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.…


At a free kick when managing the wall for a ceremonial free kick, should the referee pace off the 10 yds or just determine where the 10 yds are and set the wall there? I had been told that the best way was to just determine where 10 yds is and set the wall there (if players were pushing the issue 10 yds could grow). Had a young ref who went to regionals and was told that he should pace off the 10 yds.

Could not find this addressed in the ussf procedures guide.

USSF answer (October 5, 2009):
We had thought this would have been covered in the entry-level referee course.

There are numerous ways to get the ten yards. Each referee must determine which works best for the particular situation. Here are some of the ways to get the correct minimum distance at a free kick — if the kicking team does not make it quite clear that it wants to take a quick free kick.

1. Learn how far ten yards is — radius of the center circle, radius of the penalty arc — and keep it in your mind, asking the players to move back the distance you have determined is correct.
2. Be the “first brick in the wall,” getting there (without walking it off) and instructing the players to be no nearer than your position to the ball.

Under no circumstances may the referee deliberately require the defending team to retire more than the mandatory minimum distance of ten yards. However, ten yards is where the referee says it is (in his or her judgment).…


In a recent game in England, player Diamenti (of Aston Villa?) strode to take a penalty kick and placed his right foot near the ball when it skidded at the ball. His left foot struck the ball and it appeared that the ball was hit by two feet into the goal. The referee awarded the goal.

On play back it was seen that Diamenti’s left foot (his kicking foot) impacted the ball first and in the briefest period of time possible off his slipped right foot. (Naturally, Diamenti ended up on his back.)

Without replays in slow motion the referee was as puzzled as the fans as to what happened.

Is it permitted to take a penalty kick with two feet striking the ball at the same instant, and why not?

USSF answer (October 1, 2009):
According to the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees:

A free kick can be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously.


I was an AR during a tournament U14 Boys game. The ball as headed out of Red’s defensive end about 10 yards from the half line.

Red committed an IFK foul via dangerous play in my clear view, but could not be viewed by the referee. I raised my flag and gave it a wave, which the referee acknowledged and blew his whistle.

Unfortunately, this was about 5 minutes into the second half and therefore I indicated the incorrect direction for the restart (Red kick). BEFORE play was restarted, the direction was corrected, but Blue clearly recovered better than Red and quickly restarted play. The kick was made directly to another Blue player, who shot on goal and scored with the referee indicating a good goal and moving to the center circle for the restart. Red’s coach was understandably upset and complaining his boys did not have time to get back on defense.

Blue’s coach was saying nothing.

The referee came over to me to discuss the goal. We both agreed there was no misapplication of the LOTG, so a protest would not be upheld. We both agreed no matter what decision we made, one team was going to be upset. I asked the referee if he had signaled/indicated for Blue to wait for his whistle, and the referee said no. The final decision came down to this question – What is the right thing to do for the game? The answer was to not count the goal, and restart with Blue taking an IFK from the original spot of the foul. The confusion occurred due to our (mine for indicating incorrect direction, and referees for not requiring a ceremonial restart) error. Red of course was happy, and the amazing part was Blue’s coach made NO issue of the decision.

Our review of the incident yielded a learning point of making sure to use a ceremonial restart in future similar situations.

The question is, does USSF agree with our decision on the field?

Final note, Blue went on to win the game 2-1 and I made certain to greatly compliment Blue’s coach after the game for his touchline behavior (meaning he didn’t make any sort of scene or any display of dissent & Blue was on my touchline) as well has his team’s response which was to continue to put their energy into playing football, and not put their energy into the referees.

USSF answer (August 25, 2009):
Although normally we stress that the guilty team at a free kick has zero to very few rights, and thus neither deserves nor may demand any special treatment, in this case the officiating crew confused them and violated the defending team’s right not to be misled by the officials. Therefore, the restart must be ceremonial in nature.…


Near the end of a hard fought 1-1 game, I whistled a handling offense by the defense just outside the penalty area. At least 2 defenders remained in position for an instant just in front of the spot of the foul, but the momentum of the ball caused it to roll 3-4 yards to the side. An alert attacker set the ball at this new position and took a quick shot at the goal as this location was not obstructed by defenders. The quick shot went wide and so I indicated a goal kick.

However, had the shot gone in I had to wonder how I would have handled this volatile situation. The defense could protest that the kick was not from the proper spot (if they were alert). Or, if I disallowed the kick certainly the offense would protest.

I think the proper procedure would have been to be alert to this quick kick tactic and whistle a second time as the ball is set in the wrong location and before a quick kick is attempted, and insist the ball be placed at the spot of the foul. Then, if the player quick kicked anyway everyone has heard the second whistle as evidence that play was not properly restarted.

Had the kick scored in the original scenario and I had not time to whistle for proper placement of the ball, I think the proper but unpopular decision would be to deny the goal and retake the kick from the proper location. In this case a few yards from the spot of the foul is VERY significant to restarting play unlike a restart near midfield.

Please advise. Thank you, this site is the best.

USSF answer (August 19, 2009):
The farther the infringement (and thus the ball) from the goal being attacked, the less the referee cares about finding the exact blade of grass on which to have the free kick taken. As the infringement moves closer to the goal, the more exact the position of the ball for the free kick should be. Although in this case the ball does not seem to have moved appreciably closer to the goal, it may have given the kicking team a better angle, so the restart should be stopped immediately, if possible. If that is not possible, then have it retaken properly — and admonish the defenders (no caution necessary) for hanging around.

If all else fails, the key is making a decision and sticking to it. Your opinion is protected in Law 5, as quoted here: “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.”…


On a kick by the defense from within its own penalty area (could also be a goal kick), what is the restart if the ball is kicked backwards and goes over the goal line between the boundaries marked by the sides of the penalty area?

I’m asking because this scenario was posed to me by a USSF State Referee. His amazing explanation, which he said was confirmed by [a high-ranking referee and USSF manager], was as follows. The penalty area only has three sides: the line in the field that is 44 yards long (the “18 yard line”) and the two lines on the sides. The line that is at the back of the penalty area is the goal line; the goal line is not part of the penalty area.

Therefore, a ball that is kicked out over the goal line, as described, has left the penalty area and is in play briefly as it crosses the goal line. Therefore the restart is a corner kick because the last player that touched the ball was a defender.

I disagree. Law 16 says “The ball is in play when it is kicked directly out of the penalty area.” In my scenario, the ball has not gone into play; therefore the kick must be retaken.

A corner kick would be the correct restart only if the ball exited the penalty area and crossed the goal line between the corner flag and the side of the penalty area….but that is not the scenario we’re discussing (I was shocked by the State Referee’s answer, therefore I confirmed exactly where he said the ball went out).

Please help. Thank you.

USSF answer (July 29, 2009):
We are extremely disappointed with the “USSF State Referee” who has falsely quoted the high-ranking referee and USSF manager.  His explanation is indeed “amazing”; however, the correct information for this situation is entry-level material.  In this situation the ball must leave the penalty area and enter the field to be considered in play.  If the ball leaves the field without exiting the penalty area and entering the field proper, the kick is retaken.…


In a fast break away one player with the ball makes an attack. About two yards outside the top of the penalty area the goal keeper fouls the attacker. Advantage is not applied. In the opinion of the referee, the foul (a DFK) does not merit a card of any type. The whistle is blown, the restart of a direct free kick is announced by the ref, the ball is placed, and the whistle is blown to restart play. Before other defenders can arrive the attacker starts to take what seems to be a certain goal scoring opportunity at an unguarded net.

Before the shot is taken the goal keeper places his foot on the ball, stopping any chance for a quick shot. Other defending players then arrive, making an advantageous quick restart impossible.

In the opinion of the referee the keeper has clearly denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity, and should be sent off. The referee believes that by every standard of common sense and of Fair Play the goal keeper has breached the Spirit of the Laws, and that the Laws were written to prevent and to punish this very type of misconduct.

But by the letter of the Law, the referee is not sure that he has the power to do so. As the ball was not in play when the event took place, there was not & could not be an “opponent moving towards the player’s goal”. Although the goal keeper’s action will cause him to be cautioned, he will not have caused “an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick”. Because the ball was not in play when the keeper broke the Law(s), his act of misconduct will not nor could not cause a free kick or a penalty kick to be taken. That is, when the ball is out of play the restart will always remain unchanged.

The referee knows that the world is an imperfect place, that life can be hard, and sometimes bad things happen to good people; but it seems egregious if the LOTG allow the keeper to remain in the game.

Your views?

USSF answer (June 25, 2009):
No view, simply the Law: The goalkeeper cannot have denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity, as the ball was not in play when he committed his misconduct. Sometimes life is not fair. Caution the goalkeeper for failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a free kick; show the yellow card and restart with the original direct free kick, ensuring that all opponents are at least ten yards away when the ball is put into play.

We might also have hard words with the referee for not being proactive in the first place and preventing the goalkeeper from doing what he did.…


Often times in the MLS I see a very frustrating tactic and I have seen this in the matches I referee. Players stand in front of the ball at free kicks, especially in dangerous areas. Often times because of the unpunished nature of the offense it also happens at midfield. Players often times want a quick restart and this prevents this tactic. I feel frustrated as a biased fan. I can’t imagine how frustrated players get and parents get at youth matches. I imagine that both sides are getting frustrated.
Since I feel like the enforcement of the law is not very consistent with the 7+7 memorandum I want to know how to prevent the tactic and when does it become a cautionable offense. What are the criteria for it to become cautionable? I know what the memorandum says but what sort of advice do you have on enforcing this law?

One example (from a biased Seattle fan) would be the incident where Riley was sent off in the LA Galaxy match. Shouldn’t the player who clearly “provoked” the confrontation receive a caution. Under the 7+7 memorandum provoking a confrontation by touching the ball after the referee has stopped play is one of the offenses of special concern of FIFA. I was surprised to find it was not in the week in review.

USSF answer (June 11, 2009):
We are fortunate to have input from Brian Hall, U. S. Soccer’s Manager of Assessment and Training.

First, let us address your question regarding the Riley situation. You are correct, the player who withheld the ball from Riley and, therefore, prevented Riley from putting the ball into play quickly should have been cautioned for delaying the restart of play. This exact subject was covered in U.S. Soccer’s “Week In Review 8” which can be found at http://www.ussoccer.com/referees/weekinreview.jsp.html (select week 8).

Explanation and video review of the subject are covered coinciding with Video Clip 2: Los Angeles at Seattle.

Now, to your broader question. Referees have been instructed and continue to receive guidance relative to delaying the restart and not respecting the required distance. In fact, the overall management of free kick restarts is covered as one of U.S. Soccer Referee Program’s main directives for 2009.

These directives can be downloaded at: http://www.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_13172742.html. However, if you are watching the game worldwide, you will see referees elsewhere are facing the exact same challenges.

In the 2008-09 publication of the Laws of the Game, FIFA revised the wording relative to “distance” and free kicks. Check the new section FIFA has introduced to replace the old “Questions and Answers:” “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.” In this section, the term “distance” is defined:

“If a player decides to take a free kick quickly and an opponent is less than 9.15 meters from the ball intercepts it, the referee must allow play to continue.” It also states….

“If a player decides to take a free kick quickly and an opponent who is near the ball deliberately prevents him taking the kick, the referee must caution the player for delaying the restart.”

Key terms are “intercepts,” and “deliberately prevents.” Upon reading U.S. Soccer’s directive on “Free Kick and Restart Management,” you will see that “deliberately prevents” is defined as “lunging or advancing forward or toward the ball.” So, if a defender is less than 10 yards and he/she lunges or advances forward toward the ball and then makes contact with the ball, this player must be cautioned for delaying the restart. On the other hand, if an attacker takes a free kick and the defender is less than 10 yards but in view of the attacker, then the attacker assumes the risk of the quick free kick and any defensive contact would not be punishable (the kicker knew the location of the defender at the time he/she took the free kick).

Finally, as the directive implores officials, preventative measures should be utilized. Upon seeing players who act as a “statue” in front of the ball or who are less than 10 yards, referees should use presence to move the defender back and prevent further occurrences.


High level U15 girls national championship series preliminary match. To set the scene – Game is tied 0-0 in the second half. White goalie comes out to near 18 and makes a save. Ball comes loose and blue forward hits ball off goalie. Goalie jumps on ball outside the 18 and is called for handling. Goalie then proceeds to argue with CR for 30-45 seconds (I believe stating that she had control when the blue player hit the ball which is not what I saw or what the CR saw). CR does not issue caution and says after the game that “this was a high level state cup game and emotions were high” so she did not issue a caution (AR stated during game that he would have cautioned keeper).

With 4 minutes left in game and white winning 1-0, white keeper makes another save and trips blue player just inside the 18. CR blows whistle and issues keeper (who is still holding the ball) a caution.

After a short discussion with keeper, CR backs off and allows keeper to punt. After the game, CR states that caution was for dissent and that she would have just dropped the ball to the keeper and allowed her to punt and since there was not much time left, she just allowed the keeper to punt.

How should this have been handled?

USSF answer (April 21, 2009):
While we might agree with the referee’s initial decision not to caution the goalkeeper for dissent because of the high emotional level of the game, we do not recommend allowing protracted sessions of “discussion” with any player. The referee should state her decision, take care of business (if any), and get on with the game. (And the AR should have kept his mouth shut unless speaking directly to the referee.)

The second decision raises three areas of concern.
– First, the caution for dissent may or may not have been correct, but if the referee saw it that way, then it was correct. We wonder if it should not have been for unsporting behavior (reckless play in tripping the opponent).
– The second area of concern is the possibility that there was an obvious goalscoring opportunity — we don’t have any details to determine one way or another.
– The third area of concern is the way the game was restarted — or “continued,” as a punt is definitely not a way to restart the game. A dropped ball is not possible. A punt is clearly an abomination. If the caution was for dissent, the only legal restart is an indirect free kick (not a dropped ball) for the opposing team where the goalkeeper committed the dissent.  However, if the caution was for the goalkeeper tripping the opponent, then the correct restart is a direct free kick or, in this case, a penalty kick.…