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February 2004 Archive (I of II)

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We have more and more situations in which the players are wearing "wooden beads" either tightly against the head or has part of a braided hair style. We are trying to get the message across that these would be considered "adornment" and thus jewelry and not allowed because of the dangerous nature of these beads to the player or their opponent.

Is there an official wording or some advise you can give me on how to approach this? This has become mainly a cultural and age-related issue and we want to handle it in the best way possible. I am told that these hairdos can cost upwards of $150. My advice to coaches would be to quickly tell their players (and parents) not to spend the money during soccer season!

Answer (February 13, 2004):
Beads and other decorative items are not part of the required equipment for players and cannot be sanctioned for wear in competitive play. Law 4 - Player Equipment - tells us:
The basic compulsory equipment of a player is:
- a jersey or shirt
- shorts -- if thermal undershorts are worn, they are of the same main color as the shorts
- stockings
- shinguards
- footwear

The referee must enforce the Laws of the Game, particularly as they apply to the safety of players. Law 4 tells us that players must not wear jewelry of any kind. There is only one permissible exception to the ban on jewelry: medicalert jewelry that can guide emergency medical personnel in treating injured players and certain religious items that are not dangerous and not likely to provide the player with an unfair advantage. Beads, as decorative items, must be considered as jewelry. They can also be dangerous, particularly at the end of braids. For these reasons, they are not permitted

If questioned by players, you simply refer them to Law 4. If they do not wish to remove their beads to conform with the Law, inform them that the only alternative to removing the beads or jewelry (or other unauthorized equipment) is not to play at all.

NOTE: For further information on the requirements of the Law for player safety, see the USSF National Program for Referee Development's position papers of 7 March 2003 on "Player's Equipment" and 17 March 2003 on "Player Equipment (Jewelry)."


What is the rule on Goal Keeper Safety? For Example, if the the goalie has possession of the ball from a diving save. What constitutes his rights once he has made possession of the ball. And his opponents trying to kick at the supposed ball.
Thank You, from a concerned parent.

Answer (February 12, 2004):
The goalkeeper establishes possession with as little as one finger on the ball, provided the ball is under his control (in the opinion of the referee) and the ball has been trapped against the ground or some other surface -- the 'keeper's other hand, the ground, or even a goalpost.

If a player attempts to kick the ball from the goalkeeper's hands, then the referee should stop the game for the foul of attempted kicking and caution the player for unsporting behavior (and show the yellow card), restarting with a direct free kick for the goalkeeper's team. If the player's foot makes contact with the goalkeeper during this action, the referee may consider sending the player off for serious foul play and showing him the red card.

The position of goalkeeper carries with it implicit dangers of heavy contact with other players. That is an accepted fact of the game. Other than being privileged to deliberately handle the ball within his own penalty area, the goalkeeper has no more rights than any other player.


Where can I find the USSF publications "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials" and "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game"?

Answer (February 11, 2004):
You can download the 2003 edition of the Guide to Procedures at this URL:

You can download the 2003 edition of the Advice to Referees at this URL:


When a coach is red carded and is serving his one game suspension, can he sit in the stadium and watch the game? In addition, is he allowed to coach his keeper during half time?

Answer (February 11, 2004):
Under the Laws of the Game no coach may be shown the red card. (But check the rules of the particular competition.) The answer to the remainder of your question depends on the rules of the competition in which the coach is active. In a nutshell, please check the rules of the competition.


I would like some guidance on interpreting the concept of the "materialization" of an advantage in the Advice to Referees. It is clear in a case, for example, where a player is fouled but continues to advance, or a teammate takes immediate control of the ball and continues an attack.

In one of my games I had a situation where a player made a high, arcing pass from about forty yards out to a teammate at the top of the arc of the penalty area, marked by two opponents, in a counterattack situation and was tackled (with foul) a small fraction of a second later. In this case, if I choose to apply the advantage clause, should I consider the advantage to have materialized a) because of the fact that the pass was made (I judged that the foul did not affect the quality of the pass) whether or not the teammate receives it b) if the pass landed in a place where the teammate had a chance to settle it, or c) if the teammate actually managed to settle the ball?

The players in question are about 18 year old competitive-level players. A professional player would have had a good chance to get a shot off in this situation, but with these players, although definitely possible, I wouldn't say it was likely. Do I consider ability level?

Answer (February 9, 2004):
The referee should consider the skill levels of players in any decisions made during a game, no matter what the level.

In applying advantage, it is important to remember that the advantage is not a "right" and that the referee may have reasons for not giving the advantage even if the fouled team does or could retain control of the ball. For example, violent fouls may demand a stoppage of play where the offense is clearly severe and the advantage is only questionable. It is also important to remember that the referee may invoke the advantage for a foul which includes misconduct (unless it is violent, see the previous sentence), but the referee can come back to punish the misconduct at the next stoppage of play.

In the case you put forward, the simple fact that the player passing the ball was able to get off the pass is immaterial if, based on the specific positions and skill levels of the players, there was a real question in your mind that the fouled team would in fact not recapture control of the ball. The advantage, in the opinion of the referee, must either exist in fact or be considered highly likely. It does not, however, have to be absolute. In the case of a pass down field, the referee can decide in his mind to apply advantage because the conditions are present for the team to keep or quickly regain control of the ball. If, after 2-3 seconds, it does not, then the referee can signal a stoppage of play for the original foul. If more than this amount of time passes and the team does not keep or regain control, both the advantage and the foul have passed. Don't forget to deal with any misconduct at the proper time.


The other day in a HS match, a player was sitting on a ball and was trying to play it. An opponent did not hesitate and tried hard to gain possession of the ball. Not surprisingly she missed and the girl on the ground was kicked hard. She got up angry and started to charge the opponent. My partner blew his whistle and did a good job of separating the players. His call was 'dangerous play' and the opponent was awarded an indirect free kick. The opposing coach and the sidelines objected strenuously, but things calmed down after the ruling was explained. My question: right call, considering that the opponent did not hold back? Should the call have have gone the other way and been kicking on the part of the responding player? Thank you for your input.

Answer (February 9, 2004):
It would seem nearly impossible to sit "on" the ball and still attempt to play it. Two possibilities come to mind: (1) If you mean that the player was on the ground near the ball and trying to play it from that position, then the answer is clear: The player who kicked her deliberately must be sent off for serious foul play and shown the red card. (2) If you mean that the player was lying on top of the ball and attempting to get up to play it, the answer is the same.

A player who has fallen is allowed to play the ball while on the ground. If a player on the ground cannot play the ball and makes no effort to get out of the way or to play the ball and then get out of the way, then the referee must decide that this player has played dangerously, stop play, and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

There can be no decision for "playing dangerously" if contact is made; at the moment of contact the act becomes a direct free kick foul. The call for a simple foul must be either kicking or striking (whichever is appropriate), but if the player who fouled used excessive force, then the referee has no choice but to send off the player.


Law 12 states "A player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area." We had a situation where 2 players were sent off for violent conduct and the referee told the players to "go to the parking lot." This was an Open Rec league (players over 18 and above) Sanctioned game. The manager of the team insists that it means the immediate area of the field and technical the stands. The referee involved wants them out of sight. How do you and US Soccer define 'vicinity' Thank you

Answer (February 9, 2004):
Law 12 tells us: "A player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area." That means that the player must remain out of sight and sound of the field, i. e., they may not stand or sit in the spectator area, including the seats in a stadium. That applies to the players in a league such as you describe.

However, in many circumstances, particularly involving youth players, it may not be possible to apply this requirement strictly. The primary objective of the requirement is to ensure that a player who has been sent off will no longer in any way interfere with, participate in, or otherwise be involved in subsequent play. The failure of a player who has been sent off to meet this objective cannot result in any further disciplinary action against the player by the referee but all details of any incident must be included in the game report. If this is not practical because of the age or condition of the player, the team authorities are responsible for the behavior of the player or substitute.


In a HS game on Thursday (I know, HS) a striker was pulled down by the opposing team's GK. There was no attempt to play the ball the striker was just wrestled to the ground. The ball actually went into the goal. I thought "a goal and a red card for the GK". Wrong the center ref pulled the ball out of the back of the net and placed it on the penalty spot. I thought that seems a little odd. The assistant ref on the opposite side of the field started yelling at the center but the center ref refused to acknowledge him. The penalty kick was taken and missed. No card was given and the game continued. Could this have been the correct call?

Answer (February 9, 2004):
As you acknowledge, we cannot presume to answer questions based on high school rules. If this question were based on the Laws of the Game, the answer would be that the referee committed several grievous errors.

Because the ball entered the goal, the goalkeeper could not be sent off for denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity -- but the referee should have allowed the goal. Also, as you describe the situation, the 'keeper should have been sent off and shown the red card for serious foul play or violent conduct, depending on the exact circumstances of the "wrestling."

It was wrong to deny the attacker's team the goal; the referee should have invoked the advantage.

In addition, the referee should have at least communicated with the assistant referee.


1. What does AR do when there is a goal scored from over 20 yards out and the ball clearly hit the back of the net, does AR still need to run all the way from the 20 some yards' second-to-the-last-defender position to the end line then run back? Or the AR can just run a little toward the goal then run back toward the centerline?

2. A high kick toward the goal with both sides jumping to head the ball, the goalie jumped up and slap the ball away, then one attacking player tap a bouncing ball toward the goal. At this point, two attacking players were still left there, within 2 yards of the goal, they did not move but the ball was moving toward them, the last defender tried to clear the ball but the ball touched off her leg and went in as an own goal. The 11.5 stated "mere presence anywhere on the field should not be considered distraction to the opponents", however the last defender in my example clearly "affected" by the two offside opponents that were right in front of her. There was no time for the defender to realize the offside otherwise she can simply let the goalie to take care of the ball.

Answer (February 3, 2004):
1. While the assistant referee should always run every ball to the goal line, if it is clear that the ball has hit the back (and not the outside) of the net, then the AR may discontinue the run, communicate (check visually) with the referee, and then run toward the halfway line.

2. It is not clear that the two attackers actually affected the play of the defenders. The defender was supposed to play the ball out of danger, not watch the opposing attackers. Goal.


If the goalie is looking up, jumping in the air for the ball, is it within the rules of the game for an opponent to run into the goalie in order to block her?

Answer (February 3, 2004):
If the goalkeeper, standing in her penalty area, does not have possession of the ball, an opponent may charge her fairly in an attempt to gain control. However, if the goalkeeper is in the air and going for the ball, there is no way to charge her fairly, so the referee would call a foul.


In [a recent game], the referee stopped the game to have a player remove his leggings, the same color as the uniform, on the basis they were not permitted, but could be permitted if all team members were wearing same item. Also asked all players to remove headbands and gloves. A Rule of those State Cup rules seems to allow under-clothing such as that. Is the issue one of safety, in the ref's discretion? The Rules say they shall control, and it appears as if leggings, at least, are permitted (with no requirement of the entire team wearing them). Are there any violations here of applicable rules? What might a coach do during the match if/when such a referee's decision has been made?

Next question: Are the somersault-flip throw-ins definitely permitted?

Answer (February 3, 2004):
The rules of the competition rule and, if the referee accepts the assignment, he or she must abide by those rules. Leggings? Has anyone but cowboys or loggers worn leggings (chaps) since the 19th Century?

A coach may do nothing during the match about any decision of the referee. If it seems necessary, the coach may submit a report to the appropriate authorities after the match. To do anything else during the match would likely be considered irresponsible behavior, for which offense the coach would be dismissed by the referee.

Yes, the flip throw-in is definitely permitted, as long as the requirements of Law 15 are followed.


During a U-17 boys premiere game, I was the AR on the coaches side of the field. The ball was kick out in the defensive side of the field by the attacking team at about half way between the the half and the top of the 18 and at such an angle after it went out, it rolled along the touch line and well behind the defenders goal line before being retrieved. I looked over my right shoulder observing the defender chasing down the ball and once he grabbed the ball, I looked back at the field anticipating the defender coming around to my left side where the ball went out and where the players were congregating for the throw-in. Instead the defender quickly throws the ball in at an area about 6 yards back from the top of the 18 to his goal keeper who punts the ball 3 quarters of the way down the field. I look at the center ref who is a State Referee and wait for an indication that the throw-in was incorrect (much more than 1 yard from the exit point). There was no response from the center, so I didn't raise my flag. In addition, the coach for the defender was very experienced (English) and I'm certain that he has coached his players to make that kind of play in that particular instance. I asked the center at half time and he said that there was no advantage to him throwing in to his keeper, so he let them play on. I begged to differ (I thought to myself), the keeper had a tremendous kick and had already demonstrated his ability several times in the first half. Plus, the attacking team was also anticipating that the ball was going to be thrown in approximately where it went out, thus losing advantage to play the ball by being so far from the surprise throw-in. I have asked several referees about this situation and have received several different answers. Please guide me to the correct procedure should this happen again!

Answer (February 3, 2004):
Heaven spare us from referees who think "it doesn't matter" if a player does not make an honest effort to put the ball into play from the right place. The referee should have stopped play and had the throw-in taken from the correct spot -- within 1 yard/meter from the place where it left the field, in accordance with the requirements of Law 15.

With regard to concepts, please erase the use of "advantage" from situations like this, where it certainly does not apply.


A question has been raised about the legality of the following common coaching practice and tactic employed by players: On corner kicks, prior to the kick, defenders on the near and far goal posts are grabbing the goal posts. I believe this tactic is intended to orient the defenders to the goal as well as prevent attackers from slipping in behind the defenders. There is nothing in the rules which addresses this practice. I believe that it is illegal for a kicker to grab or move the corner flag while taking a corner kick. I also believe its unsportsmanlike conduct both for the GK to grab the crossbar to gain leverage to kip up to block a high shot on goal or a crossing pass and for a player to grab the crossbar and swing on it in general or while celebrating a goal specifically. Using this reasoning that a player may not grab or hang onto any piece of field equipment, I believe that a player may not grab the goal post during play as described.

Please advise me as to the USSF position on this tactic.

P. S. I failed to mention an additional reason for defenders holding onto goal posts: preventing attackers from taking up a strategic position next to the goal post and, if the defender is already positioned there, preventing attackers from moving in between the defender and the goal post.

Answer (February 3, 2004):
Most defenders grab the goal post simply to maintain a feel for where it is as they move. As long as the defender does not use the post to support himself or keep his arm on it to bar an opponent from getting through, there is no offense.


Based on some issues that have come up in recent tournaments, I have a question regarding the policy on page 35 of the Referee Administrative Handbook. This policy looks at how the referee team is to be staffed. It considers three kinds of officials who might work a match. They are: (FR) a Federation Referee, (NL) a neutral club linesman who is not registered, and (AL) a club linesman who is affiliated with one of the teams and not registered.

The prioritized list for staffing officials is:
Priority Center AR1 AR2

This policy statement raises a few questions in my mind.

We all know that the set of officials assigned to a match may turn out to be different from the set of officials that actually works the match. So my first question is simple: is this policy directed exclusively toward Assignors, or is it also intended to be also used at the field when one of the assigned officials is not present/able to work the game?

If the policy is to be used when trying to reassemble a full crew at the field, then there are more questions.

Second question. I am a registered Referee. If I take my child to play a match and one of the ARs does not show up, I am often asked to assist. For purposes of that match, what am I? There is no category for a Federation Referee who is affiliated with one of the teams. (I always carry my referee bag along because I typically officiate a match later the same day, so the availability of a uniform should effect the answer here.)

Third question. This list does not allow me to use both a Federation Referee (FR) and an Affiliated Linesman (AL) on the side lines. If I am the Center referee and one of my ARs does not show up, it is rare to find someone in attendance who could be considered an Neutral Linesman (NL). I typically recruit and briefly train a parent or sibling to serve as a club linesman. Another common response at the field is to run with one AR and modify the coverage pattern used by the Center. (Duals are forbidden here.) Is either of these common practices acceptable under the USSF policy? If I were to follow this list religiously, I would have to dismiss my trained partner and use two ALs. Common Sense says to ignore the list and use the skills of the officials at hand; but I have read of matches being protested because the referee team didn't follow this policy in the Referee Administrative Handbook.

Answer (February 3, 2004):
Your descriptors for the club linesmen are not quite as we would view them. For the sake of clarity, we will refer in this answer to referees, assistant referees, affiliated officials (who can be either referees or assistant referees), and club linesmen. In addition, page 35 in the Referee Administrative Handbook (RAH) is based on the way games are assigned and not necessarily on the way they are actually worked by crews of officials, whether affiliated with the Federation or not. Use of the dual system of control is not permitted in games playeed under the aegis of U. S. Soccer.

If three affiliated officials are assigned to the game, but one does not turn up, the referee may fill in with either another affiliated official who happens to be present or with a club linesman from one of the teams. If the affiliated official who happens to be present is tied to one of the teams through friendship or blood, that official must work as a club linesman, rather than as a neutral official.

If there are two affiliated officials present and no one can be found to fill the third position, then the referee will run on one side of the field -- inside the field, of course -- and the other will function as an AR on the other side of the field -- outside the field and with no whistle, only a flag.

Let it be clear that someone affiliated with the team in any way can serve only as a club linesman, no matter how otherwise qualified he or she may be, and may therefore only perform the single function given to the club linesman.


I have a quick question regarding the powers of the referee.

SCENARIO: Player is struck in the head and falls to the ground injured. The player has, in my opinion sustained an injury severe enough to incapacitate him (I am also a qualified boxing/kickboxing official, and as such am duly trained in recognition of acute impairment due to head blows). The player leaves the game as the laws require. The player subsequently wants to return to the game (this is a youth match with unlimited substitution allowed)

APPLICABLE LAW: The laws state that a player must receive permission to re-enter the field of play after going off for treatment of an injury.

QUESTION: Would I be within my rights to deny permission to re-enter the match, based on the fact that I deem the player to be incapacitated, and am duly trained to recognize such incapacity?

Answer (February 3, 2004):
Law 5 gives the referee the sole authority to decide what is or is not a serious injury, but only for the purpose of stopping play. While that judgment may be more or less informed by whatever training the referee may have outside of soccer, this does not change the essential nature of the referee's responsibility or authority here. The referee has no authority to deny entry back to the field for any reason which is not specifically delineated in the Law (e. g., correction of illegal equipment, cleaning up of blood, etc.) if the proposed re-entry is in all other respects legal.

As stated above, the referee in the circumstances described cannot refuse entry of the player back onto the field. However, once play resumes (if it was stopped) or once the player actually enters the field (if permission was given to return while play was continuing, if no substitution occurred originally), the referee's decision needs to be based on the player's subsequent performance, not on a preconceived notion that the injury "probably" continued. If the referee believes that the player continues to be "seriously injured," the referee may act on this, even if the player disagrees. For example, the referee would be justified in stopping play if a player had gotten a knock on the head and, in his befuddlement, wasn't able to recognize his impairment, or if a player was in the obvious first stages of heat stroke.

In all events, the judgment depends on the age/experience of the player. The referee should be more prepared to take such action with younger players than with senior amateurs.

And if the referee must continue to stop play because the player keeps insisting that he is okay and keeps asking to return to the field every time he is ordered off, so be it. In the end, one of the two will have to reassess his position -- and guess who that will be.


Blue team starts a quick counter-attack. So quick that the only defender back is the goalkeeper. The goalie, seeing this picks up a 12 inch tree branch (goalkeeper is in the penalty area). As blue shoots the ball the keeper reaches over his head with the branch extended and knocks the ball down. What's the decision??

My thought is this... Since the GK is in his own penalty area the use of the tree branch is an extension of his hand. Therefore, I would blow the whistle, caution the GK for USB and restart with an indirect free kick at the spot of the infraction. There is no penalty kick nor should the GK be sent of for DOGSO. Reason being that the GK is allowed to use their hands in the penalty area so how could there be a PK?? There is no penal foul nor is there DOGSO.

Situation changes slightly should the GK throw the branch at the ball. In this case the keeper is sent off for DOGSO because the branch has now left his hand and is no longer an extension of the hand. Restart is still an IFK at the point of the foul. The same scenario would apply if a different player other than the GK threw an outside agent to prevent the ball from entering the goal.

I can't see how a PK could be given in any of these circumstances. Thoughts??

Answer (February 3, 2004):
The goalkeeper is indeed guilty of unsporting behavior, for which he should be cautioned and shown the yellow card. If the referee believes that the unsporting behavior -- which is punishable by an indirect free kick -- denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick, then the goalkeeper must also be sent off and shown the red card for the offense. No penalty kick could be awarded to the offended team.

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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