The following occurred in a U15 boys recreational match.

I was the AR on the side of the field where this occurred. Ball was traveling on the ground towards the goal, outside the penalty area about 23-25 yrds from goal. The keeper got confused, thought he was still in the box and ran out and picked it up. The Center Referee called the handling violation. At this point the keeper was clearly out of position. An offensive player realized the situation and ran up to the ball and was going to attempt to kick it into the open goal.

Another defender ran up 2 yards from the ball to stop the play from occurring. The offensive player gestured to the defensive player, then quickly passed to the right and play continued, not resulting in a goal.

Two questions
1. At the next stoppage, would it be appropriate for the Referee to issue a yellow card for failing to respect the required distance to the defender?

2. If the offensive player had kicked the ball towards goal, and it had deflected off the defender, and in the opinion of the referee it would have gone into the net, would this be a red card for DOGSO?

Thank you.

USSF answer (April 16, 2010):
1. What the referee should have done was to stop play immediately and caution the defender for failure to respect the required distance.
2. Such foolishness would be unnecessary if the referee followed the advice in 1.…


Do the laws specify where the ball is to be placed for restarts. I remember from my reffing days that the restart was supposed to take place within a yard from where the foul or ball was when the incident occurred. During a match the other day a foul occurred right at the half line and the referee let the player move the ball almost 10 yards closer to the goal and when I questioned him he stated that the ball had to be within 10 yards for the restart.

USSF answer (April 13, 2010):
There is no “ten-yard rule” on free kicks. With certain specific exceptions, such as offenses within the goal area or penalty kicks or illegal entry onto the field by a substitute, free kicks are taken from the place where the offense occurred. The referee clearly cannot always expect to have the ball placed on the exact blade of grass upon which the foul or misconduct was committed, but every effort should be made to have the restart taken within a reasonable distance of that blade of grass. The accurate placement of the ball becomes more important the nearer the event occurs to the goal being attacked.…


I have a question involving the 2009/2010 ATR vs 2009/2010 FIFA Laws and interpretation of the laws. In the ATR 13.6 in reference to free kicks awarding to a defending team in their own penalty area. In the second paragraph it says that all opponents must remain outside the penalty until the ball has gone into play. And I believe that into play means leaving the penalty. But in the FIFA law book in the interpretation of the laws section for free kicks on page 123. Under the “Distance” heading the third paragraph talks about opponents being in the penalty, and the defending team takes a quick kick the referee must allow play to continue.

My question is this, what happens if the defending team kicks the ball to the opponent in the penalty area before the opponents have left the penalty area? Would the kick be a retake for the defending team or is it similar to a regular quick kick where it is taken at the risk of the team taking the kick. Or should I pretend I never saw the part in the FIFA law book.

Thank you for your insight

USSF answer (March 9, 2010):
In your comparison of one section of the Advice to a section of the Laws covered in the Interpretation section of the Laws, you are comparing apples and applesauce. Advice 13.6 simply repeats what is already in the Law:

Free Kick Inside the Penalty Area
Direct or indirect free kick to the defending team:
* all opponents must be at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball
* all opponents must remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play
* the ball is in play when it is kicked directly out of the penalty area
* a free kick awarded in the goal area may be taken from any point inside that area

The information on p. 123 of the Interpretation states that the same principle that applies to free kicks outside the penalty area applies to free kicks for the defending team within the penalty area:

“If, when a free kick is taken by the defending team from inside its own penalty area, one or more opponents remain inside the penalty area because the defender decides to take the kick quickly and the opponents did not have time to leave the penalty area, the referee must allow play to continue.”

There is no dichotomy here, as any kicking team surrenders its right to opponents remaining at the required distance if it takes the free kick quickly, without waiting for the referee to remove any opponent who has remained too near to the ball. What this means with regard to your question is that the restart should not be held up by the referee solely because there may be one or more opponents still within the penalty area. In short, the goal kicking team has the right to kick immediately (not with a ceremony) even though there are opponents within the minimum distance.

However, at this time a major difference arises between kicks from within the penalty area and those taken outside the area. This involves what happens if one of those opponents makes contact with the ball while both are still within the penalty area. For a goal kick or a free kick, because the ball is not in play until it leaves the penalty area, there is no distinction between interception and interference — it’s all interference before the ball has been put in play (just as it would be if the contact had been made by a teammate rather than an opponent). If there is interference within the penalty area by an opponent on this sort of kick, the kick must be retaken.…


Last week I was officiating a game when an indirect free kick was issued. While the wall was being set by the official, an attacking player stood with a foot on the ball. The referee then got into position and blew his whistle while the attacking player’s foot was still on the ball. The player removed his foot from the ball and the wall immediately charged before the ball was kicked by the attacking team. By the time the attacking team kicked the ball the wall had charged to within 1 yard.

I immediately signaled for an infraction as, by my interpretation, the wall delayed the restart by moving inside the 10 yard zone before the kick.

Needless to say the defending team was livid as they felt that the ball had been played by the attacking team and so they charged.

I stand behind my call because I do not feel the ball was “kicked” or “moved” by the attacking team (as well I believe the official was in the wrong by blowing the whistle while the player was still in contact with the ball, making this muddy situation happen).

Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks!

USSF answer (March 1, 2010):
The kicking team is allowed to use deceptive tactics when taking the free kick, but they are not required to kick the ball into play immediately. The defending team is required to remain at least ten yards away until the ball has been kicked and moved, unless the kicking team decides to take the free kick quickly without waiting for a signal from the referee. To be put into play, the ball must be kicked from “here” to “there.” In other words, it must clearly move from one spot to another spot (which need be more than a trivial distance away).

The kicker (or putative kicker) may place and rest his or her foot on the ball. That is not an infringement of any of the Laws and there is no need for the referee on this game to be displeased with this portion of the restart. The kicker may then remove his foot from the ball and walk away, possibly to be replaced as kicker by a teammate or to immediately return and kick the ball. That is the right of the kicking team. The defending team should know that they have NO RIGHTS in this situation other than the right not to be confused by the referee — and that did not happen. They confused themselves and failed to follow the requirements of the Law.

Accordingly, the opposing team crashed in and, therefore, the free kick should have been halted immediately by the referee, at least one or more of the crashers cautioned for failing to respect the required distance, and play resumed with the original free kick.…


I have a question about free kicks. If a defender, less than the required distance, intercepts a free kick by moving/lunging to the side (NOT forward) is this acceptable per the new parameters involving free kicks? The 2009 directives were not especially clear on this point.

USSF answer (February 13, 2010):
You would seem to have not read quite far enough in the Directive on Free Kick and Restart Management. The second bullet point under 4.

Quick Free Kick — Deliberately Preventing the Free Kick from Being Taken reads:

* Intercepts the QFK after the kick is taken: The referee may exercise discretion depending upon whether he/she felt the defender deliberately prevented the ball from being put into play. The referee must take into consideration whether the attacking team had the opportunity to play the ball and whether the attacker knew the position of the defender at the time the QFK was taken.
– If the attacker knew where the defender was at the time the QFK was taken, then the likelihood that the defender prevented the free kick from [being] taken is minimal. In this case, it can be assumed that the attacker “assumed the risk.”

This point is nicely illustrated in the new USSF DVD, Managing the Free Kick. Your State Director of Referee Instruction should have a copy of the DVD.

The DVD differentiates between Interference and Interception. In brief (see the video for full details), the video encourages to “wait and see” when an opponent stands too near the ball and the kicking team does not ask for the full distance. Interference occurs when the defending player, as the ball is kicked, steps TOWARD the kicker and plays the ball. This is failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a free kick, a cautionable offense.

Interception occurs when the defending player, as the ball is kicked, either moves to the side or sticks his/her foot to the side to play the ball; there is NO forward motion.

These changes in procedure have been made on the advice of FIFA, based on training they are giving to referees around the world.…


For clarification purpose, I would like for you to honestly assist with normal procedure and correct interpretation of the law and in accordance to; and in US Soccer and FIFA opinion the correct procedure and your recommendation to the following.

In the first half of a competitive match, a corner kick was being taken from the leading AR side. Properly, the Assistant referee applied the distance of encroachment and the team taking the corner kick tricked the defense as the kicker walked away and another player acted as if he was going to take the kick started dribbling the ball towards the goal when he got to the corner kick spot. I made eye contact with the leading AR who did nothing and I let the play go.

In the same half, a corner kick was awarded to the same offense, but now in my quadrant. The ball was set, and the kicker stood over the ball with his foot on the ball but made no movement because the defense this time were encroaching. When I realized the the attacker won’t play the ball, I instructed the defense to respect the distance of which they obliged. While we were waiting for the corner kick to be taken, number 7 of the team taking the corner kcik who was behind me in the goal area loudly yelled to his team mate on the the ball. “Leave it, let me take it.” He then ran past me and the defenders while his team mate walked away from the ball. When he got to the ball, he took position as if he was going to put the ball back in play, then he started dribbling the ball towards the goal. All these happened while I was still holding back the defense from encroaching. When I realized he was in active play, I blew the whistle walked to him and cautioned him for unsporting behavior. I then restart the play with an indirect kick to the defense for double touching a direct kick restart. 

As usual, the cautioned player pleaded his case and claimed that was their trick and my response was that you were deceptive. I told him it’s legal to apply trick fairly, and by audibly being deceptive, you gained unfair advantage.

USSF answer (February 6, 2010)
The kicking team is allowed to use a certain amount of trickery at any kick restart, including corner kicks. If the kicker actually kicks at the ball, then it is now in play. Observe these two video clips of corner kicks, one of which was not allowed by the referee. However, both were totally legal, as the ball was played in a kicking motion by the original player on the ball.

First clip:

We responded to a question on this clip back on January 30, 2009:
It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct; in that case, the referee would call the second player for a double touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

Second clip:

The assistant referee’s flag was incorrect and the referee should have waved it down; the resulting goal should have been allowed.

So, what is NOT allowed?
The ball must move a perceptible distance from “here” to “there” to be considered in play through a kick. If the “kicker” only steps on top of the ball and does not kick it, and therefore the ball has NOT moved from “here” to “there,” the kick was not properly taken and must be repeated. It is not a cautionable offense. …


Does the ball have to leave the area on every free kick? For example: Offside is called and the ball is in the area coming out. I play the ball to a teammate who is also in the area. Is this legal? Or, my keeper makes a save and he rolls the ball to me and I am in the area, can I collect it or does it have to leave the area.

USSF answer (November 2, 2009):
You have actually asked two completely different questions. We will rephrase them and answer each separately.

1. Must a free kick taken by the kicking team from within its own penalty area leave the penalty area to be in play? The answer is yes. If the ball does not leave the penalty area and enter the remainder of the playing field directly, the kick must be retaken.

2. If the goalkeeper makes a save in his/her own penalty area and then releases (rolls, throws, or kicks) the ball to a teammate who is inside the penalty area, may the teammate play the ball? The answer is yes.…



As a spectator, coach, player and referee, one of my pet peeves is what I see as poor management of free kicks in the so-called “Danger Zone”, where referees in the competitions where I operate seem to immediately make all such free kicks ceremonial, denying dangerous quick free kick attacking opportunities for the offended team.

As a referee, I strive to be the absolutely best that I can be, so I spend hours each week studying all the official and unofficial material I can get my hands on. But looking at the February 10, 2009 directive on Free Kick and Restart Management, I walk away confused on this subject. The directive accurately quotes FIFA on this subject: “If a player decides to take a free kick and an opponent who is less than 10 yards from the ball intercepts it, the referee must allow play to continue”, and offers the clarifying point “If the kick is taken, it has not been prevented from being taken and play must be allowed to continue.”

But later it states “Intercepts the QFK after the kick is taken: The referee may exercise discretion depending upon whether he/she felt the defender deliberately prevented the ball from being put into play.”

The only way I have come up with to reconcile this in my mind apparent inconsistency within the directive is to say that, in the event of an intercepted kick, an infraction has been committed if the defender, previous to the actual kick, prevented the kick from being taken in some even slightly other direction, pace, angle, etc., at some point beforehand, and that the fact of the interception may rightly lead the referee to draw that conclusion (in particular based on the skill level of the players involved).

Does it sound as though I have this right?

USSF answer (October 20 2009):
We hope this response from Brian Hall, the USSF Manager of Assessment and Training, will help you.

Thank you for “striving to be the absolutely best that you can be” and for being a student of the game. Your dedication is very much appreciated.

Now, in terms of your question, there are two important terms:
“Deliberately prevents” and “intercepts.” Both are used in the Laws of the Game and have been used in the 2009 Directive “Free Kick and Restart Management” for this purpose.

“Deliberately prevents” is an action that must result in a caution. This is “moving/lunging/advancing toward the ball.”

“Intercepts” is a situation in which the attacking team knows the defender is in the area and still puts the ball into play (attacker assumes the risk of putting the ball into play). The defender does NOT move/lunge/advance toward the ball.

A situation that may result in a caution for intercepting is the “statue” that is mentioned in the Directive. A player may move within several feet of the ball/restart and NOT “deliberately prevent” because he does not lunge at the ball with his foot but the referee judges his actions are cautionable because the player’s actions were, in general terms, preventing the ball from being put into play quickly. For example, a player who has been warned on prior occasions from running directly in front of the ball (thereby becoming a “statue”) to slow the restart. These involve situations in which the referee has, most likely, tried preventative measures and the player(s) have not responded because they are using it as an unfair “tactic.”

The Directive also uses the example of a player running from behind the ball and makes contact thus denying the attacking team the chance to put the ball into play appropriately. This is not moving/lunging/advancing toward the ball but, nevertheless, cautionable.…


Why is the “goal box” markings required, when all the rules that I’m aware of apply only to the “penalty area”? What special rules apply only to the “goal box”?

USSF answer (October 16, 2009):

There is no “goal box,” but there is a goal area within the penalty area. The goal area has changed shape, size, and role several times during its history. Nowadays its primary roles are to provide a place for the goal kick to be taken and to act as a buffer zone for dropped balls and for opposing indirect free kicks within six yards of the goal.

If play is stopped inside the goal area for some reason other than a foul or misconduct, the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped (Law 8).

A free kick awarded to the defending team within the goal area may be taken from any point inside that area (Law 13)

An indirect free kick awarded to the attacking team inside the goal area must be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred (Law 13).

A goal kick is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team.…


Situation: Tournament play, U-11 girls. An IFK is awarded due to the keeper picking up a passback (questionable in the first place as it was a mis-kick in the U-11 age group that went spiraling backwards off a weird bounce, and did not appear deliberate IMHO).

Anyway…as a result, the IFK is about 7 yds out and directly in front of the goal. The CR makes it a ceremonial (of his own accord, but in this age group, ok)and puts the defensive team on the goal line before allowing restart. Meanwhile the kicking team has one player standing with her foot on top of the ball, clearly planning to do a “touch restart” (which is no longer legal of course).

The CR blows the whistle for play, the offensive player does indeed simply touch the ball with the bottom of her foot, and then the second offensive player strikes the ball. The keeper comes up with the ball and saves the goal.

Now, just after the keeper catches the ball the CR blows the whistle.

He correctly asserts that the IFK cannot be restarted with a top touch ubt must instead be “kicked and move”. Therefore – he allows the offensive team a second opportunity at the IFK (one assumes out of thinking that the ball was not put in play). This time they restart correctly, and they score.

Happily this was not a game deciding goal, but it remains on my mind.

The result of allowing the re-take seems wholly outside of the Spirit of the Game, the offense should not receive a second opportunity from 4 yds out because they botched the restart by not obeying the LOTG.

However…the LOTG do say that the ball must be “kicked and move” in order to be in play.

Could one allow that the first player’s light touch did not put the ball in play since it never moved, but that the striking player did then put the ball in play? (becoming the first touch in considering IFK goal scoring) Seems a bit of a stretch and could be unsporting if done intentionally to confuse the defense.

If I were in the CR spot I should hope I would have noticed the obvious intent to do a touch restart and caught this before it developed and became problematic. IMHO the CR blew a second opportunity to avoid this by not whistling hard and immediately when the tap was made. His whistle was late, not coming until the ball was struck and actually in the keeper’s possession…only a second since the kick was so close…but well after the error.

Per the LOTG it seems to me that the CR did what he must by allowing the re-take. At the same time, it seems at odds with the Spirit of the Game. Is this one that could go either way based on the opinion of the CR?

I think if I had made all those errors and got stuck in this spot I would have been inclined to allow the defensive team the possession.

The offense had fair opporunity. If another IFK came up I would have been diligent in informing the team of the correct mode of restart.

Would I be wrong?

In your esteemed opinions…what would be the proper response if one was caught in a situation like this?

USSF answer (October 6, 2009):
In our esteemed opinions, the correct referee action would have been to allow play to continue. Both you and the referee have jumped to the wrong conclusion, confusing putting the ball into play and a situation in which a goal can be scored. The Law requires, as you state, only that a ball is kicked and moved to be in play. That happened. The ball was tapped, which means nothing in a restart, but it was then kicked by a player directly to the goalkeeper. A second touch of the ball — by any player on either team — is required for a goal to be scored, but not for the ball to be in play.…