I have difficulty at times recognizing a slide tackle that
is a foul versus a legal one. Can you please give some guidance of what to look for and how I can be better at calling a foul on a hard tackle? Sometimes good tackles cause a player to fall so please help me with this.

Answer (February 6, 2016):
The term “slide tackle” refers to an attempt to tackle the ball away from an opponent while sliding on the ground. A slide tackle is legal, provided it is performed safely. In other words, there is nothing illegal about a slide tackle by itself—-no matter where it is done and no matter the direction from which it comes. Referees (and spectators) should not get hung up on the term “slide” tackling. There is nothing regarding “endangering the safety of the opponent” which limits it to a slide tackle. In fact, if, in the opinion of the referee, the tackle endangers the safety of the opponent, it makes no difference if there is contact or not.

The referee must judge whether the tackle of an opponent is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized. On the other hand, the fact that contact with the ball was made first does not automatically mean that the tackle is fair. The declaration by a player that he or she “got the ball first” is irrelevant if, while tackling for the ball, the player carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force commits any of the prohibited actions. Remember that it is not a foul if a sliding tackle is successful and the player whose ball was tackled away then falls over the tackler’s foot.

How can tackles become illegal? There are many ways but two of the most common are by making contact with the opponent first (before contacting the ball) and by striking the opponent with a raised upper leg before, during, or after contacting the ball with the lower leg. Referees must be vigilant and firm in assessing any tackle, because the likely point of contact is the lower legs of the opponent and this is a particularly vulnerable area. We must not be swayed by protests of “But I got the ball, ref” and we must be prepared to assess the proper penalty for misconduct where that is warranted.

Certain “prohibited actions” would include lifting the tackling foot to trip or attempt to trip the opponent, using the other foot or leg to trip or attempt to trip the opponent, kicking or attempting to kick the opponent, etc., etc. Surely other similar fouls will come easily to mind.

Remember that “getting the ball first” has NEVER been absolution for whatever else may happen during or immediately after the tackle.

There is nothing illegal, by itself, about sliding tackles or playing the ball while on the ground. These acts become the indirect free kick foul known as playing dangerously (“dangerous play”) only if the action unfairly takes away an opponent’s otherwise legal play of the ball (for players at the youth level, this definition is simplified even more as “playing in a manner considered to be dangerous to an opponent”). At minimum, this means that an opponent must be within the area of danger which the player has created. These same acts can become the direct free kick fouls known as kicking or attempting to kick an opponent or tripping or attempting to trip or tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball only if there was contact with the opponent or, in the opinion of the referee, the opponent was forced to react to avoid the kick or the trip. The referee may warn players about questionable acts of play on the ground, but would rarely caution a player unless the act was reckless.


Before the ball enters the goal from an attacking player’s shot, a spectator enters the field of play and slightly touches the ball with his hand but does not manage to stop the goal. What decision should the referee make?

Answer (November 15, 2015):
In such cases, the referee must follow the guidance on p. 66 of the Laws of the Game:

Outside agents
Anyone not indicated on the team list as a player, substitute or team official is deemed to be an outside agent, as is a player who has been sent off.
If an outside agent enters the field of play:
• the referee must stop play (although not immediately if the outside agent does not interfere with play)
• the referee must have him removed from the field of play and its immediate surroundings
• if the referee stops the match, he must restart play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when the match was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case 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

In your situation, Law 3 requires that the referee determine whether or not the outside agent—here the spectator—has truly interfered with play. Only the referee on the game can determine this; not the players, not the team officials, no one but the referee, with advice from the ARs, if necessary.



Referee Health and Safety

As part of U.S. Soccer’s commitment to health and safety, our medical and referee experts have prepared the following recommendations for the referee community and incorporated them into our referee education materials.

In the interest of health and safety, U.S. Soccer recommends that match officials practice the following skin care guidelines:

• Consider wearing sunscreen daily on areas of exposed skin.
• Apply skin protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 15 minutes prior to being exposed to the sun.
• At a minimum, reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating extensively.
• Take advantage of halftime to reapply.
• Consider wearing long sleeves (or UV protective clothing) if applicable during high sun exposure periods.
• Periodically (once a year) review exposed skin for any changes or growths and consult your doctor or dermatologist.
• Caps may be worn so long as the cap does not endanger the safety of the official or the players.
• The cap should be consistent with the referee uniform and not conflict with the uniform colors worn by either team.
• The cap may not bear any commercial marks or logos.


My team had a pK shoot out last weekend. The referee placed the ball on the mark. We kicked first and my player moved the ball because it was in a hole but left it on the mark. The referee walked back to the ball picked it up and appeared to push it even harder in the original spot. Is the referee allowed to move or place the ball even though it’s on the mark. It clearly bothered my player. The referee did place the ball every single time after that as well So at least he was consistent.

Answer (May 13, 2015):
The ball must be placed on some part of the spot/mark. It can be moved to avoid holes or water. The only restriction is the ball may not be moved closer to the goal line than the spot itself.

As I am fond of saying, some referees make too much of themselves and fail to remember that it is not the referee’s game, it belongs to the players.


NOTE: This Q&A was published back in 2002 with the full approval of the U. S. Soccer Federation. I cannot claim that it still has approval, but it is a good path to explore when prosthetic devices are necessary for a player. I sent it out last week in response to a similar question from a player’s parent. The final decision will always rest with the referee, no matter who else might approve.

May a player wear a titanium leg or other prosthetic device while playing soccer?

Answer (January 18, 2015):
The first concern of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Law 4 – The Players’ Equipment is for player safety: “Safety: A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry).” The IFAB then lists the basic compulsory equipment of a player: jersey or shirt, shorts, stockings, shinguards, and footwear. Artificial legs and other prosthetic devices are not included in the list.

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) neither approves nor disapproves the wearing of such artificial legs or prosthetic devices, taking the position that this decision is outside the authority and competence of the USSF.

Custom and usage indicate that the use of artificial legs or other prosthetic devices by players was never contemplated by the International F. A. Board, but the case is analogous to that of a player wearing a cast or leg brace (when properly padded to prevent a danger to others). Injuring or reinjuring a limb is not considered to be a life-threatening situation, and it is commonly accepted according to custom and usage. The individual referee must consider the requirements of Law 4 and the Spirit of the Laws when judging the safety of wearing of an artificial leg or prosthetic device in the game he or she is to referee.

The National State Association may grant permission for players to wear properly padded artificial legs or prosthetic devices if the following requirements are met:
1. The player (or the parents of a player under the age of 21) must sign a release form stating that the player/parents are aware of the hazards involved with the player/child playing soccer under the conditions of his/her health.

2. The player’s doctor must sign a release stating that the player may play a contact sport such as soccer while wearing the device.

3. It is the sole responsibility of the player (and parents, if the player is underage) to ensure that the device is worn as required by medical personnel. It should not fall to a coach, tournament director, referee, nor anyone else to see that this is done, nor should the coach, tournament director, referee, nor anyone else be held responsible if it is not and an injury results.

4. The referee in each case has the final decision as to whether or not to allow the player to participate.

The player’s team must carry copies of the player’s/parents’ and doctor’s releases and a copy of the release from the National State Association (signed by the president, vice president for the appropriate competition, and registrar).

As noted above, the final decision to let the player participate will rest with the individual referee.


If a player from Team A is injured and is being substituted, can Team B also substitute at that time?
If so,is there a limited number of players that can be substituted?

Answer (November 18, 2014):
Q. 1: Yes.
Q. 2: See below.

Under the Laws of the Game, the following procedures apply:

Substitution procedure
In all matches, the names of the substitutes must be given to the referee prior to the start of the match. Any substitute whose name is not given to the referee at this time may not take part in the match.
To replace a player with a substitute, the following conditions must be observed:
• the referee must be informed before any proposed substitution is made
• the substitute only enters the field of play after the player being replaced has left and after receiving a signal from the referee
• the substitute only enters the field of play at the halfway line and DURING A STOPPAGE IN THE MATCH
• the substitution is completed when a substitute enters the field of play
• from that moment, the substitute becomes a player and the player he has replaced becomes a substituted player
• the substituted player takes no further part in the match
• all substitutes are subject to the authority and jurisdiction of the referee, whether called upon to play or not

And from the back of the book, under Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, Law 3:

Substitution procedure
• A substitution may be made only during a stoppage in play
• The assistant referee signals that a substitution has been requested
• The player being substituted receives the referee’s permission to leave the field of play, unless he is already off the field of play for reasons that comply with the Laws of the Game
• The referee gives the substitute permission to enter the field of play
• Before entering the field of play, the substitute waits for the player he is replacing to leave the field
• The player being substituted is not obliged to leave the field of play on the halfway line
• Permission to proceed with a substitution may be refused under certain circumstances, e.g. if the substitute is not ready to enter the field of play
• A substitute who has not completed the substitution procedure by setting foot on to the field of play cannot restart play by taking a throw-in or corner kick
• If a player who is about to be replaced refuses to leave the field of play, play continues
• If a substitution is made during the half-time interval or before extra time, the procedure is to be completed before the second half or extra time kicks off

As you can see from these quotes, there is no limit on the number of players that may be substituted. However, remember that this particular facet of substitution was not written to consider the system of multiple substitutions that we see in many competitions.


Law- 14 penalty kicks.
The Defending Goalkeeper
As stated by the rules of Fifa
The defending goalkeeper:
• must remain on his goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked.
My question is does the keeper have to keep a part of their body on the line until the ball is kicked? Or does the keeper have to keep both feet on the line until the ball is kicked? It is allowed for keepers to move side to side so the feet obviously do not have to be on the goal line. I would guess this question relates to the plane being broken. When watching any professional games it seems that the keeper is allowed to move forward as long as a part of the body is on the goal line in the plane between the goalposts. I am looking for some clarification on this rule because as I have gray areas of rules.

Answer (October 15, 2014):

As you note, the Law tells us that the defending goalkeeper must remain on his goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked. A later portion on Law 14, in the back of the Law book under Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, reiterates that the referee must confirm, before the penalty kick is taken, that the goalkeeper is on the goal line between the goalposts and facing the kicker. If the goalkeeper violates these instructions, the kick may be taken; however, if the ball enters the goal, the goal is awarded. If the ball does not enter the goal, the kick is retaken.

To answer your question specifically, the goalkeeper must remain on the line. No specific body part is mentioned, because it is traditional that the goalkeeper be upright, both feet on the line. He or she may move along the line, but must not move forward or backward.

Not sure where any grayness might enter the picture, unless you take into account poor work by lazy referees at all levels of the game, those who allow the ‘keeper to move forward (or sometimes backward), which is not permitted until AFTER the ball has been kicked.

And one correction: The Laws of the Game are not written by FIFA. They are written by the International Football Association Board, of which FIFA is a member. FIFA publishes the Laws for all.


Hello, I am a U10 coach in CA. And recently had a game where our goalie was kicked four seperate times while picking up the ball,twice in the hand, leg and chest. I got a little verble by saying how many time are they going to kick our goalie before the Ref does something. The Fef came over to me and said our goalie did not have “possession” of the ball. I replied what does that have to do with kicking the goalie.

I was under the impression and have been teaching our team that if a goalie had even a finger on the ball not to kick the ball because that is putting the goalie in danger and would draw a red card.

So my questions are,
1- in u10 what is the rule on kicking the ball if a goalie is touching the ball .
2- if while attempting to kick a ball that the goalie is touching but kicks the goalie instead, Is there a foul or at least a warning to that player or coach?
3- if there are multiple players directly in front of the goal from both teams all scambling and kicking the ball, during the chaos can the goalie pick the ball up if the last foot on the ball was one from his own team, Not an attentional pass.

Could you give me a clear answer and give me a link in the rule book were I can reference.

Answer (October 13, 2014):
Coach, Answers here depend on what rules your team is playing, i.e., USYSA U10 small-sided rules, normal Laws of the Game (the rules the world plays by), or something else. For US Youth Soccer Rules (and links to the Laws of the Game and other interesting items, see http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/coaches/PolicyonPlayersandPlayingRules/ .

Yes, the Laws of the Game (again, I cannot speak for any local rules) suggest that a player be sent off for kicking or attempting to kick any other player, if the act is seen as either serious foul play or violent conduct:

Sending-off offences
A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct

Clearly your referee needs to see his or her optometrist very soon. Why? Because the goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball if he has as few as one finger on the ball and is pinning it to any surface (ground, body, whatever). And, as you state, it makes no difference if the goalie actually has possession of the ball when he is kicked; it’s still a foul (and possible misconduct).

On to your questions:
1. As above, either a direct free kick and no disciplinary action or a direct free kick and either a caution (yellow card) or send-off (red card). This is no different in U10 rules than in the Laws of the Game.
2. Usually immediate dismissal for serious foul play, followed by the direct free kick. Coaches do not receive any warnings; they either behave responsibly or are expelled for irresponsible behavior.
3. Yes. It would be a very poor referee who called this an infringement of the Laws.


NOTE: I do not remember where I got this item — and for that I apologize to the source — but it seems worth publishing again to remind referees that they need to ensure that everyone on the field knows who is in charge of the game.

Recently I lined an U15B game in a neighborhood complex. A visiting team player whacked the ball. It went out of play, over the fans, along the touchline, over the short chain-link fence behind the fans, over a driveway into the complex, over another short chain-link fence, and into a neighbor’s backyard.

A home team player knew the drill. He ran off the field, jumped the first fence, crossed the road, and arrived at the backyard fence.

The player saw a “Beware of Dogs” sign. He looked around but didn’t see any dogs. To be sure he banged on the fence just as he started to jump. Lucky for him.

Lying against the back of the house in the shade was THE DOG. THE DOG was not happy. THE DOG obviously had dealt with this situation before and knew how to handle it.

THE DOG growled menacingly, stood up, and stared at the player. THE DOG then walked very deliberately to the ball as he maintained eye contact. He continued growling and staring at the player. When THE DOG got to the ball, he looked down, sniffed it disgustedly, looked up, and again growled at the player.

THE DOG then looked at the ball one last time, raised his hind leg, and relieved himself on the ball. He gave the player a final stare with a final contemptuous growl (looking something like a sly, cynical grin), turned around, and casually jogged back to his favorite spot in the shade.

The player was momentarily stunned. With both arms raised he finally shouted to the sidelines, “I’M NOT PLAYING WITH THAT BALL!!!”.

I remember THE DOG whenever I referee an older youth game. He’s even become one of my role models for player management.

THE DOG stayed in the background until it was time to make his presence known. He commanded the player’s attention while he took forceful action. He used crisp mechanics to clearly communicate his decision. He received the player’s unquestioning acceptance of his decision. And he felt much better when he was finished.


Player takes a throw-in, throws ball at opponent (not hard or violent) bounces off opponent, throw takes possession of ball.
This was happening all game and I think thrower was intentionally doing hit.
Can you help me?

Answer (September17, 2014):

This tactic, if performed as you describe it, is perfectly legal. U. S. Soccer’s guidance to referees is that if a throw-in taken in such a way that the ball strikes an opponent is not by itself a violation of the Law. The act must be evaluated separately as a form of striking and dealt with appropriately if judged to be unsporting behavior (caution) or violent conduct (send off from the field). In either event, if deemed a violation, the restart is located at the place where the throw-in struck the opponent. If the throw-in is deemed to have been taken incorrectly, the correct restart is a throw-in.