Blue coach has substitutes on the halfway line ready to enter the game. Ball goes out of touch in blue’s favor but before AR can signal to the CR that blue wishes to sub, the blue player steps up and takes a quick throw in. Under scenario 1, CR allows play to continue upon which the blue coach protests that his subs weren’t allowed to enter the game as he intended. Under the second scenario, CR recognizes his error, stops play to allow the substitution, upon which the blue coach protests that the CR has taken away the advantage that his player gained by taking the quick throw.

For a typical youth game, which decision do you consider to be correct?

USSF answer (December 19, 2007):
There is one big lesson to be learned here, but let’s save that for last.

In your first scenario, you lay the blame on the AR, who has not signaled soon enough to indicate that a substitution is necessary. At this, the coach begins objecting and protesting that his team didn’t have its chance for a substitution because his own player took the throw-in too fast. Who can worry about a team that doesn’t let its own players or that has players who are too slow to recognize that a substitution for their side is about to happen?

In the second scenario, you blame the referee for making an error — which was not an error by the officials at all — as a consequence of which the coach begins objecting and protesting. Actually, in one sense it could be considered an error by the referee, who stopped a perfectly legitimate restart for no good reason.

For a typical youth game, or for any game at all for that matter, pay no attention to what coaches say. Coaches have absolutely no authority in the game, but they will work the referee for every bit of advantage they can milk from any situation. The players make the decision as to when they will restart — unless otherwise instructed by the REFEREE, not the coach. Do what you have to do and live with it.…


The following incident occurred during a recent Midwest Regional League match between U15 girls. Near the beginning of the second half with the score tied at 0, a defender on Team A won the ball in her own third and began dribbling up the side on which I was the AR. The wing midfielder on Team B pursued the defender and caught her at midfield. The defender played the ball a little forward to set up a long pass and the opposing midfielder stepped between the defender and the ball. Without intending to, the defender kicked the midfielder in the back of the legs, she fell forward, and landed on the ball. The Referee blew his whistle and pointed in the direction of Team A. When he came over to spot the ball, I asked him whether the ball should not be given to Team B since it was their player who got kicked. He agreed and reversed the call. Team A’s coach went ballistic saying that his player had possession. He became so loud that the Field Marshal came over to calm him down, but he began yelling at the FM and was escorted from the field (the Referee did not dismiss him).

Two questions:
1. What is the correct call? Should the Referee have called a foul? Should the ball be given to Team A or Team B?
2. Should we have stuck with the original call, since neither coach was complaining about a free kick for Team A at midfield?

I don’t think the call affected the outcome, a 0-0 draw. However, I still felt bad that Team A had to play without their coach for most of the second half.

Answer (October 29, 2007):
1. If we read the scenario correctly, the referee should have called a foul on the player who kicked the opponent in the back of the legs. That would give the ball to Team B.

2. If the original call was wrong, then there was no reason to stick with it.

Referees (and ARs) must learn to be alert to complaints by coaches and players, but not necessarily to “hear” them or allow them to influence any decisions; the referee should measure the content of the complaint against what he or she has seen on the field thus far in the game and allow that to guide decision making Remember that coaches usually see the game only in one light, that which is most favorable to their team. They will complain about anything that does not go their way. This seems to work out well in this country, particularly if the coach has a foreign accent. However, if you watch higher-level teams, whose coaches and players are highly experienced, you will find that most of them — except perhaps in this country, where whiners abound — do not object to calls that go against them, knowing that the referee is not going to change his or her mind.

As to the field marshal escorting the coach from the field, that is a matter covered by the rules of the competition, something not governed by the U. S. Soccer Federation.…



In a competitive division match, a player who was playing poorly was asked to come the sideline by the coach. I noted this as I turned to follow play and gave a quick glance over my shoulder as I continued down field. When I turned back again, I noticed the player sitting on the bench. A minute or so passed before the next stoppage and the player remained on the bench. Before allowing play to resume, I approached the coach and player on the bench and explained that the player failed to obtain my permission before leaving the field of play and I displayed the yellow card. The coach did not agree with the decision.

After the match, I consulted the Advice to refresh myself on the subject since it wasn’t something I was used to seeing. The Advice seemed to ‘advise’ that this may be a trifiling incident and that I should have considered a simple warning. After consulting several other referees, they all seem to think that my situation did not fit the situations described in the Advice and that I was correct to display the card.

I’m not sure the situation is really well covered. The player did not simply forget to obtain my permission. The coach was going off the premise, so I believe, that she did not need to ask my permission.

What say you?

Answer (October 24, 2007):
We are not sure why you feel that the situation of the player leaving the field without permission is not well covered. The Advice is quite clear about the ramifications of the several variations on this offense:

Players who leave the field without the referee’s permission most often do so for unsporting reasons – for example, to create an unfair offside situation (see Advice 11.10). They may also leave the field to indicate dissent or to “manage” the referee’s next decision.If a player does leave the field for some other reason without the referee’s permission to do so, and this results in gaining a tactical advantage for his or her team, the player has committed misconduct and must be cautioned and shown the yellow card.

Where it is apparent to the referee that the player leaving the field without permission has not done so to express dissent or to gain an unfair advantage (e. g., exited to change shoes or replace a torn jersey) and has merely forgotten to obtain permission (or thought he or she had obtained it), the referee should consider this a trifling breach of the Laws. A word/warning to the player should be sufficient in such circumstances, even if that player then re-enters the field without obtaining the referee’s permission.

A case could be made that the true violator of the Laws here is the coach. She behaved irresponsibly by calling the player from the field without your permission and leaving the player there. That would be grounds for her expulsion from the field and its immediate environs. However, we suspect that the coach is as ignorant of the Law as the player and the referee should consider giving the coach the same sort of slack as we recommend for the player — under these circumstances. The core issue here is the difference between a correct decision and the best decision. Cautioning the player and expelling the coach would be “a” correct decision, but “the” correct decision might be something else. The referee’s decision must be based on the level of play and the experience of the players and the coaches.…


I recently attended a select soccer tournament in [another state] where the following event occurred:

During a break away, off sides was called against the player who emerged from the pack with the ball. The coach (Team A) erupted in protest as the ball was awarded to the opposing team, using no profanity or threatening language. The official, ignoring the coach, proceeded with play and awarded the ball to the opposing team. No warning was issued from the official, no card was displayed, play continued. The coach returned to the bench with no further protest.

The coach (Team B) advised the coach for Team A that he was having him ejected for unsportsmanlike like conduct. While no card was issued from the official nor a verbal warning , Team B coach, cited his role as a site director for the tournament, contacted a field marshal who removed the coach from the field thus ending the game due to non availability of a coach.

In a subsequent game, the same coach, Team B, attempted to do the same procedure, on another offside call which went in his favor as the opposing coach, Team A protested the call in the same way. In this case, the field marshal did not respond, and the official continued play, issued no cards nor warning to the coach (team a).

As a former high school basketball official, I found this behavior by an opposing coach (team b) extremely inappropriate. I saw this as an attempt to gain advantage over a team. I also noted that after the game, when questioned by other coaches, he advised them it was within his authority as a site director to protect the officials from abuse. If the official does not issue a warning, card, or other action, how can a coach who is actively participating in the game apply discipline to another coach? He cited he was covered by appropriate rules?

Answer (October 16, 2007):
Under normal circumstances both the Team B coach and the field marshal were wrong. Such actions are not allowed by the Laws of the Game. However, as this was a tournament, there may be some validity to the field marshal’s action, depending on whether it is covered in the rules of the competition. Nevertheless, that does not excuse the coach of Team B for his irresponsible behavior in calling for the field marshal when the referee felt it was not worth dealing with.…


I was centering a U12Girls game when a loud unruly coach was given a warning midway into the first half. He quieted down till the end of the game. Afterward he came onto the field yelling and screaming. I told him I was going to take his card. He responded that I couldnt because it was after the game. (The kids were still on the field, and I hadnt budged from when the game ended) After back and forth arguing he went behind me while I spoke to the Assistant coach and got his cards from my linesman. I found this out and went to retrieve them, He refused to relinguish them to me. Our Disciplinary team said that since I didnt not show him a second yellow card that they cant discipline him. Is this so? Is there ever a time when a red card or someother form of disciplinary action can be imposed on a rogue coach after the fact?USSF answer (May 14, 2007):
The fact that the behavior occurred after the game is irrelevant. The referee retains full authority both to card (players, subs, etc.) and to order from the field (team officials) as long as the teams are still exiting and the referee is in the area of the field. All the rest of it is subject to local rule. If your league requires that you show cards to team officials–which is in contravention of the Laws of the Game, which limit cards to players, substitutes, and substituted players–then you must show a card.

Your only recourse would seem to be to submit a full report to both the competition (league, club, or whatever) and the state association, outlining precisely what happened.…


I was officiating a U-10 girls game. Team A performed the opening kickoff. Obviously, the team and their coach had discussed their strategy for taking the kick-off, but they failed on the execution and played the ball into touch. The coach, frustrated, yelled out, Jesus Christ!. It was loud enough for all players and fans to hear it. I gave him a verbal warning, but should I have done more? Is a religious profanity grounds for a send-off, or does it need to be a secular profanity? I assume I don’t need to provide examples.
USSF answer (May 14, 2007):
A player (or substitute or substituted player) who “uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” is sent off and shown the red card. A coach may not be sent off and shown any card, but may be expelled from the game for irresponsible behavior, which using offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures certainly is. The definition of such language or gestures is in the opinion of the referee, remembering that the important factor is the impact of the language on those participating in the match.…