Before a corner kick or a direct kick or an indirect kick, the team with the ball is placing a player directly in front of the keeper. Also, that person is screening the keeper and is pushing backwards on the keeper and trying to push the keeper into the goal.

The screening player will do everything to prevent the goalkeeper from getting in front of them. I believe this is a violation of “Impeding the Progress of an Opponent”. All this is happening before the kick is made and when the ball is put into play. What is the ruling?

Answer (June 2, 2012):
What you describe is actually pushing or holding, both direct free kick offenses that should be punished by the referee. (Unfortunately, many referees do not recognize this and make no call or fail to bawl out the goalkeeper.)

It is a general principle underlying the Law that players are not permitted to “play” the opponent rather than the ball. Except under certain conditions spelled out in the Laws (such as at a penalty kick or throw-in or goal kick), a player is permitted to stand wherever he or she wishes. After the ball is put in play, a player who — without playing or attempting to play the ball — jumps up and down in front of the goalkeeper to block the ‘keeper’s vision or otherwise interferes with the ‘keeper’s ability to play the ball is committing the foul of impeding an opponent. If there is contact initiated by the player doing this, the foul becomes holding or pushing. When such activity occurs, the referee should immediately stop the restart and warn the players to conduct themselves properly. If, after the warning (and before the restart), they do it anyway, they have committed unsporting behavior and should be cautioned. The restart remains the same.

Before the ball is in play, the referee can simply allow the opponent of the ‘keeper to impede, wait for the restart to occur, blow the whistle, award an indirect free kick coming out, and card if needed. This is the “harsh” approach and it carries the danger, provided the jostling doesn’t sufficiently enrage the goalkeeper (or any other defender), that the tensions or violence will escalate to something more serious. It is also not a good approach when it is an attacker who is doing the jostling.

The referee can see the situation developing and verbally and/or by a closer presence encourage correct behavior on the part of the jostlers in the hope that they will cease their misbehavior. This is the “proactive” (some would call it the “wimpy”) approach and is more likely to prevent escalation, if it works. If it doesn’t work, the referee can always hold up the restart, caution, and then signal the restart or go to the option above.

Such actions against the goalkeeper can also occur during dynamic play and are very often missed by both referee and assistant referee.


Corner Kick-shielding. During a recent U12 Girls game I was officiating, the blue team was awarded a corner kick. Blue player took the kick but miss hit the ball. The ball traveled forward about 6 feet towards the goal. The kicker, realizing that she could not kick the ball again since it would constitute a two touch violation, yelled at her teammate to come in and get the ball. The red team defender who was next to the blue teammate also ran towards the ball to try and gain control of it.

Question: Would it have been OK if the blue team player who kicked the ball ran between the red team player and ball to shield her from getting the ball (with the understanding that the ball would have been within playing distance of the blue team player who kicked it) and give the blue teammate of the kicker a better opportunity of getting the ball by swinging behind the two players?

If the kicker was not allowed to legally play the ball again immediately due to the two touch rule, can she still be involved in the play and shield the opposing player from getting the ball?

USSF answer (September 20, 2011):
Shielding the ball does not establish or continue “possession” of the ball. The Blue player is technically unable to actually play the ball, because to do so would constitute the “second touch.” Being within “playing distance” should not be considered sufficient to allow the kicker to shield the ball – the ball must in fact also be playable by that player. In other words, the concept of “playing distance” must include being able to play the ball legally.

If the player can legally play the ball and the ball is within playing distance, the player may shield as a tactic to prevent an opponent from getting to the ball (provided, of course, that the shielding does not involve holding).  If the player cannot legally play the ball or if the ball is not within playing distance, such shielding becomes “impeding the progress of an opponent” and should be penalized by an indirect free kick.


This occurred in a U13B game today.

Forward is lined up, even with the 18, but outside of the penalty area, a step offside, with a defender next to him. Through ball is passed beyond both of them. They both run for the ball. As the AR, I am thinking, forward is offside, but lets see who gets to the ball first.

Defender establishes position between the forward and the ball, and attempts to shield the ball over the goal line for a goal kick.

As they both move toward the goal line, following the ball, the center decides the defender is not within playing distance of the ball, whistles, and calls obstruction, awarding an indirect to the attacking team.

But doesn’t awarding obstruction imply the forward would have played the ball, or at a minimum interfered with play, which means he was offside?

USSF answer (March 12, 2011):
Unless we are misreading your question, the referee’s decision would seem to have been incorrect. We recommend for your (and the referee’s) reading this excerpt from the Advice to Referees (2010/2011):

“Interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent. Interference can also include active physical or verbal distraction of the goalkeeper by an opponent as well as blocking the view of the goalkeeper.

A player who is in an offside position when the ball is played toward him by a teammate and who attracts the attention of an opponent, drawing that opponent into pursuit, is guilty of interfering with an opponent.

Referees are reminded that the reference to “playing or touching the ball” (see Advice 11.5 below) does not mean that an offside infringement cannot be called until an attacker in an offside position actually touches the ball. Please note: Here and elsewhere in the guidance for offside, “play,” “touch,” and “make contact with” are used interchangeably (as they are in the Laws of the Game and its Instructions). However, these terms are interchangeable only for the attackers. For the defenders, merely touching the ball is not sufficient in the context of an offside decision — they must actually play (possess and control) the ball, meaning that for them there is indeed a meaningful distinction between “touch” and “play.”

“Touching the ball” is not a requirement for calling an offside infringement if the attacker is interfering with an opponent by making a movement or gesture which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts that opponent.

According to the IFAB Circular of August 17, 2005: “A player in an offside position may be penalized before playing or touching the ball if, in the opinion of the referee, no other teammate in an onside position has the opportunity to play the ball.” Further, “If an opponent becomes involved in the play and if, in the opinion of the referee, there is potential for physical contact, the player in the offside position shall be penalized for interfering with an opponent.” In addition, referees must remember that the indirect free kick restart for an offside offense is taken “from the initial place where the player was adjudged to be in an offside position.

Therefore, the referee should have called the player in the offside position offside at the moment the defender was distracted by his movement and moved to protect the ball. The indirect free kick would be taken from the place where the forward was when the ball was played by his teammate.

In addition, we must also point out that your reaction—”As the AR, I am thinking, forward is offside, but lets see who gets to the ball first”—was the entirely wrong action to take. In these circumstances, it doesn’t matter who gets to the ball first; that reasoning would be used only when the race is between an offside position attacker and another attacker who started from an onside position. The very fact that the attacker’s action caused a defender to race with him to the ball is sufficient to stop, square, and raise the flag for what would eventually be an offside signal. What happened afterward (the alleged “obstruction”) was not the offense.


I play for a U19 girls soccer team, and we played a game today that many of our fans, coach, and players felt that it was an unfairly reffed game. The team we played for had a referee that additionally works at that teams club. I’m not positive because I was pretty sure that you can not ref a game for a club you work for…that would be an unfair bias. He additionally called about 11 obstruction calls on our team whenever we got within the 18 yrd box of the opposing team(the club he works for team) If I am mistaken again but I thought obstruction would be typically called on the defending team.

We also got called for an obstruction call on the goalie when a teammate of mine stood in front of the goalie on a corner(not even touching her) We got called for another on a girl who did not have the ball yet and then once on our own 8 yrd line our defending player got called for obstruction for playing typical defense on a corner….what exactly is this obstruction rule and why is it being used, I have never heard this rule in my life but once? Lastly I would like to know if there is a way to report a referee somehow, because I think he should not be allowed to ref for a club team for the club he works for.

USSF answer (October 17, 2010):
If you have problems with a referee, then the best thing to do is to submit a report to the competition authority (the league, cup, tournament, etc.) that is responsible for the game. You will also want to send a copy of that report to the state referee authorities in your state.

In general, refereeing a game in which you have a vested interest in a team (such as working for that team or club) is considered to be a conflict of interest. In such a case, you can also file a complaint with the state soccer association responsible for that particular competition. Look on the U. S.Soccer website for Federation Policies, in particular Policy 531-10 — Misconduct of Game Officials, Section 2, Procedures. You can find the Federation’s Bylaws and Policies (and Amendments to the Policies) at this URL: .

There is no such foul as “obstruction,” although there was such a foul until the major editing of the Laws in 1997. It would appear that the “referee” for your game has not read the Laws of the Game since 1996. Either that or he (a) paid no attention in training classes or (b) is not a referee at all.

“Obstruction” became “impeding the progress of an opponent” in 1997. impeding the progress of an opponent is defined in the Laws of the Game: “Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of the opponent to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction by an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.” It is punished by an indirect free kick for the opposing team. In addition, “It is an offense to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him, e. g. at the taking of a corner kick.” In either case, if contact is initiated by the impeding player, this is considered to be the direct free kick foul of holding.