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April 2008 Archive (III of III)


Yesterday's MLS match up between NE & KC saw referee Terry Vaughn award KC a penalty kick in the 27th minute. KC's player was clearly fouled inside the penalty area by a late challenge from NE's defender. However, the ball made its way to a KC player right in front of the net who had a good scoring opportunity. You can see that Vaughn blew his whistle before the KC player was able to get his shot off on goal. Fortunately for Vaughn the ball went off the goal post and no goal was scored. Even if a goal had been scored, it would have not counted b/c Vaughn had stopped play before the shot.

Here's my question. Did Vaughn do the right thing? Should Vaughn have called for advantage and allowed the KC player to take the shot on goal? Now, if the player is allowed to take the shot and the same result occurs, the ball goes off the post (no goal), can you then go back to the foul inside the box and award a penalty kick? Or is it simply one or the other?

I know that with the advantage you have a few seconds to see if the play will develop so as to become an advantage if the foul is not called. On the first goal of the game, Vaughn did just that. A foul was committed, he waited a few seconds to see if NE would gain an advantage from no foul being called, the play never developed, so he awarded the foul and NE scored on the free kick. But here, it appears the advantage did develop by the KC forward receiving the ball at his feet right in front of the goal. If advantage is given and the shot is taken, I would think, even if the shot is missed, the foul cannot then be called as if the advantage did not develop, but I'm really not sure. I realize Vaughn did not do this, that he called the foul before the shot was taken, but I'm just speculating what is the right thing to do in these types of situations.

Answer (April 16, 2008):
The game at the professional level is usually played and refereed at a much faster pace than our typical games at the school or neighborhood park. Critical refereeing decisions must be made in an instant, with little time to reflect on what might have been. That is one reason that we see the advantage signaled in professional games only after it has already been realized. Sometimes the referee gets it exactly right and sometime he or she does not. The important thing is that the referee at the top levels knows he or she has to make that decision, and does so, rather than dithering.

This position paper issued by USSF on April 11, 2008, may be of interest to you:

Subject: Advantage in the Penalty Area
Date: April 11, 2008

Special circumstances govern the application of advantage for offenses committed by defenders inside their own penalty area. Although the basic concept of advantage remains the same, the specific decision by the referee must be governed by both the close proximity to the goal and the likelihood of scoring from the penalty kick restart if play is stopped instead of applying advantage.

The basic elements of the decision are straightforward:

- Advantage is a team concept and thus the referee must be aware not only of the fouled player's ability to continue his or her attack but also of the ability of any of the player's teammates to continue the attack themselves.
- Advantage has been applied when the decision is made, not when the advantage signal is given. The signal itself may often be delayed for 2-3 seconds while the referee evaluates the advantage situation to determine if it will continue.
- Where it does not continue, the Laws of the Game provide for the referee to stop play for the original foul.
- If the original foul involved violence, the referee is advised not to apply advantage unless there is an immediate chance of scoring a goal.
Inside the penalty area, the competitive tension is much greater and the referee is called upon to make quicker decisions. The time during which the referee looks for advantage to continue becomes defined by the probability of scoring a goal directly following the foul or from the subsequent play.

In the attached clip of an incident occurring in the 27th minute of a match on April 9 between New England and Kansas City. NE defender #31 (Nyassi) fouls KC attacker #11 (Morsink) near the top of the penalty area. Just as Morsink is fouled, however, he passes the ball to his teammate #19 (Sealy).

The referee properly recognized the advantage but then whistled for the foul against Morsink after he decided that a goal would not be scored by Sealy. In fact, Sealy made a shot on goal just as the whistle sounded and the ball failed to enter the net.
- In the absence of a whistle stopping play and if the ball had entered the net, the advantage would clearly have continued and the goal would be counted.
- If, in this case, the ball had entered the goal after the whistle had sounded, the goal could not be counted.
- Ideally, the referee in this incident should have delayed stopping play for the original foul until he saw more concretely what Sealy would have been able to do with the ball.
In this incident, the penalty kick for the original foul was successful.



At a youth soccer game, the coach of one team questioned the ref if the game ball was the correct size and weight since he seemed to think it was not. The ball was like playing with a rubber kick ball with a lot of bounce. The ref answered the coach that both sides have the same advantage and disadvantage with this ball and he was not going to change it, even though there were plenty of balls on the sidelines to choose from.

Should a ball be marked somehow showing that it is the proper size and weight for a game? And if so, then it would have been easier for the ref to point this marking out as proof that the ball is correct.

Answer (April 16, 2008):
Although the referee has the final decision, the players deserve to play with the best ball available. There are standards for all balls, specifying circumference, weight, and air pressure. A proper soccer ball should be marked with its size (based on the circumference). The referee should guarantee that the weight and air pressure are sufficient for a good contest.



This occurred during a U14 game. Team A keeper has possession of ball. As Team A keeper is punting the ball, Team A player (his own team) turns around and gets hit by the keepers kicked ball in the arm (visible direction change of ball) inside the penalty box. The ball rebounds off Team A players arm and directly into their own goal. Team B is awarded the goal.

Is this own goal accurate? The referee stated that he allowed the goal since he gave Team B the "advantage" for the handling of Team A in the penalty box. If the ball had not entered the goal, referee would of called handling on Team A player and awarded a penalty kick to Team B.

Did the referee properly apply advantage in this case? if advantage was properly applied by the ref, is handling the ball with the hand/arm a legal method of scoring in this case? Would this be any different if the keeper was actually performing a restart vice a punt, as in this case? As I understand that no team may score on themselves from a properly completed restart.

Answer (April 15, 2008):
By your own description, the Team A player was "hit in the arm" by a kick from his goalkeeper. There was no attempt by the player to play the ball and likely could not have been, as he would have had very little time to react if he was just turning around. If the act was not deliberate, and your description tells us that it was not deliberate, then there is no infringement of the Law. If there was no infringement of the Law, then the advantage clause could not be applied. In addition, there would have been no reason for the referee to say anything but, "No foul! Play!"

The goal would be scored as an "own goal," as the opposing team had no "hand" (pardon the pun) in it.



I recently stopped play to issue a caution for unsporting behavior, the ball was in the possession of the goal keeper at the time of the foul. While I used to simply do a "drop ball" to the keeper to restart play, allowing him/her to pick it up (it only seemed fairŠ), I realize that the correct restart is an indirect free kick. I instructed the keeper that he needed to put the ball down and restart with an indirect free kick, a teammate of the keeper decided that since his keeper had the ball and was going to punt it until I had stopped play, he would have the keeper 'flick' the ball to him as a restart and he would simply head it back to the keeper. I explained that would be a violation of the 'pass back' rule - using trickery to circumvent the law - and he would not be permitted to do that. After reading the laws a little closer, I'm not sure I was correctŠ

Can a keeper 'flick' the ball to a teammate on a restart, have the teammate head the ball back to the keeper, then the keeper can catch it and punt it away??

Answer (April 15, 2008):
We will not go into your former way of restarting play, other than to say that it is certainly not correct now.

If play was stopped for a caution, then
(1) there was no foul;
(2) it doesn't matter whether the ball was just laying there, being played by someone, or being held by the goalkeeper;
(3) giving the restart to the goalkeeper was (a) valid only if it was an opponent who committed the misconduct and (b) beyond the referee's authority since the indirect free kick restart can be conducted by anyone on the GK's team (assuming the offense was by an opponent). The questioner's scenario makes it appear that he believes the GK must perform the IFK (because he was holding the ball at the time?).

Explaining about pass backs and trickery etc. is also beyond the referee's authority unless the players were very young (of course, the referee could respond to a brief, direct question about the Law if asked by a player).

Finally, if the restart is any sort of kick by the goalkeeper (DFK, IFK, GK, or CK -- we exclude penalty kicks solely for practical reasons), "flicking" the ball to a teammate who then heads it back to the 'keeper cannot be considered trickery since there would be no possibility of a so-called "pass back" offense occurring anyway. The trickery rule has to be based on the restart of kicking the ball deliberately to the goalkeeper. If there is no possibility of the offense by the goalkeeper handling the ball after it has been kicked deliberately kicked by a teammate, then there is also no possibility of the misconduct.



I am returning back to refereeing after a 16-year absence. I am currently taking the Grade 8 course, and at our last meeting we were discussing Law 12 regarding infractions requiring a re-start with an IFK. You have to remember that 16 years ago, a ball played back to the keeper in the penalty area (who subsequently handled the ball) was not an infraction. Therefore, I was paying particular attention during this segment of the class. We discussed a throw-in to the keeper who handles the ball "directly" from a teammate would be considered a violation, and restarted with an IFK.

The instructor then gave the following scenario:
A throw-in is taken, and "flicked" by a teammate to the Keeper who subsequently handles the ball inside his penalty area.
What is the violation, if any, asked the Instructor.

My response was, No violation. My belief was that since it did not involve a "deliberate kick" to the Keeper that no violation had occurred.

The Instructor's interpretation was that this was an effort to circumvent the law, and would therefore constitute trickery. IFK to the other team.

I continued to disagree, and was referred to "Advice to Referees". 12.21 of the ATR specifically states that "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".

Could you please give me some direction, because I plan on revisiting this subject at our meeting tonight.

Answer (April 14, 2008):
First, the situation involving a throw-in directly to a goalkeeper by a teammate of the goalkeeper is not an example of the so-called "pass back" to the goalkeeper, it is an entirely separate indirect free kick foul which is listed in Law 12. The only things they have in common is that the action starts with a teammate, followed by the ball going directly to the hands of the goalkeeper, and that it is one of several indirect free kick violations by a goalkeeper designed by the Laws of the Game to discourage instances when, because the ball is being held by the goalkeeper, opponents cannot legally challenge for control.

Second, the "trickery" issue is misconduct, not a foul, and is therefore governed by a different set of requirements (in fact, the misconduct itself is being committed by the teammate, not the goalkeeper, and the goalkeeper does not even need to touch the ball in order for the misconduct to be committed).

Third, as a foul, the "pass back" or the "throw back" offenses are rare; as misconduct, "trickery" is even more uncommon. Whereas the foul only requires the referee to see where the ball came from (kick from a teammate, throw-in by a teammate), the trickery offense requires evaluating what is going on around the play in question and why (in the opinion of the referee) the play was performed this way.

The ATR which you cited makes it clear that "trickery" should not be considered if the opponents had a fair chance to challenge for the ball. If the referee decides they did not and that is why this sequence was performed, then "trickery" should be considered.



While doing a pre-game inspection of players prior to a game, I noticed that one of the boys was wearing shin guards that were totally inadequate to protect more than a few inches of his shin--they were about the size of a mens' wallet. I told him that I would not allow him to play until he found some larger ones, and lo and behold, he did. I later mentioned this to the referee,but he told me that I had no authority in the matter, and if the player wanted to risk his legs, so be it. I disagreed, pointing out that the law prohibits a player from wearing anything that presents a danger to himself, or others, but the man doing the center replied that this referred to items other than mandatory uniform. Does the U.S.S.F have any guidance as regards this?

Answer (April 14, 2008):
USSF guidance follows Law 4:
- are covered entirely by the stockings
- are made of a suitable material (rubber, plastic, or similar substances)
- provide a reasonable degree of protection

If, in the opinion of the referee, the shinguards do not "provide a reasonable degree of protection," then they should not be allowed.



In a U15 game the keeper made a play for the ball and went to ground at the edge of the box. She fumbled the ball with her body, and both she and the ball slide outside of the box. By the time she finally grabbed the ball with her hands both she and the ball were about a foot or so outside the box, and about two-thirds of the way up from the goal line. The lead attacker had run past the keeper and the ball at this point. There were other defenders in the box, but roughly in-line with the keeper and not deep in front of the goal. As center I called a direct kick, which the attackers took immediately while the keeper with still trying to get up (no resulting goal). The attacking team's coach was insistent that the goalkeeper should have gotten a red card. In fact he stated at halftime that a red card was "automatic" in that situation. The goal scoring opportunity did not seem "obvious" to me at the time, and in looking at 12.37(b) in the "Advice" I don't believe that all four conditions where firmly in place, although they were certainly on the margin.

I had two very experienced refs as ARs. One (on my end of the field but on opposite side of the play) agreed with my call. The trailing AR thought I should have at least shown the keeper a yellow card but did not want to second guess the details given his position.

(a) Should I have ejected the keeper in this case? (b) Would a yellow card been appropriate and why (the keeper appeared to have made an error in confusion)? (c) If the keeper is ejected at this point is it appropriate to allow the defenders time to designate and suit up a replacement before the direct kick?

Answer (April 14, 2008):
(a) No.
(b) No.
(c) Yes; and not only would it have been appropriate, it would have been MANDATORY. Law 3 requires the team to have a goalkeeper.

And some answers to unposed questions: (d) No matter what coaches say, there is no such thing as an "automatic red card."
(e) The keeper's violation was trifling under virtually all possible readings of the circumstances.
(f) There is no need to assess the "4 Ds" for the obvious goalscoring opportunity, because there was no offense in the first place.



If the ball is in play at one end of the field and I see a foul or a misconduct at the other end or away from the play how should be ruled?

Answer (April 14, 2008):
Thank you for an excellent question. You should stop play and deal with the infringement in accordance with the Law, even if that means, for example, awarding a penalty kick at the far end of the field. Now, if only some of our more experienced referees would recognize this fact, we would all be better off.



I need some advice on a U10 girls game I was refereeing yesterday.

There was a direct free kick for White just outside Blue™s penalty area. Blue setup for the kick without a wall and with just the goalkeeper inside the penalty box. There were two White players closer to the goal than the ball but not behind the Blue Goalkeeper.

If I understand Rule 11 correctly, when the ball is kicked by White, if neither White player touches the ball or is involved in the play there is no offside penalty called. If either White player touch the ball or are involved in the play there would be an offside penalty called. If the ball bounces off the Blue goalkeeper and either White player touch the ball an offside penalty would be called.

First, please let me know if I am interpreting Rule 11 correctly.

Second, would an Indirect Free Kick be judged any differently?

Third, is it valid for Blue to set up this way forcing White to stand behind the second to last player?

Answer (April 14, 2008):
You are correct. It is perfectly legal for players to be in the offside position, even when their teammates play the ball, as long as they do not become actively involved in the play by interfering with an opponent, interfering with play, or gaining an advantage because of their position. If they do become actively involved, then they may be judged to be offside.

Offside may occur at any free kick, whether direct or indirect. And the intelligent referee will remember that interfering with play is not limited to touching the ball. Too many referees seem to become wound up with the "got-to-touch-the-ball" idea.



I recently officiated an Adult Men's League game from my area in which a player received a red card for foul or abusive language toward the referee. When I was leaving I noticed the referee that had given the red card was not going to write a supplemental explaining the circumstances in which the card was given. I told him that when giving a red card in a USSF sanctioned game, a supplemental report was required. Another referee, who was on the game, said that in the USSF match report the type of misconduct was on the report itself, and the supplemental was only for "unusual circumstances". I continue to disagree. Could you please inform me of the proper time to use a supplemental report?

Answer (April 10, 2008):
Much depends on the level of the match. For most youth/recreational matches, referees don't even use the "official" USSF report form, much less the supplemental form. Same at the senior amateur level below Premiere. You start seeing official USSF forms being used in matches that are directly sanctioned by USSF (e. g., the new national youth academy league) or by sanctioned regional cup matches on up. We suggest you become familiar with this recent position paper from USSF, issued April 7, 2008:

Subject: Match Reports Involving Discipline

Date: April 7, 2008

A Circular (No. 1137) recently received from FIFA's General Secretary emphasized the importance of referee match reports in properly evaluating acts of misconduct for any further response by FIFA's Disciplinary Committee. The issues raised by the Circular are equally important for the professional leagues, high level youth and amateur leagues, and major tournaments in this country. The same concerns are also felt in the regional and state associations.

Although all aspects of the referee's match report must meet high standards of clarity, accuracy, brevity, and pertinence, those sections involving misconduct require special attention, and reporting on acts of misconduct leading to a send off merit the highest concern. The need for effective match reporting starts at the lowest competitive level and becomes ever more critical as the competitive level of the match increases. State Referee Administrators and State Directors of Instruction are strongly urged to ensure that effective match reporting is incorporated in their training of senior referees.

In order for Disciplinary Committees to evaluate serious misconduct, match reports must start with:
- The name of (and additional identifying information for) the player who was sent off
- The time of the send off
- The specific reason in the Laws of the Game for the send off (Law 12)

In addition, however, the referee must supply sufficient detail regarding the circumstances of the misconduct to aid in evaluating its level of seriousness. Among the factors that should be addressed, where relevant, are:
- Whether the action occurred during a challenge for the ball
- Whether the misconduct occurred at a stoppage of play or during play
If anyone was injured as a consequence of the misconduct
- Whether there was any prior incident that may have led to the player's actions
- The demeanor of the player during the send off (including any difficulties in implementing the player's removal from the field)
- The location of the action in relation to the goal line and penalty area being attacked at the time
- The subsequent intrusion of any other players (teammates or opponents) during the time the referee is managing the send off
- The specific words or gestures which were determined to be insulting, offensive, or abusive
- The identity of the opponent or official toward whom the misconduct was directed
- A summary of the prior misconduct (or a reference to the section of the report which detailed the prior caution) preceding the second caution for which the player was sent off
- The identity of the assistant referee, fourth official, or reserve assistant referee who provided independently observed facts to the referee regarding the misconduct
- All other details of the action which materially shaped the decision to send the player off
Any other facts which a Disciplinary Committee might decide it needs as a result of its review of the match report can be supplied by the referee on request of the Committee, but the most useful information will come from a properly completed, accurate, detailed, and clear match report. Match reports provided independently by assistant referees, fourth officials, or reserve assistant referees should follow these guidelines as well.



Most youth teams do not have long-sleeved shirts or thermal underwear as part of their team uniform. Instead, it has been customary in cold weather for players to wear their own long-sleeve shirts or thermal wear under their jerseys. More often than not, these undergarments do not match the players' jerseys. Now that the new "matching undergarments" rule has been adopted by FIFA, in cold weather games should a referee (i) enforce the rule and thus require the youth players to either remove their mismatching undergarments (risking hypothermia) or not play or (ii) follow the guidance of the USSF's position papers on the "no sleeves" rule and exercise common sense and judgment, not enforce the rule, and allow the players to play with the mismatching undergarments?

A leading question to be sure, but one that could use official guidance from the USSF.

Answer (April 10, 2008):
Even with the recent IFAB interpretation regarding the color of all undergarments, this answer of November 14, 2002, still applies. Please note that we have updated the excerpt from Advice to the current edition:
Under normal conditions, players are restricted to the uniform and equipment specified in the Laws of the Game under Law 4: jersey or shirt, shorts, stockings, shinguards, and footwear. This and other pertinent information is encapsulated in section 4.1 of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

It is implicit in the Law that each side wear a distinctively colored jersey, that shorts and socks be uniform for each team, and that the uniforms be distinguishable from the uniforms worn by the other team. However, the details of the uniform are governed by the competition authority and can vary widely from one match to another. The referee must know and enforce the rules of each competition worked. Players' jerseys must remain tucked inside their shorts, socks must remain pulled up, and each player must wear shinguards under the socks. All undergarments (slide pants, undershirts, etc.) which extend visibly beyond the required uniform must be as close as possible in color to the main color of the uniform part under which they are worn.
//rest deleted//

However, the intelligent referee will try to make an exception due to severe weather conditions, such as knit caps or gloves on very cold days. This would even extend to tracksuit pants, provided everyone on the team wears the same color -- which need not be the same as the color of the shorts. //rest deleted//

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for local leagues (less so tournaments) to have a local rule exception dealing with less than perfect uniforms.


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 Julie Ilacqua, Managing Director of Referee Programs (administrative matters); David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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