say a coach is showing minimal dissent due to his players being abused. Then the ref comes over and tells him “this is your final warning” and the coach asks “what was my first warning?” and the ref shows a yellow card. Then the coach asks him why he was carded for asking a question and then the ref shows the red card to the coach and he is ejected. Is the referee just in 1. showing a card to a coach and 2. passing out cards for such minor offenses

USSF answer (October 7, 2008):
Unless the rules of your competition require it, there is no reason or legal basis whatsoever to show a card of any color to a coach or other person affiliated with a team who is not a player, a substitute, or a substituted player.

Law 5 tells us that the referee:

– takes disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable and sending-off offenses. He is not obliged to take this action immediately but must do so when the ball next goes out of play
– takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds

NOTE: We cannot endorse the referee’s method of dealing with the coach. Coaches, no matter how pushy and obnoxious they may be, are entitled to the same courteous and considerate treatment as the referee would give to any other person.…


I was substitute refereeing a U15 game (the other ref couldn’t make it). And during the first half one of the teams coaches was just yelling at me from the sidelines, that I was missing handballs and aggressive pushing (there was a couple I missed but nothing game changing). But at half-time while I was talking to my boss (he was informing me that there are only suppose to be two coaches on a side per team) the “yelling coach” came over and just started criticizing me, my fellow ref, and our local soccer organization. We tried to explain to him that we are just kids so we do not have the ability to see everything, but he just couldn’t stop.

In the process he ended up wasting 15 minutes of halftime and reduced the other ref into tears. We told him that if he has problems he should file a complaint or talk to us after the game. He stepped off the field and sat with the parents the rest of the game.

So my questions are:
Could we have handled it better?
Is it possible to just call the game due to the coach?

and please keep in mind I am only 16 and have been reffing for two seasons.

USSF answer (October 7, 2008):
No ageism here, sir. We treat all referees as equals. Well, maybe not those whose associations put them on two-referee games, which are not allowed under the Laws of the Game. To them we recommend that they either convince their association to use the Diagonal System of Control (one referee and two assistant referees) or find another association that does.

Not forgetting your question, we can state simply that you should have told this “coach” to get back to his team area immediately and not to bother you before, during, or after the game. If he had a problem, he is welcome, as you clearly told him, to submit a report to your association and to the state organization, but he is not welcome to interfere with your work or your break at halftime. If he persists after this notification, then you should use the power granted you by Law 5 and take action against the coach or any other team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner. That means that you may, at your discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate vicinity.…


I am a fairly new referee (since July 2007), but I have worked and enjoyed about 100 matches this year in youth select soccer. I have been coaching soccer for about 6 years, but I was never actually a soccer player, which has left me with a few holes in my soccer knowledge at times.

I was a center referee on an 11 year old premiere level boys game recently and I would like some clarification about the goalie position in regards to the laws of the game.

Please note that I had previously spoken with a goalie coach who had told me that the goalie was not considered to have control of the ball until he had pulled the ball into his body or until his hand (or hands) were on the ball and the ball was between the goalie’s hand and the ground. I am not sure if this information was correct or not.

In my game situation, the ball had been kicked towards the goalie by an attacker and the goalie was jumping for the ball in the goal box. Another attacker had entered the goal area and was following the trajectory of the chipped ball. Just prior to the goalie making contact with his hands; the attacker headed the ball and subsequently ran into the goalie while scoring a goal. The goalie was not injured on the play and I awarded a goal. The goalie’s coach became very upset and began screaming at the midline that I had not protected his goalie, until I finally warned him that he was showing dissent. The coach quieted down after that, but his body language made it quite obvious that he was very angry.

I am assuming that I made the correct decision, and my AR’s, who were experienced referees, stated that they believed that my call was the correct one, but I want to add some additional questions to this scenario because this is an area that I feel a bit unsure about. I am assuming that the collision between the goalie and the attacker was legal as this was an obvious goal scoring opportunity and I don’t believe that either player was attempting to do anything but play the ball.

1.) Assuming the ball would have struck the goalie’s outstretched hands in the air prior to the attacker arriving – would it had then been appropriate for me to call a penal foul?

2.) Assuming the ball was headed into the goalie’s hands and then rolled into the goal with a collision between the players still occurring – would this had also been an instance appropriate for a penal foul?

I understand that we as referees have a duty to ensure each player’s safety, but I don’t want to stifle or take away what would otherwise be deemed a fair challenge.

Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.

USSF answer (October 2, 2008):
Just so you and the coach both know what is correct, here is the guidance we give to all referees, taken from the 2008 edition of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e.g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper’s body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm. Once established, possession is maintained, when the ball is held as described above, while bouncing the ball on the ground or throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, after throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to hit the ground. For purposes of determining goalkeeper possession, the “handling” includes contact with any part of the goalkeeper’s arm from the fingertips to the shoulder.

While the ball is in the possession of the goalkeeper, it may not be challenged for or played by an opponent in any manner. An opponent who attempts to challenge for a ball in the possession of the goalkeeper may be considered to have committed a direct free kick foul. However, a ball which is only being controlled by the goalkeeper using means other than the hands is open to otherwise legal challenges by an opponent. The referee should consider the age and skill level of the players in evaluating goalkeeper possession and err on the side of safety.

1. No, not if it was clear that both were playing or attempting to play the ball.

2. No. See 1.

All players are entitled to the same protection under the Laws of the Game. The goalkeeper has no right to special protection. The goalkeeper’s role is, by the very requirements of that role, inherently dangerous. Goalkeeper’s know this going in and most operate accordingly.

The coach’s outburst was, as you note, an expression of emotion, but without foundation in the Laws. (And coaches all work to exert influence on your calls, so we might suggest that there might also have been that factor at work.)

Note: We regret and apologize that we have lost the email address of the person who sent this question.…


I am a coach as well as a referee (Grade 8). I was coaching a game where the ball did not seem like it was properly inflated. I asked the center referee about it and he responded that it was OK. At the half, I took an electronic pressure gauge to check the PSI and it registered 4.25 PSI, half the required minimum pressure according to Law 2. We notified the referee about this. Although we were the visiting team, we took one of our best balls, check the pressure which read 8.5 PSI – the minimum amount according to Law 2. We told the referee this as well but we felt he took it personally and it made the second half difficult for us. Did we do the right thing or should we have allowed the game to continue with an under inflated ball?

USSF answer (September 15, 2008):
A referee? Took something personally? One of the first things a referee is supposed to develop is his or her composure, taking nothing personally and certainly not making the game more difficult for one team than the other.

As to the pressure, only the referee can judge that. if he or she decided the ball was properly inflated, then it was properly inflated, no matter whether that was good for the game or not. You will encounter all kinds of people functioning as referees. Some are intelligent and some are not. Some care and some do not. Some are there only for the pay, but some (most, we hope) are there for the good of the game.

You will find an earlier answer (September 10) on the site that deals with the reasons for using various air pressures for the game ball(s).…


I have a question about a restart off a free kick.

Recently, I was coaching a game and a young referee called a hand ball right outside the penalty area. My players lined up a wall right behind the ball so the other team could not take a quick free kick. The referee was moving back the wall when the other team set the ball and scored while the referee was moving back the wall. I quickly yelled and protested to the referee that a whistle was needed because he was moving the wall. He agreed and a re-kick was ordered and the other team did not score. The opposing coach protested saying a whistle was not needed.

USSF answer (September 4, 2008):
Let’s do a little analysis here on the true state of the situation that concerns you.

First, if your team actually “lined up a wall right behind the ball so the other team could not take a quick free kick,” this is a blatant violation of both the spirit and the letter of the Laws of the Game. The referee should immediately have indicated that the restart could not occur, cautioned one of your players, advised the other players to quickly retreat to the required minimum distance, and then signaled for the restart. There would then have been no question that the kick could not be taken until the referee signaled — your team would have (as it did) successfully prevented a quick restart, but it would have paid at least some price for this obvious misconduct.

Second, assuming the referee failed to understand the need to deal with the misconduct and proceeded to move the wall back, the attacking team was still free to take an quick kick because they had not been ordered by the referee to wait. Clearly, the referee was distracting the opponents but, frankly, this was their own fault. None of this would have happened had they not violated the Law by being closer than the minimum distance. In short, what the referee did was bad mechanics but not a violation of the Laws of the Game.

Lessons to be learned from this:
The defending team has only one right at a restart, not to be distracted by the referee. They have no right to form a wall nor to prevent the opponents from taking a position anywhere on the field. In this case, you are correct about the referee: Because he was pushing your team back, this required a clear indication to the kicking team to wait for his whistle to restart. The referee should have called the kick back and had it retaken, but the referee should have been astute enough to notice that the kicking team wanted to take a quick free kick. That would have solved every problem.

If your team insists on engaging in illegal gamesmanship, they must be prepared to assume the consequences, regardless of whether the referee uses recommended mechanics or not.
Who is correct? What is the correct ruling?…


Sometimes I referee a game in which a coach continuously shouts very specific instructions to one or several players for the entire game – essentially telling them every move they should make. Is there any restriction on this?

USSF answer (May 8, 2008):
As long as the coach or other team official does not behave irresponsibly by shouting abusively at the players or attempting to influence the opposing players through shouting false information, there is little restriction on that person’s activities. However, in that regard, we cannot forget the importance of the competitive level of the players as a factor in deciding what is permissible. After all, although there is no formal definition of “tactical instructions,” we have commonly recognized that this would not include choreographing every move, particularly for any match above mid-level youth.…


In a U15 game the keeper made a play for the ball and went to ground at the edge of the box. She fumbled the ball with her body, and both she and the ball slide outside of the box. By the time she finally grabbed the ball with her hands both she and the ball were about a foot or so outside the box, and about two-thirds of the way up from the goal line. The lead attacker had run past the keeper and the ball at this point. There were other defenders in the box, but roughly in-line with the keeper and not deep in front of the goal. As center I called a direct kick, which the attackers took immediately while the keeper with still trying to get up (no resulting goal). The attacking team’s coach was insistent that the goalkeeper should have gotten a red card. In fact he stated at halftime that a red card was “automatic” in that situation. The goal scoring opportunity did not seem “obvious” to me at the time, and in looking at 12.37(b) in the “Advice” I don’t believe that all four conditions where firmly in place, although they were certainly on the margin.

I had two very experienced refs as ARs. One (on my end of the field but on opposite side of the play) agreed with my call. The trailing AR thought I should have at least shown the keeper a yellow card but did not want to second guess the details given his position.

(a) Should I have ejected the keeper in this case? (b) Would a yellow card been appropriate and why (the keeper appeared to have made an error in confusion)? (c) If the keeper is ejected at this point is it appropriate to allow the defenders time to designate and suit up a replacement before the direct kick?

USSF answer (April 14, 2008):
(a) No.
(b) No.
(c) Yes; and not only would it have been appropriate, it would have been MANDATORY. Law 3 requires the team to have a goalkeeper.

And some answers to unposed questions:
(d) No matter what coaches say, there is no such thing as an “automatic red card.”
(e)  The keeper’s violation was trifling under virtually all possible readings of the circumstances.
(f) There is no need to assess the “4 Ds” for the obvious goalscoring opportunity, because there was no offense in the first place.…


USSF has one of the best referee programs. As a referee, instructor, assessor and assignor I am always receiving notices on law changes and clinics. However, on a larger scale, the soccer Gods have forgotten about the other side of the equation and that is the coaches. In [my state, the youth association] certifies the coaches on the youth side. I have gone though their certification program to the competitive level. None of these courses (E, F & E/D) cover any training on the laws of the game. I have never as a coach received any communication on any changes to the laws of the game. We automatically assume that they know the laws of the game. They do not and they are the one that are teaching our clients the game of soccer. This problem is not just related to our area. It is on a National level and I do not see any movement towards fixing the problem. As a president of our high school association I invited coaches of 100+ schools to attend a clinic that was just setup for them and also to resolve some of our issues. Only 10 coaches responded. Coaches are also the problem. Their failure to learn the laws the game affects the game for the player, referees and fans. Any idea?
Game Level: U13-U19

Answer (February 28, 2008):

We could not possibly respond to your question. May we suggest that you contact the coaching department at U. S. Soccer and put the matter to them? You will find contact information at


In a follow-up question to the previous question about enforcing coaches to stay in their technical area and only convey tactical and positive messages [December 31, 2007], how does a referee go about warning the coach? Stopping play to do so draws attention to the situation and hinders the flow. But how can a referee keep one eye on the game and properly inform the coach that his behavior is inappropriate? However, if the coach has been warned and his behavior persists, stopping play would be appropriate to expel him from the game, correct? Also, should assistant referees warn coaches or get the head referee’s attention so the head ref can warn them?

USSF answer (February 20, 2008):
Unless the matter is particularly grave, the referee would usually wait until the next stoppage. However, if the situation is indeed grave — as any case of abuse would be –then stopping the game and drawing attention to the matter is an excellent tool in and of itself. It sends a clear message that the referee is serious about the matter. In such cases, the referee would stop play with the ball in the possession of the abusive coach’s team (if possible), advise the coach or other team official that this behavior is irresponsible and must stop if the coach or other team official wishes to remain in the vicinity of the field. If this warning is not effective, then another stoppage and the expulsion of the coach must follow. No cards, please, unless the rules of the competition require them. Also, do not engage in extended discussions when doing this in any circumstances: State the message and leave.…


The Technical Area
– Only one person at a time is authorized to convey tactical instructions and he must return to his position after giving these instructions. – The coach and other occupants of the technical area must behave in a responsible manner.What constitutes tactical instructions and what constitutes responsible behavior?

My concern is a local youth coach who begins to scream at his players when the game begins and does not stop until long after the game is over. With every touch of the ball by his team he gives (screams) instructions to the players off the ball as well as the player with the ball. With every touch of the ball by the other team he is giving (screaming) specific instructions to each player on his team as fast as he can get them out of his mouth. Much of what he says is negative and all mistakes are pointed out and players are taken to task. He is a physically intimidating person who loves to argue about anything and most area referees just stay as far away from him as they can.

We, of course, do not have 4th officials at our youth games. I do believe that if there were clear instructions to head and assistant referees as to responsible behavior in the Technical Area and what constitutes allowable “tactical instructions” that some actions would begin to be taken to stop behavior that I believe is unsporting conduct at the very least.

This person’s behavior affects every person on the field, on the benches, in the spectators area, all coaches and not too mention the referees. In my mind it is in the same category as an opponent coming up behind a player receiving the ball and yelling “I got it” at the top of their lungs.

Specific recommendations on those definitions would be positive points of action that we could build on to improve the conduct of our youth games.

USSF answer (December 31, 2007):
A very interesting question. There is a national trend within the soccer community toward eliminating abuse of young people by any adults. You, as a referee, are certainly empowered to ensure responsible behavior by the team officials. The method chosen would be up to the individual referee.

The Laws of the Game tell us that “[a]ll [team] officials must remain within the confines of the technical area, where such area is provided, and they must behave in a responsible manner.” The Laws also tell us about the technical area and its measurements. Without going into precise detail on the matter, we can agree that this suggests that — no matter how innocent their intentions — team officials should remain along the touch line and stay out of areas where they could be considered to be interfering with play or not behaving in a responsible manner, even in under-tiny soccer. Spectators may remain behind the goal line, but only if they are far enough away so as not to interfere with the game.

We can add that, under the Law, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed from the technical area, as long as only one person speaks at a time and then returns to his seat on the bench. As a practical matter, particularly at the youth level, any POSITIVE coaching is allowed. In either case, whether at the level of the least experienced players (and coaches) or at the highest levels, any case in which the coach behaves irresponsibly will result in the coach being dismissed. (Two examples from among many: ranting at the referee, overt participation in deception of the opposing team.)

A coach has no “right” to anything in the game of soccer, other than the right to conduct him-/herself responsibly during the game — from within the technical or bench area — while offering advice to his/her team’s players. A referee who allows coaches or other team officials to parade around the field or shout abuse at players in the guise of instruction, in contravention of the requirements in Law 5 that coaches behave responsibly and that referees not permit anyone other than players to enter the field, should be ashamed.

Coaches are expected to behave responsibly. (See Law 5 and Law 3, IBD 2, the only places in the Laws that team officials are mentioned.) The referee’s first line of defense (unless the behavior is REALLY egregious) is to warn the coach who is behaving irresponsibly. This is the equivalent of a caution, but no card is shown. Then, when the behavior persists (as it usually does, because most coaches who behave this way fail to understand that they must change their errant ways), the coach is expelled from the field for failing to behave in a responsible manner. Please note that under the Laws of the Game, no card may be shown; however, showing the card may be a requirement of the rules of the competition.

In all events you should prepare a supplemental game report or letter to the league on the matter. You might also suggest in the report or letter that they send someone to monitor a couple of games. The letter could be written in such a way that says perhaps the coach was having a bad day, but it should suggest that it might be beneficial to the children involved if someone from the league dropped in for a game or two just to make sure.

Coaches or other team officials, one at a time, may provide tactical advice to their players, including positive remarks and encouragement. The referee should only take action against coaches or other team officials for irresponsible behavior or for actions that bring the game into disrepute. A coach or other team official may not be cautioned or sent off nor shown any card; however, at the discretion of the referee, such persons may be warned regarding their behavior or expelled from the field of play and its immediate area. When a coach or other team official is expelled, the referee must include detailed information about such incidents in the match report. The maximum numbers of substitutes and substitutions are set by the competition authority and with the agreement of the two teams within the requirements of Law 3. Additional people in the technical area, such as team members who are not named as players or substitutes (for the current game) on the roster or parents or other persons involved with the team, are permitted to be seated with the team in the technical area (or other designated team area) only if this is allowed by the competition authority. Such persons will be considered team officials and are therefore held to the same standards of conduct specified in Law 5 as other team officials. Although team officials cannot commit misconduct or be shown a card, they may be ordered from the field for irresponsible behavior. Full details must be included in the match report.

You ask what constitutes responsible behavior. It means that the coach or other team official has not stuck to what their part of the game is, issuing tactical instructions or praise to their players. If they go beyond those bounds, then their behavior is irresponsible. Shouting abuse and heaping derision on players is irresponsible behavior and brings the game into disrepute.

As to what bringing the game into disrepute means in the normal course of the game, this answer of September 7, 2006, should give you all the information you need:

“Bringing the game into disrepute’ means doing something that is totally counter the spirit of the game, which is meant to be played fairly and in a sporting manner. Such acts show a lack of respect for the game, e. g., aggressive attitude, inflammatory behavior, deliberately kicking the ball into one’s own goal or taunting.” It also includes intimidation and arguing with the referee.