At our USSF recertification class we were instructed that we now have up to six or seven restarts to “take a missed call back” to the original foul. Example given at class – Assistant Referee signals offside on white & center referee does not see nor acknowledge the offside call due to lack of focus. The AR maintains his/her position of offside during which time 1.)a goal kick took place for red, 2.) then a direct kick for white 3.) a throw-in for red 4.) PK for red resulting in a score 5.) ensuing kickoff 6.) ball out of bounds; at which point center referee now notices the AR still at attention for the original offside 6 restarts past. We were told the Referee should honor the call by the AR and award an IFK to the red team for the original offside infraction. I would not want to be the center referee in that game! Then a few weeks later this situation occurred at the college level. While there were only three restarts in between, the referee went back to the original call by the AR. Seems like a powder keg to me.

USSF answer (March 22, 2010):
You are absolutely correct. The Federation has never issued any instruction that ARs keep their flag raised through up to six or seven restarts. The Federation’s guidance has been published in the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game. Here is a quote from the 2009/2010 edition:

If the assistant referee signals a ball out of play but the referee does not see the signal for an extended period, during which play is stopped and restarted several times, the assistant referee should lower the flag.  The FIFA Referee Committee has declared that it is impossible for the referee to act on the assistant referee’s signal after so much play.

If the referee misses the assistant referee’s signal for offside, the assistant referee should stand at attention with the flag raised until the defending team gains clear possession or until a goal kick or throw-in is awarded to the defending team.  

Although the general rule is that a card for misconduct must be given at the next stoppage of play and that, if this does not occur, the opportunity to punish the misconduct has passed, the International Board’s “Interpretations” section has stated that this does not apply to serious foul play.  However, in order to make handling such incidents credible, certain conditions must apply.  The most important requirement is that the assistant referee must have signaled the original misconduct and maintained the signal despite it not being seen by the referee.  USSF has indicated that this requirement should be discussed thoroughly in the pre-game and that the referee should clearly indicate what sorts of misconduct would qualify for this treatment.  The International Board spoke specifically of “serious foul play” but USSF guidelines include any form of violence (including “violent conduct”).  If the referee becomes aware of the assistant referee’s signal for misconduct at a subsequent stoppage of play, the restart (after the misconduct is handled) would remain the same based on what stopped play in the first place.  If, upon becoming aware of an assistant referee’s signal for misconduct, play is stopped solely for this reason, the restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when play was most recently stopped*.

To avoid such situations, the referee should make eye contact with the assistant referees as often as possible.  In addition, the assistant referees must be alert for and mirror each other’s signals if needed to assist the referee.

NOTE:The final sentence of the third paragraph of Advice 6.4 has been corrected to match equivalent information in Advice 5.13: The correct restart is a dropped ball, rather than the indirect free kick formerly included there. We apologize for the error, which did not in any way affect the misinformation that raised the original question.…


HS Referee’s meeting tonight this spirited debate occurred.

Offensive Player A shot on goal, Offense Player B is in the offside position (not in the play), The shot is saved by the Goalkeeper who attempts to deflect the ball over the bar, the goalkeeper deflects the ball but the ball rebounds off the crossbar to you guessed it Player B in the offside position, who puts it in the goal.

Is the player offside or does the goal stand? The debate surrounded DEFLECTION OR POSSESSION? THAT IS THE QUESTION referring to a similar scenario response date (October 29, 2007). Those who stated they thought the goal should stand believe the goalkeeper was Playing the ball” in these circumstances means that the defender (in this case the goalkeeper) possessed and controlled the ball the others thought it should fall under not being possessed and controlled (in other words a deflection). Thanks, we all appreciate your assistance with this matter.

USSF answer (October 6, 2009):
The U. S. Soccer Federation sees no reason to change its answer of October 29, 2007:

“Deflections by any opposing player do not affect the status of a player in an offside position; the attacking team’s player must be called offside if he or she becomes involved in play (as defined in Law 11). Unsuccessfully ‘making a play’ for the ball does not establish possession. Nor, for that matter, does successfully ‘making a play’ for the ball if it then deflects to the player in the offside position who becomes involved in play.

“Note that there are differences here between ‘being involved in play,’ ‘playing the ball,’ and ‘making a play’ for the ball. (As noted above, see Law 11 for involvement in play.) ‘Playing the ball’ in these circumstances means that the defender (in this case the goalkeeper) possessed and controlled the ball. However, if the defender possessed and controlled the ball badly, it’s still ‘making a play,’ but if it wasn’t possessed and controlled, it wasn’t played in the sense you suggested in your scenario.

“A rule: Being able to use the ball subsequent to contact equals possession; deflection is not possession.”

To this we might add only that it takes seeing the action to make the call correctly, because, as you discovered, the very words used to describe the event are biased toward one or the other possibility…



I am wondering about center referee mechanics for throw-in. I am getting feedback from referees that they have heard instructors tell them center referees should signal a throw-in with a 90 degree arm signal, rather than the 45 degree arm signal. They are being told to watch the MLS referees. Is this a change to referee mechanics?

USSF answer (July 22, 2009):
When in doubt, follow the instructions in the Guide to Procedures.  The referee “Points 45 degrees upward to indicate direction of throw-in.”…


We are having problems with instructor interpretations again and responses to referees in clinics. A thought-when the new laws/interpretations come out, could the federation send out “Official Interpretations” to the instructors/assessors to be used for the standardization of teaching throughout the country. I know these problems happen other areas besides ours.

Kick taken on a penalty kick and the offensive team encroaches. GK makes the save and controls the ball. What is proper re-start?

USSF answer (January 6, 2009):
We cannot see this item needs any special “official interpretation”; the answer is clearly spelled out in the Laws of the Game and officially interpreted in the Advice to Referees (14.9).  Any instructors who are providing interpretations other than this answer would not likely be helped by some new statement from USSF.

If the referee chooses to recognize that the infringement of Law 14 occurred, then the Law spells out the procedure completely:

a team-mate of the player taking the kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
• the referee allows the kick to be taken
• if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
• if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and the match is restarted with an indirect free kick to the defending team, from the place where the infringement occurred

However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the infringement was trifling, the referee may allow the goalkeeper to retain the ball and release it into play for everyone within the six-second period allowed after the goalkeeper has established possession.…


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.…


A goalie comes out of the his area with ball still in hand. Direct or Indirect Kick?

I have asked 5 referees and get different answers. The classes I have gone to claim a goalie can not cause a direct free kick is this right.

USSF answer (November 3, 2008):
You are the 250th person to have asked this question this year. We cannot believe that any referee instructor in any state would tell referees to punish this offense with an indirect free kick. Does no one ever read the previous answers or the Laws of the Game? You have only told us of two answers you received. What are the others?

While recognizing that the offense by the goalkeeper of crossing the penalty area line completely with the ball still in hand is never doubtful, but often 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, caution the goalkeeper for persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game.

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.

We might also add 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 meet the ball, which could be well outside the area with no offense having occurred.…