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.


In a high school varsity game played under USSF rules (as opposed to NHSF) the attacking team plays a ball that rolls into the penalty area and is picked up by the goalie. After the goalie has possession, a defender running with the attacker chasing the ball plays the body and bumps the attacker in a significant manner. The referee (I was the AR) gave the defender a caution for UB, and then allowed the goalie to punt to continue play.

We discussed after the game as to whether, after the caution, he should have awarded the attacking team a penalty kick, an indirect free kick from the spot of the contact, or whether letting the goalie punt was appropriate.

We’d appreciate your feedback.

USSF answer (September 20, 2011):
If there was no injury or immediate exhibition of ill-feeling and the referee invoked the advantage clause and then cautioned the defending player at the next stoppage, that would be legitimate and proper. However, in this case, the referee did not stop play and appears to have cautioned the attacker “on the fly,” not something that is in accordance with the Laws of the Game. This shows either ignorance of the Law or willful disregard of the Law by the referee.

The correct course of action would have been to play the advantage and then, at the next stoppage, to caution the defending player for unsporting behavior.


A substitute, warming up behind his own goal, enters the field of play, touches the ball and tries to prevent the ball entering the goal with his foot. The ball, however, enters the goal.

What action does the referee take?

USSF answer (August 23, 2011):
The referee should play the advantage and award the goal. The referee should then caution the substitute for unsporting behavior for entering the field of play without the referee’s permission, including all details in the match report. (The referee could also consider a second caution for unsporting behavior for interfering with play and thus send off the substitute for the second caution in a match.) Finally, the referee should prevent substitutes from warming up behind the goals. However, in some stadiums warm-ups are allowed behind the goal (because there is no space along the touchlines).


situation: a forward was supposedly fouled outside the box but the ref played the advantage & allowed the forward to play on.

the fouled player maintained the ball & took an unimpeded shot on goal. he missed. the ref then called the ball back to where he said the foul occurred for a direct free kick. should the ref have called it back after he let the team play on til he shot on goal? the ref only made the call to bring the ball back after the player missed his shot.

USSF answer (February 22, 2011):
The referee cannot guarantee that a goal will be scored when he or she invokes the advantage. If this player had an unimpeded shot on goal, then the advantage has been fulfilled and the referee MUST NOT go back to the foul. Life is hard; shoot better next time.


An attacker is fouled, but the referee immediately (not waiting for 2-3 seconds to elapse) sees a clear opportunity for the attacking team to benefit from continuing play and calls out “play on” with the appropriate hand signal. Within 2-3 seconds an attacker (but not the attacker initially fouled) fouls a defender. The referee blows his whistle to stop play and calls the original foul for the attacker and has the ball brought back to the point of the original foul for a free kick to the attacking team; rather than a foul by the attacking team and a free kick for the defending team.

The question came up that calling “play on” is an immediate “calling the foul” and “instantaneous restart”. Therefore, the referee had made a decision and could no longer decide to call the original foul. Had the referee waited a bit longer before signaling “play on”, he could then appropriately call the original foul.

In other words, once the referee calls “play on” can the original foul still be penalized or has the opportunity “gone away” because the referee has indicated his decision? If the “play on” negates calling the original foul, when the referee blew his whistle to stop play the appropriate restart would have been a free kick to the defending team.

USSF answer (November 16, 2010):
It is rarely a mistake for the referee to wait that 2-3 seconds to ensure that the advantage has been realized before announcing the decision to “play on.” By so doing, the referee can generally avoid awkward situations like the one you present.

Our recommendation in this specific situation is to forget the first foul and call the one that occurred after the advantage was announced, but to be prepared to handle any misconduct which may have attached to the first foul.

Signaling “Play on!” does not now nor has it ever “negated” the foul. That’s what the 2-3 seconds are for – to see if the proto-advantage we (in our wisdom and experience) saw as enough of a possibility that we were not prepared to blow the whistle immediately actually reaches some fruition. The theory, of course, is that the speed of soccer play (at the sort of competitive level where we would look to apply advantage) needs only 2-3 seconds to either resolve itself or not.

Over the years, two distinctly different approaches to operationally implementing “advantage” have developed.

Approach A – signal advantage as soon as the foul occurs in the presence of an advantage POSSIBILITY, and then come back to stop play for the original foul if, after 2-3 seconds, the advantage was neither realized nor maintained.

Approach B – observe the foul, decide if there is an advantage possibility, observe play for the next several seconds and then either comeback to the original foul if the advantage was neither realized nor maintained OR signal the advantage if it was.

Either is acceptable, both have pluses and minuses to their use (all of which are discussed in several position papers (on the US Soccer website). See also Advice to Referees 5.6.


Could you please clarify this for me?

A player with an obvious goalscoring opportunity gets tripped by the goalkeeper outside the penalty area. The ball falls to a teammate who has a good chance to score. The referee allows the advantage. The teammate misses the net. Should the goalkeeper be sent off or just cautioned?

USSF answer (October 12, 2010):
If the referee applies the advantage and the advantage does not materialize in this case, no goal can be awarded. The referee gave the advantage for a foul outside the penalty area, the ball moves to a teammate of the fouled player. The teammate shoots and misses. Life is hard. The advantage has been squandered, because the teammate was not interfered with or otherwise discomfited by a member of the opposing team.

Caution the goalkeeper and restart with a goal kick.


#1 – A recent game an attacker was moving towards the goal. A defender comes up and in the trying to play the ball simply got in the attackers way. The attacker runs into the defender and knocks him down, but is able to keep going of course at the protest of the defender. I didn’t see the attackers arm come up or I would have called it, but was I correct in letting “play continue”?

#2 – This one I am more curious about if you only have time to answer one and it’s the one I’m almost embarrassed to ask. My quick question is: What is the call(if any) when an attacker is driving towards the goal, gets a shot off to the goal, but right after is tripped and hits the ground. The goalie now has the ball and the attacker was able to get a shot on goal. I guess I’m asking the “after the play” call. In normal field of play I know it would be a trip call if said attacker lost the advantage,but am curious about after a shot on goal.

Thank you very much for your site and helping us in yellow ask questions freely.

USSF answer (October 12, 2010):
1. Under normal circumstances a player is entitled to the space he or she occupies on the field and may not be run over or otherwise disturbed by an opponent. However, if the “occupying” player has essentially thrown him- or herself into the path of the oncoming opponent, all entitlements are off, because the “occupying” player has not exercised due care in positioning him- or herself. If you invoked the advantage, even without voicing it, you were correct and the defender has no right to complain. In fact, if the act went beyond careless and moved into reckless, a caution for unsporting behavior would be the right decision (at the next stoppage).

2. The referee need not immediately voice any advantage given, particularly in the case of a shot on goal. If the shot is unsuccessful, then the referee should stop play and award the free kick appropriate to the foul or misconduct committed.


This week’s Week 23 USSF Week in Review features Brian Hall discussing the concept of advantage in the penalty area (referring to the 8 minute mark of the audio portion).

Mr. Hall states that advantage on a DFK foul by the defending team in its own PA can only occur if a goal is scored almost immediately; if not, the foul should be called an a penalty kick awarded.

Here is my theoretical situation. Let’s say a GK commits a DFK foul on an attacker, who releases the ball and the ball rolls to a teammate who now has a shot from 2 yards away on the 8-foot by 24-foot goal frame. It’s a “can’t miss” opportunity. But amazingly, the attacker somehow manages to mis-kick the ball and chips it wide of the post or over the crossbar (this is not impossible… a search of “Missed goals” on YouTube will turn a few of these up).

Clearly it behooves the referee to play advantage and give the golden scoring chance. But, according to Mr. Hall, once the shot misses the PK should be awarded. This is going to seem like double jeopardy for the defense, and will undoubtedly result in much angst and potential dissent from the defense.

The missed goal is not the fault of the foul or any play by the defending team; it is due to the technical inadequacy of the attacker.

I’m fine with following this directive, but I want to make sure that this is what is truly intended. I can sense situations developing in which we are following this direction and have to deal with subsequent dissent for the interpretation.

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):
For something over a year now, the Federation has espoused precisely the line expressed in the Week in Review. This line distinguishes between the concept of advantage anywhere else in the field and how the concept differs in the penalty area. What it comes down to is this:

As regards procedures, the mechanics of advantage in the penalty area would be to keep your mouth shut and the whistle down, no matter what. No referee should ever be caught on tape giving the non-PA advantage signal for something that occurred inside the penalty area.

As regards the substance of advantage, inside the penalty area advantage is defined solely in terms of scoring a goal “immediately” (i.e., within a play — roughly — a pinball-type carom off one player to another player and then into the goal would be included). If a goal is scored “immediately,” count the goal and card only if the original offense by the defender deserved it outside the context of S4 or S5 (Law 12 reasons for sending-off). If a goal is not scored, regardless of the reason, whistle and call for a penalty kick.


I am an assignor for club soccer in our area and have been officiating for 4 years after 12 as a coach and playing many years ago. I am always trying to improve myself as a referee. My question concerns application of the advantage clause. Question – One of the referees I assign is quite good and has been a referee for many years.

He takes a bit of free time to help with more inexperienced referees, however, I am a bit concerned about his application of advantage. It seems to me he waits quite long at times to determine if advantage has truly occurred. An actual situation occurred in a high level match I observed him working as follows: Player A1 is dribbling the ball and from approximately 25 yards away from team B’s goal takes a shot toward B’s goal. Defender B1 outside his own penalty area handles the ball and the ball immediately rebounds to same player A1 directly almost at spot of original shot.

As player A1 dribbles forward, referee correctly signals and calls advantage. Player A1 then dribbles to his left, feints and goes around defender B1. Player A1 passes to player A2 who attempts a shot which rebounds off of crossbar to defender B1 who is now just inside the penalty area. Defender B1 controls turns and kicks the ball up-field.

Referee stops play and calls original handling the ball foul on B1 which was the source of the advantage. While I cannot be sure of the actual elapsed time, it seems to me team A received their advantage, had opportunity to play to another team A player who took a chance at a reasonable scoring opportunity. My personal feeling is the handling foul should have been “waived” as team A was able to get quite a bit of action as well as a scoring opportunity out of the advantage. I almost felt like the referee was giving team A two chances at scoring a goal. This is not the first time I’ve seen him call back the advantage with such a large amount of time elapsed from the original foul. Am I wrong here? I cannot discuss this with the referee in question as he does not like to be challenged on his decisions.

USSF answer (August 23, 2010):

The USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” tells us in Advice 5.6:
“The referee may return to and penalize the original foul if the advantage situation does not develop as anticipated after a short while (2-3 seconds). Referees should note that the “advantage” is not defined solely in terms of scoring a goal.”

The situation you describe obviously went on for more than the 2-3 seconds outlined in the Law. If that was all that was involved, the referee should not have called play back in this situation.

However, looked at a bit differently, one could also argue that the referee had the opportunity to decide that the advantage did not apply if, at the time the ball rebounds from the handling (although, if it “rebounds,” was it really a handling offense because rebounds would not normally meet the requirement of Law 12 that the ball was deliberately propelled) to the original attacker, the number and skills of the defenders now arrayed against further play by the attacking team was more advantageous for the defense than it would have been without the handling “foul.” In short, depending on the circumstances (and the application of the “Four Ps”), either the foul (if it truly was a foul) should have been called back about the time the ball reached the original attacker OR it should have not been called back at all if the referee has allowed play to continue for so long.


An attacker A1 shoots the ball toward the goal and the ball is handled by defender D in the penalty area preventing a goal. As a result of D’s handling, the ball is deflected to another attacker A2 with a possible shot on goal that is at least as good an opportunity to score as a penalty shot. Say, no real challenge by a defender on A2. The referee allows advantage, and A2 shoots toward the goal but misses. The ball goes directly over the goal line after A2’s shot.

Q1.What is the restart? Penalty kick or goal kick ?

Q2. Does D get a caution or a send off? Note that according to 12.39 of “Advice…”, if A2 had scored, then D would be cautioned and the restart would be a kick off.

Game level: To the extent that the answer is level dependent, I would appreciate a response reflecting that up thru adult pro.

USSF answer (March 1, 2010):
According to the Laws of the Game 2009/2010 (Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, p. 122), “If the referee applies advantage during an obvious goalscoring opportunity and a goal is scored directly, despite the opponent’s handling the ball or fouling an opponent, the player cannot be sent off but he may still be cautioned.” In this case, the referee applied the advantage, which was realized, in that the attacking team was able to shoot, but failed to score a goal. Decision? See below.

You cited Advice 12.39, but apparently did not consider its second paragraph:

In cases where a goal or goalscoring opportunity has been denied by handling (DGH) or by a foul (DGF), but advantage has been applied, it is advisable to stop play as soon as possible once it becomes clear that the offended team has not been able to benefit from the advantage. This would be the case when, after roughly 3-5 seconds and at least one subsequent play, the team was not able to maintain a successful attack. In such cases, of course, the referee should return to the original foul and, additionally, show the red card for the denied opportunity associated with the foul. Because circumstances vary from game to game, there is no single mandatory decision that would be universally correct. The referee must use discretion in making the decision, based on experience, game circumstances, and common sense.