At a U15 Girls match this weekend, the game seemed to go without too much incident and not too many insults to the officiating crew.

It was IMMEDIATELY after the game that the situation eroded. The game was played on an outlying field that was away from the rest of the tournament and apparently no “field marshals” were assigned to the game.

Towards the end of the game, one of the parents from the team who was loosing positioned himself with the parents of the winning team.

Immediately after the game, he began to “start trouble” by provoking arguments with the winning team. The situation was volatile, but after a few minutes the winning parents seemed to leave the area before the incident could get out of control.

I have been taught that the referee is in charge of the game, technical area, the players and SPECTATORS from the time the referees arrive on the pitch until they depart (even before and after the game). I know exactly how to handle this DURING the game, but this was after the game had technically ended and while the referee crew was still on the pitch. (There were less than 50 spectators — of which only about 10-15 were involved)

It seems to me that a few well-placed words from the referee could have ended the situation rather quickly.

My question is, since there are NO other unbiased officials of the tournament, does the referee have any authority under the “laws of the game” to “persuade” the spectators that it is not in their best interest to continue their arguments.

Should I, as THE referee, get involved on a MORAL ground just to try to stop the situation from escalating? Obviously, I am not going to step into a fist-fight, but should I, as a 40-year old adult, step in to prevent the “arguing” that could lead to something stupid?

USSF answer (October 11, 2011):
The Laws ask only that the referee deal with situations in which someone unauthorized enters the field, in which case the referee should suspend play and perhaps terminate the game if the situation cannot be handled by the appropriate authorities. Unless there is some rule of the tournament that permits you to deal with spectators or anyone other than team officials, you have no authority to deal with such persons at any time, whether before, during, or after the game, unless there is some question of player safety off the field. Your job is to ensure that the players are safe, not Mom or Dad.…


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 am concerned about teaching referees correctly, in accordance with the USSF’s current thinking, about Law 12 “Handles the ball Deliberately”. We have taught in the past that “gaining an advantage” from a ball that has hit the hand or arm makes no difference if the referee judged it wasn’t deliberate. And in fact the 2010 ATR (12.9) states that “The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement…. NOTE: In most cases in the Laws of the Game, the words “touch,” “play,” and “make contact with” mean the same thing. This is not true in the case of deliberate handling, where the touch, play, or contact by the offending player must be planned and deliberate.”

The Directives that came out in 2009 list as #3 Did the Player Benefit? I have taken this to refer for the first two points (1) “Making yourself Bigger” and (2) “Is the Arm or hand in an unnatural position”, and if the referee’s opinion was that it was not deliberate it did not matter if the player gained and advantage or benefit from the ball hitting his hand.

At a State Cup game the SYRA and I got into a discussion after a coach was told that advantage had no part in determining a handling call, he stated that now because of the 2009 Directive The player gaining a benefit should be whistled for handling. He has been in conferences and meetings that I have not so I wanted to be sure of the correct instructions (interpretations) that need to be taught to the referees.

USSF answer (November 19, 2010):
Despite superficial appearances to the contrary, we see no actual conflict between what is stated in the directive and what is said in the Advice to Referees. The third criterion in the Directive of February 2, 2009, Handling the Ball, is actually clear. However, the mention in that directive of “advantage” has absolutely nothing to do with the advantage we are familiar with from Law 5.

Criterion 3:

3. Did the player “benefit”?
In considering all the “signs” described above, the referee should also consider the result of the player’s (usually a defender) action. Did the defender’s action (handling of the ball) deny an opportunity (for example, a pass or shot on goal) that would have otherwise been available to the opponent? Did the offending player gain an unfair tactical advantage from contact with the hand/arm which enabled him to retain possession? In other words: Did the player benefit by putting his hand/arm in an “unnatural position?” The referee needs to be able to quickly calculate the result of the player’s action to determine whether an offence has been committed.

The directive is speaking of a tactical advantage for the handling player, not the advantage invoked by the referee. It is similar in that way to the “gaining an advantage” referred to in Law 11 (Offside). In this sense, the directive addresses the “benefit” a defending player might achieve in the sense of foiling an opponent’s attack.

The criterion at issue here is a way of coming to terms with the word “deliberate” as applied to the handling foul. All other things being equal, we are far less likely to consider an act to be deliberate if we cannot divine any reason for it happening. If the hand makes contact with the ball and there does not appear to be any purpose served by the contact, it is more likely accidental than deliberate — even if it drops kindly. The absence of a purpose, of course, doesn’t mean there wasn’t one — only that we cannot discern it. Where there is a discernible reason, and the contact achieves that reason, then we should be far more likely to suspect its innocence.

The directive does not suggest that benefit of a player’s action should be the sole point to decide if a ball was handled deliberately or not. The directive states that the referee needs to decide first if a handling-the-ball situation involved (1) a player “making himself bigger” or (2) if the player’s arm was in an unnatural position. The third criterion (3) involves the result of the action. The first sentence of criterion 3 is key: “In considering all the ‘signs’ described above, the referee should also consider the result of the player’s (usually a defender) action.” Possible “benefits” for defender or attacker are suggested. However, these benefits are to examined only in the context of the first two criteria. In other words, if the defender “made himself bigger” and was able to play the ball, the observed benefit of foiling the attack provides confidence that the handling of the ball was deliberate. If the referee is still unsure after considering these 3 criteria, then additional factors (reaction time, distance to ball) can be applied.…


During our adult state cup our state instructor showed us page 37 of the 2010-2011 Referee Administrative Handbook, we were told that only the new style shirts (as shown) would be permitted for wear by USSF referees. Are the old style shirts on longer permitted? Also we were told that the three striped socks were not acceptable for wear anymore, the new “two stripe” sock along with the old “logo” sock are now the socks acceptable for wear.

Can we wear other badges with our new style shirts (special area badges, high school, college,)when not doing USSF sanctioned matches?

Can referee buy the MLS pro referee uniform or uniforms and do lower level games wearing them?

USSF answer (October 21, 2010):
We hope that you misunderstood the instructor, as there has been absolutely no change in the uniform requirements. The designs shown in the Referee Administrative Handbook (p. 37) are for the new design, but the old uniform may still be worn if it is presentable. Referees are still permitted to wear the three white-stripe sock or the black sock with the old U.S. Soccer Referee Department logo, as both are still USSF-approved.

As to wearing the uniform to officiate high school, college, or other competitions, referees must wear apparel that is approved for the competition in which they officiate. If there is no uniform requirement in a competition that is not affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation, then referees may wear what they like, as long as they do not bring dishonor on the uniform or themselves. The uniforms worn by the professional-league referees are NOT approved for any USSF-affiliated competition other than those professional leagues.

The FAQ posted on the USSF website regarding the newer OSI uniforms remains in effect, referees can still wear the old and the new uniforms:…


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.]…


The prof in a referees’ clinic explained that if all the fullbacks on a team move into the offensive half of the field, then the opponents are freed of any offsides restrictions at all. I’m dubious; I don’t see how this follows from Law XI. Can you explain it to me please, or perhaps the prof is mistaken? Thanks!

USSF answer (August 8, 2010):
You are pulling our legs, right? It makes absolutely no difference where the players on the defending team are, the player in the opposing half of the field must still be no nearer to the opposing goal line than the ball to avoid being in an offside position. On condition that we specify that the attacking player is on the halfway line, he can never be either offside or in an offside position when the ball is played by his teammate in this particular scenario. The Law is clear (emphasis added to ensure understanding):

Offside Position
It is not an offense in itself to be in an offside position.
A player is in an offside position if:
• he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than BOTH the ball and the second-last opponent
• he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
A player is not in an offside position if:
• he is in his own half of the field of play or
• he is level with the second-last opponent or
• he is level with the last two opponents


I was at a high level youth tournament this summer and we had an interesting discussion amongst the referees, as one of the referees had an affinity for the long-sleeved jerseys. My understanding up until now had been that the referee crew was to be wearing sleeves of the same length, all long, or all short. (This is frequently not the case in other matches I have seen such as EPL and some WC matches, and I believe possibly on a MLS match or two.) When I looked at the most recent Administrative Handbook edition under the uniform, I found no such direction. The referee I worked with at this tournament said a recent memo/position paper had just come out from US Soccer saying referees could wear whichever sleeve length they wanted, and just be comfortable. Can you confirm or put to rest the rumors that any such memo exists? Thanks.

USSF answer (July 14, 2010):
No, there is no such memo. Here is the reply from the authority at U. S. Soccer:
“We have never sent a position paper on sleeves. It is up to each person to decide and they do not all have to match.”…


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.…


While an offensive player is in the offside position a defensive player attempts to clear the ball and kicks a low line drive about 15 yards and deflects off the leg of an offensive player to the offside player who scores.

The offensive player from whom the ball deflects does not play the ball, makes no attempt to play the ball and had no opportunity to play the ball. He was just unlucky that the ball hit him.

Rule 11 says that simply touching the ball is sufficient:

“Committing an Offside Offence A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:”

I’ve been told by [a senior-level] ref that a deflection by an offensive player is not offside. But Rule 11 says “touches or played.” It seems to me that if the rule only said “played” then an offensive unintentional deflection would not be offside. But the Rule 11 has the words, “touches or played.” So shouldn’t the offensive deflection to a player in the offside position warrant the offside call since the offensive player last “touched” the ball?

USSF answer (May 27, 2010):
The senior-level referee has his facts wrong. If the ball is played by a defending player and it bounces off one opposing player to another of his opponents who is in an offside position, that player in the offside position is offside because he or she was interfering with play. You will find this information in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees 2009/2010, under Law 11.…


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.…