I know this has been addressed previously but I just can’t seem to locate the answer. I award a free kick and one or more defenders runs over and stands directly in front of the ball about a foot away. I actually hear their coach telling them to do so. (The coach later tells me that he coaches his players to do this so as to make the attacker ask for the 10 yard “cushion.”) It is my understanding of the laws that this is a violation of the letter and spirit of Law 13 and that the player are interfering with the restart of play and could, perhaps should, be cautioned. Notwithstanding what we see in the EPL and MLS, what is the position of USSF on this scenario?

Incidentally, I did caution the player who did this.

Answer (October 24, 2007):
Coaches will do almost anything that aids their team, including teaching the players to cheat in this and other ways. There is only one way to stop it and the Law is quite clear on what should be done. Every player who “fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in” should be cautioned for that offense. That applies to your current situation; however, very often minor transgressions of this requirement can be taken care of by talking to or warning the player, but violations as blatant and cynical as this one call out for an immediate, no-questions-asked caution.…


During a recent adult match, a player from the losing team at the 85th minute after the 7th goal is scored decides to sub. While on the middle of the field, removes his jersey and starts to walk off the field. Should he be cautioned for this behavior? if only a caution can be issued during the celebration of a goal then what is the difference between this player and the celebrating one? Both remove article of their equipment while on the field. Please clarify.

Answer (October 23, 2007):
The reason for the restriction on removing the jersey after the scoring of a goal is that removing the jersey is considered to be excessive celebration and is usually also considered to be an act that is provocative, derisory or inflammatory and thus could cause problems with the opposing team. Unless the referee is CERTAIN that the player who removes his jersey while walking from the field is making a “statement” against the other team, that is not an offense — but see below.

As points to ponder, consider using common sense in these cases. “Excessive celebration” equals playing time lost. In addition, some cultures do no accept displays of body skin; in such a place the referee would take that into consideration when a player removes his jersey while leaving the field. The referee must use common sense.…


I recently attended a select soccer tournament in [another state] where the following event occurred:

During a break away, off sides was called against the player who emerged from the pack with the ball. The coach (Team A) erupted in protest as the ball was awarded to the opposing team, using no profanity or threatening language. The official, ignoring the coach, proceeded with play and awarded the ball to the opposing team. No warning was issued from the official, no card was displayed, play continued. The coach returned to the bench with no further protest.

The coach (Team B) advised the coach for Team A that he was having him ejected for unsportsmanlike like conduct. While no card was issued from the official nor a verbal warning , Team B coach, cited his role as a site director for the tournament, contacted a field marshal who removed the coach from the field thus ending the game due to non availability of a coach.

In a subsequent game, the same coach, Team B, attempted to do the same procedure, on another offside call which went in his favor as the opposing coach, Team A protested the call in the same way. In this case, the field marshal did not respond, and the official continued play, issued no cards nor warning to the coach (team a).

As a former high school basketball official, I found this behavior by an opposing coach (team b) extremely inappropriate. I saw this as an attempt to gain advantage over a team. I also noted that after the game, when questioned by other coaches, he advised them it was within his authority as a site director to protect the officials from abuse. If the official does not issue a warning, card, or other action, how can a coach who is actively participating in the game apply discipline to another coach? He cited he was covered by appropriate rules?

Answer (October 16, 2007):
Under normal circumstances both the Team B coach and the field marshal were wrong. Such actions are not allowed by the Laws of the Game. However, as this was a tournament, there may be some validity to the field marshal’s action, depending on whether it is covered in the rules of the competition. Nevertheless, that does not excuse the coach of Team B for his irresponsible behavior in calling for the field marshal when the referee felt it was not worth dealing with.…


In a recent travel game, team A was awarded a DFK, one of the players from team A positioned himself to take the kick, then after a short period of time another player came to take the direct free kick. He took his time, in all about 30 seconds ran off the clock before the kick was attempted. After a warning to speed things up, the referee blew his whistle and awarded the kick to the other team. The were no substitutions made which would have given cause for the delay.

Is there a time limit on taking DFK? If it was deemed a delay of the restart should the player have been cautioned?

Answer (October 15, 2007):
This would be one of those cases where referees invent their own rules, rather than following the Laws of the Game. The referee in this situation had no authority under the Laws of the Game to take away the free kick from the kicking team, no matter how long they delayed the restart. In this case, the referee can only caution a player (or players) for delaying the restart of play. Then, despite the delay(s), the restart must be in accordance with the reason the ball was out of play, in this case a direct free kick for the “injured” team. The referee will then add time as necessary to make up for the delay.…


A goalkeeper in a recent game made a save. He then started to jog with the ball in his hands toward the forward part of the penalty area. He released the ball in an attempt to punt it but missed it completely with his foot. The ball rolled away but remained in the penalty area. He ran over and then picked the ball up with his hands again. Is this allowable? Should he have had to play it with his feet? Or is it an infraction since he had released the ball?

Answer (October 15, 2007):
Let’s begin the answer with an excerpt from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball while bouncing it on the ground or while throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, while throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to strike the ground.//rest snipped//

The same is true of releasing the ball to kick it. Once the ball has been released by the ‘keeper, he or she may not pick it up again. However, in the younger or less-skilled age groups, the intelligent referee will consider the situation carefully and perhaps decide that the infringement is “trifling,” i. e., not worth punishing at this particular age or skill level. If that occurs, a warning to the ‘keeper would be in order, just to reinforce the fact that the infringement has occurred.

NOTE: See also the following item on another goalkeeper topic.…


We have recently come across a situation in a game where an opposing coach and I are not in agreement on a call based upon our prior experiences as well as our interpretation of the laws of the game. I am hopeful you can clarify the situation and provide us with the correct decision. Below, please find a brief description of the incident and our two interpretations.

In the game a couple of weeks ago, a keeper was in the process of punting a ball to her team mates at the top of the penalty area. However, in the process of preparing to punt the ball, she took at least two running steps outside the penalty area while holding the ball. The referee immediately blew his whistle and awarded a direct free kick from the spot of the infraction, which was about one and one half yards outside the penalty area. The kick resulted in a goal scored by one of my players. However, the opposing coach did not agree with the call and felt our team should have been awarded an indirect free kick if any award was to be given for the infraction. The opposing coach felt a warning would have been a more appropriate call since he felt the steps taken by his keeper were not done intentionally. The game continued without any incident but we both felt our interpretation of the laws of the game were correct.

Since the incident occurred in the game, we have both reviewed the laws of the game and come up with different conclusions. We are very interested in finding out the correct decision, but please understand we are not involved in any contentious discussion over the situation now or at the time of the game. I will include both of our interpretations so you can share your thoughts regarding the matter and help educate two soccer coaches.

In my interpretation, I feel a direct free kick is the correct call based upon the laws of the game I have posted below as well as my previous experience with this type of call in prior years. Since the keeper handled the ball outside the box, I feel the laws related to a player handling the ball deliberately is the most relevant law associated with the situation especially since the goalkeeper was outside the penalty area.

A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four offences:
– handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

A direct free kick is taken from where the offence occurred.

The opposing coach feels first and foremost, the referee should have given the player a warning but if the referee felt compelled to award a free kick, the FIFA rule for an indirect free kick should have applied as follows:
An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player, in the opinion of the referee:
– plays in a dangerous manner
– impedes the progress of an opponent
– prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
– commits any other offence, 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 offence occurred.

The opposing coach feels that the word deliberate in the laws related to the four offenses mentioned above means the player handled the ball with “intent” and since the opposing coach felt the player did not intend to gain an advantage, the rules for an indirect kick should apply.

I feel a keeper holding onto a ball is doing so deliberately and consequently should be called for the offense if they step out of the box.

Since we are bound to run into this situation again some time down the road, I would really love to hear the proper ruling regarding the matter. The opposing coach has a wonderful team and our players get along very well together, but we are both interested in seeking the proper ruling. Interestingly, he has asked officials from his town and they support the idea an indirect kick should have been awarded if the referee felt the need to make any call to begin with. I have sought advice from referees and the director of soccer in my town and received confirmation the correct decision was made and a direct kick should have been awarded. I find it amazing we can have so many differences in opinion over the same situation and am very hopeful there is a clear ruling on this matter. I would hate to feel this type of situation is subject to different interpretations to the laws of the game which quite frankly, would make it difficult for any referee to make a call.

Thank you in advance for your help with this matter and I anxiously look forward to hearing back from you.

Answer (October 12, 2007):
Under the Laws of the Game your interpretation is absolutely and indisputably correct: The proper restart would be a direct free kick for the opposing team just outside the penalty area, at the spot where the goalkeeper first deliberately handled the ball outside her own penalty area. So, having stated the facts and feeling very magnanimous, let’s look at the opposing coach’s side as well.

There is some merit in what the other coach says about the “intent” behind the ‘keeper’s infringement and the fact that the referee might have given her a warning to be more careful in the future. And that is something the referee might do, depending on what has been happening in the game up to this point — earlier actions of the goalkeeper, for example. His point about the indirect free kick, however, is a red herring and not apposite here as none of the points under Indirect Free Kick occurred.

While the referee may choose the best solution from among the possibilities available, in this case the only possibility under the Law is direct free kick. (This is clear from the two citations from Law 12, so nothing more need be said on that.) The word “deliberate” would not apply in any case, as the goalkeeper was indeed already DELIBERATELY handling the ball when she left the penalty area; the fact that she (possibly inadvertently) left the penalty area does not change that fact and the referee could punish her for it, as happened in your case. Again, if the referee believed that the goalkeeper’s departure from the penalty area while still deliberately handling the ball was inadvertent or trifling (i. e., it made no difference in the way play ran or continued), then a simple warning after play had next stopped would have been sufficient.

Remember that the “correct” solution is not always the “best” solution. The intelligent referee will know the difference.…


There was a situation in a game that I witnessed today that raised some concern.

Team B had scored a goal. At this point they were losing 5-2. Team A , (ahead), recovered the ball in order to kick off and restart the game. As the player from Team A was carrying the ball back to the center without unnecessary delay, a player from Team B punched at the ball in order to dislodge it from the player on Team A. The player from Team A was able to retain possession of the ball and continued to advance toward the center of the field. The player from Team B at this time punched the player from Team A in the arm, again attempting to dislodge the ball.

No fouls were called.

Two questions come up, does the team against whom the goal was scored have the right to advance the ball back to center, as long as it is done without delay of the game? Who legally has possession of the ball after the goal is scored. Obviously the player who threw the punch is in gross misconduct of the laws of the game and should have been sent off, but was not. Only wondering about who can legally advance the ball back to kick off.

Answer (October 9, 2007):
The reason no “fouls” were called during the movement of the ball back to the center of the field is that no foul may be committed when play has already been stopped. The referee should have punished both players for their misconduct.

After the referee has stopped play for the goal, the ball, although “dead” until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Team A). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See the Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2007/2008.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (B) who was interfering with the Team A player carrying the ball to the center of the field.

The team which has possession (A) may “allow” the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i.e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In the incident cited, Team B, perhaps believing that A was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that “belonged” to Team A. Team B has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to punch the ball out of the Team A player’s control, and even less to punch the opponent’s arm directly).

The Team B player should have been cautioned for delaying the restart of play when he/she initially tried to take the ball away from Team A. If this had occurred, perhaps the subsequent punch by B would have been avoided. If the two actions happened so closely together that the referee had no time to issue the caution, then the Team B player should have been sent off for violent conduct and the attempt to delay the restart included in the match report as additional misconduct.…


Today I was playing in a game it was roughly the 50th minute. I had been in my opinion fouled outside the box I was minorly injured on the play so I stayed down for a few seconds then the ref came over to me as I was trying to get up and resume play he told me “You should pull your shinguards up” in an agressive tone as I was trying to get up and keep playing I told him to “Shut Up” and I was immediatley shown the red card and I had had no previous infringement the rest of the game prior to that. What would be the referee’s correct action?

Answer (October 2, 2007):
This is a trick question, right? You are pulling our leg on this one, right?

Let’s get two things straight from the start: (1) The only opinion that counts in this game is that of the referee. If he believed that you had been fouled, he would likely have called it. In this case he chose not to believe that. (2) The referee’s primary job in the game is to protect the players, especially from physical injury, but in some cases also from psychological injury. It would seem that the referee discerned that you were suffering from a temporary mental problem and he chose to remind you that your health comes first.

As to the punishment: What you did is called using “offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures,” and it is indeed a send-off offense. By your attitude, from which he was trying to protect you in the first place, you forced him to send you off. Please remember this in the future.…


I am hoping that you can clarify an issue for me: Impeding the progress of an opponent is noted in Law 12 as a foul awarded an IFK. In the ‘Additional Instruction for Referees’ in the back of the Laws of the Game (p61 of the USSF 2006/2007 edition) under the heading of ‘Screening the Ball’ it is noted that a DFK is awarded if a player prevents an opponent from challenging for the ball by illegal use of the hands, arms, legs or body. I am confused what the distinction would be between a ‘impeding’ call (IFK) and the ‘illegal screening’ call (DFK). Can you help?

Answer (September 27, 2007):
There is no difference at all. “Illegal screening” and “impeding” are one and the same thing. are referring to a player who holds an opponent. Holding can be done with the arms, legs, or body.

Under normal circumstances, “impeding” means that there was no physical contact. When physical contact occurs, which is what the “Additional Instructions” meant when it referred to “illegal use of the hands, arms, legs or body,” the foul has been converted into “holding” and is punished with a direct free kick. The Additional Instructions of 2006/2007 are now outdated, by the way, by the 2007/2008 Laws of the Game.…


Last sunday’s USA v Brazil, Eric Wynalda pointed out many things regarding the rules of the game. One in particular was that if you are shielding the ball, you have the right to push back into a defender who is standing behind you. My question is: do you? And I suspect the answer is depends on whether you make contact only or push back so hard the defender loses footing…

Answer (September 14, 2007):
In one sense Mr. Wynalda is correct — as long as you have and keep the ball at your feet (within playing distance), you could move backwards even if this puts you in contact with an opponent behind you. Where you would get into trouble is if you did this but, in the process, left the ball outside of playability.

All viewers of games and television broadcasts would do well to remember that some players and broadcasters tend to make up their own rules as they go along. After all, if you make your own rules you are never wrong, and that is Rule One for both players and sportscasters.

And in a follow-on question, the referee asked additionally:
ok, you make contact, fine, no foul (I have nevr called a foul at this point), but then you keep digging in and pushing back hard, and then the defender is pushing you forward, but your feet continue to hold…, seems to me that whomever dumps the other player causes a foul… what do you think? (had the exact scenatio today in a regional youth league. no one ever fell, the ball got kicked by a teamate….

Answer (September 17, 2007):
While the player may move backwards with the ball, he or she may not push the opponent out of the way. A player in a position, attempting to play the ball, may only be charged fairly.…