Is there a procedure that is to be followed?
I have heard in the past Spring season:
* Do not bend over to pick up the coin. You shouldn’t bow down to “the captains”
* Do not let the coin hit the ground. You will bear your hind quarters to half the stadium.
* Do not catch the coin and flip to the back of your hand. You “reverse the outcome”.

Yet, in the recently concluded Euro 2008 Tournament, I witnessed all three of the above examples in various matches.
This is only trivial. You just hear so many different “you should do this and not that” from various referees.
Thank you for your time and attention regarding this question.

USSF answer (August 6, 2008):
No, there is no set procedure for the coin toss.…


I was recently talking to somebody about offsides and they brought up that it is no longer true that the head or body is a deciding factor in determining offsides. He said the feet are the only deciding factors, and that if any part of the head is closer to the goal line than both the ball and the second to last defender that the player is not offsides. I asked when he heard about this change, and he said in the spring, but I never heard about it. Is this true?

 USSF answer (August 5, 2008):
Ah, those people who do not bother to read the Laws of the Game once they have completed the entry-level course.  No, this rumor is not true.  The Laws clearly state — in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (beginning on p. 55 of the 2008/2009 Law book):



In the context of Law 11 — Offside, the following definitions apply:

* “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.  The arms are not included in this definition


A recent discussion created much debate about the duty and responsibilities a referee under law 5 had to exercise an opinion on law 12 send off offenses when playing 11 aside soccer. The question posed was the failure to show a red card for a send off offense that the referee actually admitted was in fact a send off offense but the referee refused to send off a player because the player was between 9 to 14 years of age a miss-application of law? If a referee was to stop play and award a dfk or pk for a spitting at another or a DOGSO incident where the player CLEARLY denies a goal via the illegal use of the hands but chose not to show a red card due to age is that an opinion on a fact of play or is it a miss application of law? I understand that as an opinion the referee can say there was no criteria for send off and as a fact of play not much can be done but can he say I saw the goal denied point 4 states the player is to be sent off but I do not care? Are not the send off offenses more along the lines of if that occurs then this happens not if it does happen I can pretend it didn’t because the player might get upset?

USSF answer (August 5, 2008):
Yes, the Federation suggests that the referee weigh the facts in every case of misconduct, so as to ensure that both the Letter and the Spirit of the Laws are satisfied. But if the referee chooses to excuse a player aged 9-14 for committing an infringement that should be punished by an immediate sending-off simply because he or she is so young, how will such players ever learn right from wrong and how to play soccer properly, not to mention to exist in society?Furthermore, who would want to be such a referee on the witness stand testifying as to why he let “Davie” stay in the game because he was a cute 11-year-old who had performed a studs-up tackle on “Mark,” was let go this time, and then broke “Freddy’s” leg two minutes later with the exact same maneuver.  Whether the referee shows a red card or not, a violent player must be gotten off the field.…


Is it appropriate to take game and situational factors, especially the age of players, when considering sending-off offenses? The ATR “philosophy of cautions” is clear that the referee must consider qualitative factors when determining whether or not to give a caution. Does the same concept apply to send-offs? To be more specific, having determined that a sending-off foul occurred, must the referee send off the player regardless of the player’s age?

As an example, I would be hard-pressed to send off a U12 player for DGH. The law seems intended to prevent older and more skilled players from trading a sure goal for a PK, by adding the consequence of playing a man down. A U12 player is unlikely to understand this, and more importantly is far more likely to handle the ball in an “oh crap” moment than with malicious premeditation. If possible, I’d appreciate a general response as well as an answer to the specific example.

USSF answer (August 5, 2008):
Yes, the Federation suggests that the referee weigh the facts in every case of misconduct, so as to ensure that both the Letter and the Spirit of the Laws are satisfied. But if the referee chooses to excuse a player aged 9-14 for committing an infringement that should be punished by an immediate sending-off simply because he or she is so young, how will such players learn right from wrong and how to play soccer properly, not to mention to exist in society? There is, of course, the question as to whether an accidental (“Oh crap”) handling should be considered at all — and the answer must be a resounding “NO!”…


A neighboring state has instituted a modification for youth games and I am uncomfortable having to enforce should I elect to officiate there. (I live nearby and could work games there.)

Here is their modification:
If play is stopped for a reason without a prescribed restart (e.g., injury stoppage) they award an indirect free-kick to the team that was in possession of the ball at the time instead of a drop ball. (NFHS influence at work here, I suspect.)

It caused some issues here at a tournament where I was assigning referees when those neighboring referees attempted to use that restart in our games.

I don’t see this as fitting into any of the five listed items on page 3 of the Laws of the game, “Notes on The Laws of the Game.”

USSF answer (July 24, 2008):
The restart described is not authorized under the Modifications described in the Introduction to the Laws of the Game 2008/2009. The correct restart for a non-foul/misconduct stoppage not described elsewhere in the Laws is a dropped ball — see Law 8. As we do not know — i. e., have not been able to determine — whether or not the state association involved has applied this ruling across the board, we cannot give a more complete answer.

The indirect free kick restart described is taken from high school rules, which are not applicable to games played under the aegis of U. S. Soccer or U. S. Youth Soccer. It is true that an indirect free kick restart is authorized if a player commits any other offense, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or send off a player, but that would not be the case in the situation you put forth.

The only further advice we can give is that the Federation has no direct control over such modifications, but a referee who accepts a game operating under rules of competition that mandate unauthorized modifications must officiate the game under those rules. In other words, know the rules before accepting the assignment.

On the other hand, referees who come from a state where such modifications are used must not seek to apply them in another jurisdiction playing under different rules of competition.…


I have heard a story or two of referees who have mistakenly cautioned a player, and before the play is restarted, realized their mistake. It is clear to everyone that the mistake may be corrected as long as the play has not been restarted properly, but I have heard of a few different mechanics for doing so. What is the mechanic for communicating to the players and spectators that the player who initially received the caution or was sent-off is not the correct player and that he or she is not being punished? I have been told to show the card again in front of the player, then bring it down in a vertical wavy line (instead of straight down), then give the card to the correct player; I have also seen the card issued again, then then the referee point to the player and move his arms as an umpire in baseball would signal, “Safe.” A third way I have witnessed is the referee displays the card to the player again, and uses his/her free hand to lower the hand holding the card. I may n ot be good at searching, but I cannot find the proper mechanic for correcting this mistake.

USSF answer (July 23, 2008):
There is no standard method for announcing that the referee has rescinded a card before the restart. The methods you describe would seem to be too demonstrative and confusing for the player, the teams and their officials, and the spectators. We might suggest simply notifying the player concerned that the caution or send-off has been rescinded. Then the referee should deal with the proper player and inform both team captains what has happened. To remove all confusion, the referee might also inform team management. The referee should ensure that the assistant referees — and the fourth official, if appointed — are also aware of the change.

Most of all, we recommend taking the time to get the facts straight in the first place, so that such mistakes do not occur.…


a friend of mine is a State 1 from MA, and told me the following scenario that occurred to him in a recent match:

Ball is in attacking third for ‘keeper’s team, so AR is watching play, while maintaining position regarding senond-last defender. As the AR turns his head, he becomes aware of the attacking team’s ‘keeper standing in his own goal, with his back to the play, relieving himself.

When my friend relayed this to me, my initial thought was a caution for leaving w/out permission. However, the AR brought up the viable position of an ejection for Abusive Language and/or Gestures.

What do you think? For what it’s worth, he did not inform the referee of the situation at any time.

USSF answer (July 9, 2008):
A referee of any grade level should know better than to withhold information from the referee in charge of the match. While we appreciate the goalkeeper’s obvious wish to both irrigate and fertilize the grass in the goal, this is unsporting behavior — bringing the game into disrepute — and the goalkeeper must be cautioned and shown the yellow card.…


I know these hypothetical situations from a bunch of refs sitting around with nothing better to do aren’t your favorite things, but hopefully you’ll be willing to address this one. We do generally stick to issues that have actually happened to someone, but this one came up and none of us feels certain to have the correct answer.

A foul is committed by the defense in the PA in the closing seconds of a tie game. The referee points to the spot and announces that the PK is being taken in extended time. He also reminds both teams that after the kick is taken, the only player that may touch the ball is the keeper, and that after the kick is finished, the game is over.

The kicker takes the kick, which is deflected by the keeper up into the air. At the taking of the kick, the keeper was on his line, and all other players remained outside the PA/behind the ball until the ball was kicked – that is, all the requirements for a legal kick appear to have been satisfied, and the only question is whether or not the ball will enter the goal. However, the keeper loses the ball in the sun, and it bounces off his back towards the goal. By all appearances it will enter the goal, however, a defender who rushed in after the kick performs a goal-line clearance.

I have gone back and forth on this. Does the game end as a tie (or go to extra time) because the PK was properly taken and did not enter the goal? Or is there a retake? I suppose a third option might be a caution for the defender and IFK in from the 6, but that seems out due to the extended time issue. In going back to ATR 14.7, it seems appropriate to categorize the defender comparable to an outside agent as he could not legally play the ball, and order a retake as “Although the ball was put into play, the team given the PK is deemed not to have had a fair opportunity to score under these circumstances.” A caution for the defender for UB would likely be appropriate as well – I don’t think you can send him off for DOGSO because the offense is not punishable by a FK (no FK in extended time) or PK (the PK is for the previous foul).

OTOH, 14.7 also says that if the interference occurs after the keeper plays the ball, it’s a dropped ball (from the 6 presumably), which would lead one to believe that the kick is in fact over despite the defender’s illegal interference, and all that can be done is to caution the defender and end the game.

Would you be willing to address this scenario?

USSF answer (June 24, 2008):
First things first! Your scenario, while admittedly hypothetical, contains one element that should never come up in any soccer game in which time is extended for the taking of a penalty kick: No players other than the kicker and the goalkeeper should be anywhere near the penalty area in which the kick is taking place. Allowing that to happen is a major referee error and hard to forgive. In this case, the (hypothetical) referee has sown the seeds of his own destruction.

As to the answer to your scenario, you have not yet seen Advice 14.13, which will appear in the upcoming 2008 edition of the Advice to Referees. It should answer your question:

The penalty kick or kick from the penalty mark is completed only when the referee declares it so, and the referee should not declare the kick to be completed if there is any possibility that the ball is still in play. In other words: So long as the ball is in motion and contacting any combination of the ground, crossbar, goalposts, and goalkeeper, a goal can still be scored.

A penalty kick or kick from the penalty mark is not completed, and must therefore be retaken, if anything unfairly or illegally interferes with the movement of the ball from the moment of the kick to the arrival of the ball at the goal. Examples of such interference would include the ball bursting on its way to the net or the intervention of an outside agent (e. g., spectator) while the ball is still moving to the net. Any interference that occurs after the ball has reached the net (resulting in the ball entering the net, missing the net entirely, or being saved by the goalkeeper) is handled as if the same event had occurred during play. The basic principle underlying this guidance is that the team taking a penalty kick or a kick from the mark must be given a fair chance to score and any illegal obstacle hindering the movement of the ball to the net must result in a retake of the kick.

In this scenario, the Law regards the defender as an outside agent and thus the kick must be retaken. The defender — who should not have been anywhere near the field — must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.…


Can a shinguard be used as an arm protector? I saw that in a U13 girls game and the referee said it was OK because the shinguard did not have any metal in it.

USSF answer (June 12, 2008):
A shinguard is meant to protect the shins. However, even faster players, who are able to pass their opponents, are not allowed to wear them on their calves, the back of the shin, to protect them from the rear. Shinguards are meant to be worn to protect the shin, not the arm, where they are more likely to be used as a weapon.

NOTE: We apologize to the person who asked this question; we have lost his e-mail address.…


I was refereeing a U9 Boys game and the ball was in the penalty area. One defender decided to go around the back of the goal (leaving the field of play during play) to go to the other side of the field (rather than running across the field).

Is this a cautionable offense? During the game, I waited until the next stoppage and just told the players that they couldn’t go behind the goal and run across. It was U9, so I thought a simple explanation/warning would suffice.

However, I was reading the ATR and it said that “if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee.”

So, now I am wondering if my “warning” was correct. The player didn’t really leave the field to commit trickery or force an offside call or anything, but just to beat an opponent (or 3). I always thought that players could go off for a second or two during the course of play, and this seemed to be an extreme. Now I’m not 100% sure. I just wanted to do a quick “double check” here.

USSF answer (June 10, 2008):
The intent of the Law is that players remain on the field while the game is underway. Avoiding an opponent by running outside the field and around the goal is inventive, but would not qualify within the Spirit of the Game. The player should be cautioned for deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission.…