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”).


This one has been asked in one form or another before, once by me, so please forgive the redundancy, but …

The rules allow players to stand where they wish for the most part (10 yards, etc not withstanding) and when it comes to a corner kick it is not uncommon to see an attacker attempt to disrupt a keepers concentration or ability to see or play a ball prior the the kick when everyone is jostling for position. I also know that keepers get no special consideration with regard to contact unless they are in control of the ball with thier hands.

That said, what can a keeper or coach do in a situation where the CR seems indifferent to hard body contact and what would seem to most observers to be an attacker impeding the keeper pre-kick. I know that if the CR determines that the keeper was interfered with once the ball is in play they can waive off the kick or possible score, and give the defense a free kick, but that does not address the issue all that well.

This seems to be a coached tactic and is used quite a bit at the U11 through U14/15 ages. It seems unfair to the keeper and puts them in a risky situation trying to keep their stance and make a play when being “guarded” almost like in a basketball game. Should/can the keeper or coach ask the CR from relief from this while the jostling is occurring?

USSF answer (September 29, 2009):
First let us repeat the answer we gave you back on May 14, 2008:

If the referee sees the situation developing, there are two choices: wait until the ball has been kicked to see what happens or step in proactively.

1. If the referee waits until the ball has been kicked to see what happens, there are two possibilities. If the player who is posting on the goalkeeper is attempting to play the ball, his tactics are legitimate. On the other hand, if the player is clearly attempting to interfere with the goalkeeper’s ability to play the ball, the tactics are not legitimate and the referee should call the player for impeding the goalkeeper and award an indirect free kick to the goalkeeper’s team from the point of the foul — bearing in mind the special circumstances applying to infringements within the goal area.

Unless this tactic is repeated, there is no need to caution the impeding player.

As to countermeasures taken by the goalkeeper against the marking player, they should be punished only if the opposing player is clearly attempting to play the ball and not playing the goalkeeper. The referee must exercise common sense.

2. If the referee decides to be proactive, he or she may stop play before the kick takes place and step in immediately and prevent a foul or even misconduct from occurring by having a word with the prospective perpetrator, whether it is the marking player or the goalkeeper. This keeps the ball with the team that won the corner kick (or other restart) and should defuse a potential escalation of the action into misconduct.

To that we might add that there is nothing we can do to MAKE the referee recognize what is going on and act against it. A polite — let us stress — P O L I T E — request to the referee at a stoppage in play might — let us stress M I G H T — work, but experience has shown us that the referees who do not recognize this tactic are often those who miss many other things in a game and are also those who will be the first to take disciplinary action against the person who asks or comments, whether it is truly deserved or not.


I was refereeing a U12 rec game with 2 young AR’s (both were 14 yrs old – one boy & one girl). The girl was on the team side and the boy was on the spectator side during the first half. One of the coaches was constantly calling for offside (the players were in offside positions but were not involved in play – so no call, there was one offside that needed to be called and it was) and he was questioning some out of play calls. The girl AR requested to switch sides at halftime and I allowed it. I didn’t want the coach to start to influence her calls and I though the boy would be better able to handle it. About 10 minutes into the second half, the coach noticed the switch and called me over to complain that it was against the rules. I told him it was a rec league and really didn’t matter since their was nothing in the league rules. Is there any official FIFA rule on this? I checked my books after the game and could not find anything.

USSF answer (September 14, 2009):
Ah, those amazing and inventive coaches! The reason you cannot find any reference to switching the location of your assistant referees is that there is nothing in the Laws about it. Nor is there any position paper about it. There is no need for any rule, as the assistant referees are there to ASSIST the referee, who may ask his or her assistants to work on one side in the first half and on the other in the second half. If the circumstances require it, the referee may switch the ARs’ positions at any time during a period of play.

We cannot stress enough that most coaches know little or nothing about the Laws of the Game and how referees are supposed to work. (Note that this does not apply to all coaches; some, even though not referees themselves, know as much as most referees.) One thing many coaches do very well is how to manage the referees and their assistants. A question here, a niggle there. Anything to make the referee or AR upset and to affect their judgment.

The wise referee will nip this activity in the bud by taking the first opportunity to let the coach know, politely and professionally, of course, that such actions will not be tolerated. What is the consequence to the coach for interfering with the game and the officials? A nice seat well away from the field, out of sight and out of hearing.


Referee has stopped play for an injury and will restart with a dropped ball. A player from the Red team says, “drop it to me and I’ll kick it out of play” clearly in the interest of fair play. So the referee drops the ball to this player who then turns and mounts an attack on the opponents goal. That is to say, he doesn’t do what he told the referee he would do. I don’t think you can caution this player for USB even though he clearly HAS been unsporting. [A person from another country] says you absolutely caution the player for USB. I really don’t know. What sayest thou?

USSF answer (August 31, 2009):
Where the player kicks the ball is of no interest to the referee, whose sole job here is to get the ball back into play quickly and fairly to all participants. However, the fact that the referee was foolish enough to accept the word of a player that he would do thus or such is incomprehensible.

There is no basis for the referee to caution the player for unsporting behavior. However, the referee should quietly go soak his or her head and learn to face facts: All players will con the referee if given half a chance. In addition, we would further add a penance or two to the referee’s lot. We find it difficult to justify a caution for fooling the referee, but not if the player fools an opponent illegally.


Often times in the MLS I see a very frustrating tactic and I have seen this in the matches I referee. Players stand in front of the ball at free kicks, especially in dangerous areas. Often times because of the unpunished nature of the offense it also happens at midfield. Players often times want a quick restart and this prevents this tactic. I feel frustrated as a biased fan. I can’t imagine how frustrated players get and parents get at youth matches. I imagine that both sides are getting frustrated.
Since I feel like the enforcement of the law is not very consistent with the 7+7 memorandum I want to know how to prevent the tactic and when does it become a cautionable offense. What are the criteria for it to become cautionable? I know what the memorandum says but what sort of advice do you have on enforcing this law?

One example (from a biased Seattle fan) would be the incident where Riley was sent off in the LA Galaxy match. Shouldn’t the player who clearly “provoked” the confrontation receive a caution. Under the 7+7 memorandum provoking a confrontation by touching the ball after the referee has stopped play is one of the offenses of special concern of FIFA. I was surprised to find it was not in the week in review.

USSF answer (June 11, 2009):
We are fortunate to have input from Brian Hall, U. S. Soccer’s Manager of Assessment and Training.

First, let us address your question regarding the Riley situation. You are correct, the player who withheld the ball from Riley and, therefore, prevented Riley from putting the ball into play quickly should have been cautioned for delaying the restart of play. This exact subject was covered in U.S. Soccer’s “Week In Review 8” which can be found at (select week 8).

Explanation and video review of the subject are covered coinciding with Video Clip 2: Los Angeles at Seattle.

Now, to your broader question. Referees have been instructed and continue to receive guidance relative to delaying the restart and not respecting the required distance. In fact, the overall management of free kick restarts is covered as one of U.S. Soccer Referee Program’s main directives for 2009.

These directives can be downloaded at: However, if you are watching the game worldwide, you will see referees elsewhere are facing the exact same challenges.

In the 2008-09 publication of the Laws of the Game, FIFA revised the wording relative to “distance” and free kicks. Check the new section FIFA has introduced to replace the old “Questions and Answers:” “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.” In this section, the term “distance” is defined:

“If a player decides to take a free kick quickly and an opponent is less than 9.15 meters from the ball intercepts it, the referee must allow play to continue.” It also states….

“If a player decides to take a free kick quickly and an opponent who is near the ball deliberately prevents him taking the kick, the referee must caution the player for delaying the restart.”

Key terms are “intercepts,” and “deliberately prevents.” Upon reading U.S. Soccer’s directive on “Free Kick and Restart Management,” you will see that “deliberately prevents” is defined as “lunging or advancing forward or toward the ball.” So, if a defender is less than 10 yards and he/she lunges or advances forward toward the ball and then makes contact with the ball, this player must be cautioned for delaying the restart. On the other hand, if an attacker takes a free kick and the defender is less than 10 yards but in view of the attacker, then the attacker assumes the risk of the quick free kick and any defensive contact would not be punishable (the kicker knew the location of the defender at the time he/she took the free kick).

Finally, as the directive implores officials, preventative measures should be utilized. Upon seeing players who act as a “statue” in front of the ball or who are less than 10 yards, referees should use presence to move the defender back and prevent further occurrences.


I had a strange situation come up this winter in indoor, but I suppose I could have seen it just as easily in outdoor, and couldn’t find any written information.

Here’s the situation: A ball is kicked to another player and the ball wedges itself between her legs, just above the knees. Everyone freezes for a second, and the player begins to hop down the field with the ball still trapped between her legs. After 4 or 5 hops, she let it fall and resumed dribbling as usual. I let it go, because I could think of no infraction that would include that occurrence. Did I make the correct no-call, or should I have made a call in this situation, perhaps Playing in a Dangerous Manner? What would you have done?

USSF answer (April 20, 2009):
This player has both played in a dangerous manner and committed unsporting behavior. Players are not allowed to “carry” the ball with any part of their body, neither the head not the shoulders nor their legs. Other than when the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball, at which time he or she cannot be interfered with, the ball must always be available for others to play fairly.

By keeping the ball between her legs, this player has placed both herself and others in danger; herself, because another player might decide to take a kick at the ball to dislodge it, and others, because they cannot play the ball fairly and might injure either her or themselves by trying to do so. She has also committed unsporting behavior by unfairly withholding the ball from play.


On a throw in by the blue team, a blue teammate, with an opponent right behind him/her, in anticipation of the ball’s receipt, turns just as the ball is thrown to a place behind and to the side, making contact with the opponent and “pushes off” the opponent with his/her body then runs onto the ball. The player does a “quick turn” with the clear intention of pushing off the opponent with the shoulder or body to seemingly gain an advantage. Comments? Is it all fair in love and soccer or is there a more nefarious
I asked my husband’s niece who uses this play and she said that she is coached to do this. They want someone right behind them so they can use this tactic to their advantage.

USSF answer (April 17, 2009):
Turn about is NOT fair play in this case. If this happens before the ball is released, the throw-in, if subsequently completed, is taken again and the thrower’s teammate should be warned not to repeat this action. If he or she persists in this behavior, the correct remedy is to caution the player for unsporting behavior and retake the throw-in. If this happens after the ball is released, stop play and restart with a direct free kick for the opposing team from the place where the infringement occurred.


This past weekend I ref’d a U19G D2 game. Two girls from the home team had either a number or symbols painted on their face on the cheek under the eye. I asked the coach if they were tatoos. He said they were not. I told them that although anti-glare paint or strips under the eye would be OK, face painting for merely ornamental reasons would be considered adornment and would not be allowed. He became somewhat indignant and stated that he would get a clarification on the rules before he told them not to paint numbers/symbols on their face.
Questions: Can players wear anti glare paint/strips under the eyes? Can players paint numbers or symbols on their face?

USSF answer (September 15, 2008):
Law 4 – Player Equipment – tells us:

A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry).
The basic compulsory equipment of a player is:
– a jersey or shirt
– shorts — if thermal undershorts are worn, they are of the same main color as the shorts
– stockings
– shinguards
– footwear

The referee must enforce the Laws of the Game, particularly as they apply to the safety of players. In other words, the player must not wear anything that is dangerous to anyone on the field and must not wear jewelry. The only players allowed — by custom and practice, rather than by the Law — to wear any other items of clothing are goalkeepers. It is up to the referee to determine what is dangerous to the players in the game being refereed on this particular day at this particular field. The Federation cannot set separate guidelines for different age groups. There is no difference between under-tiny soccer, under-16 or -19 soccer, amateur soccer, professional or international soccer.

Anti-glare strips or paint on the face might be considered acceptable, as might paintings of flowers or the team mascot, but some face painting — combat camouflage, stripes, etc. — is clearly intended as an attempt to intimidate the opponents and is thus unsporting behavior, rather than simply a matter of “building spirit,” the reason usually offered for the practice.

If questioned by players, the referee should simply refer them to Law 4. If they do not wish to remove items that are unacceptable to the referee and thus to conform with the Law, inform them that the only alternative to removing the unauthorized equipment is not to play at all. Safety and common sense must be the referee’s guideline.

If leagues or tournaments wish to prevent problems, they should adopt rules of competition which take the burden of determining that certain items are not acceptable in their competition. Referees should not be forced to make all the decisions in this area and thus become the target for player, coach, and spectator abuse.

And as a well-known former FIFA Referee would say: “Only in America!”


Both the LOTG and Advice to Referees state that a player who accidentally goes out of the field of play while contesting for the ball or to beat an opponent should not be considered as having left the field without the referee’s permission. Is there any time or space limit that could apply to this ruling, as if a player runs (uncontested by an opponent) for 10, 20 or 30 yards totally outside the touchline?

This appeared to be the case in a recent game, although the reason for the actual call was not clear. My opinion was that the call would not have been for leaving the field but for some other infringement.

However, I would like a definitive answer.

USSF answer (September 15, 2008):
The Laws tell us: “If a player accidentally crosses one of the boundary lines of the field of play, he is not deemed to have committed an infringement. Going off the field of play may be considered to be part of playing movement.” But they also tell us that any players who do so are expected to return to the field as quickly as possible. The player in your situation would seem to have infringed on the Law.


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?