I recently attended an ODP camp as a referee. I was told by a National Assessor at the camp that there was a rule concerning attackers and goalkeeper interactions inside the goal area. I don’t remember the specifics exactly and I don’t want to say that I was told something that I wasn’t. Could you please clarify if there are any laws/advice/interpretations on this subject?

USSF answer (August 3, 2011):

We have absolutely no idea what the assessor was talking about. There is nothing in writing that we are aware of.…


The revised format of the Week in Review contains representative video clips and expert description and commentary from Michael Kennedy that is greatly appreciated. This type of approach serves to clarify a
variety of game situations and provides explanations of correct decisions based upon the Laws of the Game (LOTG). Michael also invites viewers to submit questions. My question and request for clarification arises from a subject covered in week 7.

The first video clip from week 7 shows a player in an offside position that was not punished for being in that position because he received the ball directly via a throw-in from his teammate. As mentioned in the presentation, Law 11 Offside states “There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from: a goal kick or a throw-in or a corner kick.” Additional information on this subject is also provided in the USSF publication, “Offside Made Easy”, wherein the offside law is restated and the word “directly” is clarified to mean that no one else touched or played the ball.

Now, suppose that during the execution of a goal kick, throw-in, or corner kick, the ball is deflected off the head of: 1) a teammate, 2) a defender, or 3) both a teammate and defender (difficult to determine if just one) and goes to the player in the offside position. What is the correct decision?

For each of these three cases, please provide the correct decision based upon the LOTG along with any supporting reference in the LOTG or other official written documentation. If there are exceptions to Law
11 as written, please provide the rationale and reference to supporting written documentation (I haven’t found any, but there possibly could be–hence this email).

The aforementioned scenarios seem to have varying interpretations of law and resulting decision depending upon who one speaks with-referees, instructors and assessors. We would all probably agree that 1) referees need to make correct decisions based upon the written laws and other official publications that support sound decision making; and 2) official validation and written verification are preferred to unsubstantiated and unsupported individual views.

USSF answer (May 18, 2011):
In 2001 we ;published a document entitled “Speaking Directly,” which covers all these situations. Thank you for encouraging us to publish the article once again.

Speaking Directly

If a “direct” free kick is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal is awarded. (This is not the case with an “indirect” free kick, where a goal cannot be scored if the ball does not touch a second player — which can be the goalkeeper, who is, after all, also a player — before entering the goal.)

That is the primary meaning of “direct”; however, there are references in the Laws of the Game to “direct” or “directly” which do not apply to scoring goals. These references seem to confuse some referees:
– Law 11 states that there is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick
– throw-in taken by a teammate
– Law 13 and Law 16 declare the ball kicked from within a team’s own penalty area to be in play from a free kick or a goal kick only when it leaves the penalty area and goes directly into play
– Laws 16 and 17 tell us that a goal may be scored directly from a goal kick or a corner kick, but only against the opposing team
The use of “directly” in Laws 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 is fairly clear: if the ball goes from point A to point B without interference, something can or cannot happen. That is not true of the use of “directly” in Law 11. Tradition and custom give us a slightly different meaning of the word “directly” in the context of offside.

If at a goal kick, throw-in, or a corner kick taken by his team, a player receives the ball directly from the restart, there is no problem. Nor should there be any problem at a corner kick, as it is physically impossible for a player on the field of play to be offside directly from a corner kick. The confusion arises at throw-ins or goal kicks when the ball is deflected or misplayed by an opponent and then comes to the teammate of the thrower or kicker who is in an offside position. In such cases, the referee must disregard the deflection or misplay of the ball by the opponent, as there has been no infringement of the Law. However, if the ball were to be deflected or misplayed instead by a teammate of the thrower or kicker on its way to the player in the offside position, that player must be declared offside.


I’ve looked through LOTG and searched the archives and cannot find a definitive answer to the following:

Keeper Punting the Ball – Enforcement of the PA in the taking of the punt. There is differing Veteran Referee opinions / judgements: A) PA is enforced from where the ball meets the foot; B) PA is enforced from where the ball left the hand(s) of the keeper in starting the punt toss.

Example: the keeper tosses the ball into the air from inside the PA but strikes the ball 2-3 feet outside of the area. Legal?

USSF answer (October 12, 2010):
Let’s look at it in increments. If any part of the ball is on the line, the ball is within the penalty area. The fact that part of the ball might be outside the penalty area is irrelevant. The BALL on the line is still in the penalty area and, accordingly, it can still be handled by the goalkeeper, and that includes ANY PART of the ball. The BALL is a whole thing and either is or is not in the penalty area. If it is, it can be handled by the goalkeeper. If it is not, it cannot be handled by the ‘keeper.

If the goalkeeper releases the ball from his (or her) hands while within the penalty area, but does not kick the ball until it is outside the penalty area, no offense has occurred. That is entirely legal.

While recognizing that the offense by the goalkeeper of crossing the penalty area line completely with the ball still in hand is often debatable, and that it is usually trifling, we must also recognize that it is certainly an infringement of the Law and must always be treated as such by the referee. The referee will usually warn the goalkeeper about honoring the penalty area line but allow the first such act to go unpunished; however the referee must then clearly warn the goalkeeper to observe and honor the line and the Law. If it occurs again, the referee should call the foul and, if the offense is repeated yet again, caution the goalkeeper for persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game.

We have heard, but cannot believe, that any referee instructor in any state would tell referees to punish this offense with an indirect free kick. The correct restart is a direct free kick for the opposing team from the place where the offense occurred. That means the point just outside the penalty area where the goalkeeper still had the ball in hand.

One unfortunate thing is that in many cases assistant referees do not do their job correctly in this respect. Instead of judging the place where the ball is released from the goalkeeper’s hands, they concentrate on the place where the goalkeeper’s foot meets the ball, which could be well outside the area with no offense having occurred.

[This answer repeats materials used in answers from 2003-2009, all in the archives of this site.]…


hi my question is this if the player is on the line and puts his hands up to stop the ball from crossing the line in what happen.

I thought it was called a goal and a red card is given .

USSF answer (July 6, 2010):
You are not alone in your wish that this was true, but not in soccer, or at least not yet. There is a rule in both forms of rugby that allows the referee to award what is called a “penalty try” when an opponent commits misconduct, and thus prevents a try — the equivalent of a goal or touchdown in rugby — being scored. However, there is no such rule in soccer. The referee sends off the player who prevented the goal or the obvious goalscoring opportunity and restarts in accordance with the nature of the foul that led to the misconduct. In the situation you describe, that would be a penalty kick.…


In an NPSL match, as the match went on and became more contentious, the assistant coach as well as several substitutes began standing in the technical area, occasionally making dissenting remarks.

One comment by an assessor was to allow only one team official to stand at a time.

Is there any USSF requirement that players or coaches remain seated?

As a fourth official, can I demand that the players or coaches remain seated?

USSF answer (June 17, 2010)
The competition rules of NPSL do nor require team officials to stand one at a time, nor that they remain seated. The same applies to the published USSF indoor rules, probably because most facilities don’t always even have seats in the benches.

However, if the teams were playing outdoor soccer, the Law does require that only one team official at a time be standing in the technical area.…


During the game, the center referee (CR) issued a yellow card to a player for a (presumed) reckless tackle. After showing the yellow card, the CR was called over to the sidelines by another referee who was mentoring the game (GU15). If the center referee issues a yellow card for a reckless foul, can a 5th referee (the mentor) recommend to change the yellow to a red, and have the center referee change the yellow to a red on the spot? The 5th referee being a mentor but is not a 4th official and not having no active part of the game.

USSF answer (May 4, 2010):
Unless there is some special rule in your state that does not exist in other states, the mentor (or the assessor) is not allowed to interfere with the referee’s handling of the game until after the game has ended; not at a stoppage, not at halftime. He or she cannot intervene to make the referee change a call or take back a card or anything else. That sort of thing is done in the postgame conference.

However, the mentor (but NOT the assessor) could quietly suggest to the nearer assistant referee that the referee might wish to do this a bit differently — provided that the game has not already been restarted. The AR could then pass this information on to the referee.…


is it possible to call dangerous play instead of direct kick foul when physical contact is made? ie: ball is rolling toward and near goal line, defender is 1 step ahead of attacker, both runner toward goal line, defender reaches around the ball to clear it back toward halfway line and kicks attacker in the process. not kicks toward attacker but makes physical contact, kicking the attacker on his follow through. my ar’s argued the defender didn’t see attacker gaining ground and didn’t intend to kick him, dangerous play. i believe as soon as physical contact is made, dangerous play is no longer an issue, it must be straight forward direct free kick for “kicking an opponent”. is it possible to call “dangerous play”?

USSF answer (April 17, 2010):
No, it is not possible to call playing dangerously when there is contact. In this situation we see no foul at all, simply incidental contact. No kicking or attempting to kick, no playing dangerously. It is simply a trifling contact that is not a foul, unless the referee believes in his or her heart of hearts that the act was premeditated — and your description of the situation does not suggest that.

Referees should not always be looking to call fouls in 50-50 or trifling situations. Furthermore, this is NOT what the “dangerous play” offense is all about! A referee CANNOT convert a player’s act to dangerous play simply because there was no intent.…


I believe it’s a little bit silly how many questions there are about the “pass back” violation, given how rarely these situations actually occur. That said, a potential “pass back” situation arose during a recent assessment, and I hope you don’t mind offering a little clarification.

An attacking player kicked a ball forward toward the penalty area. A defending player, under pressure from another attacker, controlled the ball with his upper leg/thigh toward his goalkeeper, and the goalkeeper caught the ball with his hands.

Given the skill of the players, I felt the defender’s action was deliberate, and he knew he was pushing the ball out of reach of the attacker and to a place where his keeper could easily collect the ball. However, the ball never touched the defender’s foot, which I considered a requirement (part of the “iron triangle” described in the 21 May 2008 Memorandum).

After the game, the assessor said that I was not interpreting the term “foot” correctly. He stated, “Any part of the leg is considered, not just the foot.” He did not believe I should have called a “pass back,” however, because he felt the defender’s action was not deliberate: he considered the action more of a mis-directed attempt to clear the ball over the goal line.

Can you offer clarification and guidance? What parts of a defender’s body are included for the purposes of the “pass back” violation?

USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
Sigh! You are correct, there have been and continue to be too many questions about possible “pass back” infringements.

The Law is clear: “An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, . . . touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a teammate.” Kicking requires the use of the foot. The foot does not include the knee, thigh, or shin.

We cannot read the minds of the players; we can only interpret what we see. In this case no foot equals no infringement.…


I have a couple of questions about the following situation, which occurred at a U16 match.

Two opponents at midfield near the benches are mouthing off to each other, and some shoving is going on. A substitute comes off the bench onto the field, but nothing comes of it (everything settles down pretty quickly). I don’t know whether it is a factor or not, but the shoving/shouting happened behind the referee’s back while the ball was out of play, but once the assistant referee got the referee’s attention, the referee handled the situation and cautioned the two players and the substitute. From what I’ve been told, this was an isolated incident, and the referee had the match under control both before and after the incident occurred.

After the match, the assessor told the referee that ‘the third man in’ should have been sent off, even though he made no contact with anyone.

My questions to you:

1. Do you know where this mentality (third-man-in gets-a-red) came from?
2. What sort of feedback would you give to this assessor?

USSF answer (August 28, 2009):
The assessor seems to be misreading and misquoting a USSF directive on “Game Disrepute and Mass Confrontation.” The actual directive states:

1. Third Man In
– If a third man joins the game disrepute and causes it to escalate to mass confrontation, this player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.
– The third man in may be sent-off for violent conduct if his actions so warrant

There is certainly no suggestion in the directive that a third person to join any incident MUST be sent off, particularly if he or she has not done anything more than enter the field.

Our feedback to the assessor would be that he/she should thoroughly review the directives before making pronouncements on matters of this nature.…


At a recent tournament we had a kick from the mark situation. The state referee (AR1) set up the the players as follow: Five identified players from each team outside of the center circle in a group, approximately 20 yards from the center half way line and the rest of the players inside the center circle. Furthermore he placed himself between the the identified players and the rest of the players. I was assessing the referee and DDA indicated that he liked this set up which I disagreed. My reasoning were; number one that is not what the book said, secondly since AR1 back was to 10 other players, he would not be able to see if there was any misconduct that could occur behind him and lastly this sort of self proclaimed bending of the procedure would deteriorate the consistency that federation would like to uphold. Please give me your thoughts on this matter.

USSF answer (May 27, 2009):
The procedure followed by the AR stationed at the center circle was not correct and is not endorsed by the Federation. A complete checklist for kicks from the penalty mark was published on April 2, 2009. Referees may download the checklist from this URL: