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November 2008 Archive (I of III)


In the three man system, what is the lineman's responsibility as far as fouls are concerned.

Answer (November 4, 2008):
1. Let the referee have the first shot at any foul or misconduct.
2. Flag nothing that the referee can clearly see (or see clearly, take your pick).
3. Flag only what needs to be called in accordance with the referee's instructions in the pregame conference.
4. Flag only what the referee would stop play for if he or she had seen it.
5. Flag nothing that will get the referee in trouble.
6. Neither say nor give a hand signal for "advantage."


An offensive player, with control of the ball, runs hard into a defensive player - literally taking the player off his feet and on his back. The player maintained control of the ball. If in the view of the referee it was unsportsmanlike conduct - essentially targeting the player - what and how would the call be handled? The confusion was since the player maintained control of the ball, you could not call it then since the ball would change teams. Another person said, a hit is a hit...the defensive player should have moved.

Answer (November 4, 2008):
You need to stop talking about the Laws of the Game and their proper interpretation and application with people who clearly use illegal substances.

Let's see if we have this right: A player violently runs over an opponent who refuses to relinquish his space on the field. Despite committing this premeditated mayhem, the player manages to maintain control of the ball. We wouldn't want to call this a foul and serious misconduct, because then possession of the ball would change from the assassin's team to that of the innocent victim, who clearly should have moved out of the killer's way. Hmmm.

We hope the answer is now clear to you: No player is allowed to use violence while playing the ball or attempting to play the ball and/or the opponent. No player is required to give up space which he or she has taken legally simply because someone else wants it; rather, other players are required to go around a player in such a position. The fact that a player has committed violent conduct does not mean that his act is okay because he retained possession of the ball. Send off the attacker for violent conduct; restart with a direct free kick for the opponent's team at the place where the foul and the violent conduct took place.

And please encourage your colleagues to read the Laws a bit more carefully.


I know that our governing bodies do not recognize a Dual System of Control (2-referee system) but have never read the reason why they maintain this position. Would you please explain their reasoning? I ask this question because it is my experience that this stance is burdensome to intramural/recreational soccer organizations. While it may be possible for travel leagues and higher level of competition to sport full rosters of referees, intramural/recreational leagues often struggle to find referees to officiate their games. I know that if my league, with its ten clubs, attempted to comply with this edict, we would not play any games. Also, why wouldn't a Dual System be preferable to a single CR with two club linesmen? As you know, club linesmen can only signal that the ball has gone out of touch. They can't make any calls. With a properly implemented Dual System, the field is fully covered and the game fairly called. Again, I can understand travel leagues and up being required to use three referees but it seems that the rulemakers are shortsighted when it comes to intramural/recreational soccer.

Answer (November 4, 2008):
As a member of FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, the U. S. Soccer Federation must follow the requirements of FIFA, the International F. A. Board (the people who make the Laws of the Game), and the Laws themselves.

The Laws of the Game require the diagonal system of control: one referee, two assistant referees, and a fourth official in some competitions. Rules of other competitions may require other officials. Organizations and members affiliated with U. S. Soccer are expected to use the diagonal system of control for all competitive matches.

The dual system of control has been examined by FIFA and the IFAB and found wanting.

There are alternative system other than the referee and two official assistant referees. These are spelled out in the USSF Referee Administrative Handbook 2008/2009, p. 38:

Systems of Officiating Outdoor Soccer Games
The Laws of the Game recognize only one system for officiating soccer games, namely the diagonal system of control (DSC), consisting of three officials - one referee and two assistant referees. All competitions sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation require the use of this officiating system. (Certain competitions will use a 4th Official.)
In order to comply with the Laws of the Game which have been adopted by the National Council of U.S. Soccer, all soccer games sanctioned directly or indirectly by member organizations of the U. S. Soccer Federation must employ the diagonal system. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Soccer Referee Committee prefers the following alternatives in order of preference:
1. One Federation referee and two Federation referees [see footnote]1 as assistant referees (the standard ALL organizations should strive to meet).
One Federation referee, one Federation referee as an assistant referee and one club linesman *who is unrelated to either team and not registered as a referee. (Only if there are not enough Federation referees as stated in 1, above).
One Federation referee, and two club linesmen* who are unrelated to either team and not registered as referees, acting as club linesmen, (only if there are not enough Federation referees as stated in 1 or 2, above).
4. One Federation referee and two club linesmen* who are not registered Federation referees and who are affiliated with the participating teams, (only if there are not enough Federation referees as stated in 1, 2 or 3, above).
Member organizations and their affiliates should make every effort to assist in recruiting officials so that enough Federation referees will be available to permit use of the diagonal officiating system for ALL of their competitions.

1 In all cases, the Assistant Referee may be Grade 12 if the game level is appropriate for that assignment.
* Club linesmen (not registered as Federation Referees) are limited to calling in and out of bounds only.


I have written to ask about the application of "involvement in play" by a player in an offside position. Specifically, three plays prompt questions. First, a fullback headed successfully a high and hard pass at the 18, rather than allow the ball to continue toward his keeper, because he anticipated and feared a challenge for the ball from a nearby player in an offside position. The successful header, however, was not as effective as a free kick would have been. Should offside have been whistled? If the header had gone to a teammate of the player in the offside position, should offside have been penalized at that later time?

Similarly, a fullback stopped with an outstretched leg a pass attempted through the defensive line at the 12, rather than allow the pass to proceed to the keeper, because the ball would otherwise have proceeded to a player in an offside position and that penalty may not be called. Should offside have been called? Also, in this case, the ball rebounded to a stop at the 18. If that defensive stop had set up a very good shot for another offensive player, should offside have been penalized?

Finally, a player who had been in an offside position approached from behind the fullback who had stopped easily a through pass and, consequently, induced a quicker and longer pass than otherwise might have been made. Should offside have been penalized in this instance?

Thanks very much for your thoughtful consideration of my questions.

Answer (October 11, 2008):
The answer for all three is that the referee (and the assistant referee, if his or her view is better) must decide whether the defender had clearly established possession and control of the ball or whether the play was simply a deflection of the ball. If possession was clearly established, then there is no offside, no matter that the ball then goes to the player who was in the offside position when his or her teammate played the ball. If the referee decides it was a deflection or misplay and no control had been established, then the decision should be for offside. The AR is expected to make a recommendation, based on his or her view, but the referee has the final decision. However, if either the AR or the referee is unsure, then there is no offense.


I am a referee (grade 8) and also a coach. During my son's U14 Advanced match on Saturday, our team played a through ball from about 35 yards out approximately even with the left edge of the goal area (as viewed by the attacking players). Our center forward had started his run toward the ball from about 30 yards from the goal line in the middle of the field. One of the defenders looked back at our forward, never looking at the ball, and ran back and placed his body between the offensive player and the ball. The ball was about 2 yards away. Our forward was right behind his back and the defender continued to be between the attacker and the ball the entire way until the goalkeeper picked it up. The defender also put out his arms to block the attacker from getting through, but the attacker never contacted the arms. At the time, I thought our team should have been awarded in IFK, but I wanted to look at it objectively.

Here are the issues that need to be answered in my mind.
1. Is 2 yards playing distance for a U14 game? To me, this goes to the opinion of the referee.
2. Is the defender looking back a sign that he is not playing the ball and playing the man, thus he is impeding the progress of his opponent?
3. I believe that the arms outstretched are irrelevant because the attacker never tried to go around and never made contact with his arms.

Answer (November 4, 2008):
1. Only the referee on the game can judge whether or not this is "playing distance." And that decision rests on the referee's evaluation of the player's speed and skill.
2. It makes no difference what the defender does if he or she is deemed to be within playing distance of the ball. Any defender wants to know where the opponent is, so looking back and adjusting position is clearly legal -- as long as the requirement for playing distance is met. However, if not within playing distance of the ball, looking backward to "place" the opponent could certainly be seen as an indication of impeding.
3. And we agree,


We just returned from a tournament and my question is whether or not a ref has the right after a game to pull a player aside and talk to them. The other team had a player that made an allegation against our team for flipping them off at the end of the game. The coach said he did not know which player or if it had happened for sure. After the players had left the field to leave. The ref placed their arm around the player and accused them off this with a finger pointed in their face. In the end the player was crying, not proud of the win and been accused of something. I would think a better option would have been to talk to the team as a whole as nobody had seen the player do this. Or if the other player was telling the truth. It almost seemed like an abuse of power.

Answer (November 3, 2008):
The referee certainly has the right to speak with any player after the game. The referee has the authority to deal with misconduct as long as the teams and the referee are still in the immediate vicinity of the field. -- this could certainly include talking with a player regarding an actual, potential, or alleged act of misconduct. However, the referee does not have the right to grill the player or subject that player to the third degree. After all, whatever misconduct may have occurred happened far enough back in time that the referee's valid interest in the matter had long passed. Either he dealt with it or not. Normally, the extension of authority is assumed to cover acts of misconduct that occur during the post game period while the teams are in the process of exiting the field (or possibly that occurred immediately prior to the end of the match). Anything earlier is simply rehashing old news, usually to no good end.

Report the referee to the tournament, local and state authorities.

NOTE: No, we do not approve of referees placing their hands on players.


A goalie comes out of the his area with ball still in hand. Direct or Indirect Kick?

I have asked 5 referees and get different answers. The classes I have gone to claim a goalie can not cause a direct free kick is this right.

Answer (November 3, 2008):
You are the 250th person to have asked this question this year. We cannot believe that any referee instructor in any state would tell referees to punish this offense with an indirect free kick. Does no one ever read the previous answers or the Laws of the Game? You have only told us of two answers you received. What are the others?

While recognizing that the offense by the goalkeeper of crossing the penalty area line completely with the ball still in hand is never doubtful, but often trifling, we must also recognize that it is certainly an infringement of the Law and must always be treated as such by the referee. The referee will usually warn the goalkeeper about honoring the penalty area line but allow the first such act to go unpunished; however the referee must then clearly warn the goalkeeper to observe and honor the line and the Law. If it occurs again, the referee should call the foul and, if the offense is repeated, caution the goalkeeper for persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game.

The correct restart is a direct free kick for the opposing team from the place where the offense occurred. That means the point just outside the penalty area where the goalkeeper still had the ball in hand.

We might also add that in many cases assistant referees do not do their job correctly in this respect. Instead of judging the place where the ball is released from the goalkeeper's hands, they concentrate on the place where the goalkeeper's foot meet the ball, which could be well outside the area with no offense having occurred.


The player restarted with a throw-in. The referee made him redo the throw-in because he wasn't close enough to where the ball went out. Can't a player throw in the ball behind that point so he doesn't get an advantage. Can't it be 5, 10, 20 yards behind where it went out? Especially when he wants a quick restart instead of moving up to where the ball went out?

Answer (November 3, 2008):
No, the throw-in must be taken from within one yard/meter of the place where the ball left the field of play.

Beyond that, the referee's action was entirely and grievously wrong. A throw-in cannot be redone because the referee is not satisfied with some technical requirement such as location -- although some local rules do allow a retake of an improperly-performed throw-in for very young players. If the throw-in was not satisfactory and the referee stops play, the ball must be given to the opposing team. If the referee doesn't want to do this, the only proper action is to let the infringement of Law 15 go as doubtful or trifling and, at most, warn the player about doing better next time. In short, if the throw-in is "good enough," the restart is allowed; if it is not "good enough," it has to go to the other team.


Can the referee give a yellow/red card to an active player while the referee and the player are outside the field (appox 10 meters)?

synopsis: two active players get involved in an argument outside the field while trying to retrieve a throw-in ball. The referee runs outside the field and cards the players. Is this legal? It was my understanding that both the referee and the player must be inside the field for the card to be official.

Answer (November 3, 2008):
The referee may caution or send off players, substitutes, or substituted players for misconduct at any time between the moment the referee arrives at the venue and the time the referee leaves the venue. That includes in the dressing rooms, in the team areas, on the field or off the field. The only difference is that a card must be shown on the field of play, but the fact that it might have been shown off the field does not negate the caution or the sending-off. All details must be included in the referee's match report.


Team A is granted a direct free kick within shooting distance of the goal. Team A's shooter asks for 10, the referee notifies the players that the restart is on his whistle and marks off the 10. The referee then gives the signal to start play. As Team A's shooter begins running up to the ball but before she kicks it, a player in Team B's wall moves toward the ball thinking, incorrectly of course, that the whistle made it good to go. Neither the kicker nor the kick is affected by the encroachment and the ball goes over the crossbar for what under normal circumstances would be a goal kick.

Should there be a rekick because there was encroachment or is it ignored when it has no effect on the play? If there must be a rekick, is that still true if the player had scored with the free kick?

Answer (November 3, 2008):
Our guidance to referees on this sort of situation is contained in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":

If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce the required minimum distance, the referee must quickly and emphatically indicate to the attackers that they may not restart play until given a clear signal to do so. Under these circumstances, an attacker who restarts play without a signal should be verbally warned and, upon repetition, be cautioned for unsporting behavior. The free kick in such cases must be retaken, regardless of the result of the original kick. An opponent who moves closer to the spot of the kick (from any direction) before it is taken must be cautioned and shown the yellow card if the referee has delayed the restart to ensure that the opponents are at the minimum distance.

The referee is expected to deal with opponents who fail to respect the required distance, even in situations in which they were induced to do so by attackers appearing to put the ball into play, but where the ball was not kicked (touched with the foot and moved).

An attacking team may exercise its right to take a free kick when the players see an advantage to do so even with an opponent closer than the minimum distance. However, they may not thereafter claim infringement of the distance requirement if the ball is kicked to an infringing opponent who is able to control the ball without moving toward it. In this case, because the attacking side has considered the encroachment trivial, the referee must accept what he or she has seen. On the other hand, when the attacking team has exercised the option to restart play quickly and the opponent closer than the required distance moves toward the ball and performs an act that makes a difference in the play, such as blocking the kick, that player has committed an offense that must be dealt with firmly in accordance with the Law. After the referee has cautioned the failure to respect the required distance, the original free kick must be retaken as required by Law 13.

That citation contains all the information you need. That citation contains all the information you need.


I recently refereed a playoff game and the following situation arose: The defending goalkeeper stepped out the 18 yard box prior to punting the ball. I called for an indirect free kick for the attacking team as I thought that it was unintentional. Was this the right call? none of the coaches caught it but myself and the AR's had a discussion that it could have been a direct kick with a possibility of a sending off for deliberate hand ball.

Please advise as if i made a mistake, I do not want to make the same one again.

Answer (November 3, 2008):
It makes no difference where the goalkeeper's feet were when the ball was kicked. What is important is when the goalkeeper released the ball to kick it. If that occurred when the 'keeper's hands were inside or on the penalty area line, then no infringement occurred and no verbal announcement of any sort is necessary.

If the ball was not released until after the goalkeeper's hands were outside the penalty area, then the proper restart is a direct free kick, not an indirect free kick.

And, just for clarification's sake, there is no such thing as "a possibility of a sending off for deliberate hand ball" unless the goalkeeper handled the ball outside his penalty area to prevent it from going into the net.


I'm an AR in a U17 match. Defending team is pushed up in an offside trap. Offensive team plays a long ball behind the defense. Two offensive players -- one in offside position when the ball is played, the other not -- chase the ball. The "onside" player is a step or two ahead of the "offside" player, and will probably get there first.

1) Is the player in an offside position "actively involved in the play" if he is chasing a ball a teammate will reach legally before he does?

2) As the AR, where do I go? Do I follow the ball, or do I hold my spot just in case the "offside" attacker becomes "actively involved" so the restart can be placed properly?

3) When do I raise my flag? Do I wait the three to five seconds it will take to determine whether the offside player plays the ball, or does it go up immediately?

Answer (November 3, 2008):
1) No.
2) Remember the spot and follow the ball.
3) Raise your flag ONLY if is clear that the player who was in the offside position will beat his teammate to the ball. If there is any doubt as to which will get to the ball first, you must keep the flag down.

U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff/National Assessor), assisted by Dan Heldman (National Instructor Staff), for their assistance in providing this service. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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