If Red Team Player gets fouled by Green Team on a breakaway in the attacking 1/3, just outside the penalty box and Red Team has a clear opportunity for a quick restart….BUT, there is a substitute waiting at the halfline. He/she has been checked and meets all the criteria to be waved into the game.

Should the referee stop play and allow the substitution or allow the quick restart? Let us assume that all 4Ps are in place. I am seeking clarification on whether allowing a substitute overrides the advantage and clear attacking opportunity.

I eagerly await your response

USSF answer (September 2, 2008):
The referee is not required to stop a quick restart by a team simply because the other team wants to make a substitution. In fact, there is no substitution possibility until the referee recognizes it. This has nothing to do with the advantage clause, which concerns only infringements of Law 12, but is simple common sense: The referee must not interfere with a team’s legitimate opportunity to score a goal.

There is always the possibility that, if it is a youth match using standard youth rule exceptions regarding substitutions, a stoppage for a foul is not a substitution opportunity.…


At an advanced referee clinic recently the following scenario was discussed, and there was uncertainly regarding the proper ruling. The scenario was as follows:

A defender, from a throw-in in her own half, throws the ball to her keeper who stands in her own penalty area. The keeper accidentally deflects the ball into her own goal with her hands.

Question: is this a goal or must we punish the offense by the GK of touching the ball with her hands from a throw-in by her own teammate?

If ‘goal’ the proper call (which seemed to be the majority opinion), what is the basis, in the LOTG, for ignoring the GK’s offense? Was it “trifling” or “doubtful,” or is “advantage” to be applied here, or is it something else?

USSF answer (July 24, 2008):
As the goalkeeper has committed an infringement of Law 12 (as well as of Law 15), the referee may invoke the advantage and award the goal.…


I have an issue concerning the 12th law. In this law (2007/08) it states, “A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four offenses… handles the ball deliberately” (Law 12 Page 25). There are a few reasons I have an issue concerning this law.

First of all, let us consider Law 11. Concerning offside positions it is an offense intentional or not; the same should apply to handling. It is not an offense to be in an offsides position if no advantage is gained; therefore, it should not be an offense to handle the ball if no advantage is gained. If an advantage is gained from being in an offsides position, deliberately or not, it is an offense; therefore, if an advantage is gained from handling the ball, deliberately or not, it should be an offense.

Secondly, this change in the law makes it much less ambiguous. This means there is less reason to argue with the official; it is much easier to argue intent then it is to argue if advantage was gained.

Thirdly, this law makes it much easier for the official to make a decision. It is much harder for the official to decide if the handling was deliberate than it is to tell if an advantage was gained.

Finally, on a side note. I believe law 12 (2007/08) should be left alone in the “Sending-Off Offenses” portion where it states, “A player, substitute, or substituted player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offenses… 4. denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball” (Law 12 Page 26). I don’t believe a red card should be given for unintentionally handling the ball preventing an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, but it should still be a foul and a direct free kick (or a penalty kick) should be awarded to the opposing team.

In conclusion, I think that the current law should be changed because it isn’t fare, it is easily arguable, and it is difficult to know when to call.

USSF answer (July 17, 2008):
You seem to have missed the crux of the matter: Handling is an offense ONLY and punished ONLY IF IT IS DELIBERATE. There are many occasions on which a player may handle the ball accidentally,. Some examples: When it is kicked at the player from short range and there is no time to react, when the player turns around (we will assume no guile here) and finds the ball coming at him and there is no time to react, or when the player is protecting him- or herself while in the wall. This is not only soccer law, but soccer tradition.

We have covered the topic in our publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” which states:

The offense known as “handling the ball” involves deliberate contact with the ball by a player’s hand or arm (including fingertips, upper arm, or outer shoulder). “Deliberate contact” means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to, that the player’s arms were not in a normal playing position at the time, or that the player deliberately continued an initially accidental contact for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. Moving hands or arms instinctively to protect the body when suddenly faced with a fast approaching ball does not constitute deliberate contact unless there is subsequent action to direct the ball once contact is made. Likewise, placing hands or arms to protect the body at a free kick or similar restart is not likely to produce an infringement unless there is subsequent action to direct or control the ball. The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement. A player infringes the Law regarding handling the ball even if direct contact is avoided by holding something in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.).

In comparing the concept of “advantage” under Law 12 with the same concept in Law 11, you are comparing peanuts and watermelons: Both are essentially the same shape, but their constituent parts function differently.

A further point to ponder is that there is no element of intent or deliberation or even advantage when it comes to an offense under Law 11.…


I know that it in most cases a referee would not allow advantage when a foul is committed against a team in their defensive end (and often not at midfield either). However, I always thought that it was ultimately left to the referee’s judgement. For example, if a defender, just before being fouled from behind, booms a ball from her 20 yard line up past midfield to send a teammate towards goal on a breakaway, then I thought the referee had the right to play advantage and not stop play.

However, just yesterday I saw the following, reportedly from a USSF instructor, on a referee’s message board. It basically says that advantage can never be called in the defensive third – especially in youth games – and even at the World Cup level, “that a referee should not be applying Advantage even at mid-field.”

Here is this USSF instructor’s position:


“I am writing you about a discussion I have been told about on another site involving the application of Advantage. From what I am told, it centers around a foul that occurred in the defensive 1/3 with the ball at midfield and a seemingly clear path to goal. The referee stopped play and stated that there is no advantage in the defending 1/3. Several folks seem to feel that the referee was wrong, including you.

Well, actually, he was right! One of the new concepts that is being taught to National Referees is the “4 P’s”. When following this concept, especially in youth games, advantage in the defensive or neutral thirds of the field should not be given by the referee. The reasoning is simply based on the lack of 2 of the 4 P’s:

1) Potential for attack: ability to continue a credible and dangerous attack.

2) Proximity to opponent’s goal: closeness to goal.

Few youth players can keep the ball on their foot, running full speed, for 40-60 yards. Thus, the ‘potential’ for a credible attack is not there in most games. Add that there just might be 1 player on the opposing side that could catch that player within 10-15 yards, thus ending any breakaway. This is why ‘proximity to goal’ is key.

The closer you are to the goal, the more credible your chances to score!

FIFA has stated this idea for some time. If you look at several of their tapes of various World Cup competitions, you will find that they state, even at that level, that a referee should not be applying Advantage even at mid-field. You will even find several position papers discussing the application of advantage within the attacking 1/3 as being the only place the referee needs to be attentive to advantage given the proximity to goal.”



So my question:

Does the above represent the official position of the USSF, including the statements that “advantage in the defensive or neutral thirds of the field should NOT be given by the referee” and also about “the attacking 1/3 as being the ONLY place the referee needs to be attentive to advantage given the proximity to goal” ? OR

Is the referee supposed to use some judgement, rarely giving advantage in the defensive or midfield areas but reserving the right to do so if a long pass results in a breakaway opportunity. With this philosophy, the above statement could properly be rephrased to: “advantage in the defensive or neutral thirds of the field should RARELY be given by the referee”.

(The above assumes, of course, that there is no reason to stop play for game control reasons if the foul was particularly severe and a card needs to be given immediately.)

Thanks for your help.

P.S. I understand the rationale behind the stated “four P’s”, but I find some of the extrapolation in the above statement to be a bit flawed: “few youth players can keep the ball on their foot, running full speed, for 40-60 yards. Thus, the ‘potential’ for a credible attack is not there in most games” . . . Yes, most youth players cannot run full speed with the ball at their feet for 50 yards. But in a lot of youth games if a player receives the ball behind the last defender at midfield, they will boot it well ahead of them and run onto it and not choose to keep the ball at their feet. That will allow the attacker to get all the way to the top of the penalty area against many GK’s, while touching the ball perhaps two times and running at full speed in between. To me, this is a MUCH bigger advantage than a DFK from a team’s own 18 yard line – especially in a girls U13 game, where the DFK’s may not go very far.

USSF answer (May 15, 2008):
We are not aware of any statement from FIFA/IFAB declaring that advantage should not, much less may not, be given in the defensive third or only in the attacking third. “Proximity to the opponent’s goal” (one of the 4 Ps) is a sliding scale — an offense occurring in the defensive third may rarely warrant an advantage call, but “rarely” does not equal “never.”

The third P in the “4 Ps” is “Personnel” — which means that the advantage decision must take into account the players, both attacking and defending, who might become part of the ensuing play. The referee must look at their numbers and their individual skills in determining the likelihood (not the certainty but, rather, the probability) of an advantage for the attacking team in not stopping play.

All advantage decisions are at the discretion of the referee, based solely on his or her judgment as to the specific circumstances of each individual offense. Most of the time, an advantage decision cannot be second-guessed because to do so would require knowing what would have happened in the absence of the decision. Either giving it or not giving it could be effective but it can seldom be described as “wrong.” As a consequence, it is almost impossible to put together a brief scenario and then expect anyone, no matter how experienced or expert, to definitively state that an advantage decision would be right or wrong — the number and complexity of the factors going into making the decision are too great to permit this. It is usually more advisable to actually see a presentation (such as on the “4 Ps”) for oneself than to listen to or read about second, third, or fourth hand recollections of it from other parties. The presentation itself is the only official position of USSF on the matter — everything else is personal opinion, filtered through potentially faulty memories.

Here is a copy of the official presentation: Advantage and the 4Ps

Finally, while we recognize that everyone has a right to speak his or her own thoughts on almost any topic under the sun, responses on any sites other than and are not officially approved by the U. S. Soccer Federation and are best treated as unofficial and not approved.…


Thanks for your previous clarifications, but (perhaps) I didn’t understand.

I quote FIFA “Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees” 2007/08

Law 3 – The Number of players

Team Officials
If a team official enters the field of play:
• the referee shall stop play (although not immediately if the team official does not interfere with play or if the advantage can be applied)

Player outside the field of play
If, after leaving the field of play to correct unauthorised equipment or kit, to be treated for an injury or bleeding, because he has blood on his kit or for any other reason with the referee‚s permission, a player re-enters the field of play without the referee‚s permission, the referee shall:
• stop play (although not immediately if the player does not interfere with play or if the advantage can be applied)

Substitute or a substituted player
If a substitute or a substituted player enters the field of play without permission:
• the referee shall stop play (although not immediately if the player in question does not interfere with play or if the advantage can be applied)

Should a Referee only apply the advantage clause for Law 12 infringements? No, any Laws?

USSF answer (April 2, 2008):
There is little that can be done about the IFAB’s interesting use of the language. There is advantage within the technical meaning of Law 5 (which can only be used with respect to violations of Law 12) and the general concept of advantage in the sense of “a benefit” could apply to any situation much the same way that the concept of ‘trifling’ does. So, in this framework, let us suppose that a team official enters the field. The referee is not obliged to stop play immediately not because of the application of advantage-in-Law-5 but if the entry of the person has no impact on the play — i.e., it doesn’t matter, and won’t really matter until and unless the team official does something to affect play by interfering with the ball or a player.…


In a very well-tempered match with 4 minutes remaining, an attacker dribbles around a tired and apparently frustrated defender (his team is losing 2-0). The defender, in a violent manner, deliberately kicks at but completely misses the unaware attacker, who has already sped by him with the ball.

The attacker is streaking into the Penalty Area with a perfect opportunity on goal, I holler “Advantage” and also immediately inform the defender that he will be dealt with at the next stoppage.

The attacker is rewarded with an outstanding scoring opportunity that is saved brilliantly by the keeper into the corner of the field.

I am now looking for any reasonable reason to stop play to send off the defender. However, after the ball rolls toward the corner play continues peacefully without even a hint of a foul, retaliation, or other issues. I stop play four minutes later to end the match, quietly remind the player of his earlier misconduct, he reluctantly nods in agreement, and is shown the red card.

The Laws of the Game support my decision, but many referees I have discussed the situation with have suggested I stop play after the advantage plays out (ball into corner of field) and then award an IFK to attackers after sending off the defender. How is the latter supported in Law or sense (it gives attackers two opportunities toward goal)? Are there any further alternatives other than stopping play immediately?

USSF answer (March 10, 2008):
You are, of course, perfectly within your right, under the Law, to send off the defender for attempting to kick his opponent, even after you have invoked the advantage clause. However, if you are going to punish this player off at all, whether with a sending-off or a caution, we would suggest doing it within the statutory 2-3 seconds after deciding to invoke the advantage, rather than waiting four minutes — during which time the defender has committed no further acts of misconduct, which may have been a result of your comment that you would deal with him at the next stoppage. There is no need to wait for a so-called “natural stoppage” to do this; if the act must be punished, then stop play and do it.

That brings us to a second decision you must make, whether to stop the game and then reward the attacking team for an act that apparently had no true effect on the game. You should wait long enough to see whether or not the advantage has been properly applied — in other words, the attacking team kept control of the ball, continued the attack, etc. Only then would we suggest stopping play, if necessary, and coming back to manage the situation with the defender. The extra benefit to this approach is that you can now bring the ball back and give the attackers an IFK for the misconduct (the foul having been wiped away by the advantage).…


I have a question about a recent middle school boys game. Team A took a shot on goal and a player from Team B handled the ball on its way towards the goal (attempting to deny an obvious goal-scoring situation). However, the ball still crossed the goal line for a goal. The referee waved off the goal and awarded a PK but did not send off the defender. What is the correct ruling on this, allow the goal to stand and either not card the defender (or possibly issue a yellow card?) or disallow the goal and send off the defender?

Answer (October 29, 2007):
We must state once again that we do not deal with the rules for games that are not played under the Laws of the Game. However, if this game had been played under the Laws of the Game, we would make the following observations:
1. Denial of a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball is a sending-off offense. The referee may apply the advantage and, if the ball does enter the goal, the player who attempted to deny the opportunity must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.
2. The goal should have been scored.
3. Only a very foolish referee would take away a goal already in the net and award a penalty kick that cannot assure a goal.…