick-off to take place. Your informant should be more careful about using illegal substances.


In a recent U-8 (small field 4 v 4 no keepers) game that I witnessed, a player not in the game from the bench stepped onto the field to play the ball- (don't you just love 7 year olds?) stopping the attack. The referee had to blow her whistle to make the kid stop - I think this kid may have Attention Deficit Disorder because he stepped on to the field 2 or 3 times before this and his coach had to catch him. If cautions for illegal substitution were enforced, then he would have been red carded and I don't think any one would justify that with this particular child in the U-8. The ref restarted with a drop ball that went to the attackers - so no harm done as far as who had possession. One coach then started yelling across the field "what are you doing the drop ball for?"

True, this player was guilty of unsporting behavior and I'm sure the coach was wanting a free kick but since the referees in this "non-competitive" league refrain from yellow cards and red cards, she later explained that she went to the drop ball-restart theory that since the ref stopped the game by blowing a whistle during play (similar to stopping at an injury).

This makes sense since the rule book does not specifically address a player jumping off the bench, I see how this 13-year-old referee could make this call based on Law 8 (a drop ball for restarted for stoppages not covered under the other laws.) I also argued with her that an indirect free kick could have been awarded for the unsporting behavior/ illegal substitution -even though cards are not show. Both would have the same result but this young lady, my daughter, wanted to see if she did the right thing so she'll know if it happens again.

Looking forward to your reply to resolve our father-daughter conundrum of the day.

Answer (March 19, 2003):
Well, your daughter wins the contest of knowledge. Law 3 tells us:

    If a substitute enters the field of play without the referee's permission:
  • play is stopped
  • the substitute is cautioned, shown the yellow card and required to leave the field of play
  • play is restarted with a dropped ball at the place it was located when play was stopped * (see page 3)


Is there a common acceptable means for the "Coin Toss"? [many accomplish this seemly trifling task w/ authority, but no one can quote a correct way] For example: who tosses/flips the coin, is it caught, by whom, left falling to the ground, which team calls [start of game, overtime period(s), shootout], alternate method w/o a coin.

Answer (March 19, 2003):
There is no "correct," commonly acceptable way to accomplish the coin toss. Some referees do it themselves, others ask the visiting team's captain to call as the home team's captain tosses the coin, or some variation on this theme. Some referees let the coin hit the ground, others catch it.


An attacker is running with the ball towards the opponents goal. He passes the last defender leaving only the keeper between him and the goal. The attacker prepares to take a shot and just as he begins to take the shot, the defender he just passed verbally distracts him (i.e. yells something to the defender to take his focus off the ball) the attacker is distracted and his shot misses the goal most likely due to the fact that the defender yelled at him. Could this be called a foul or impeding the progress of an opponent or could it simply be a misconduct? Could the defender be sent off for DOGSO by fouling? If it occured somewhere else on the field, could the defender be cautioned for unsporting behavior? Thank you for your response.

Answer (March 19, 2003):
First things first: There is no such infringement of the Laws as "oral" or "verbal" impeding of an opponent. Impeding must be understood in relation to an opponent. If the player gets in the way of the opponent and causes the opponent to stop or swerve without making contact AND if the ball is not within playing distance, then there is obstruction (impeding the progress). Impeding implies movement, not a verbal tactic.

Verbal distraction of an opponent is considered to be unsporting behavior, punished by a caution/yellow card. If the referee stops play to deal with this misconduct, the restart is an indirect free kick for the opponent's team, taken from the place where the misconduct occurred (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in law 8).

As to your question regarding whether verbal distraction can lead to a dismissal/red card if, in the opinion of the referee, the verbal distraction interfered with an obvious goalscoring opportunity and if (as here) the referee stops play solely to deal with this misconduct: Based on USSF guidance, for which we are presently seeking an official ruling from FIFA, the answer is yes. The offense was punishable by an indirect free kick restart and otherwise met the requirements of Law 12


The situation is as follows: An attacker has the ball and is outside the penalty area with a defender in front of him slightly to his right. The attacker trys to pass the ball to a fellow player, who is on the other side of the defender, positioned towards the touchline but in an offside position. The ball leaves the attacker;s foot but hits the out-stretched foot of the defender before it can get to the player in an offside position and the ball deflects into the goal. The AR puts his flag up for offside, the referee agrees and the restart is a free kick to the defending team.

Now, I am on my soapbox!!!!

They always drummed into us "Always be patient especially when it comes to offsides. The AR assists the referee in identifying offsides and he must hold his flag in check for a second or so to determine the final destination of the ball. This avoids calling offside when a player, who might be in an offside position, does not get actively involved with the play/ball." Having heard the example and the need, in that situation as a AR, to hold his flag up and call offside, I am perplexed !

I was at a meeting Saturday and this example was given as a "gray area" that continues to exist in referee circles in [my state]. I am NOT surprised it exists, it's the opposite of what we were always trained to do! Surely, because of the INTENT to play the ball to a player in the offside position, why on earth should he be actually called offside as he was NOT involved in active play. The defender, in this situation, made a mistake sticking his leg out for the ball.

My example, similar situation as the one outlines. The winger attempts to hit a ball to far past and the player is in an offside position BUT the attacker does not kick the ball high or hard enough and the ball drops short at the front of the goal but one of his team mates does a diving header and scores. That would not be an offside would it?

What say you?

Answer (March 19, 2003):
Law 11 requires that two elements be considered in determining offside: First, offside position. Second, if there is offside position, then the player must, in the opinion of the referee, be involved in active play by interfering with play or interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage by being in that position. That does not appear to have been the case in this situation and so the decision must be against offside. The assistant referee should have waited to determine active involvement before raising the flag.


My referee instructor said that there is a chart on the U.S. Soccer website concerning the various ways and reasons that play can be re-started. I don't see it. Would you please direct me to this chart? Thank you.

Answer (March 19, 2003):
We are not aware of any such chart on the U.S. Soccer system. The instructor may have been imprecise in stating what was there, or, heaven forfend, you may have misunderstood. You can find complete guidance to all restarts in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," available to all registered referees through your State Director of Instruction. It may also be purchased from the Federation for $4.95 plus shipping/handling by calling the Referee Department, (312) 808-1300, or downloaded from the very website where you could find no chart.


U10G Game. Penalty Kick. Kicker kicks ball. Ball's trajectory is towards the space above the keeper. Goalkeeper jumps for the ball. Ball brushes by keeper's hand and then bounces off crossbar towards kicker. Kicker kicks ball into the goal net. Note, I said "brushes by" because the ball was not deflected but instead proceeded to continue through and hit the crossbar.

Is this a double touch and as such the goal not allowed? Or does the fact that the goalkeeper's touch in combination with the crossbar bounce give the kicker an opportunity to score?

Answer (March 19, 2003):
You said "brushes by" and noted that the ball was not deflected, but also said that there was a "goalkeeper's touch." Why are you worried about the crossbar in this case? Once the goalkeeper -- also known as "another player " -- has touched the ball in ever so slight a way, the requirements of Law 14 have been fulfilled and the original kicker may play the ball again.


A coach writes: I've been noticing in my indoor games and others I have watched recently that players and refs have a basketball bias. It comes to one word, planting. No planting in soccer, but I see it allowed all the time. If you stand immediately behind a player with the ball you have no rights... because you can't play the ball, so the call is impeding if the ball handler is trying to move in the path toward the defender or "backwards". If the attacker makes no effort to move toward the attacker, no call. If someone plants right in front of you, they have no rights either, they must get to the ball first or get out of the way. Or am I mistaken?

Answer (March 19, 2003):
Unlike basketball, players are not allowed to "plant" or set picks in soccer, but this does not mean that a player may not be in the way of another player inadvertently. If a player moves to a position close behind the player with the ball and then simply stands there, making no play for the ball, then he is liable to be called for impeding if the player with the ball decides to move backward or to turn around and go in that direction. If the player behind is actively challenging for the ball, then there should be no infringement of the Law. All of this would be in the opinion of the referee, based on what was occurring at that moment in the game. For complete guidance, see the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

    Impeding the progress of an opponent" means moving on the field so as to obstruct, interfere with, or block the path of an opponent. Impeding can include crossing directly in front of the opponent or running between him and the ball so as to form an obstacle with the aim of delaying his advance. There will be many occasions during a game when a player will come between an opponent and the ball, but in the majority of such instances, this is quite natural and fair. It is often possible for a player not playing the ball to be in the path of an opponent and still not be guilty of impeding.

    The offense requires that the ball not be within playing distance or not capable of being played, and physical contact between the player and the opponent is normally absent. If physical contact occurs, the referee should, depending on the circumstances, consider instead the possibility that a charging infringement has been committed (direct free kick) or that the opponent has been fairly charged off the ball (indirect free kick). However, nonviolent physical contact may occur while impeding the progress of an opponent if, in the opinion of the referee, this contact was an unavoidable consequence of the impeding (due, for example, to momentum).


First of all, I love the site! Really useful. I especially appreciated the write-up on deliberate vs. accidental handling. Much clearer than anything else that I have seen on this difficult and often misunderstood subject.

Here's my question: Law 12 says that it is a foul to impede the progress of an opponent. Recently, I have seen a number of younger players intentionally run in front of the keeper after a save as the keeper starts to move forward. In each case, the attacker clearly moved so as to interfere with the keeper. In several cases, it was equally clear that the player had been instructed to do so by the coach -- in one case, the coach even yelled to his player to "get in front of the goalie."

I did not blow my whistle (given the age of the players I felt that the keeper's punt would travel much farther than a stationary kick, so in essence I allowed "advantage"), but I did tell the players involved that I would caution them if they continued. Am I correct in thinking that this behavior is impeding?

Answer (March 11, 2003):
Yes, what you describe would not be considered impeding, an unfair interference with the movement of the opponent, such as a basketball pick, but would be considered to be preventing the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands, particularly as the player moved to block the goalkeeper's line of sight and action. Another way to think of it: Impeding generally requires that the opponent be in motion, whereas interference with the release of the ball is purely a positional thing, regardless of whether the goalkeeper is moving at the time.

Your decision to warn the players before cautioning them for following their coach's instructions was a good one. You might also ask the captain(s) to tell the coach that this is not allowed.


High School game of 3/7/03 but uses the same rule as FIFA: Defender plays ball, with feet, directly to the keeper. The keeper attempts to play the ball up the field and completely misses the kick. The ball continues toward goal and strikes the post and bounces back toward the keeper. The keeper covers the ball with attacker in the vicinity. The keeper then makes the distribution and play continues. Quite literally, 10 seconds went by and I (the AR) began thinking about what had happened. I've convinced myself that this should be ruled a pass to keeper with subsequent IDK at the 6yd line.


Answer (March 11, 2003):
If by "covers" and "makes the distribution," you means that the 'keeper actually touched the ball with his hands, then the goalkeeper has infringed that portion of Law 12 which states that an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a teammate.


For identification purposes, the numbers on the players' uniforms are very important. My question is why these numbers are never mention in the law book - are these numbers mandatory? If they are, why are they never mentioned in any FIFA or USSF book?

Answer (March 9, 2003):
Player numbers are not required by the Laws of the Game. They are required by the rules of the various competitions (leagues, cups, tournaments, etc.) for administrative purposes.

If you think that is strange, consider this: Nothing in Law 4 requires the teams -- other than the goalkeepers -- to wear contrasting colors! Everything related to colors, numbers, etc., is the province of the competition authority.


A ball that strikes the arm or hand accidentally is not considered an offense, but what if the player achieves a significant advantage from such an occurence, such as the ability to control the ball and kick it into the net for a goal. Is it still considered not an offense? Please explain.

Answer (March 5, 2003):
The offense known as "handling the ball" involves DELIBERATE contact with the ball by a player's hand or arm (including fingertips, upper arm, or outer shoulder). "Deliberate contact" means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to, that the player's arms were not in a normal playing position at the time, or that the player deliberately continued an initially accidental contact for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. Moving hands or arms instinctively to protect the body when suddenly faced with a fast approaching ball does not constitute deliberate contact unless there is subsequent action to direct the ball once contact is made. Likewise, placing hands or arms to protect the body at a free kick or similar restart is not likely to produce an infringement unless there is subsequent action to direct or control the ball. The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement.

In other words, if the player does not infringe the Law, as described above, then it makes absolutely no difference how much he or she may benefit from the accidental contact with the ball.


I am a Grade 8 referee and am sometimes forced to referee games without any assistant referees. It gets very frustrating as the diagonal system is virtually useless. How would you recommend I cover the field?

Answer (March 5, 2003):
There is no textbook answer on how to cover the field in a one-man game. In such cases, the intelligent referee will first obtain club linesmen from each of the teams and give them their instructions: The referee should make it clear that the decision of the referee is final and must not be questioned; the relationship of club linesmen to the referee must be one of assistance, without undue interference or any opposition; club linesmen are to signal only when the ball is entirely over the goal line or touch-line. While the club linesmen may be of some help in dealing with balls out of play, they have no other role in officiating the game.

The referee must be near action and stay out of the players' way and out of space the players need to work in. Inevitably the referee will miss some events and the coaches and players will accept this if all other refereeing decisions are given quickly, correctly, and firmly.


Where in the laws does it cover anything on the use of prescription glass to be or not to be worn in soccer matches? I know you could come back and say if as a referee you feel that it is unsafe then they cannot but, is there any one item that covers this?

Answer (March 4, 2003):
In addition to this quote from the IFAB/FIFA Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game (2000 edition), Law 4, Question 4, ...

    4. May a referee allow a player wearing glasses to play in a match?
    If, in the opinion of the referee, the glasses are dangerous to the player himself, or to an opponent, he does not allow the player to take part in the match.

. . . this quote from USSF Memorandum 2001 should provide your answer:

    Players Wearing Spectacles

    Sympathy was expressed for players, especially young players, who need to wear spectacles. It was accepted that new technology had made sports spectacles much safer, both for the player himself and for other players.

    While the referee has the final decision on the safety of players' equipment, the Board expects that they will take full account of modern technology and the improved safety features of spectacle design when making their decision.

    USSF Advice to Referees: Referees must not interpret the above statement to mean either that "sports glasses" must automatically be considered safe or that glasses which are not manufactured to be worn during sports are automatically to be considered unsafe. The referee must make the final decision: the Board has simply recognized that new technology has made safer the wearing of glasses during play.


At a recent meeting of high school officials we determined what the High School ruling would be, had a defender passed the ball to his goalie who then picked it up to prevent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity from the attacker charging him: what is the official USSF response to this? Is it a red card? indirect? Please help us, I have been asked to determine the answer.

Answer (March 4, 2003):
The answer to your question is that this situation does not require a send-off/red card, because the goalkeeper is within his rights to handle the ball within his own penalty area. See Law 12, Sending-Off offense 4:

    "4. denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)."

There is no misconduct at all. The correct restart would be an indirect free kick from the place where the goalkeeper handled the ball.


I think this has been answered before (as have many questions you receive), but... If a penalty kick has been awarded during normal play and the penalty mark is dug out and full of water, what is the official decision on the referee's action? Quite likely, the match should never have been started with such a problem with the field, but what should be done?

Answer (March 4, 2003):
As you have suggested, a careful inspection of the field before the start of the game would have found this unsafe and unplayable portion of the field and led the referee to abandon the game before it was started. If the problem is not correctable, then the referee's decision during the game must be to abandon the game and report the matter to the competition authority.

However, if the problem is correctable, it might not be necessary to abandon the match. Some problems, before or during a match, can be resolved and the match may continue. The determination as to whether this is possible belongs to the referee, but the actual implementation of the resolution is NOT the responsibility of the referee. It belong to whoever "owns" the field.


I have refereed in several local tournaments in my area, all of which are affiliated with/sanctioned by USSF. I have seen that the competition rules provide that time is not to be added on, even for injury. I find this grossly unfair to the players, as they deserve to play the fully allotted time. I also believe that the practice of forbidding stoppage time (for purposes of tournament scheduling) is in violation of Law 7 as well as FIFA regulations. Law 7 states that time shall be added on at the discretion of the referee to replace time lost. FIFA allows modification of the periods of play for youth matches. However, I believe this simply means that the periods themselves can be shortened (i.e. we would not expect a U-12 team to play two 45 minute halves, as stipulated in Law 7), but whatever period length is set still must be played in its entirety, as FIFA makes no allowence for modification of that part of Law 7.

Please tell me if my assumptions are correct, and please forward this to the appropriate authority within USSF so that this seemingly unfair practice, if it is forbidden, can be stopped quickly for the good of the game.

Answer (March 4, 2003):
You are correct in noting that Laws 5 and 7 give the referee responsibility for timing the match and for making allowances for time lost due to excessive delays or unusual stoppages. You are also correct in noting that local league or tournament rules which appear to limit the referee's authority in this area by forbidding any lengthening of a half to account for time lost are contrary to the requirement that only certain specific parts of the Law can be modified for certain categories of players and that making allowance for time lost would not fall within these limits.

That said, our only response can be that the rule to which you refer is common in tournaments, has a very practical rationale, and is only one among many local rule exceptions of which we are aware that are not sanctioned by the Laws of the Game. If such a rule were proposed for a competitive level of play and officially presented to USSF for approval, the answer would be that the rule could not be used.

Your problem is whether, as a referee, you are willing to implement local rule exceptions. If so, it is no use complaining about them; if not, refuse the assignment. The last word in USSF is "Federation," which means that affiliated programs are given wide latitude to shape their programs according to local needs and that USSF avoids micromanaging these matters.


I was running the line last week and encountered a situation: A defender in his own half passed the ball to his teammate, a striker. At the moment the ball was kicked, the striker had one foot in his own half and one foot in the other half. Was he offside?

Answer (March 4, 2003):
The answer for USSF referees lies in our publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," but the referee who uses this information must remember to look for active involvement by the player before calling him offside:

    Keeping in mind the requirement for active involvement in play, here are some guidelines for judging offside position at the halfway line:
    1. (a) If the player's toes are on the halfway line, but not over the line, there would be no offside.
      (b) If the player's feet are on the halfway line, with the toes over the line (heels on his own side), there could be offside (if there is active involvement).
    2. If the player has one foot over the line and one foot completely on his own side, there could be offside (if there is active involvement).
    3. If the player has both feet on his own side of the line, but his head or hands extend over the line, there would be no offside. (It would not be justifiable to count the head or hands, as we usually judge offside based on the torso. An instance of a player with both feet completely on his own side and his body over and beyond the line and still ready to take an active part in play would be improbable at best.)


I see this a lot at all levels of youth play. During a throw-in a player faces the field of play, keeps his feet either on or outside the touch line, uses both hands and delivers the ball from behind and over his head. The question arises when the dominant hand causes the ball to spin. Does the ball have to be delivered with equal pressure so that no spin is apparent? When does serving the ball with a spin become a 'foul' throw?

Answer (March 3, 2003):
There is no requirement in Law 15 prohibiting spin or rotational movement. In addition, there is no requirement in the Law for both hands to be used with equal force, only that both hands be used.


Recently a referee presented this situation to me. I am not sure if this was a real situation or somebody came up with it - he also had no proper answer. Attacker in a penalty box is shooting the ball. As he kicks the ball his shoe comes off and hits the goalkeeper in the face. The ball rolls on the field towards the goal and, as the goalkeeper is temporarly disabled by the hit, enters the goal.

What would be the referee's call? So far I got 3 answers and all 3 make some sense. Is it strictly the situation for referee's judgment call or certain call has to be made?

Answer (March 3, 2003):
Although the loss of the shoe was inadvertent and accidental, it was also careless. A careless act of striking toward an opponent is punishable by a direct free kick for the opponent's team, taken from the spot where the object (or fist) hit (or would have hit) its target (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).

If the kicker's shoe had been removed when an opponent tackled for the ball, there would be no punishment for either player.

Decision in your situation: No goal, restart with a direct free kick for the goalkeeper's team, taken from the spot where the shoe hit the goalkeeper, as described above.

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.

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