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April 2004 Archive (II of II)

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I have noticed some boys wearing their shorts pulled so far down that if they didnt have shirts, 60% of their underwear would be showing. They continually pull their shorts down. It may be the style in school but on the field it appears disrepectful! Your thoughts on this during pregame inspections?

Answer (April 15, 2004):
Custom, tradition, and safety require that players keep their shirts tucked in and their socks pulled up and generally maintain a professional appearance. The intelligent referee will allow players to wear their shorts as they like, as long as they do not present an insult to common decency or a danger to any player.


U14 boys game. Before game coach of one team tells ref he plans on having his team change uniforms at half time.No problem with conflicting colors. Ref says NO. You have to play with the uniform you start with. Coach says - ref last week let us do it, and, where in the rules does it say we can't. Ref did not allow it, coach filed protest and I was asked for my input.

My first response was - I see no reason why it should not be allowed. After some discussion with protest committee we considered it might be unsporting. Opponents have played a half looking at a "blue" team now have a "gold" team to watch out for.

Is this a tactical move? Is it allowed?

Answer (April 12, 2004):
This would seem to be a tactical move, designed to confuse the opponents. Traditionally--and a lot of the Law is strictly tradition--the team must wear its uniform for the entire game, without making any changes. This is the sort of thing that would be regarded as "bringing the game into disrepute" by turning it into a spectacle. This sort of infringement will fall under "Law 18," common sense. It is obviously a move to confuse, demoralize, and take advantage of the opponents and serves no useful purpose for the good of the game.

The old excuse that "the referee last week let us do it" means nothing. It means simply that the referee last week didn't want to rock the boat--and that this week's referee had a firm grasp on reality. He simply followed the road of soccer tradition, which is always the correct one.



Answer (February 11, 2004):


An attacker was in an offside position but never participated in the play. He was not interfering with the keeper. A shot was taken from near the top of the penalty box and went in. The problem was that the R blew his whistle after the shot but just before the ball went in. The AR did not signal offside. The keeper appeared unaffected by the whistle. The coach of the defense wasn't! We allowed the goal. The R later admitted that he anticipated that the offside player was about to participate, but quickly realized he did not so there should be no offside call. Please comment on whether there is such a thing as an 'inadvertant whistle' or if the whistle should have 'killed' the action so that the goal should have been desallowed?

Answer (April 10, 2004):
Whistle blows, game is stopped. No goal. Restart with indirect free kick for the defending team because of the "offside."

In fact, the game stops when the referee DECIDES to blow the whistle. The referee must then eat the whistle and the error in judgment. Ketchup or other condiments allowed.


In a recent U16 Classic Division One club match the center referee carded (yellow) a midfielder for a violation in the early part of the first half. It was clear he carded No. 7. In the 30th minute, the referee card again stopped play and card a midfielder (yellow) it appear to be the same midfielder but it was not clear to whom he assigned the yellow card. It appeared to me he had carded No. 9. The first half ended without further incidence. Play continued for another ten minutes until the half concluded. At the beginning of the second half, the referee calls No. 7 to the center of the field prior to the restart of the match and shows No. 7 a red card. Did the referee act according the rules? Can he correct his apparent mistake later in the match? Is there any legal recourse to challenge the red card? The player must obviously forgo the next match!

Answer (April 10, 2004):
The referee's right to display a red card and send off a player who should have been sent off for a second caution in a game is sacrosanct. In this case ATR 5.14 would apply and the red card may be shown and the player sent from the field even if play has been (incorrectly) restarted.

As we responded to a question just about a year ago (April 3, 2003), if the refereeing crew recognizes, even after a substantial amount of time has passed--in that case 20 minutes, at the halftime break--that a player received a second caution and should have been sent off, the referee may then administer the send-off and red card as soon as is feasible.


Over the years, I have been taught to position myself behind the Corner Flag, looking down the Goal Line, rather than the prescribed position at the intersection of the Penalty Area Line and the Goal Line. The rationale was this position gave the appropriate view of ball over goal line, goalkeeper movement and did not place the Assistant Referee on the field of play and, potentially in the midst of active play, while attempting to return to the appropriate offside position.

What is the advantage of the position at the intersection of the Penalty Area Line and the Goal Line, and is there any discussion about changing to the position at the corner flag?

Answer (April 8, 2004):
The correct position for assistant referees (ARs) on penalty kicks is delineated in the USSF publication "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials," which can be downloaded from this URL:

The AR is encouraged to enter the field, when necessary, and upon direction of the referee. See Law 6:
The ARs also assist the referee to control the match in accordance with the Laws of the Game. In particular, they may enter the field of play to help control the 9.15m distance.

Being nearer to the penalty kick allows the AR to help control the match, observe the goalkeeper, and other duties as assigned by the referee. Being nearer to the goal than the corner flag at a penalty kick increases the ability of the AR to provide critical information to the referee regarding whether a goal was scored-- given the circumstances of the penalty kick, the chances are greater that a cunning goalkeeper might attempt to hide the scoring of a goal by quickly and surreptitiously pulling the ball back onto the field.

There is absolutely no discussion about changing the AR's position at the penalty kick to the area of the corner flag. Please bring this information to the attention of those who have taught you incorrectly over the years.


I ran across a player last Sat that had purchased headgear that was designed to make heading the ball more comfortable. It was soft and had extra padding in the forehead area.

Is this kind of gear to be allowed? If yes. Then what about a player that wants to wear a skullcap for the same purpose?

Answer (April 8, 2004):
Here is an answer from last year. Nothing has changed since that time.
USSF answer (July 16, 2003):
The United States Soccer Federation does not take a position one way or another on padded headgear. Such headgear is not part of the player's required uniform and equipment. The referee is the sole judge of the permissibility of these items, which must meet the requirement in Law 3 that it not be dangerous to any player.

You can find most recent the position paper regarding the issue of equipment on this and other USSF-affiliated websites. You may also have noticed the face masks -- not helmets -- worn by one or two Korean and Japanese players during World Cup 2002. The use of those face masks was not questioned at any time by the referees or the administration.



Answer (February 9, 2004):


[NOTE: See item of 6 April 2004, in the archives.]
In a match USYSA U14 girls. Team A attacker dribbles ball into attacking 1/3 of Team B field. Team A striker loses possession of the ball to Team B defender. Team B defender starts the attack up the field by dribbling the ball towards Team A defending 1/2 of the field. Team A striker turns and watches Team B attack. Team A striker comes back to her defending 1/3 of the field and foot tackles the ball and clears it free from Team B and Team A recovers possession in defending 1/3 of Team A field. Center Referee calls offside on Team A striker and award a direct kick in Team A defending 1/3 of the field. I agree Team A striker was in offside position when she lost possession of the ball and Team B defenders pushed up into Team A defending 1/2 of the field putting Team A striker in the offside position. But I never heard of a offside called in the defending 1/2 of the field.

Answer (April 8, 2004):
Nor has anyone else but this referee. Not only may a player not be considered in an offside position in her own half of the field, she may not be called offside there--unless she was in the opposing team's half of the field when one of her teammates played the ball and she was able to become involved in play there. Now we only have to figure out why the referee gave a direct free kick against her for this mythical offside; the correct restart if she had been offside would have been an indirect free kick.


After a White player in a youth match has legally restarted play, he plays the ball with his foot before anyone else touches the ball. The referee stops play for second touch and then sees an AR signaling. After the restart, but before the whistle, the opponents performed an illegal substitution (player off, sub on). The referee cautions the two opponents. What is the correct restart? IFK to the Whites (player leaving FOP w/o permission)? Or IFK to the opponents (second touch)?

Answer (April 8, 2004):
The entire scenario is a bit unclear, as there are not enough details as to who did what when.

Given the lack of details to make a case for sequential infringements, we must rely on what we have: Why did the referee stop play? For the illegal second touch. As both infringements by the opposing team are cautionable offenses and did not involve a foul, the referee is not obliged to stop play for either of them and can wait until the next opportunity--which he did--namely, the second-touch violation by White.

Referee action: Caution Black player, caution Black sub; indirect free kick restart for Black where White committed the second-touch violation.


Whereas Law 15 does not state that excessive spin is wrong, traditionally it has been interpreted that excessive spin is an indication an improper advantage is trying to be gained with the throw. The understanding was that a throw in was merely for restarting play and was not intended to become an attacking capability. However, I rarely see the law interpreted this way and it is being stretched to where throw ins have come to resemble a forward pass in American football. Is there an offical guidance on this?

Answer (April 8, 2004):
Yes, there is official guidance. You will find it in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game." You can download it from the referee page on the web site. Here is the guidance from the Advice to Referees:

A throw-in must be performed while the thrower is facing the field, but the ball may be thrown into the field in any direction. Law 15 states that the thrower "delivers the ball from behind and over his head." This phrase does not mean that the ball must leave the hands from an overhead position. A natural throwing movement starting from behind and over the head will usually result in the ball leaving the hands when they are in front of the vertical plane of the body. The throwing movement must be continued to the point of release. A throw-in directed straight downward (often referred to as a "spike") has traditionally been regarded as not correctly performed; if, in the opinion of the referee such a throw-in was incorrectly performed, the restart should be awarded to the opposing team. There is no requirement in Law 15 prohibiting spin or rotational movement. Referees must judge the correctness of the throw-in solely on the basis of Law 15.

The acrobatic or "flip" throw-in is not by itself an infringement so long as it is performed in a manner which meets the requirements of Law 15.

A player who lacks the normal use of one or both hands may nevertheless perform a legal throw-in provided the ball is delivered over the head and provided all other requirements of Law 15 are observed.

Please read also Advice 15.5:
Referees are reminded that the primary function of the throw-in is to put the ball back into play as quickly as possible. At competitive levels of play, therefore, apparent technical infringements of Law 15 should often be deemed trifling or doubtful so long as an advantage is not obtained by the team performing the throw-in and the restart occurs with little or no delay.


An attacking player with control of the ball makes a move to the right with the ball. At the same moment, the defended attempts to stop to adjust to the move of the attacker and slips, going feet first to the ground. The attacker attempts to quickly shoot the ball. The ball hits the defender (now lying on his side after falling) in the stomach area and rebounds 6 - 12 inches from his stomach. the attacker then straddles the defender on the ground to make contact or control of the ball. The defender attempting to stand is unable due to the attacking player still straddling the defender on the ground. After several whacks at the ball the ball is lodged closer to the defenders body. A whistle blows and a delay of game is called on the defender lying on the ground. a free kick is awarded the attacking team.

Is this the right call? does not the defender have the right to attempt to stand although he is essentially being held down by the attacking player stradding him.
Is the attempt to stand along with the inability to stand due to the attacking player standing over him taken into account.
Is the attacking player(s) whacking at the ball exhibiting dangerous play?

Which is the right call?

Answer (April 8, 2004):
If the defender on the ground has been prevented from rising by an opponent, it would not be correct to call a foul on the "grounded" player for playing dangerously. If the player who is straddling the player on the ground is simultaneously "whacking at the ball," then that player is the one who should be called for playing dangerously--unless you decide the player is holding the opponent on the ground, which would be a direct free kick for the team of the player on the ground. (We won't mention the possibility of a caution for unsporting behavior for the "whacking.")


If someone gets punched in the face during a game and the punched person grabs the arm of the puncher, should a penalty kick be awarded to the team of the puncher?

Answer (April 8, 2004):
A penalty kick would be awarded to the team of the puncher only if the punch occurs in the opposing team's penalty area.

That, of course, does not address the subsequent "grabbing" by the player who was punched. Depending on game circumstances, that might merit a caution to the player who did the grabbing. The grabbing cannot be a foul because what is described is a sequential series of infringements and the striking occurred first, so that is when play stopped. Because play was stopped, even if the whistle had not been blown, the grabbing can be only misconduct.


I am a house league soccer coach for a 7th and 8th grade girls team. I have been coaching soccer for over ten seasons. During that time I have consistently helped the players understand where their correct position should be on the field during games. The insructions I give are to "Drop Back" or "defenders to midfield" things like that. I will occasionally say "Shelby cover number 6" or "somebody cover number 6" or "everybody cover a player". Last week I was warned by a sideline refereee that I was violating FIFA rules in saying these things. When I pursued the matter with our league referee director he told me that coaches are to be essentially spectators with the exception of calling for substitutions. Please help me clarify what level of direction I am permitted to give my players within the rules for a team of this age and level.

Answer (April 7, 2004):
Coaches are allowed and encouraged to provide their players with helpful information.

Coaches are not permitted to badger the referee or assistant referees (or club linesmen) and are not permitted to indulge in misconduct of any sort by passing out misleading information that will lead the opposing team astray. In general, occasional helpful and positive information to one's own players is acceptable. Comments which are directed at opponents; are negative, disparaging, or distracting; undermine the authority of the officials; or are so frequent as to constitute choreographing every move of the players are not acceptable and may result in the coach being warned about his behavior or even ordered from the field for behaving irresponsibly. In general, less and less needs to be said by coaches as the experience and skill level of the teams increase.

The league should take this into account in training its coaches so that they understand clearly the difference between tactical instruction and irresponsible behavior.

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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