Entries related to Advice to Referees


April 29, 2014

From what I can see, the Advice to Referees has changed in its wording on 5.6 (Advantage). It now appears that advantage may be applied and indicated by the referee when not just Law 12 is violated, but various Laws. However, there is a bullet that “not all violations of the Law qualify for the application of advantage.” Can you please clarify what does and doesn’t qualify?

Answer (April 28, 2014):
First and foremost, no violation of the Law to which the concept of advantage cannot be reasonably applied would be excluded. In other words, “static” violations which do not involve active play aren’t covered; for example, field, ball, uniform, substitutions, coin toss, ball in/out of play, timing of the match, or events occurring when the ball is not in play, etc. Second, any violation of the Law that does not involve player behavior is excluded (think large overlap with the first category). Third, any violation of the Law involving a restart requirement is excluded–e.g., feet on the ground on a TI, ball leaving the penalty area on a GK, ball not going forward on a KO, ball being kicked before it hits the ground on a DB, etc.

During the March 30, 2012, DC United vs. FC Dallas MLS match, there was a play late in the first half where Dallas player Perez (#9) scored after receiving the ball following a deflection/misplay by DC United defender Dudar (#19). At the time the ball was last played by Perez’s teammate Hernandez. who chested the ball forward, Perez was in a clear offside position. All of our training as well as the Advice to Referees states that in order for the offside situation to “reset” the defender must control and play the ball. A deflection, miskick, or misplay is not supposed to reset the offside situation. In this case the AR did not raise his flag for offside and the goal was allowed to stand.

USSF answer (April 4, 2012):
An official review of the situation at the highest levels confirms that the call should have been offside.


February 27, 2012

What are requirements for shoes? Are cleats allowed and what colors? I imagine multi colored boots aren’t allowed. But what about a cleat that is predominantly black but has yellow on it. I know I will be wearing my yellow shirt most of the time anyway.

USSF answer (February 27, 2012:
This answer from November 29, 2001 is still valid, although we have updated the content of Advice 5.1:

Referees may wear only the gold primary jersey or the black, blue, red, or green alternate jerseys, and may wear only the approved socks. (The term “primary jersey” means only that this is the color all referees must have. It does not mean that the gold jersey must be worn in preference to other colors.) No other colors will be worn without express permission of the USSF. If the uniform colors worn by a goalkeeper and the referee or by a team (or both teams) and the referee are similar enough to invite confusion, the goalkeeper or the team(s) must change to different colors. Only if there is no way to resolve the color similarity must the referee (and the assistant referees) wear the colors that conflict least with the players. Referees and assistant referees must wear the same color jerseys and the same style of socks, and all should wear the same length sleeves. The referee uniform does not include a hat, cap, or other head covering, with the sole exception of required religious head covering. Referees must wear the badge of the current registration year. In general, referees, assistant referees, fourth officials, and reserve referees may not wear any item of equipment, clothing, or jewelry (with the exception of a watch) which the Law does not permit a player to wear.

Referee shorts must be black.

Referees should select their shoes with an eye for both utility and appearance. Referees have to run on the field with at least as much speed and agility as do the players, so the shoes should enable them to do this under all field conditions. Players, team officials, and spectators often make initial judgments about the skills and knowledge of the referee based on appearance, and shoes can contribute significantly toward building that reserve of confidence. It is also occasionally important that players, who are frequently looking down at the ground, be able to identify the referee quickly by differences in the shoes. Accordingly, the referee’s shoes should be predominantly black, clean, polished, and neatly tied.

Under normal circumstances, it is not acceptable for a game official to wear headgear, and it would never be seen on a high-level regional, national or international competition. However, there may be rare circumstances in local competitions where head protection or sun visors might sensibly be tolerated for the good of the game, e.g., early morning or late afternoon games with sun in the officials’ line of sight causing vision difficulties; understaffed situations where an official with sensitive skin might be pressed into service for multiple games under strong sunlight, or a referee who wears glasses needing shielding from rain. Sunglasses would be subject to the same considerations. In addition, we ask referees to remember that sunglasses have the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that the referee or assistant referee is severely visually impaired and should not be working the game. They also limit communication between the officials and the players by providing a barrier against eye-to-eye contact. Sunglasses, if worn, should be removed prior to any verbal communication with players.

The Advice does not cover shorts, socks or shoes, but referees who want to get ahead will make every effort to present themselves neatly and professionally. Shorts should be made of the same materials as the jerseys. Shoes must be black and bear as little ornamentation as possible. Referees should dress as conservatively as possible to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves.

The policy on hats was published in the October 1999 issue of Fair Play:

Q. May referees wear caps and sunglasses?
A. With regard to caps, the policy of the United States Soccer Federation was stated in the Spring 1994 issue of Fair Play magazine: “Under normal circumstances, it is not acceptable for a game official to wear headgear, and it would never be seen on a high level regional, national or international competition. However, there may be rare circumstances in local competitions where head protection or sun visors might sensibly be tolerated for the good of the game, e.g. early morning or late afternoon games with sun in the officials’ line of sight causing vision difficulties; understaffed situations where an official with sensitive skin might be pressed into service for multiple games under strong sunlight or a referee who wears glasses needing shielding from rain.” Sunglasses would be subject to the same considerations. In addition, we ask referees to remember that sunglasses have the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that the referee or assistant referee is severely visually impaired and should not be working the game. They also limit communication between the officials and the players by providing a barrier against eye-to-eye contact. Sunglasses, if worn, should be removed prior to any verbal communication with players.

After a substitute enters the field of play and trips an opponent from behind (blind side) the referee stopped play and showed the substitute the red card. He restarted with a IFK. At the end of the game while writing the report the referee is struggling with what reason to write for the red card for.

The LOTG states: A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offenses:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct

The referee wants to go with SFP since the play wasn’t that violent to go with VC. But AR reminds him that ATR 12.33 says:
This does not include serious misconduct by substitutes, who should be punished for violent conduct if they commit an act as described in the first paragraph of this section. (See 12.34.)

My question, can the ATR trump what is very clearly stated in the LOTG?

Answer (February 10, 2012):
There is nothing in the Advice to Referees that recommends anything that is contrary to or “trumps” the Laws of the Game. The Laws of the Game always take precedence over anything in the Advice, as clearly stated in the introduction to the Advice. Your scenario is clear-cut and the same answers are in both publications.

First you must justify the nature of any misconduct committed by the substitute before you decide how to punish it. In your scenario the sub who enters the field and trips an opponent, but has not committed any act of a violent nature. Why would you send him off for serious foul play? A substitute cannot commit serious foul play. He can commit violent conduct, but your scenario does not include any act of violence. Therefore the information in Advice 12.33 is absolutely correct: The substitute MUST be cautioned for unsporting behavior (entering without permission), but not necessarily until he interferes with play, and the opponents awarded an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when play was stopped. If the referee “needs” the second sanction for game management purposes, then he or she should caution the substitute for a second instance of unsporting behavior, tripping the opponent. If the trip from behind involved excessive force, then send the sub off for violent conduct.

This is a question for clarification of the Denying an Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity offense, particularly in reporting it. I am aware that for the DOGSO-H variety to be applied, in the U.S.A. we have the direction, “but for the handling, the ball would have entered the net” as a requirement. But, I am confused about 2 scenarios which by all rights should be DOGSO, but may not be, leading to massive game control issues. The scenarios:

Scenario A: An attacker is on a breakaway with no defenders around for 15 yards. Just outside the penalty area, within the arc, directly heading towards goal (all D’s met) the GK jumps down on top of the ball grabbing it away from the attacker’s feet outside of the penalty area. The attacker had not taken the “shot”, but if not for the illegal handling, an obvious goal scoring opportunity existed.

Send-off? DOGSO-F or DOGSO-H?

Scenario B: An attacker is on a breakaway. The GK is out of the area (pick a reason, i.e. whole team pushed up for corner kick, and he’s not very fast.) The attacker is outside or inside the penalty area, (which side of the 18 yard line only necessary in determining restart.) He has the ball at his feet, directly in between the goal posts and is heading straight towards goal. One defender manages to match his speed, but no other defenders within 15 yards. The defender dives, reaches out, and grabs the ball with his hands just before the attacker takes his shot. Now, the shot had not been taken, so it wasn’t headed into the goal.

However, all other aspects of the Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity are present. The attacking team expects the send off, the defending team expects the send off, but according to the Guidance, “the ball was not headed into the goal but for the handling.” So, send-off? How would this be written up?


Your response and clarification would be most helpful, as some other referees and I can’t seem to meet agreement here.

USSF answer (November 19, 2011):
In Advice to Referees 12.37 the Federation has said that a red card for denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity requires that a goal be prevented: “applies to any player (or substitute) other than the goalkeeper in his own penalty area who handles a ball to prevent it from entering the goal … . 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.” Accordingly, the ball on its way into the net is the sine qua non of denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity — if it is prevented from going into the goal, it is a red card; if the ball goes into the goal anyway, it is not; and if the ball wasn’t going into the goal but was interrupted by a handling violation under conditions that meet the 4 Ds, it is a red card for denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by an act punished by a free kick..


November 17, 2011

Having a debate here about definition of ‘delay of game’.

On a kick-off from the half line, after a goal, or starting a game, if a team does an improper kick-off (i.e. ball does not move forward, and cross over the half line) several times, is this delay of game? I have seen teams do this in the past. I would allow this twice, then give an IDFK to the opposite team. I was recently told by a senior official that this is not a delay of game and not IDFK. Well, if so, what do you do about it?

USSF answer (November 17, 2011):
The tactic you describe could be considered to be delaying the restart of play. A number of examples are given in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The following are specific examples of this form of misconduct (some of which may also be committed by substitutes):

• Kicks or throws the ball away or holds the ball to prevent or delay a free kick, throw-in, or corner kick restart by an opponent

• Fails to restart play after being so instructed by the referee

• Excessively celebrates a goal

• Fails to return to the field from a midgame break, fails to perform a kick-off when signaled by the referee, or fails to be in a correct position for a kick-off

• Performing a throw-in improperly with the apparent intention of being required to perform the throw-in again, thus wasting time

• Unnecessarily moving a ball which has already been properly placed on the ground for a goal kick

• Provokes a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play

Because the ball was out of play at the delay, the restart after any caution in this case would still be the kick-off.


September 28, 2011

To be offside, player must be in offside position and involved in active play. The Laws of the Game provide three instances: interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining advantage by being in offside position.

Am I correct to assume, if any of these three elements are present, and player is in offside position, then player is offside?

To me, The Laws of the Game, The Interpretations, and the Advice to referees, do not read the same. In the LOTG there is no “or” or “and” between the three elements, in the Interpretations there are “or”s between the elements (suggesting any instance will make the player in active play, and thus offside), and the advice to referees doesn’t provide guidance one way or another, on the issue of whether they are separate or inclusive.

The reason I ask is because there was a player deeply offside and his goalkeeper punted the ball. He ran from the offside position about 35 yards to try and head the ball in the air. He was disadvantaged being in an offside position because he had to work so hard get into position to head the ball.

NEXT QUESTION: Is it true advantage cannot be applied when a player is offside?

USSF answer (September 28, 2011):
1. Yes, if any of those conditions applies, then the player is declared offside. We would suggest, that you read the Law again. Here is the entirety of Law 11 for 2011/2012, full of ifs and ors:

Offside Position
It is not an offense in itself to be in an offside position.
A player is in an offside position if:
* he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
A player is not in an offside position if:
* he is in his own half of the field of play or
* he is level with the second-last opponent or
* he is level with the last two opponents

A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:
* interfering with play or
* interfering with an opponent or
* gaining an advantage by being in that position

No offense
There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from:
* a goal kick
* a throw-in
* a corner kick

Infringements and Sanctions
In the event of an offside offense, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred (see Law 13 – Position of Free Kick).

The conditions are further amplified and defined in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees:

In the context of Law 11 — Offside, the following definitions apply:
* “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition
* “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate
* “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent
* “gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position

When an offside offense occurs, the referee awards an indirect free kick to be taken from the position of the offending player when the ball was last played to him by one of his teammates.
//rest deleted as not germane to the question//

The Advice to Referees says precisely the same thing, but to quote it here would unnecessarily enlarge the response.

2. No, the advantage per se cannot be applied to infringements of Law 11; only to Law 12. What some players and coaches — and, unfortunately, some referees — incorrectly define as offside is simply the referee’s decision to wave down the assistant referee’s flag and not to punish what is not truly an offside. The assistant referee may flag for an “offside,” but the referee makes the decision.


September 20, 2011

The situation is it is raining: All three forwards are in an offside position as it is played forward by a teammate of the forwards, but right at a defender. The defender kicks the ball one-touch but it squibs off their foot and goes 20 yards down the field out of bounds for the team that was offside to take a throw in.

I signaled for offside. Is that gaining an advantage or a misplay by the defense and rain is rain?

USSF answer (September 20, 2011):
The correct decision would be for the referee to call the offside. See the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The possibility of penalizing a player for being in an offside position must be reevaluated whenever:
1. The ball is again touched or played by a teammate,
2. The ball is played (possessed and controlled, not simply deflected, miskicked or misdirected) by an opponent, including the opposing goalkeeper, or
3. The ball goes out of play.

The result of such a reevaluation, of course, may be that the player remains in an offside position based on still being beyond the second-to-last defender, the ball, and the midfield line. Referees must remember that a player cannot simply run to an onside position and become involved in play. The player’s position with relation to the ball and the opponents must change in accordance with the Law.

In the case of the ball leaving the field in favor of the team whose player was in an offside position and actively involved in play (e.g., a corner kick or throw-in for the attackers), it is traditional to call the original offside offense. If the restart would be in favor of the opposing team (e.g., a goal kick or throw-in for the defenders), it is usually preferable to ignore the offside infringement, as the defending team’s restart gives them the possession under circumstances not much different than the indirect free kick for offside-and often with less controversy.

How far does “free kick” go in taking a PK in time extended solely to take the PK? In regulation time a team can legally have a choreographed play whereby the kicker taking the PK passes the ball forward to an oncoming, not encroaching teammate – who finishes with a shot on goal. Could this be done in time extended solely to take the PK, or is only a direct one-time shot on goal allowed?

USSF answer (September 8, 2011):
The PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE THE WINNER OF A MATCH OR HOME-AND-AWAY, listed at the end of the Laws of the Game, tell us, “Unless otherwise stated, the relevant Laws of the Game and International F.A. Board Decisions apply when kicks from the penalty mark are being taken.”

Penalty kicks, once awarded, are taken regardless of the amount of time remaining in the half. If time expires or will expire before the restart can occur, the referee should announce this fact and indicate clearly that the penalty kick is now being taken “in extended time.” This means that no player other than the kicker and the opposing goalkeeper may enter the penalty area before or after the kick is taken by the original kicker. Therefore, no trick play such as you theorize would be possible.

Even if the second player did break the Law and enter the penalty area illegally, this excerpt from Advice to Referees 14.8 would also apply:

At the taking of a penalty kick in extended time, violations of Law 14 are handled the same as if the kick were not in extended time but with the following exception: if the required restart after a violation would be an indirect free kick, the kick in extended time and the period of play are considered over.


September 8, 2011

I’ve read your comments on the shoulder tackle and they agree with what I was taught. However, I find that we have fouls called on us for what appear to be legal shoulder tackles about 75% of the time in youth soccer within our league and at tournaments. Most referees don’t call 75% of the trips or pushes. Reasons given are 1) excessive force (other player fell down), 2) arm was bent (and close to body), 3) arm was straight (and close to body), not playing the ball (but playing the player with the ball). Players on some teams we play flop on the ground as soon as anyone tries to shoulder tackle and that is rewarded with the foul call. Please help the referees come to some consensus on how to referee this type of tackle. I’ve given up teaching players to shoulder tackle. Too bad they won’t learn how to play soccer.

USSF answer (September 8, 2011):
Strange and mysterious are the ways of referees. It would appear that there is a vast difference between what you see happening on the field and what some of the referees who work your games have been taught.

Although you will have to search very hard to find it written anywhere, the world accepts a fair charge of the opponent if the players make contact shoulder to shoulder, with the charging player’s arms in at his side, while both players have at least one foot on the ground. The charging player may not charge carelessly, recklessly, or use excessive force. At the youth level, particularly in the early teenage brackets, where players of the same age may experience growth spurts differently, a “best effort” at a should-to-shoulder charge is accepted.

A player charging “for the ball” need not _play_ the ball at all, but he or she must be challenging for the ball. Referees must make the distinction necessary to apply the Law correctly. We must also admit the answer on the degree of force involved can vary, depending on player skill level. Players at higher skill levels will accept a bit more force than those at lower skill levels. (And the same applies to the referees who call these games.) However, anything that appears to done recklessly or with excessive force MUST be punished.

The Federation has defined the fair charge quite clearly in its publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The act of charging an opponent can be performed without it being called as a foul. Although the fair charge is commonly defined as “shoulder to shoulder” and without the use of arms or elbows, this is not a requirement and, at certain age levels where heights may vary greatly, may not even be possible. Furthermore, under many circumstances, a charge may often result in the player against whom it is placed falling to the ground (a consequence, as before, of players differing in weight or strength). The Law does require that the charge be directed toward the area of the shoulder and not toward the center of the opponent’s back (the spinal area): in such a case, the referee should recognize that such a charge is at minimum reckless and potentially even violent.

High kick foul- If a player raises his foot, and kicks a ball near the face of a player from his own team, wouldn’t that still be considered dangerous play? Is there a procedure to deal with that?

Would you just talk to the player after play is stopped?

USSF answer (August 11, 2011):
Such a rule exists in the U S. high school rules, to which we are not authorized to speak. On the other hand, under the Laws of the Game no offense has been committed; however, the referee might still have a word with the player about the need for safety. Here is what we tell referees, taken from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

Playing “in a dangerous manner” can be called only if the act, in the opinion of the referee, meets three criteria: the action must be dangerous to someone (including the player committing the action), it was committed with an opponent close by, and the dangerous nature of the action caused this opponent to cease active play for the ball or to be otherwise disadvantaged by the attempt not to participate in the dangerous play. Merely committing a dangerous act is not, by itself, an offense (e.g., kicking high enough that the cleats show or attempting to play the ball while on the ground). Committing a dangerous act while an opponent is nearby is not, by itself, an offense. The act becomes an offense only when an opponent is adversely and unfairly affected, usually by the opponent ceasing to challenge for the ball in order to avoid receiving or causing injury as a direct result of the player’s act. Playing in a manner considered to be dangerous when only a teammate is nearby is not a foul. Remember that fouls may be committed only against opponents or the opposing team.

In judging a dangerous play offense, the referee must take into account the experience and skill level of the players. Opponents who are experienced and skilled may be more likely to accept the danger and play through. Younger players have neither the experience nor skill to judge the danger adequately and, in such cases, the referee should intervene on behalf of their safety. For example, playing with cleats up in a threatening or intimidating manner is more likely to be judged a dangerous play offense in youth matches, without regard to the reaction of opponents.

I had a quick question about the women’s world cup final. I noticed that team officials were clearly allowed onto the field to give instructions to players before the taking of the penalty kicks. I was under the understanding that under no circumstances were team officials allowed onto the field in this situation, am I mistaken? I’ve always been told to kept team officials, no matter the age group of the teams involved or whatever level of play, on the sidelines.

USSF answer (August 8, 2011):
During the period between the end of full time and the actual start of kicks from the penalty mark, the referee should allow eligible players to receive water, treatment, equipment repair, or other such assistance on the field near their bench. Team officials may temporarily enter the field but must exit the field when directed by the referee.