In a recent viral video of a Conway AR high school match shows the center awarding a free kick to Conway and the Conway players setting up. Two players approach the area of the ball as if both are going to initiate the kick with one passing by the ball and then colliding with the other approaching player and both collapse on the ground while a third player initiates the kick. A score resulted.

Question is, has an offence been committed? My input would be yes that it is unsporting behavior in that the collision was set up as a distraction that is staged, much like a player taking an obvious dive after contacting a player of the opposing team. I can’t see the trickery rule applying because it only addresses playing the ball back to the keeper and trying to circumvent a law of the game. I believe the goal was awarded. Not that it matters to me being I have no interest or contact with any team in Arkanas. Just discussing it with some current officials on how we would have called it. I am a laspsed official (not one of the choices below)

USSF answer (May 19, 2011):
Ah, deceit, the mother of legal gamesmanship. The kicking team is allowed to engage in its little bit of deception at almost any restart. Provided that the players who collide don’t turn the event into a moaning, groaning, shrieking distraction, this was likely legal. Some playacting is certainly acceptable, but when an event is played to the hilt it could be seen as constituting either (a) exaggerating the seriousness of an injury or (b) the equivalent of shouting at an opponent to distract (either of which would be unsporting behavior). It all depends, of course, on the opinion of the referee, which would be based on how out of the ordinary the actions of these players were.

The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players, in this case the defending team that did not continue to pay attention to the subsequent kicker, the runner, and the ball itself.

CAVEAT: Please note that this is a high school game played under NFHS auspices, and not necessarily in accordance with the Laws of the Game. And the referee might be especially cunning and preempt any problems by stopping play for the “injury,” which occurred before the ball was in play, have the players attended to, and restart with original free kick.

A video clip of this incident may be seen at this URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haxdJT6MBoE&feature=player_embedded…


Defending team has been awarded a free kick outside the penalty area. The kicker pass back the ball to his goalkeeper. The keeper touches the ball with his hands but the ball, anyway, enters the goal.

How the referee should reiniciate the game?

1. Awarding an IFK against the goalkeeper because he used his hands after the ball was passed to him by a team mate?

2. Allowing the goal because the goalie touched the ball before it entered the goal? or

3. awarding a corner kick because a team can not kick a free kick into its own goal?

USSF answer (February 12, 2010):
For direct free kicks taken outside the penalty area, the Law requires only that a ball is kicked and moved to be in play and thus be eligible to enter the goal for a score (or a corner kick, if taken by the defending team). That happened. The ball was kicked by a player directly to his own goalkeeper. If the goalkeeper had let the ball go, it would have been a corner kick for the opponents. If the goalkeeper had stopped the ball with his hands, it would have been an indirect free kick for the opponents. Unfortunately for his side, the goalkeeper touched the ball but allowed it to continue on its way to goal. The referee should invoke the advantage clause and record the goal. Restart with a kick-off for the defending team.…


For clarification purpose, I would like for you to honestly assist with normal procedure and correct interpretation of the law and in accordance to; and in US Soccer and FIFA opinion the correct procedure and your recommendation to the following.

In the first half of a competitive match, a corner kick was being taken from the leading AR side. Properly, the Assistant referee applied the distance of encroachment and the team taking the corner kick tricked the defense as the kicker walked away and another player acted as if he was going to take the kick started dribbling the ball towards the goal when he got to the corner kick spot. I made eye contact with the leading AR who did nothing and I let the play go.

In the same half, a corner kick was awarded to the same offense, but now in my quadrant. The ball was set, and the kicker stood over the ball with his foot on the ball but made no movement because the defense this time were encroaching. When I realized the the attacker won’t play the ball, I instructed the defense to respect the distance of which they obliged. While we were waiting for the corner kick to be taken, number 7 of the team taking the corner kcik who was behind me in the goal area loudly yelled to his team mate on the the ball. “Leave it, let me take it.” He then ran past me and the defenders while his team mate walked away from the ball. When he got to the ball, he took position as if he was going to put the ball back in play, then he started dribbling the ball towards the goal. All these happened while I was still holding back the defense from encroaching. When I realized he was in active play, I blew the whistle walked to him and cautioned him for unsporting behavior. I then restart the play with an indirect kick to the defense for double touching a direct kick restart. 

As usual, the cautioned player pleaded his case and claimed that was their trick and my response was that you were deceptive. I told him it’s legal to apply trick fairly, and by audibly being deceptive, you gained unfair advantage.

USSF answer (February 6, 2010)
The kicking team is allowed to use a certain amount of trickery at any kick restart, including corner kicks. If the kicker actually kicks at the ball, then it is now in play. Observe these two video clips of corner kicks, one of which was not allowed by the referee. However, both were totally legal, as the ball was played in a kicking motion by the original player on the ball.

First clip:

We responded to a question on this clip back on January 30, 2009:
It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct; in that case, the referee would call the second player for a double touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

Second clip:

The assistant referee’s flag was incorrect and the referee should have waved it down; the resulting goal should have been allowed.

So, what is NOT allowed?
The ball must move a perceptible distance from “here” to “there” to be considered in play through a kick. If the “kicker” only steps on top of the ball and does not kick it, and therefore the ball has NOT moved from “here” to “there,” the kick was not properly taken and must be repeated. It is not a cautionable offense. …


Just read your response about opponents in the penalty area during a goal kick.

Follow up question: if the last thing you said is true: “if the ball leaves the penalty area, is therefore in play, and then goes to an opponent who, at the time the goal kick was taken, was in the penalty area, play should continue (no matter where the opponent has moved to by that time)” then why is their a requirement for all opponents to be outside the penalty area until the ball has actually left the area?

From time to time I have told fellow refs to look out for this so that an opponent does not (to borrow a phrase from Law XI) gain an unfair advantage from being in an “illegal” position.

The only question for the referee to ask himself is at what point does this infringement go from being unfair to trifling, i.e. the greater amount of time between the taking of the goal kick (or defensive free kick) to the time that the “illegally” positioned player becomes involved in play, the more likely that it becomes trifling and the referee should let play continue.

Does that make sense to you, or am I all wet?

USSF answer (January 21, 2010):
The reason there is a requirement for opponents to be out of the penalty area at the taking of a goal kick (and to stay out until the ball is in play) is exactly the same reason there is a requirement that opponents be at least ten yards away from a free kick (and stay ten yards away until the ball is in play). However, we routinely and properly allow the team with the ball to take a free kick if there are opponents closer than ten yards so why should we not also allow the team with the ball to take a goal kick if there are opponents within their penalty area? And, having allowed it in either case, why would we not — once the ball is in play — require the team with the restart to live by their decision to take the restart quickly even if this results in a disadvantage since it was their decision in the first place?

At all times, it is the responsibility of the referee to prevent or punish play which is contrary to the Law if such play in fact is unfair or unsporting because it had a non-trifling impact on the game. But is also the responsibility of the referee to avoid stopping play for admitted breaches of the Law where such a stoppage is unnecessary based on the needs of the game.…


I had a question a fellow referee asked me and we both would like some clarification. Please help.
The situation: On a corner kick the attacking player tap the top of the ball and called to her teammate to come and take the kick, her teammate starting dribbling the ball towards to goal.
The referee decided that the ball was not properly put into play with the 1st attacker’s tap; he blew his whistle and had them retake the corner kick.

What is the correct course of action?

USSF answer (October 13, 2009):
This excerpt from the USSF publication Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game (2009) should clarify the matter for you. While it speaks of free kicks, it also applies to corner kicks. The Advice is available for download on the USSF website.

The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the “kick” need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion or being dragged with the top or bottom of the foot. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking or dragging motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another).  The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not “kicked and moved” based on the spirit and flow of the match.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for “failing to respect the required distance” when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.
The referee must make the final decision on what is a “kick” and what is “not a kick” based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls “Fingerspitzengefühl” (literally: “sensing with one’s fingertips”).


Situation: Tournament play, U-11 girls. An IFK is awarded due to the keeper picking up a passback (questionable in the first place as it was a mis-kick in the U-11 age group that went spiraling backwards off a weird bounce, and did not appear deliberate IMHO).

Anyway…as a result, the IFK is about 7 yds out and directly in front of the goal. The CR makes it a ceremonial (of his own accord, but in this age group, ok)and puts the defensive team on the goal line before allowing restart. Meanwhile the kicking team has one player standing with her foot on top of the ball, clearly planning to do a “touch restart” (which is no longer legal of course).

The CR blows the whistle for play, the offensive player does indeed simply touch the ball with the bottom of her foot, and then the second offensive player strikes the ball. The keeper comes up with the ball and saves the goal.

Now, just after the keeper catches the ball the CR blows the whistle.

He correctly asserts that the IFK cannot be restarted with a top touch ubt must instead be “kicked and move”. Therefore – he allows the offensive team a second opportunity at the IFK (one assumes out of thinking that the ball was not put in play). This time they restart correctly, and they score.

Happily this was not a game deciding goal, but it remains on my mind.

The result of allowing the re-take seems wholly outside of the Spirit of the Game, the offense should not receive a second opportunity from 4 yds out because they botched the restart by not obeying the LOTG.

However…the LOTG do say that the ball must be “kicked and move” in order to be in play.

Could one allow that the first player’s light touch did not put the ball in play since it never moved, but that the striking player did then put the ball in play? (becoming the first touch in considering IFK goal scoring) Seems a bit of a stretch and could be unsporting if done intentionally to confuse the defense.

If I were in the CR spot I should hope I would have noticed the obvious intent to do a touch restart and caught this before it developed and became problematic. IMHO the CR blew a second opportunity to avoid this by not whistling hard and immediately when the tap was made. His whistle was late, not coming until the ball was struck and actually in the keeper’s possession…only a second since the kick was so close…but well after the error.

Per the LOTG it seems to me that the CR did what he must by allowing the re-take. At the same time, it seems at odds with the Spirit of the Game. Is this one that could go either way based on the opinion of the CR?

I think if I had made all those errors and got stuck in this spot I would have been inclined to allow the defensive team the possession.

The offense had fair opporunity. If another IFK came up I would have been diligent in informing the team of the correct mode of restart.

Would I be wrong?

In your esteemed opinions…what would be the proper response if one was caught in a situation like this?

USSF answer (October 6, 2009):
In our esteemed opinions, the correct referee action would have been to allow play to continue. Both you and the referee have jumped to the wrong conclusion, confusing putting the ball into play and a situation in which a goal can be scored. The Law requires, as you state, only that a ball is kicked and moved to be in play. That happened. The ball was tapped, which means nothing in a restart, but it was then kicked by a player directly to the goalkeeper. A second touch of the ball — by any player on either team — is required for a goal to be scored, but not for the ball to be in play.…


Defender has the ball, passes it back to the goalie, offense player, from opposing team, attempts to intercept the ball, can the goalie pick up the ball?

USSF answer (September 8, 2009):
No. In other words, if the goalkeeper picks up the ball in this situation, he or she is punished for handling the ball deliberately kicked to him or her by a teammate.…


Can a player in the game be standing out of bounds then run over jump up and head a ball that is in the air but over the side line, with out stepping in before making contact with the ball.

USSF answer (August 11, 2009):
Assuming the ball had not left the field by crossing entirely over the touch line when the player headed the ball and that the player in question was not off the field with the permission or at the order of the referee, it doesn’t matter if that player at the time was partially or even entirely off the field.  While players are expected to be on and to remain on the field during play, the Law allows a player to leave the field briefly if this is done “in the course of play.”

If the ball left the field of play before being headed by the player, then the continued play must be ignored because play is considered stopped whenever the ball leaves the field.  If the player who headed the ball was off the field with the permission or at the order of the referee, then the player must be considered to have re-entered the field illegally (i. e., without permission) — play is stopped, the player is cautioned, and the match restarted with an indirect free kick for the opposing team where the ball was when play was stopped.  These responses would be the case whether the player headed the ball or played it in any other way.…


I am really confused by a call that was made on this game, and was hoping maybe you could shed some light on it for me. About 12 minutes into the game, Chicago was awarded a corner kick. Prior to the kick being taken a Chivas player body slammed a Chicago player inside the penalty box (the defender swung the offensive player around by the neck and then picked him up with both hands and laid him on the ground). The referee did not call a foul, and the AR called the corner kick back for a re-kick. Did I miss something? Shouldn’t that have been at least a yellow card to the Chivas player, if not a red since the ball was not yet in play? And shouldn’t there have been a PK for Chicago?

USSF answer (June 1, 2009):
Careful evaluation of the corner will show that the contact occurred before the corner kick was taken. Hence, given the fact that the ball was not in play, you must restart with the original corner kick.

Nowhere in the law does it state that a yellow card or red card needs to be issued because the ball is not in play. As you are aware, I’m sure, there is lots of holding taking place during corner kicks. Referees have been instructed to take a proactive role in dealing with this holding. This is the case in this situation.

The referee team takes a proactive role by stopping the play and retaking the kick. The referee’s whistle is a bit delayed because he is attempting to judge whether the offended team would benefit by allowing play to continue instead of retaking the corner kick. The assistant referee does help the referee by telling him that the ball was not in play at the time of the hold. As a result, the referee makes the correct decision to retake the corner kick.

In terms of misconduct, the referee decided that the holding was merely “careless” and not “reckless” and, thus, that is was not unsporting behavior. Consequently, he did not issue a caution to the defender. The referee could have been stronger in dealing with the holding defender by having a word with him and this may have assisted in proactively sending a message to prevent further holding. If you watch the entire game, you will see that the referee stopped the game on several other occasions prior to a corner kick being taken due to holding and jostling in the penalty area.…


During a recent amateur men’s league match where I was the referee, I called a foul against the defense and awarded a free kick about 25 yards from the goal line near the corner of the penalty area. The offense asked me to move the wall 10 yards and I informed the kicker to wait for my whistle. The kicker, a little over anxious, takes about 5 steps before kicking the ball. I blew the whistle to restart at about his 3rd step. The goalkeeper sprints out and punches the ball away which goes directly over the touch line on the opposite side of the field. At the time, I thought the kicker proceeding before the whistle and then my blowing the whistle may have been confusing to some players, so I ordered a retake. I took a little heat for it from the defense at the time.

In thinking about the decision, I though about Advice to Referees – 2007. In section 13.3, it states that the free kick must be retaken if the play is restarted prior to the signal. While the ball was not kicked yet, I had reasoned that play had begun because he had taken steps and was obviously going to kick it. Prior to the game, I had also looked at the 2009 Game Management model for MLS. In there it states that if the ball goes directly to the goalkeeper and he retains possession, let play continue. My scenario was slightly different. If I think about what was fair, I would have given a throw-in where the ball went out of touch after the keeper punched it. What advice can you give me? Thanks very much.

USSF answer (March 18, 2009):
The defending team has only one right at a free kick. That right has nothing to to with a wall, nor to loiter in front of the kicker; it is to be allowed to play without distraction by the referee. That has certainly not occurred here. On the other hand, as we have often stated here, the kicking team does have the right to attempt to deceive their opponents at a free kick. We hereby reinforce the statement that “must wait for referee signal to take free kick” means exactly and only that — the ball cannot be kicked until the whistle sounds. Award the throw-in.…