I was having an argument with a referee friend and the question at hand was: if the second last defender of red team is lying on the field due to an injury or slipping(legs closer to his goal line, if it makes any difference) and an attacker from the blue team receives the ball from his team-mate being behind the third-last defender but not after the second-last which is still lying on the ground, is it an off-side? He said it would be, because the defender on the grass is injured so he does not count.

USSF answer (January 27, 2012):
The Law does not discriminate between players on their feet and those on the ground. The defender lying on the ground would count as one of the opposing players in the offside situation. However, if the player who received the pass was not beyond the second-last opponent, then he was not offside.…


When is the referee authority end? Does it end as soon as he whistles the end of the game? We had a game when the referee blew his whistle 3 times to signify the end of the game while a ball was still in the air. After the whistle was blown, the girls stop playing and the ball continued into the net. The referee then signified no goal and then changed it to a goal. The tournament head referee said it was a bad call, but upheld the goal. So how can that be if the referee duties and authority are over as soon as he blows the whistle.

Can he then change his mind, but he doesn’t have any authority at that point. Nonetheless that the call shouldn’t have been a goal since he indicated the game was over. His excuse was he accidently blew his whistle. You don’t accidently blow your whistle three times. Just looking for some clarification.

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
This is not a case of the referee’s authority — which ends when he has left the environs of the field, not as soon as the final whistle is blown. Rather , it is a case of poor refereeing and a particularly uninformed decision by the “tournament head referee.”

By tradition, custom, and practice, the referee’s whistle brings the game to a complete and immediate halt, whether the period of play is over or not. If the ball is in the air at that moment, life is hard, but no goal can be scored, no matter that the whistle was blown “accidentally.”…


There is a huge discussion on SOCREF about a goal that was scored as follows: The attacker beats the keeper and dribbles toward an open goal; then stops the ball, goes to the ground and with his head rolls the ball into the goal. The question is, if the referee deems this action a misconduct (USB), can the goal be allowed since it preceded the ball entering the goal? In other words, can the referee allow the goal but caution the player after the goal is scored? Some senior referees believe that the goal ought to be allowed. If that is true, then I am at a loss as to why such a goal is allowed even though the culprit violated LAW12 *before* the ball entered the goal.

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
We first answered this question back on September 19, 2001, when it was posted on the very same SOCREF-L to stop another “huge discussion.” Here is the correct answer to the question:

Please try to understand how the Laws of the Game work, particularly with regard to infringements of Law 12. The final bullet point under Law 12, Indirect Free Kick states:

• commits any other offense, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or dismiss a player

The indirect free kick is taken from where the offense occurred (see Law 13 – Position of Free Kick).

The player who gets down on his hands and knees and heads the ball into the opponents’ goal is taunting them and committing unsporting behavior. There is no other possible (rational) explanation for such behavior, and the only course of action open to you is to stop play, caution and show the yellow card. The restart is as described in Law 12.

Play ceases immediately a player commits such an offense, which, in the case we are considering, is unsporting behavior for his taunting of the opposing team. Therefore, no goal has been scored, nor can it be scored, because the offense was committed before the ball entered the goal.

This information comes to us from the International F. A. Board, the folks who write the Laws of the Game. No matter how “unfair” some people may think it may be, it is the Law, and there is no way, creative or otherwise, around it. Play ceases as soon as you, the referee, have made the decision that an infringement has occurred, whether or not you have signaled that decision to the world. If you choose not to make that decision in this case, then you are violating both the letter and the spirit of the Law.…


I have been seeing AR’s call offside, with the center accepting it, in what I think is a too early of a call. I have read the August 24, 2005 position paper on offside and am still unclear, and I hope you can clarify this for me. Here is the situation: Player in an offside position near midfield and there is a long and possibly angled through ball. The OSP takes off after it with defenders in pursuit and the flag gets raised immediately. I agree with this if the ball is going toward the keeper and there is concern about a collision. I also agree with it if you know the ball is going to stay in the field of play and the OSP is obviously the player who is going to get to the ball first, or at least be able to immediately pressure a defender who might beat him to the ball. But what I’m talking about are the times when it is very possible the through ball might end up across the end line or go across touch. I know we are suppose to keep the flag down if there is the possibility of an on-side player reaching the ball first, but it also seems we should wait for actual involvement if we are not certain if the ball was going to stay in bounds. It has been explained to me (by experienced refs) that offside should be called because it would be more advantageous to the defending team to have a free kick near midfield than a goal kick or a throw-in. To me that seems to be faulty logic. If the OSP did give chase, without an offside call, and the ball goes across the end line the restart would be a goal kick. Which would be the same restart had the OSP failed to give chase. If the movement of the OSP had no effect on the ability of the defense to reach the ball, then the movement of the OSP had no effect on end result of the ball crossing the end line, i.e. there was no involvement. To make a premature offside call in this type of situation seems to unfairly penalize the attacking team by giving the defense a free kick near mid-field as oppose to a goal kick, or possible a throw-in. Can you let me know how to call these types of plays?

USSF answer (January 12, 2012):

You yourself had the answer when you said “The OSP takes off after it with defenders in pursuit ….” That is the exact and precise moment the AR’s flag should go up and play be stopped for an offside violation. Everything in your scenario after this quote is pure sophistry and dithering as to the intent of everything that has been written about offside since the International Board issued its three definitions of what constitutes an offside violation (interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, and gaining an advantage). 

The question would have been a lot tougher if every defender had simply stood there while the OSP attacker had begun his run downfield, but they didn’t. They pursued. That pursuit alone constitutes “interfering with an opponent” because, according to the International Board, the OSP attacker has acted to distract or deceive one or more opposing players.…


Should a ref enter a changing room after a game is over to give a card to a player or should he inform a club official he is going to report the player in his match report

USSF answer (January 5, 3012):
Under normal procedure, the referee must inform the player of his decision at the moment of the misconduct (whether a caution or a dismissal), rather than dithering about and waiting till the players had entered the changing room. Why? Because the Law forbids the referee from changing a decision once he has declared the match to be ended and the referee in this case clearly did not make the decision until the match was over, a dreadful mistake.

In this case the referee could tell a team official, if one is available outside the dressing/changing area, but there is no need under the Law for the referee to enter the changing area. The referee simply gives the team official the information and then sends a full report to the appropriate authority within the specified time limits. However, because of the mistake the competition authority may refuse to deal with the matter at all.…


I have two questions:
1. I whistled once at a poor call by a referee. A simple whistle. No words were spoken. At the half, the referee came over to the entire group of parents on our side of the field and said if he heard a whistle again, he would throw all of the parents out of the game. Is this permissible/legal under the rules? The whistle did not sound anything like the referee’s whistle.

2. A player on the opposing team was purposely hurting my son and others on our team by spiking them and knocking them off of their feet to the ground with his shoulder. The coach seemed to be encouraging this and the referee would do nothing about it. If I video this behavior taking place, who can I report it to? I was seriously concerned that my son was going to be hurt. He was 12 years old playing on a varsity team with 17 and 18 year olds. Our coach would do nothing, the opposing coach did nothing and the referees did nothing.

What should I have done?

USSF answer (January 3, 2012):
First of all, we are not authorized to answer questions involving high school rules. That is the job of a high school rules interpreter. We answer only questions based on the Laws of the Game, the rules the world plays by.

1. If this game had been played under the Laws of the Game (and not including any special rules of the particular competition), then the answer is no, the referee cannot clear the spectators out of the area of the field. That does not mean that spectators at a soccer match are allowed and enabled to harass the officials. A referee can require proper behavior from the sidelines if it is interfering with his/her authority and/or affecting play unfairly. If proper behavior does not occur, the referee can suspend or terminate the match (after taking appropriate measures to have team officials or competition authority representatives resolve the issue before having to take such stringent measures).

2. There is no such foul as “spiking,” so we are uncertain what you mean. A player is allowed to charge his opponents fairly — generally shoulder to shoulder, with both players having at least one foot on the ground and without using excessive force. The use of excessive force (in the opinion of the referee) should result in the sending-off of the guilty player, but that decision is up to the referee, not the parents or other spectators. A younger player and his parents take their chances when the youngster plays with teammates and opponents who are much larger and stronger. The referee will certainly give the smaller player as much protection as the other players, but he is not entitled to special consideration. It would seem that the referee and the coaches knew what they were doing.

As to “reporting” player behavior, if the referee and both coaches were not concerned, it would seem unlikely that the competition authority (the league, etc.) would act.…


I’m a grade 8 soccer referee.

Two weeks ago I was assistant referee in a semifinal. We didn’t have pre-game.

In the first time the attacking team passed the ball to an attacker in a offside position, who ran to get the ball, but the goalkeeper caught the ball before. Because I considered that the attacker was interfering with the goalkeeper, I raised my flag, but the referee didn’t whistle any, and I needed to get down my flag.

In the resting time, the referee told me that I don’t needed to raise the flag until the ball were touched.

In the second half happened a similar situation: the attacker team passed the ball to an attacker in a offside position, I didn’t raise my flag waiting “the 3 seconds” (and remembering the referee waring in the resting time), then the goalkeeper tried to catch the ball, but he failed. Instead, the ball “squeeze” between his hands and felt down to the grown behind of him. Then the attacker kicked and score: I rise up my flag in the moment when the attacker touched the ball!

What do you think about this embarrassing situation?

I understand that my first priority assignment like an assistant referee is to show when an offside position is an infraction raising my flag.

What do you recommend to me (like assistant and like the referee)?


USSF answer (December 20, 3011):
We are concerned about two points in your question, both of which show a lack of knowledge about offside:
1. That is incorrect. This position paper of 2005 should clarify the matter of touching the ball for you and your colleague.

From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center:

To: State Referee Administrators
State Directors of Referee Instruction
State Directors of Referee Assessment
Chair, State Referee Committee
National Referees, Assessors and Instructors

From: Alfred Kleinaitis
Manager of Referee Development and Education

Re: Law 11 – Offside
IFAB advice on the application of Law 11, Decision 2

Date:  August 24, 2005

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) revised Law 11 (Offside) effective 1 July 2005 by, among other things, incorporating definitions of what it means to “interfere with play,” “interfere with an opponent,” and “gain an advantage by being in an offside position.” The USSF Advice to Referees section of Memorandum 2005 ended its discussion of the addition of these three definitions by noting:

Referees are reminded that the reference to “playing or touching the ball” does not mean that an offside infraction cannot be called until an attacker in an offside position actually touches the ball.

Because of recent developments which appear to focus on “touching the ball,” there has been some confusion about the above statement. “Touching the ball” is not a requirement for calling an offside violation if the attacker is interfering with an opponent by making a movement or gesture which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts that opponent. What the International Board has recently emphasized is that, in the unlikely event an attacker in an offside position is not challenged by any opponent, the attacker should not be ruled offside unless and until the attacker physically touches the ball.

This emphasis is both simple and easily implemented:

• An attacker in an offside position who is not challenged by any opponent and not competing for the ball with a teammate coming from an onside position who could, in the opinion of the officiating team, get to the ball first should not be ruled offside for interfering with play or gaining an advantage unless that attacker actually touches the ball. In a close race between an onside and an offside attacker, it would be necessary to see which player touches the ball before deciding if an offside offense has occurred.
• An attacker in an offside position whose gestures or movements, in the opinion of the officiating team, cause an opponent to challenge for the ball has interfered with an opponent and should be ruled offside whether the attacker touches the ball or not.

The International Board issued a Circular on August 17, 2005, which reaffirmed the above approach. As the Board stated (emphasis added): “A player in an offside position may be penalized before playing or touching the ball if, in the opinion of the referee, no other teammate in an onside position has the opportunity to play the ball.” Further, “If an opponent becomes involved in the play and if, in the opinion of the referee, there is potential for physical contact, the player in the offside position shall be penalized for interfering with an opponent.” Finally, the Board confirmed the requirement that the indirect free kick restart for an offside offense is taken “from the initial place where the player was adjudged to be in an offside position.”

All referees, instructors, and assessors should review these guidelines carefully. It is important that officials understand and handle the offside offense in a correct, consistent, and realistic manner. Personal interpretations which differ from the approach outlined here can only cause confusion and hard feelings on the part of players, team officials, and spectators.

USSF will shortly distribute to the state associations and place on its website a PowerPoint presentation incorporating this clarification.

2. There is no “three-second rule” for offside. The second situation was indeed offside and you were correct to flag for the offense.…


This past weekend I was centering a BU14 game with 2 AR’s that I had not worked with in the past.  Our pre-game conference unfortunately, did not cover the situation which unfolded as follows.  During the first half a Blue Attacker struck a volley shot from about 25 yards out.  I was positioned approximately 10 yard from the shot and about 30 yards from the goal line. The shot was driven over the outstretched arms of the opposing keeper and then struck the crossbar, directing it downwards toward the ground.  The ball struck the ground and due to the spin on the ball bounced back out towards the top of the goal area, where it was eventually cleared by the defense.  From my vantage point, I could not tell if the whole of the ball had cross over the goal line and a goal had been scored.  I looked to my AR, who was positioned about 10-12 yards from the goal line (even with the 2nd to the last defender) and clearly in a much better position than me to see if the ball had entirely crossed over the goal line, albeit, not in the optimal position of being on the goal line.  He raised his flag excitedly waiving it, but then put the flag down & waived his free arm at waist level from side to side, in what I believed to be a negative manner.  (Here is where the confusion began)  I called to him to inquire if the ball had crossed the line.  Due to his negative gesture, I believed he was indicating “no goal” and indicated verbally for play to continue.  At no time did I blow my whistle to stop play.  Several minutes later at the stoppage for halftime I went to AR and confer with him at which point he indicated that the ball had in fact crossed the line and was indicating that it was a goal.  At the time I had discovered my error, we did not correct it and the game ended with the Blue team losing 2-1, as opposed to a 2-2 tie.  I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted) The game report was submitted with an description of the error that was made.  Furthermore, league officials were present at the game & I immediately made them aware of the matter as well.

At halftime, I reviewed the AR’s procedures and signals for indicating a goal and getting the center Referee’s attention if a problem arises, but again, the mistake had already occurred.  This will now be part of my pre-game instructions.

I have reviewed the Laws of the Game, specifically Law 5 – The Referee and Law 10 – The method of scoring and cannot find anything specific to this situation.  I also reviewed Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.  My next thought was to check Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, but then submitted my question here.  Clearly the pre-game could have been a bit more thorough and communication between the myself and my AR should have been better, However, the error was made and I now find myself searching for an answer to address the issue.

Law 5 clearly states “that the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match are final.  The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the 4th official, provided he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Here is my question.  Play was never restarted and continued on as I believed that no goal had been scored.  The match was not terminated and merely ended upon the expiration of regulation time.  I suspect that the answer will be the final determination will be left up the the league.  However, in the future, procedurally, should the error have been corrected at halftime or at the next stoppage in play when the error was discovered or did I handle it correctly in documenting it in the game report & leaving it up to the league to resolve?

USSF answer (December 20, 2011):
Your problem lay in failure to follow standard procedures during the pregame conference and during play. If you had followed them, as we know you will in future, you would have stopped play immediately.

The correct procedure in the case of goals seen by the lead assistant referee is to follow the guidance given on p. 25 of the USSF “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”  If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played and this is not clearly seen by the referee, the AR raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, the AR puts the flag straight down and follows the normal procedures for a goal. In turn, the referee should check visually with the assistant referee long enough to see a signal for a goal in cases where the ball is being played close to the goal and may have briefly but fully entered the goal.

In cases of doubt, stop play immediately and check verbally with the AR. If (as would have happened here) you decide that a goal WAS scored, well and good. If it turns out that the AR’s arm waving meant that there was no goal, then ou can always apologize to the players, something referees do not do often enough, and restart with a dropped ball.

We assume that this sentence, “I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted),” refers to whether you might have stopped play upon realizing (somehow) that a goal had been scored. For this, we recommend following the International Football Association Board’s instructions that, when the ball leaves the field and the referee does not see (or does not understand) the AR’s signal, play can be stopped at any time the realization dawns unless “too much play” (including a stoppage and a restart) has gone by. In this case, the ball going into the goal is merely a specific example of the ball having left the field.…


I am a new referee and worked as center in a tournament. One of my ARs is very experienced and was giving me an informal evaluation. As luck would have it there was a difficult decision to be made in the 3rd minute of the game.

Blue player dribbled into the box where red goalkeeper fouled him when diving for the ball. The ball continued to roll towards the goal and blue attacking player, trying to keep his feet, stumbled for a few steps before falling. I signaled for a penalty. There was another defender on the far corner of the goal, trying to race into position.

This was a U14 game. I did not card the gk, as I interpreted his play as a foul, nothing reckless or more.

After the game the experienced AR told me I should have sent off the GK because any DOGSO-F by a GK is a red card. I didn’t interpret it as a DOGSO-F because of the defender by the corner of the goal. He did because there was no defending player was between the ball and goal.

I interpreted it as he was still “between” the ball/player and the goal because he was still affecting play. By the way, during the stumbling of the attacker, the ball bounced off the goal post and stayed in play. Was I wrong? Thanks for your time.

USSF answer (December 10, 2011):
The AR’s apparent suggestion, as stated in your question, that a foul by the goalkeeper is automatically a send-off for DOGSO-F is not correct (see below). Your interpretation of the 4 Ds in denial of a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity could also use some review. The first D, number of defenders, states that there not be more than one defender between the foul and the goal, not counting the defender who committed the foul. That was the case in your situation (again see below).

The goalkeeper could have been sent off and shown the red card for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.

Not only was the AR wrong about the alleged automatic red card nature of the situation, he was also wrong about there not being any defending player between the ball and the goal — there was, the defender whom you describe as “on the far corner of the goal, trying to race into position.” The AR was wrong about interpreting this D as requiring that the defender(s) be on some sort of geometric line drawn from the foul to the center of the goal. The only requirement is that there be no more than one defender “between the site of the foul and the goal who is able to defend”. This defender WAS … the only problem is that there was only one of him. In other words, he clearly “counted” but there were just were enough of them, one.…


During recreational tournament play, red team player A was within 10 yards of both the near touch line and midfield in a clearly offside position, returning to his half. Red team player B on the far touch line, on his own defending half of the field, took possession of the ball and turned down that line. As he approached the midfield line but before he crossed, he pushed the ball long, and blew past the blue defenders on the midfield line. His next touch on the ball was 25 yards later, stopping it from crossing the far touch line with a turn in on goal. There were no other red players in the vicinity.

Red player A had reversed course on the near touchline during this time and headed for the blue box, initially a little ahead of the ball, not interfering with any play or players, putting himself in a potentially advantageous position for a rebound off the keeper but not obstructing the keepers movement or view. Upon Red B touching the ball, the AR put his flag up, signaling an offside offense. The whistle was immediately blown, no shot was taken and the blue team was awarded a free kick from the spot that Red B touched the ball. The coach questioned the call from the sideline, and the center pointed to the red player A on the near sideline. The kick was taken by blue.

Well after the game, in the concession area well away from the field, the center explained to the coach in a friendly conversation that any touch of the ball that puts the ball outside a radius that is immediately playable without movement by the player in possession is a loss of possession and therefore a play or pass if touched next by the same team. Even in the case of a lone dribbler who is not careful to keep the ball at her feet, movement down the field would be considered a series of passes to herself. So regardless of Red A’s involvement or even position at the time of play, Red B had committed an offside offense by passing to himself.

My understanding is that 1) you can’t make a pass to yourself 2) if you could make a pass to yourself, making the pass from your own half would preclude any offside offense (absent other interference or advantage) 3) even if you are alone against an undefended goal in the attacking half of the field, there can’t be offside offense so long as you are behind the ball and playing forward to yourself 4) so long as any player in an offside position does not interfere with play or with players, and does not gain an advantage from his position, there is no offense.

Can you pass to yourself?

Is “loose dribbling” a loss of possession?

Stipulating to the description above, is there any interpretation of the scenario that is an offside offense?

USSF answer (December 6, 2011):
It would seem that your referee had visited a different sort of concession area before the game as well and had consumed some sort of illegal substance while there, as his/her judgment was clouded and a great lack of knowledge was on display for all to see. We do not need referees who make their own interpretation of the Laws.

Yes, a player can pass to himself and CANNOT and MUST NOT be called for offside in such a case. Passing to oneself is perfectly legal and within the Law: the Law specifies that the ball must be played to a teammate and a player cannot be his or her own teammate. “Loose dribbling” is not a loss of possession. No, there is no offside in this case.…