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October 2008 Archive (III of IV)


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The hardest decisions I have to make at these ages is when body contact between opponents rises to the level of a foul. Several factors affect my thinking: The hardest decisions I have to make at these ages is when body contact between opponents rises to the level of a foul. Several factors affect my thinking:
1. Body sizes can vary widely. I've seen U10 boys who were 5'-6" and 130 lbs playing against U10 boys who were 4'-6" and 70 lbs. Even nominal contact between the two can send the smaller child flying.
2. The kids simply haven't developed an appreciation for the immutable laws of physics. Many race for every ball at full speed seemingly unaware of the potential for injury when collisions occur with opponents, or even teammates, who are doing the same thing. The objective is clear to the kids (i.e. get the ball); the consequences of the behavior in trying to obtain the objective are not.
3. Because of leg strength (or lack of it), and field size, the game is played very close. It is not uncommon, in my experience, to see 5 or 6 players within 5 yards of the ball. More players within a small area results in more body contact. Legs get tangled, bodies collide, arms are raised in defense etc.

Certainly, I can apply the same standards at younger levels that I do at older levels, but such behavior would result in many, many whistles, stoppages, discussions, frustration and just not much fun for the players, coaches or parents.

In my view, I simply can't use the same standard for younger ages.

Typically, what I look for before whistling is more of an attempt to make contact with a player than with the ball. But that makes my decisions more subjective, and that subjectivity may frustrate coaches and players. More subjectivity also allows coaches and players to perceive they are being judged more harshly than their opponents.

I'm wondering if I'm looking for the right thing. Is there a more objective way to determine when body contact at these younger ages is foul play?

Answer (October 15, 2008):
We find that too many referees whistle for contact that is not illegal under the Laws of the Game. A certain amount of contact is common in soccer and, if it is not clearly careless, reckless, or done with excessive force, it should be allowed. Players do get tangled up when both are going for the ball or trying to shoot or clear the ball. In addition, children grow at different rates and, as you point out, there can be great disparities in size (height and build) between players of the same age

Referees should be careful to judge the way in which acts are committed. If the player or players appear to be otherwise playing fairly, yet the precise definition of a charge is violated because of differences in height and build, the intelligent referee will understand and give the benefit of the doubt to the player of greater or lesser height and build, whichever applies.


I can not find any reference to the reasoning behind this, only references to Law 5 -- which do not really address this issue.

Why not (as they do in Water Polo) show a card to a team official or coach? If the Referee is responsible for maintaining control of a game and has the authority to 'send off' a team official or coach...why not show the card?

Answer (October 15, 2008):
Reasoning? You want reasoning for matters that have been true from time immemorial? Not going to happen.

Law 5 tells us that the referee:
- takes disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable and sending-off offenses. He is not obliged to take this action immediately but must do so when the ball next goes out of play
- takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds

This is amplified later in Law 12 as follows:
"The yellow card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been cautioned.

"The red card is used to communicate that a player, substitute or substituted player has been sent off.

"Only a player, substitute or substituted player may be shown the red or yellow card."


As a USSF Assignor, I frequently observe and mentor new referees especially at the younger ages (U9/U10). On those instances when I am among the spectators, what recommendations do you have for my interaction with gravely disruptive spectators. Would it be reasonable for me to attempt to talk with these spectators or even request that they leave? Does it also matter what I am wearing (usually I wear a USSF Referee logo shirt or jacket)? We did have a situation where an Assessor present actually removed a spectator during a game.

Answer (October 15, 2008):
Unless there is a recognized competition (league or tournament) policy on the matter, off-duty referees and any assignors, assessors, instructors, and referee administrators should stay well away from all disruptive spectators at a game. The spectators are the problem of the refereeing crew on the game, the competition authority, and the officials of the two teams, not outsiders. Interference by such outsiders, unless specifically requested by the referee or someone from the competition authority, is unwarranted and unnecessary.


why can attacking players not be offside at a penalty kick.
what skills and areas of communication you would you use during a cautioning and a sending off procedure in order to defuse the situation

Answer (October 15, 2008):
1. You are a referee and don't know why players cannot be offside at a penalty kick? Hmmm.

The reason they cannot be offside at a PK is that they have committed an infringement of Law 14 (Penalty Kick), which requires:
The players other than the kicker must be located:
* inside the field of play
* outside the penalty area
* behind the penalty mark
* at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the penalty mark

The referee must not signal for the PK if any player (both teams) is between the ball and the goal line. Law 14 requires that these locations be in place before the signal. If any attacker rushes past the ball after the signal but before the ball is in play, this is treated as a violation of Law 14, not Law 11.

2. Defusing a situation during cautioning or sending-off procedure Stick strictly to the instructions given you by the Laws of the Game, remain mentally alert and always maintain a calm and collect professional manner. Move players aside who would enter into any "discussion" with you, leaving the field if necessary to avoid them. Remain mentally alert, calm, collected, and professional. Get the facts, tell the player why he or she is being cautioned or sent off, show the card, move away and get on with the game. Remain mentally alert, calm, collected, and professional. (We cannot repeat this enough.) And never sacrifice your body.

NOTE: We have learned that the person who asked the question is currently enrolled in an entry-level course.


I was the center ref for a U12 boys rec league game. The coach for one of the teams has a reputation for being loud and boisterous in general. However, in this game he went "over the top" not necessarily towards the referees (although he did voice his opinion about our calls quite frequently) - but mainly toward his players.

He berated them throughout the game with an extremely loud voice such that everyone on neighboring fields could hear him, and with a tone and a look that communicated disgust and near-hatred for whichever individual player he was yelling at.

I felt very badly for these 10- and 11-year-old kids who were near tears at times because of their coach. The amazing thing is, their team was winning the whole time anyway, and this was a rec league! My question is simply - do I as the ref have any authority during the game when it comes to how the coach is treating his players?

If the answer is no, I'm simply going to request not to ref any more games for this team - I can't stand to listen to that guy again.

Answer (October 15, 2008):
An excellent question and one with which we have dealt several times in the past. Back in December of 2007 we stated [the information has been abridged]:
There is a national trend within the soccer community toward eliminating abuse of young people by any adults. You, as a referee, are certainly empowered to ensure responsible behavior by the team officials. The method chosen would be up to the individual referee.
We can add that, under the Law, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed from the technical area, as long as only one person speaks at a time and then returns to his seat on the bench. As a practical matter, particularly at the youth level, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed. In either case, whether at the level of the least experienced players (and coaches) or at the highest levels, any case in which the coach behaves irresponsibly will result in the coach being dismissed. (Two examples from among many: ranting at the referee, overt participation in deception of the opposing team.)

A coach has no "right" to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct him-/herself responsibly during the game -- from within the technical or bench area -- while offering advice to his/her team's players. A referee who allows coaches or other team officials to parade around the field or shout abuse at players in the guise of instruction, in contravention of the requirements in Law 5 that coaches behave responsibly and that referees not permit anyone other than players to enter the field, should be ashamed.

Coaches are expected to behave responsibly. (See Law 5 and Law 3, IBD 2, the only places in the Laws that team officials are mentioned. [Note: This is from the Laws of 2007/2008.]) The referee's first line of defense (unless the behavior is REALLY egregious) is to warn the coach who is behaving irresponsibly. This is the equivalent of a caution, but no card is shown. Then, when the behavior persists (as it usually does, because most coaches who behave this way fail to understand that they must change their errant ways), the coach is expelled from the field for failing to behave in a responsible manner. Please note that under the Laws of the Game, no card may be shown; however, showing the card may be a requirement of the rules of the competition.

In all events you should prepare a supplemental game report or letter to the league on the matter. You might also suggest in the report or letter that they send someone to monitor a couple of games. The letter could be written in such a way that says perhaps the coach was having a bad day, but it should suggest that it might be beneficial to the children involved if someone from the league dropped in for a game or two just to make sure.

[In the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" we note [unchanged for 2008/2009]:
Coaches or other team officials, one at a time, may provide tactical advice to their players, including positive remarks and encouragement. The referee should only take action against coaches or other team officials for irresponsible behavior or for actions that bring the game into disrepute. A coach or other team official may not be cautioned or sent off nor shown any card; however, at the discretion of the referee, such persons may be warned regarding their behavior or expelled from the field of play and its immediate area. When a coach or other team official is expelled, the referee must include detailed information about such incidents in the match report.

You ask what constitutes responsible behavior. It means that the coach or other team official has not stuck to what their part of the game is, issuing tactical instructions or praise to their players. If they go beyond those bounds, then their behavior is irresponsible. Shouting abuse and heaping derision on players is irresponsible behavior and brings the game into disrepute.

As to what bringing the game into disrepute means in the normal course of the game, this answer of September 7, 2006, should give you all the information you need:
"'Bringing the game into disrepute' means doing something that is totally counter the spirit of the game, which is meant to be played fairly and in a sporting manner. Such acts show a lack of respect for the game, e. g., aggressive attitude, inflammatory behavior, deliberately kicking the ball into one's own goal or taunting." it also includes intimidation and arguing with the referee.

We might also add that unless the matter is particularly grave, the referee would usually wait until the next stoppage. However, if the situation is indeed grave -- as any case of abuse would be -- then stopping the game and drawing attention to the matter is an excellent tool in and of itself. It sends a clear message that the referee is serious about the matter. In such cases, the referee would stop play with the ball in the possession of the abusive coach's team (if possible), advise the coach or other team official that this behavior is irresponsible and must stop if the coach or other team official wishes to remain in the vicinity of the field. If this warning is not effective, then another stoppage and the expulsion of the coach must follow. No cards, please, unless the rules of the competition require them. Also, do not engage in extended discussions when doing this in any circumstances: State the message and leave.

As long as the coach or other team official does not behave irresponsibly by shouting abusively at the players or attempting to influence the opposing players through shouting false information, there is little restriction on that person's activities. However, in that regard, we cannot forget the importance of the competitive level of the players as a factor in deciding what is permissible. After all, although there is no formal definition of "tactical instructions," we have commonly recognized that this would not include choreographing every move, particularly for any match above mid-level youth.


Under Law 12, Decision 3 deals with 'Trickery'. Within this there seems to be a position among some referees that 'Trickery' - bringing the ball from your feet to your head - is a stand alone violation and should be called anytime it is observed, however this happens frequently during play all over the pitch.

At issue is that frequently players under the pressure of an opponent bring the ball from their feet to their head and play it over the opponent to a team mate or their keeper who strikes the ball with their foot, clearing the ball upfield, out and away from pressure.

Some referees say this was accomplished using 'Trickery' and a violation should be called with a yellow card given and an IFK as a restart.

What is the correct application of 'Trickery' in this instance?

Answer (October 15, 2008):
There are no longer any International F. A. Board decisions appended to Law 12. They were in the 2007/2008 edition of the Laws. Decision 3 of 2007/2008 reads:
Decision 3
Subject to the terms of Law 12, a player may pass the ball to his own goalkeeper using his head or chest or knee, etc. If, however, in the opinion of the referee, a player uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play in order to circumvent the Law, the player is guilty of unsporting behavior. He is cautioned, shown the yellow card and an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team from the place where the infringement occurred. * (see page 3)
A player using a deliberate trick to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick is cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. The free kick is retaken.
In such circumstances, it is irrelevant whether the goalkeeper subsequently touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of Law 12.

That text is now found in the back of the Laws for 2008/2009, under Interpretations and Guidelines for Referees in reference to cautionable offenses:
* uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper with his head, chest, knee, etc. in order to circumvent the Law, irrespective of whether the goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands or not. The offense is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of law 12 and play is restarted with an indirect free kick
* uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick (after the player is cautioned, the free kick must be retaken)

It is clear from the text and from accepted use throughout the world -- well maybe not in the United States, where "those foreigners" are not allowed to tell us anything -- that the IFAB's meaning is that trickery occurs only when a player is passing the ball to his/her own goalkeeper. It does not occur when the ball is passed to some other player.

Furthermore, just to lock it down tightly, the misconduct offense requires the referee to decide that the action was done to circumvent the Law. Merely observing that the ball was played from foot to head is not enough, even if the ball subsequently goes to or toward the GK. Because we are dealing with misconduct here (the "trickery") and not the foul commonly referred to as "pass back to the keeper," we are required to evaluate the intentions of the defender.


What is the purpose of the requirement that both feet be on the ground when a throw in is taken? I can understand an advantage may be gained by the thrower jumping into the air while throwing but in this case both feet would be off the ground. I fail to see how any advantage is gained by lifting the back foot. As always your input is greatly appreciated.

Answer (October 15, 2008):
The Law requires that the person taking the throw-in be standing on both feet. This is what allows the flip throw-in to be legal, as both feet are on the ground.


My question has to do with the use of an undersized ball for the taking of a penalty kick. In a BU-13 match (which matches under our league rules require the use of a Size 5 ball), a PK was awarded in the final two minutes of play. The center referee did not inspect the ball and grabbed a Size 4 ball for the PK. (The use of the other team's Size 4 ball for the PK marked the second time that undersized ball was in play). As the ball was set, the coaches for the defending team immediately complained about the ball size prior to the PK being taken. The sideline AR noticed this and raised his flag. The center referee ignored the protest and let the kick occur. The kick was partially blocked by the keeper but rolled in the goal off the keepers hands. After the PK conversion and before play resumed, the sideline AR had the center ref inspect the ball, and they confirmed the use of the Size 4 ball for the successful PK. But the center referee refused to have the PK redone at the request of the defending team's coach, and instead simply removed the ball again from play. The game ended in a 1-0 result. After the match the center referee told the defending team's coaches that he did not inspect the ball and that he was responsible to do so. But when requested by the defending team's coaches to note in writing on the match report that an improper Size 4 ball was used for the converted PK, the center referee refused to, noting only in writing that "a Size 4 Ball was used during the match" (at the suggestion of the other sideline AR than the one who had seen the error and raised his flag.) Were the center referee's actions proper?

Answer (October 15, 2008):
Law 5 tells us that the referee "ensures that any ball used meets the requirements of Law 2." By implication, that means that the balls used in any game must meet the requirements set down by the competition authority. In the case of your scenario, the referee did not follow the Law: He did not properly inspect the ball and thus did not follow the specific requirement of Law 5 that the ball had to meet the standards.

Therefore, the use of an illegal ball (in accordance with the rules of competition) which resulted in a goal (regardless of whether this was during play, during a penalty kick, or during kicks from the penalty mark) requires that the goal be canceled if the problem is discovered prior to the restart. This must be included in the match report if not discovered until after the restart.


I ran across a situation last night while I was doing a U10 game. During goal kicks some of the players were having difficulty kicking the ball directly beyond the penalty area. Meaning the ball would sometimes bounce or roll out of the penalty area from a kick. I had them retake the kick again so that they understood what they needed to do and because they are U10 if, after the second kick the ball still rolled or bounced out of the penalty area I let them play it.

Anyway one of the coaches (who is also a referee) and one of his parents approached me at the half and asked why I made that call. I explained to them that according to Law 16 the ball is in play when it is kicked directly beyond the penalty area. Their interpretation of what directly means was different than mine. I explained to them that when I was coaching, referees would make my players re kick the ball if it touched the ground before leaving the penalty area.

Is my interpretation correct? I'm going to be doing a lot of U10 games this season and the information will come in quite handy.

Answer (October 15, 2008):
The use of the word "directly" in Law 16 does not mean that the ball magically flew from the foot of the kicker to a point just outside the penalty area. It means that the ball left the foot of the kicker and somehow it left the penalty area without being touched by a human being. (In this case, referees and assistant referees do not count as human beings; instead they are regarded as part of the field.) The ball may leave the penalty area in the air or on the ground, but it must leave the area to be in play.

We are sorry that you learned the wrong techniques from what we call "inventive" referees, those who make up their own rules as they go along.


Attacker A3 makes a high arcing pass forward towards teammate A10, who is even with the second to the last defender. After the ball is kicked, A10 rushes forward into the penalty area unmarked, ahead of all other defenders save the goalkeeper.

The ball falls several feet short of A10. The second to the last defender, another defender and attacker A7 are now all camped under the ball. The ball deflects ever so slightly off one of the three players to A10, who shoots and puts the ball in the back of the net.

What is the restart in these two scenarios?

1) The ball was deflected off the head of one of the two defenders?

2) The ball was deflected off the head of A7?

You are the assistant referee in this case. It is virtually impossible to see who was responsible for the deflection as the play is on the far side of the field and the three players camped under the ball are more or less one behind each other in your line of sight. Do you raise your flag? Or keep it down ... and shoot a quizzical look at the center referee?

Answer (October 15, 2008):
Easy answer here: If you are the assistant referee on the far side of the field, you are likely too far away to see clearly what has happened. The referee should be nearer to the event than you are and should have the better view. If the referee cannot see it better than you, then the other AR should be able to. That is why we have three sets of eyes watching the game.

If you CAN see the facts clearly and neither of your colleagues is in a position to do so, then the answer to 1) is no offside, as the ball was last played by or touched or made contact with an opponent. In 2) the answer is offside.


Question on if advantage can be applied to handling. In a recent Adult game, team 'A' has the ball just outside the penalty area and takes a shot on goal when a team 'B' defender comes running in front with 'open arms' in an unnatural position. The ball contacted the defender's hands and still headed towards goal, but the hit on the ball from handling action sends the ball up over the crossbar. I delay the whistle for the handling for 2-3 seconds until after I determine that the shot is not going to enter the goal due to the handling (comment: DOGOSOH did not apply in this circumstance since there was an additional defender in the penalty area between the attacker and the keeper, who I believe could have blocked the shot had it not been deflected up). In effect, I apply advantage and since the advantage had not been realized, I call the original foul and award a DFK.

I was told after the game by our Referee Development Coordinator (a state level referee) who was at the game that you cannot apply advantage to handling. Handling either happens or it doesn't, and I should have whistled the ball immediately or not at all. From what I have always understood, handling is an offense in law 12 and so advantage to the fouled team may be applied - also, I did not see anything on Advice to Referees on LOTG addressing this. Would you please clarify?

Answer (October 15, 2008):
Let's start by correcting two false premises in your scenario:
(1) The 4 Ds apply only to infringements under sending-off offense 5 (denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or penalty kick), but NOT to infringements of sending-off offense 4 [denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)].

(2) Your state-level referee colleague is dead wrong and you are correct. Deliberately handling the ball is an infringement of Law 12. The advantage may be applied to any infringement of Law 12, provided the referee believes it to be in the best interest of good game management.

And the answer to your question: You were correct to apply the advantage, but you should have sent off the defender if his action actually did meet the requirements for sending-off offense 4. The USSF publication Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game provides all the information you need:
(a) Denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball
The send-off offense for deliberate handling, number 4 under the seven send-off offenses, "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)," does not require any particular alignment of players for either team, but simply the occurrence of the offense under circumstances in which, in the opinion of the referee, the ball would likely have gone directly into the goal but for the handling.

Denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball would apply to any player (or substitute) other than the goalkeeper in his or her own penalty area who handles a ball to prevent it from entering the goal, even if the ball was last played by a member of the defending team. A red card for denying a goal by handling cannot be given if the attempt is unsuccessful; in other words, if the ball goes into the goal despite the illegal contact. However, the referee may caution the player for unsporting behavior before restarting with the kick-off.

The referee must remember that many fouls, including deliberately handling the ball, occur in the penalty area and could result in a penalty kick but not a sending-off.

[Note there is nothing in this section on the 4 Ds. They are covered in the next subsection, 12.37(b), which deals with sending-off offense 5.]


have a question regarding the rights a keeper has to attempt to collect or parry a ball within his own penalty area.

I have been a referee for many years and have been told many conflicting thoughts on a keeper's "rights" within his own penalty area. I have always worked games under the thought that a keeper has no "special" rights within their area, other than to use their hands to collect the ball.

I was watching a high school boy's game this week where a situation occurred between the keeper and an attacker that I thought was mishandled and would like your thoughts so that I better understand the "Laws".

The situation was:
The attacking team had a free kick from outside the defending team's penalty area. When play restarted, the attacking team put the play in play by kicking the ball into the penalty area where many players, both attacking and defending players, were waiting to try to play the ball. The keeper came out of his goal area and jumped into (through) the mass of players and successfully parried the ball away before the ball reached the head of an attacker. The attacking player had already established his position and had jumped straight up to try to head the ball towards the goal. The keeper, however, went "through" the attacker while trying to parry the ball causing injury to the attacking player (the attacking player left the field and did not return). I believed that the keeper had committed a penal foul for which a penalty kick should be awarded. At a minimum, I believed the keeper's conduct should be considered a dangerous play for which an indirect free kick should have been awarded.

After the game had concluded, I questioned the center as to why no foul was called. His reasoning was that a keeper had a right to the ball within his own penalty area and cannot be penalized in his own area. I know there are a number of infractions whereby the penalty or restart are different if committed by a keeper in his own penalty areaŠ but I have never heard of such a rule that protects a keeper in this way.

Can you please comment on what "rights" a keeper has within in his penalty area and whether or not a keeper can receive a penal foul (for which a penalty kick is awarded) or a caution within their own area? Also, I would like your thoughts on the proper call given the scenario described above.

Answer (October 15, 2008):
On October 2, 2008, we included this information on a 'keeper's rights in an answer: "All players are entitled to the same protection under the Laws of the Game. The goalkeeper has no right to special protection. The goalkeeper's role is, by the very requirements of that role, inherently dangerous. Goalkeepers know this going in and most operate accordingly." The goalkeeper does have the right to be able to release the ball back into general play without interference. That and the right to wear some special protective equipment not permitted to other players is about it.

We would suggest that your referee was operating under a misapprehension. If the goalkeeper commits an infringement of the Laws, he or she must be punished just like any other player.

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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