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.…


ATR 3.9 states: “if a player . . . contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee’s permission to return to the field.”

Attacker A shields the ball at the corner flag from Defender B1, attempting to run down the time. Defender B2 leaves the field over the touch line and tackles the ball while re-entering the field from outside the touch line. Is this legal?

USSF answer (July 18, 2011):
You have neglected to cite the entire first paragraph Advice 3.9, which states unequivocally:

Players are normally expected to remain on the field while the ball is in play, leaving only to retrieve a ball or when ordered off by the referee. If a player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play or if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee’s permission to return to the field.

In the scenario you lay out, the defender’s action was not accidental. It was, however, solely for the purpose of getting to the ball and lasted only long enough to get around an opponent. Accordingly, the defender’s momentary departure from the field was “in the course of play” and therefore entirely legal. In fact, the defender was only forced to take this action by the attacker who placed the ball and his body in such a configuration that the only way the defender could get to the ball was to leave the field.…


On a corner kick, player A places ball in the arc. Player B runs out of play and around the goal to the resume position on the back post. Opposing team had players on the post. Corner is crossed in by Player A and scored by Player B who ran out of play. Should Player B be allowed to return to the field since he deliberately ran off the field? Should Player B wait to be signaled back on by the official after the corner was played in? Shouldn’t this be a yellow card?

USSF answer (July 15, 2011):
The Advice to Referees tells us:

Players are normally expected to remain on the field while the ball is in play, leaving only to retrieve a ball or when ordered off by the referee. If a player accidentally passes over one of the boundary lines of the field of play or if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee. This player does not need the referee’s permission to return to the field.

If the player ran out of the field after the ball was placed and before the kick was taken _and returned only while the ball was in the air_, that player has left the field of play without the referee’s permission. Blow the whistle, cancel the goal, caution the errant player for leaving the field without permission, and restart with an indirect free kick for the defending team from the place where the ball was when play was stopped.…


In the taking of KFTPM to decide a tournament winner the teams make 10 goals each. The 11th player makes a goal but now the opponent’s 11th player is missing.

What should happen now?

USSF answer (July 2, 2011):
Provided the team’s 11th player was on the field at the beginning of the kicks from the penalty mark, this portion of the Advice to Referees applies:

Once the procedure of taking kicks from the penalty mark has begun, players are not permitted to leave the field, even if they have already taken a kick. If a player leaves the field and is not available to take the prescribed kick (either for the first time or subsequently), the referee can declare the missing player no longer eligible and then proceed with the kicks from the penalty mark without him/her. A full report regarding the situation must be submitted.


I refereed a Girls 17 game when out of my line of sight, an attacking player hit a defensive player in the face. An player on the attacking team ran up to me and started to scream at me. She was about a foot away from me. I cautioned the player for dissent. After the game, I was talking to a National referee, and he said that what the player did was abusive language (no cursing involved) and that he would have given the player a red card. Did I make the right call? What is considered abusive language? Thank you for your help.

USSF answer (June 1, 2011):
Under the Law, a player is sent off for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures. That incorporates the whole of human communication. “Liberty” must be defined within the context of the particular interaction. The Laws of the Game do not care which language a player, team official, referee or AR speaks. What is important under the Laws is what that person actually says or means or understands. None of that is necessarily language-dependent.

This excerpt from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” may be helpful:

“The referee should judge offensive, insulting, or abusive language according to its content (the specific
words or actions used), the extent to which the language can be heard by others beyond the immediate
vicinity of the player, and whether the language is directed at officials, opponents, or teammates. In
other words, the referee must watch for language that is Personal, Public, or Provocative. In evaluating
language as misconduct, the referee must take into account the particular circumstances in which the
actions occurred and deal reasonably with language that was clearly the result of a momentary
emotional outburst.

“Referees must take care not to inject purely personal opinions as to the nature of the language when
determining a course of action. The referee’s primary focus must be on the effective management of
the match and the players in the context of the overall feel for the Spirit of the Game.”

If you felt threatened or offended by the onslaught of language from the player, then the national referee was correct: the player should have been sent off for an infringement of the Law.…


Advice – dealing with Appurtenances – Pre-existing Conditions

Per Advice dealing with appurtenances, 1.8(c) -pre-existing conditions, specifically overhanging trees. We have several venues that have overhanging tree limbs on one end of the field that happens to behind the goal area/line. If the overhanging tree limbs ” do not affect one team or more adversely than the other are considered to be part of the field”. There have been two examples where the attacking team has to take a corner kick and the player taking the kick happens to kick it into the overhanging tree limbs, the referee then told the players that the ball is still in play because it did not leave the field of play. In another example, one team who was attacking their opponent’s goal had their player take a shot on goal, the ball was going over the cross-bar but for the tree limbs, the ball stopped and dropped in front of their opponent’s goalkeeper penalty area and the goal-keeper was able to retrieve the ball, since the ball was still in play, the goalkeeper then was able to punt the ball across the field and their forward was able to score a goal in a matter of seconds. A third example, occurred when the ball was kicked by an attacking team, the goal-keeper was out of position and the ball hit the tree limbs and the ball rolled across the goal-line and underneath the cross bar, thus a goal was scored. In the final example, the attacker took a shot and the ball hit the tree limbs yet the ball was still in play and the team-mate was able to score because the goal-keeper turned one way and the ball fell to the side of him inside of the goal area. In these four examples, how should the referee crew handle these examples. Should they tell the teams ahead of time, should they stop play and do a drop-ball or should the referee say “play-on” and where would play be restarted?

Thank you.

USSF answer (May 26, 2011):
Advice 1.8(c) is pretty clear and we believe it covers your situations fully::

(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)

Note: The difference between non-regulation appurtenances and pre-existing conditions is that, if the ball makes contact with something like uprights or crossbar superstructure, it is ruled out of play even if the contact results in the ball remaining on the field. Where there is a pre-existing condition (such as an overhanging tree limb), the ball remains in play even if there is contact, as long as the ball itself remains on the field. Referees must be fully aware of and enforce any rules of the competition authority or field owner regarding non-regulation appurtenances.

There is no bias in this guidance toward one team or the other, as each team must play one-half of the game under these conditions.

As the competition appears to play many games at these fields, it would seem that all teams should already be well aware of the conditions before they get to the field. However, the referee could be proactive and remind the teams of the conditions and that the ball will remain in play.

The only permanent solution we can recommend to avoid such events is that the limbs might be lopped off by a trained tree-removal person (with the permission of the landowner, of course).

Finally, let us add that our advice applies only to those portions of the trees that actually overhang the field; not to other portions of the same tree.…


I was an AR in a Boys U14 Division 5 match the other day.

When White played an errant ball to Red’s goalkeeper, who was well within his own penalty area, the ‘keeper reached down, stopped the ball from going across the end line with his hand, stood back up, then picked up the ball. I believed this to be an offense, as I explain below, but I didn’t flag for it, as I’ve been chastised by CRs in the past for calling what they considered to be trifling, obscure offences, and I believe that’s what my CR would have thought, especially considering the low skill level of the teams playing.

But I’d like to make sure that my interpretation is correct that this action violated the Law 12 stipulation that “An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, commits any of the following four offences: … touches the ball again with his hands after he has released it from his possession and before it has touched another player.”

Is “possession” in this context defined as actually holding and supporting the ball with the hand(s), or is a mere deliberate, controlling touch with the hand(s) sufficient for “possession,” as happened in this case?

USSF answer (April 17, 2011):
It may be obscure and it may be trifling, but it is the Law, clearly expressed in Law 12 and interpreted in the USSF publication “Advice for Referees on the Laws of the Game” for players, coaches, referees, and older referees who never read the Laws:

After relinquishing control of the ball, a goalkeeper violates Law 12 if, with no intervening contact, touch or play of the ball by a teammate or an opponent, he or she handles the ball a second time.  This includes play after parrying the ball. Referees should note carefully the text in the IGR, which defines “control” and distinguishes this from an accidental rebound or a save.

In judging a second touch with the hands by the goalkeeper, referees must take into account tactical play which may seem unsporting but is not against the Laws of the Game or even the spirit of the game. If a goalkeeper and a teammate play the ball back and forth between them, the goalkeeper can handle the ball again legally so long as the teammate has not kicked the ball to the goalkeeper.  However, of course, an opponent can challenge for the ball during such a sequence of play.  The players are “using” but not “wasting” time. The referee’s goal under these circumstances is to be close enough to manage the situation if the opposing team decides to intervene.

The “second possession” foul is punished only by an indirect free kick from the place where the goalkeeper handled the ball the second time*. Please note: A goalkeeper may never be punished with a penalty kick for deliberately handling the ball within his or her own penalty area, even if the handling is otherwise a violation of another restriction in Law 12.

In the strictest sense you were correct in your interpretation, but you did well in not raising the flag. There are mitigating reasons why a non-call is appropriate.  (1) The first touch of the ‘keeper meant to stop the ball from advancing,  Although this is not parrying in the strictest sense it had the same purpose.  (2) This appears to be a trifling offense.

We recommend that the referee warn the goalkeeper on the first occurrence and punish the act if it is repeated.…


I had a question on what constitutes “superfluous items” on a goal post. I was officiating a game the other weekend when the ball bounced off the wheels attached to the goalposts (these are the movable goals), and in the subsequent play the attacker scored a goal. The defenders said that the ball had hit the wheel (that was attached to the goalpost) and came back unto the field of play. I talked to the AR and after the discussion allowed the goal to stand. At half time we went over to the goal post and put the ball down in front of the wheel and noticed that the wheel was placed in such a way that the ball never left the field of play, that part of the ball was on the goal line.

However, I was just reading the ATR and noticed that 1.7.b noted those items that were “non-regulation apparatus” and if the ball touched these items that the ball should be considered out of play, regardless of the ball rebounding back into the field of play.

The question I have is should I have consider the wheel attached to the goalpost to have been a “non-regulation” apparatus and therefore have waved off the goal?

USSF answer (March 25, 2011):
This answer repeats what we have replied in three earlier answers and in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The referee should not have allowed the goal to be used in the first place. An appropriate pregame inspection would have prevented such a thing. Wheeled goals fall under the same category as standard U. S. football goalposts. This is covered in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

(b) Non-regulation appurtenances (see 1.7)
These include superfluous items attached to the goal frame (such as the uprights on combination soccer/football goals) and not generally subject to movement. If the ball contacts these items, it is deemed to be automatically out of play and the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball.

The intelligent referee will either not permit equipment that is not in accordance with the Law or be prepared to face the problems that occur. Full details should be included in the match report.

This question emphasizes the importance of a thorough pregame inspection. However, if the referee has inspected the field and determined that the goals or other appurtenances meet the requirements of the Law, then he or she cannot later rule that the equipment is no longer acceptable–unless something has happened that changes the state of the equipment. In that case, the wheels are still regarded as unofficial superstructure and if the ball is affected by them, the ball is dead and play stops, with an appropriate restart in accordance with the Law (corner kick or goal kick, depending on who last played the ball for a ball that left the field, and a dropped ball if the ball remained on the field).…