This month’s meeting of our local official’s association had us discussing the position paper found on [the USSF] website concerning advantage in the penalty area (04/11/08). We took the tips from the paper and it was beneficial information for all involved. The discussion then turned to advantage. Half of those in attendance believe that advantage ended with the shot attempt by the teammate that was passed the ball (i.e. video highlight Kansas City v. New England attached to position paper). The other half indicated that no advantage developed because the teammate missed the shot. That left us with the question; what constitutes ‘advantage’ and when is it realized or finished? We realize that this scenario that we are proposing is not exactly like the video in that the referee in the video never exhibited the ‘advantage’ signal. What we are asking is if the referee had moved his arms in an upward manner and shouted “advantage” and then the play continued exactly like the video in that the teammate received the pass and did not score. Is the advantage finished with the missed shot or can the referee then go to the penalty spot with the explanation that the advantage never occurred because the shot was missed? We have a group of officials that referee from the lowest levels of youth games all the way up to the collegiate level and the room was pretty evenly divided on when the advantage ended. We need your help.

USSF answer (March 7, 2009):
We believe you will find your answer at the bottom of this excerpt from the position paper:

The basic elements of the decision are straightforward:

– Advantage is a team concept and thus the referee must be aware not only of the fouled player’s ability to continue his or her attack but also of the ability of any of the player’s teammates to continue the attack themselves.
– Advantage has been applied when the decision is made, not when the advantage signal is given. The signal itself may often be delayed for 2-3 seconds while the referee evaluates the advantage situation to determine if it will continue.
– Where it does not continue, the Laws of the Game provide for the referee to stop play for the original foul.
– If the original foul involved violence, the referee is advised not to apply advantage unless there is an immediate chance of scoring a goal.
Inside the penalty area, the competitive tension is much greater and the referee is called upon to make quicker decisions. The time during which the referee looks for advantage to continue becomes defined by the probability of scoring a goal directly following the foul or from the subsequent play.

While the decision lies solely in the opinion of the referee on the particular game, the thrust of the excerpt above is that giving the advantage within the penalty area means there is some definite reason to expect a goal will be scored immediately (within a play or, at most, two) if play is allowed to continue.  If a shot is taken — after the foul — by the player who was fouled or by a teammate, and a goal was not scored, then in most cases the advantage has not been realized and the original foul must be penalized.  That is why the referee must make the initial decision to invoke the advantage clause very carefully.

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