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Ask a Soccer Referee

As part of our continuing effort to service and educate our membership, each Thursday U.S. Soccer will provide an informative article from one of its departments. Once a week, we will bring you an article/paper/essay that will hopefully enhance your enjoyment and knowledge of the game of soccer - on and off the field.

This week, we examine an exciting new component of

"Ask a Soccer Referee"

Have you ever had a pressing question about the Laws of the Game?  Wondered if the call the referee made in last Sunday’s match was correct?  Now you have a place to turn to …’s “Ask a Soccer Referee” section [/referees/index.jsp.html].

If you have a question about the Laws of the Game, simply send it to, where experienced referees will answer your question.  While only select questions will be answered on, every other question submitted will be answered privately via email.

Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff/National Assessor) and Dan Heldman (National Instructor Staff) answer each question submitted to’s “Ask a Soccer Referee”.  Alfred Kleinaitis, U.S. Soccer’s Manager of Referee Education, also contributes, ensuring the accuracy of each answer.

Each week a new batch of questions will be answered.  The “Ask a Soccer Referee” section of contains current questions and answers, as well as an archive of past question and answers.  Included among the current topics are:  Deliberate vs. Accidental Handling, Obvious Goalscoring Opportunities, Players Wearing Glasses and Unplayable Fields.

A few examples from’s “Ask a Soccer Referee” archive …


An attacker is dribbling the ball down the field and has reached just outside the Penalty Area, past all of the defenders, one of his team mates is standing between the goal line and the top of the goal area. The goalkeeper is in the same general area. Question: If the attacker standing between the goal line and the goal area leaves the field of play, in between the goal posts, to remove himself from an offside position, after the kick was taken, but in the opinion of the referee interferes with the goalkeeper, what is the correct decision for a restart? What about if he's not interefering with the goalkeeper? Is it a cautionable offense for him to leave the field over the goal line to remove himself from an offsides position? At what point do we consider whether it was in dynamic play or not? Is the restart a kick off, after a goal being awarded? What is the referee to do? What If the attacker leaves the field of play over the goal line between the goal posts, before kick was taken, what is the proper restart?

Answer (February 24, 2003):
No, it is not a cautionable offense to leave the field to avoid the offside. However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the attacker who has left the field to avoid being called offside interferes with any opponent, then he must be cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. The correct restart for interfering with play while off the field is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when the offense occurred, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8. And if the ball was still in play when the interference occurred, then whatever happened did occur during dynamic play. If the referee believes that the player was not interfering with an opponent, then no offense has occurred and the goal is scored; restart with a kick-off.


Several questions have arisen during the recent high school season among our referees. I have not been able to find definitive answers, and in some cases, I have found conflicting answers.

  1. Away from the ball, asst. referee observes two players tangled up; defender strongly pushes offensive player to the ground in the penalty box; ball is at midfield when referee notices flag and blows whistle to stop play; asst. feels a caution is needed for defender. What is the proper restart and where should it take place?
  2. Similar question. During play, defender complains to referee about previous call. Referee feels a caution is needed. The ball is 20 yards away at this point. What is the call and the restart? Does it make any difference if the dissent takes place in the defender's penalty box or if the ball is in the penalty box?
  3. Ball hits the corner flag as it goes over the touch line not the goal line. Throw in or corner kick?

Answer (February 15, 2003):
We cannot presume to answer for games played under high school rules, but if these incidents had occurred in USSF-affiliated games, the answers would be:

  1. Penalty kick for the attacking team.
  2. If the referee stops play to deal with dissent, the restart would be an indirect free kick taken from where the offense
    occurred, bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8.
  3. Throw-in. 


The ball leaves the field of play for a throw in to team B. A Player from team A stands near the touchline about 1 meter away from the line, and at this point is standing still with arms at the side. As the player is about to take the throw in the defending player jumps up and down with his hands at his sides. The player delivers the throw into the F.O.P. to a team-mate. The referee stops the game, cautions the defending player and restarts with a indirect free kick from where the player is standing. Now for my question. I am happy with stopping the game, the caution, but is the restart correct?????? Should it not be restart with the throw-in as technically the offence occurred before the throw-in was completed, even though the referee did not blow for a infringement until the ball was well into the F.O.P.?

Answer (February 9, 2003):
If the referee stops the game to deal with interference BEFORE the throw-in, the correct restart after the caution/yellow card for unsporting behavior is a retake of the throw-in. If the former thrower is prevented from participating in play AFTER the throw-in is completed, the referee must stop the game, caution and show the yellow card to the offender for unsporting behavior, and restart with an indirect free kick from the place where the misconduct occurred.  The referee must exercise management skills in such cases. What will work? What is appropriate for this match at this time? What will buy the most for the referee? Indeed, there is a third option -- which is to be proactive and take preventive action to avoid the misconduct entirely (mostly for younger, less competitive, or "friendlier" matches). 
The next time you are stumped about a law of the game, please take the time to drop a line to’s Ask a Soccer Referee, where your questions will be cleared up.  Also, feel free to browse through the archives of "Ask a Soccer Referee" [] to read about some vexing situations on the soccer field and the appropriate solutions.

This section is run with the hope of keeping our constituents informed and up-to-date with rules changes and other difficult to understand situations on the field.  We hope that you find this new feature on exciting, yet also educational.  For referees we hope it will clear up questions that come up on the playing field.  For non-referees, we hope it will give you a little more insight into what goes on in a referee’s mind moments before the whistle blows (or doesn’t blow).

As we continue to try to satisfy the needs of fans, coaches, referees and players, we would greatly appreciate your comments on this new section of  And if you have any questions, please “Ask a Ref.”

Answers only pertain to games played in leagues and competitions affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation.

If you need more clarification on any matter, please contact Alfred Kleinaitis, U.S. Soccer's Manager of Referee Education.  Alfred can be reached at or at (312) 528-1272.