Ball enters PA of Team A by a pass by Team B. Ball is stopped in PA by Team A goalie with feet who never touches ball with hands. How long can goalie possess ball at feet prior to picking it up for a punt? This happens a lot in our high school games and is inconsistently dealt with by referees. Some believe 6 seconds while some believe it is poor play. Most want the game restarted quickly.

USSF answer (June 2, 2011):
We do not answer questions on high school rules in this forum. If your question involved the Laws of the Game, then this would be our answer:
The game has not stopped and the ball is still in play. The goalkeeper may keep the ball at his or her feet and kick it around as much as he or she likes; there is no time limit. However, if the other team wants the ball, then they should move toward the goalkeeper and force him or her to pick it up, at which point the ‘keeper has six-seconds to punt or throw the ball away into general pay.…


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.…


A defender slides towards an opponent running with the ball. The defender’s tackling foot pushes the ball away from the opponent but the force of the defender’s momentum causes him to collide heavily with the opponent below the knees. The opponent tumbles to the ground. I adjudge the defender to have used excessive force and to have been reckless with regard to injury, and to have tripped the opponent (or attempted a trip) because the opponent’s feet were impeded in such a way that he fell heavily. I award a direct free kick.

I have been told by many players, fans, and coaches that this could not be a foul because the defender didn’t trip the player – he “got the ball”. I have heard commentators on TV say that a referee is wrong in calling a foul when a player “gets the ball”. I have never seen it written down in the Laws of the Game that if a player “gets the ball” he cannot at the same time be guilty of tripping or using excessive force. Am I missing some directive about the interpretation of Law 12?

USSF answer (May 18, 2010):
Saying that a player “got the ball” is meaningless in a tackle. What the referee must be concerned about is what happens during and after the tackle.

• If the tackler uses excessive force, he or she is sent off immediately for serious foul play and the game is restarted with a direct free kick or a penalty kick, if the foul and misconduct were committed in the tackler’s penalty area).
• If the tackler is reckless, he or she is cautioned and the game is restarted as above.
• If the tackler is careless, the game is restarted as above.
• If the tackle is committed fairly and there is incidental contact, there is no foul.

If, after the tackle is fairly made, the tackler uses the foot or body in a careless or reckless way or with excessive force, see DURING.

Coaches will always protest an act that disadvantages their team, no matter that it was done legally. As for commentators on television, many of them actually know little or nothing of the game and how it should be played or refereed, no matter what their accent or “credentials.”

Only the referee on the game can make that decision, applying The Seven Magic Words, “If in the opinion of the referee, . . ..”…


Could you explain the decision in the following scenario. It caused a lot of controversy in a recent match and teams still expect an explanation from me:

A player shoots towards goal, first time, as soon as he receives the ball from a team-mate. Just as he shoots, an opposition player tackles him very hard. The tackle deserves either a red, or a yellow card, but the player’s shot goes in (ie. he scores but is left injured). In either situation, whether the tackling player deserves a red, or a yellow card, does the goal stand? Would an advantage be allowed in any case (red or yellow)? Does this apply to all outfield players and the goalkeeper or are there slightly different rules regarding the keeper (committing the foul)?

My thoughts would be since its a “dangerous” tackle, advantage should not be allowed, and the very second the tackle was made, the game stops immediately, therefore, the player who fouls receives a red/yellow card, and the fouled team get a free kick/penalty.

Alternatively, the goal stands and the player is not cautioned or sent off at all. One thing I thought definately shouldn’t happen is for the goal to stand AND the player cautioned/sent off using the “advantage” rule. I thought this is not permitted since the game should immediately stop from the second a dangerous foul is committed, regardless of whether the subsequent shot ends up in goal or not.

USSF answer (February 11, 2009):
Yes, the goal stands, because the referee will sensibly have waited a moment or two to see what happens, applying the advantage but waiting that moment or so to see what happens before announcing it.

The same rules apply to goalkeeper and outfield players for such an infringement. Why would they differ?? In this case, if the referee decides that the tackle was excessive and that it was delivered with no intent to play the ball (e. g., late or from an angle opposite to the ball), then it is and should be reported as violent conduct.  If the referee decides that the player was attempting to play the ball with excessive force, then it is and should be reported as serious foul play.

If there is a chance of a goal, the referee will wait that extra second or so to declare the decision already made: That the tackle was done with excessive force and is therefore serious foul play or violent conduct. The referee must NEVER take away a deserved goal, no matter that the player has been injured. If the ball does not enter the goal, the referee will stop play, send off the opposition player for serious foul play, and restart with a penalty kick or a direct free kick, whichever is correct for the place where the foul and serious misconduct took place.

The referee must make the decision as to what he or she will do at the moment the particular infringement occurs. That will not change for whatever else may happen after the infringement. In this case, the goal was scored and the rest follows automatically.…


Was just catching up on Ask A Ref.

I was reading November 2008 III of III. There was a question about a couple of recert questions, and the guy mentioned a 50 question recert test. The answer seemed to imply that the number of questions on a recert can vary widely across the country.

I just took my test tonight (8 recert) and it had 75 questions. Not that I really care, but I thought the test was standard across the USA, so every 8 recert would take a similar 75 question test.

And we had a 12 recert taking a 50 question test, so that may explain that guys’ understanding of the laws 🙂

Anyway, another topic. I saw a professional game on tv a few weeks ago.

I think it was MLS. Situation was this – note Im seeing all this on tv without a lot of explanation from the announcers.

Attacker kicks ball out over goal line. Keeper looks over to sidelines, lifts up one leg, points to cleat, then rolls hands around like for a substitution, implying he wants to change his cleats. The trainers run out onto the field, he changes his cleats. He goes to reset the ball for the goal kick, and just before he kicks the ball, the center comes over and shows him a yellow card.

Again, no explanation from the announcers – they dont know definitively what is going on anyway. Side note – am I crazy, or does John Harkes not have a clue about the laws of the game?

I presume the caution was for delaying the restart. But if the delay was caused by the changing of the cleats, can the ref logically show a caution for that, when he allowed the trainers onto the field in the first place?

If you know what really happened in this situation, I would like to know, as it keeps me awake at night, but more importantly it might make a good instructive question for Ask A Ref.

USSF answer (December 12, 2008):
1. Recertification testing
The Federation supplies tests of 100 questions for use in testing referees in grades 12 through 5 to the state directors of instruction. Recertification testing is run differently in each state. Some states randomly select 50 (or 75, as in your state) questions and use them for recerts. Other states take these tests and rewrite them to suit themselves, changing answers from the correct one to an answer that fits the particular need of the state or the individual instructor. Unfortunately, there is little the Federation can do about this.

2. Television commentators
Most — not all, but certainly most — television commentators, even those who have played professionally and internationally, have no clear grasp of the Laws of the Game. They look at the game from the viewpoint of the position they played (or their experience in other sports), rather than at the overall picture. Additionally, the commentators are also watching the game unfold from a significantly different location than are the referee and the assistant referees. They do the game a great disservice by suggesting that the referees do not know what they are doing.

3. The incident
The game you saw was the playoff game between the Chicago Fire and the New England Revolution. Prior to taking the goal kick, the Chicago goalkeeper, Bush, indicated that he was injured and the referee permitted the trainers to enter the field. However, then Bush also indicated that he wanted to change his boots, as they were not suitable for the field conditions. He failed to get the referee’s permission for this and then took too long with it and the referee rightly cautioned him for delaying the restart of play.

There are, of course, other questions that could be asked, such as what was the score (and the rhythm) of the game? Was the delay for tactical purposes? Was Chicago trying to “use” this time to interfere with the Revolution’s pace of play? However, the core of the matter is the actual delay of the restart.…


There was controversy in a game in the Premier League today where Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie was “played onside” when a through ball played by his Arsenal colleague Denilson was diverted to Van Persie by Chelsea’s Ashley Cole. The diversion of the ball, although slight, was from a deliberate attempt to play the ball by Cole.

Van Persie was in an offside position when the ball was played by Denilson (and for that matter when Cole touched the ball). The referee in this case ruled that Cole’s attempt to play and touching of the ball then played RVP onside.

Now as I’ve always understood it a player could not be offside from a pass made from an opposing player but in reading the offside rule nowhere do I see mention that the player who passes the ball must be on your own side.

So was Van Persie offside?

USSF answer (December 1, 2008):
In brief, yes, van Persie was offside. He was clearly in an offside position when the ball was played to him by Denilson and the deflection of the ball (if indeed it happened) would make no difference in the referee’s call.…