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October 2005 Archive


Offside situation, attacker A1 clearly in an offside position and involved in play. The AR held his flag for about 10 seconds to signal offside, but the referee never saw it and awarded a PK to the attacking team. When he finally noticed the AR's flag, the referee waved it down and went ahead with the penalty kick. The goal was scored. A big discussion ensued after the game, with referees coming down on all sides of the matter. When should the AR lower his flag and get on with the rest of the game, and when should he keep it up?

Answer (October 18, 2005):
The flag stays up in THREE situations:
1. Offside . . . if the attacking team still in possession
2. Ball out of bounds and comes back on the field
3. Violent conduct that the referee did not see.


I have a son who plays in a U6 soccer league. There is some confusion on defining "goalkeeper" in terms of having a player "posted" in front of the goal or not. When I asked about this, I was informed that the player is not considered a goalkeeper unless he/she has on a different colored jersey and is using his/her hands to defend the goal. Understanding that the goal in U6 is 6' X 8' or smaller, is a player that is "posted" in front of the goal, for the soLE purpose of blocking a goal shot by the opposing team, considered to be a goal keeper regardless of whether they use their hands or have on a different colored jersey? This rule of "No goal keepers" has become an issue in our league, due to the fact that some coaches are using their biggest players to stand in front of the opponents goal and block or kick away a shot on the goal.

Answer (October 17, 2005):
Under the Laws of the Game as modified by U. S. Youth Soccer (USYS) for small-sided games for children aged U6-U8, there are no goalkeepers. The goalkeeper wears a different-colored jersey and is allowed to handle the ball, which these players would not be allowed to do. Here is the guidance provided by USYS for Law 3:
(U6) "Law 3--The Number of Players: there are no goalkeepers in the U6 age group so that all of the players may chase the ball around the field. The kids want to be where the action is and at this age it is around the ball. This will provide the opportunity for the children to further develop their running, jumping and kicking coordination. These are valuable traits for all soccer players to develop. The smaller number of players takes into account the egocentrism of this age group and therefore allows each child more opportunities for kicking and dribbling the ball. With fewer players on the field each child has an increased number of contacts with the ball and has more actual playing time. Additionally the players will be required to make more decisions and experience repeating game situations frequently. The work rate and involvement of players will be more consistent. While learning both offense and defense, players will become well rounded and will understand more readily the roles and importance of teammates." It would appear that some coaches in your league have found a way to set up a better defensive posture for their teams. What these coaches are doing is within the letter of the rules you play under. Coaches can be very clever, and whatever rule changes you may be tempted to make, many will find a way around them. That is life.


U14 Laws of the game -- Can you help us find these on line?

Answer (October 14, 2005):
According to U. S. Youth Soccer, all teams U13 and older should play according to the Laws of the Game, the same rules the adults play by.

Follow this URL:

NOTE: Please remember that some competitions (leagues, cups or tournaments) do not follow the directions of U. S. Youth Soccer and make their own rules. Always check with the competition to see what their rules are.


You have addressed several times in this forum the topic of fair charging. Most coaches and parents do understand that when two players are running side by side sometimes the stronger player can nudge the weaker player off of the ball using applied force from shoulder. Usually minimal force is only required. Sometimes a player can land awkwardly and be injured. You have addressed this quite well in your forum. However, The gist of the questions and complaints from parents and coaches mainly occur during the following type scenarios. I am limiting this to U-13 and above and adult referees. Let's also set the parameters of both players being relatively the same size and having similar skills.

1. An attacker has gone by the defender with the ball and goes to the outside creating space. The defender then turns and runs at full speed at an angle and plows the shoulder into the attacker driving them not only off the ball, but sailing through the air. They were shoulder to shoulder only at the exact moment of impact. It is similar to a corner back in the NFL driving a receiver out of bounds with a shoulder. The ball is never touched by the defender until after knocking the player to the ground.
When the parents and coaches yell foul or excessive force the referee explains that the angle of attack does not matter. Nor that they were not running together. As long as for the split second that the contact occurs if it is in the shoulder it is legal.
In the scenario above are the referees interpreting the rules correctly? Does shoulder to shoulder mean only for one nanosecond? Is this a fair charge?

2.The other scenario is where a defender runs perpendicular to an attacker and plows over them. More of a chest to shoulder attack. Once again the ball is never played by the defender until the attacker is driven to the ground. When questioned the referee states that they were making a play on the ball. In other words you can plow over a player to get to the ball. Is this correct? Even if you touch the ball before running over the attacker is this a legal play?

What is perplexing to coaches parents is that when you watch MLS, Premiership, College or High school soccer you see these type of fouls called more often when it isn't a true running shoulder to shoulder. Usually for much less contact than you see in an average children's game.

If it were just 1 or 2 times this occurs it would be one thing. But repetitively game after game after game you see these situations over and over. Sometimes 4,5 or 6 different players carried off during a game.

Most injuries in youth soccer occur on these types of plays. Broken collar bones, separated shoulders, broken wrists, concussions etc.

One of the great ironies is you can watch higher level soccer and see anywhere from 15 to 30 fouls a game. Most if not all would never be called in youth soccer. But at the youth level where we should be striving to teach them to play safe and clean soccer you are lucky to see 2 or 3 fouls a game. I have witnessed many games where players are being knocked all over, carried off the field and not one foul called.Then the players get more physical to protect themselves.Then bodies are flying and things get out of hand. Players and parents get discouraged and pull their child from the sport. The most common comment is "They are trying to turn this sport into Football without the pads."

What is your opinion on the charging scenarios?

Answer (October 13, 2005):
A player who uses proper form in charging an opponent shoulder to shoulder may still be punished for doing it incorrectly, viz., for applying excessive force. This is true at all levels of play.


Attacker A is in an offside position inside the goal area. The ball is played by Attacker B who is located around the 18. The goal keeper receives the ball and bats it down to the ground in front of him (Attacker A located behind him and to his right). Attacker A, though still in an offside position has not interfered with the keeper or other defenders. Defender A receives the ball when the keeper plays it to the ground, and kicks the ball back toward Attacker A who receives the ball and scores.

I did not call offside because Attacker A was never in the play and received the ball from a defender. Was I correct?

Answer (October 13, 2005):
If it is entirely clear that Defender A had established possession of the ball, then there is no offside in this situation. However, if Defender A simply kicked at the ball (without establishing possession) to clear it out of the way of the attacking team, then Attacker A should be declared offside.


I was reffing an U8 girls game and one of the parents came up to me after the game and asked why a soccer field is called a "pitch." I have asked around my association and nobody seems to have an answer. Can you help?

Answer (October 13, 2005):
The term "pitch" comes from an old English word meaning a place where outdoor activities are done. It is used also in describing a cricket field, where the wickets are "pitched," or setting up a camp, as in "pitching" a tent or an entire encampment.


I was an AR during a match and the following situation ocurred. Player (#1), in an offside position, recognized he was offside and remained stationery; hence I did not judge him to be involved in play. The ball proceeded over his head and was controlled by a defender (#2). As soon as the defender controlled the ball, player #1 applied pressure. At that moment, I judged player #1 to be offside as he was involved in play and was seeking to gain an advantage from his offside position. Was that correct? If I was correct, at what time during play can player #1 become involved in active play w/o incurring an Offside penalty?

Answer (October 10, 2005):
If #2 had established full and clear possession of the ball, then the player who was in the offside position (#1) was absolved of his sins and could challenge for the ball.

Put in longer, but perhaps clearer form, the attacker in an offside position must refrain from becoming involved in active play from the moment his teammate touches or plays the ball until a defender plays the ball (gains clear possession and control) or the ball is touched/played once more by another attacker or the ball leaves the field in favor of the defenders.


A heated debate arose recently among several local referees over how to deal with an injury when the ref stops play while the goalkeeper has possession of the ball. There were several points argued:
1) Stop play while the keeper still has possession and restart with a dropped ball with only the keeper participating, advising the keeper that the ball may be picked up after it touches the ground. This restores the game to the same state as when play was stopped.
2) Allow the keeper to punt (or throw) the ball back into play and immediately stop play for the injury. The restart would be a dropped ball, presumably at a considerable distance from either goal. This would allow both teams to participate in the dropped ball restart as is usually the case.
3) Delay stoppage until the possessing team has time to kick the ball out of play and restart with a throw-in (or goal kick), assuming that the ball will then be played back to the defending team as a "fair play" gesture. This assumes also that the attacking team will play the ball out quickly to allow treatment of the injured player.
4) In situation 1) above, some argued that both teams should participate in the dropped ball, although most felt this was not in the spirit of the game. There was some confusion as to whether both teams had a right to participate equally in EVERY dropped ball.

The discussion related to youth, recreational play, i.e. U-14 and lower, but I would be interested in whether a universal rule should be applied regardless of the level of play.

What is your advice?

Answer (October 10, 2005):
In accordance with Law 5, the referee should stop play for injury ONLY when, in the opinion of the referee, the injury is SERIOUS. If the injury is indeed serious, the referee does not have time to wait for all these options to run their course. If the injury is not serious, any of options 1, 2, or 3 could be used.

These two excerpts from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" should be of help in your discussion:
When the referee has stopped play due solely to the occurrence of a serious injury, the referee must ensure that the injured player is removed from the field of play (the refusal to do so could be considered a cautionable offense for delaying the restart of play). If play is stopped for any other reason, an injured player cannot be required to leave the field but may be permitted to do so by the referee. The determination of what constitutes a "serious injury" should take into account the age of the player." Only the referee may permit the return to the field of play of a player who was permitted to leave the field for treatment of an injury. This is not a substitution. The player who left the field for treatment of an injury may return during play with the permission of the referee, but only from the touch line. If the ball is out of play, the player may return with the permission of the referee across any boundary line.

Referees should avoid remaining in the area of the injured player once they have made their determination to stop play or to prevent play from immediately restarting while the injured player is being attended to on the field.

There is no requirement that players from both teams-or that any player-must take part at a dropped ball.//REST DELETED//

In all cases of dropped ball, the referee should take care that the Spirit of the Game is served.


In his pregame instructions, the Referee told both Teams A & B that all direct and indirect kicks would start on his whistle.

During the final 2 minutes of the match, the goalkeeper of team A had the ball at his feet for a period of 6 seconds. He then picked up the ball and punted it away. The Referee decided that time that the keeper had the ball on the ground at his feet coupled with the 2-3 seconds that he held the ball prior to the punt constituted a violation of the 6 seconds that the goalkeeper was allowed to possess the ball. The Referee stopped play and awarded an indirect free kick to team B eight yards from team A's goal. While the Referee was explaining his decision to the Goalkeeper a player from team B took the ball out of the Referee's hands and placing the ball on the ground gave a quick touch to a team mate who then kicked the ball into the goal.

The Referee subsequently allowed the goal giving Team B a tie. Is there any recourse against the referee's behavior?

Answer (October 10, 2005):
We instruct referees not to lecture players on how they will conduct the game and what they want of players. Having made the original pronouncement--an act referees should avoid--the referee is honor bound to follow through. The referee who does not do this loses all credibility with the players and thus stands to lose total control of the game.

The goalkeeper has six seconds to distribute the ball after establishing possession, and possession does not include having the ball at his or her feet. If all is as you describe it, there should have been no call against the goalkeeper.

Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about a referee's judgment. It is tough to exact recourse for terminal stupidity. Perhaps natural selection (or intelligent design) will win out in the end. On the other hand, the referee DID "set aside a Law of the Game" in defining "possession" incorrectly and then making the additional mistake of stating the mistake publicly! Team A in this game might have a basis for protesting the call, as this goes way beyond a mere judgment call.


1) As the laws of the game state that the lines are part of the area they bound. 2) A ball must wholly cross a line before it is out of play (out of an area bounded by said lines). Please address the following described situations.

A player, in the run of play slides into the area bounded by the goal net, completely out of the penalty area. A ball is rolling toward the goal line. The player puts up his hand, vertically, stopping the ball from wholly crossing the goal line, his hand only contacts that part of the ball that is overhanging the line, outside the penalty area, and inside the area bounded by the goal net.

A goal keeper, in the run of play slides out of the penalty area, still on the field of play. A ball is on the penalty area line, he places his hand on the portion of the ball that is outside of the penalty area, keeps continuous contact with the ball, picks up the ball without ever allowing the ball to wholly cross the line out of the penalty area.

My contention is that the uniform interpretation of TLOG dictates that in both cases, only the location of the ball can establish the status of "in" or "out" of the penalty area.

Situation 1, DGH, Red Card to the player, restart penalty kick, player is interpreted to be on the FOP at the point of contact and is punished as a player not an outside agent.

Situation 2, no infraction the GK is interpreted to be in the PA at the point of contact and play is allowed to continue.

Have I correctly interpreted TLOG? IF not please point out where I am in error and the reasoning for why I am in error.

Answer (October 6, 2005):
Situation 1. Even though the hand is outside the line, the ball is still in play and the player on the ground, whom we assume from your suggested answer is a member of the defending team, has denied the opposing team a goal by deliberately handling the ball. Send the player off and show the red card and restart with a penalty kick. If the player who stopped the ball is a member of the attacking team, that player has deliberately handled the ball; stop play and restart with a direct free kick for the defending team, to be taken in accordance with the special circumstances outlined in Law 8.

Situation 2. The goalkeeper has kept the ball within the penalty area and cannot be penalized.

NOTE: Any earlier answers that may contradict this answer should be disregarded.


How should a referee handle misconduct after the end of a match? What is the extent of the referee's authority in such cases?

The particular incident of interest involved a player reacting to an opponent's foul language and harrassment with a string of expletives of their own, while following the opponent that was walking off the field after the end of the match. The referee red carded the second player, but not the first -- perhaps not having observed or heard any prior actions and language during or after the match by the first player. The carded player then continued to use abusive language with the referee.

Answer (October 3, 2005):
The referee is permitted to show red or yellow cards after the match has concluded, provided he or she has not left the field of play. If the player persists in the misconduct after the yellow card has been shown, the referee may show a second yellow card, followed by a red. All details must be included in the match report. If the player persists in the serious misconduct after the red card has been shown, the referee simply writes down the details, which must be included in the match report.


Sunday I as he middle referee for a nmen's U-19 select game. I had two young ARs assisting me primarily due to a shortage of referees on Sunday or due to the lack of desire to do select locally.

Attacker A was dribbling through the left side of the penalty area. Defender B suddenly did a slide tackle from the side making contact with the ball and then made contact with Attacker A's foot resulting with a hard face forward fall to the ground. The play was closer to the AR who made no call but from my view, Defender B may have gotten the ball but his slide was dangerous and did result in tripping the player A.

I awarded a PK to Attacker A and received protests from defender B and as irony would have it, Defender's B parents who were on that side of the filed. I kept hearing "he got ball first" and they got a little ugly.

As I understand the rules, a slide tackle, striking the ball first, does not negate the responsibility not to trip or injury a player.

Did I make the right call? I noted that the AR did not make a call but I believe that was due to youth and inexperience and that I had a greater responsibility to make any calls in her area as I saw them.

Answer (October 3, 2005):
No, it is not a foul if a sliding tackle is successful and the player whose ball was tackled away then falls over the tackler's foot.

It has to be in the opinion of the referee, but if the tackler accomplishes the objective of taking the ball, then it makes no difference if the player who was tackled then gets taken down. With a big "UNLESS": if, in the referee's opinion, the tackler has used excessive force (which you seem to suggest), then the tackler should be sent off for serious foul play. Or, if the tackler makes the tackle and then lifts either the tackling foot or the other foot and trips the opponent, that is a foul. Simply because a player falls over the foot of the tackler is not a dangerous thing. It's one of the breaks of the game.


In a men's league game, after a goal kick late in the first half, my AR was waving his flag frantically and beckoning me over. I blew the whistle and stopped play, then went over to him. He told me the kicking team had taken their goal kicks from about a yard in front of the goal area the last three times. He said he had raised his flag before but I had not seen it. He wanted me to do something about it or he would not AR for me anymore.

I called for an indirect kick from one yard in front of the goal area. Fortunately no goal was scored. After the game I realized that an indirect kick was not the correct call. I know I should have seen the ARs flag the first time and I would have simply made them re-kick from the goal area.

What should I have done?

Answer (September 29, 2005):
After dismissing the assistant referee (and keeping full note of the details for your match report), you should have restarted with a dropped ball.

That said, we must submit that issue raised by the AR is a bogus one. If the ball is placed where he said, it was indeed an infringement of Law 16--but in all likelihood it was trifling. If it was not trifling, the AR could have shown some initiative and become involved in game management and reminded the kicking team where the ball should be placed, rather than simply waving the flag frantically.

The best way to respond to the AR would have been to say sweetly, "Well, you are absolutely right about where the ball should be placed and I will remind the team not to commit such a terrible mistake again, but I'm going to let it go this time. But, because you forced me to stop play with your flag waving, I must restart with a dropped ball."

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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