Yesterday’s MLS match up between NE & KC saw referee Terry Vaughn award KC a penalty kick in the 27th minute. KC’s player was clearly fouled inside the penalty area by a late challenge from NE’s defender. However, the ball made its way to a KC player right in front of the net who had a good scoring opportunity. You can see that Vaughn blew his whistle before the KC player was able to get his shot off on goal. Fortunately for Vaughn the ball went off the goal post and no goal was scored. Even if a goal had been scored, it would have not counted b/c Vaughn had stopped play before the shot.

Here’s my question. Did Vaughn do the right thing? Should Vaughn have called for advantage and allowed the KC player to take the shot on goal? Now, if the player is allowed to take the shot and the same result occurs, the ball goes off the post (no goal), can you then go back to the foul inside the box and award a penalty kick? Or is it simply one or the other?

I know that with the advantage you have a few seconds to see if the play will develop so as to become an advantage if the foul is not called. On the first goal of the game, Vaughn did just that. A foul was committed, he waited a few seconds to see if NE would gain an advantage from no foul being called, the play never developed, so he awarded the foul and NE scored on the free kick. But here, it appears the advantage did develop by the KC forward receiving the ball at his feet right in front of the goal. If advantage is given and the shot is taken, I would think, even if the shot is missed, the foul cannot then be called as if the advantage did not develop, but I’m really not sure. I realize Vaughn did not do this, that he called the foul before the shot was taken, but I’m just speculating what is the right thing to do in these types of situations.

USSF answer (April 16, 2008):
The game at the professional level is usually played and refereed at a much faster pace than our typical games at the school or neighborhood park. Critical refereeing decisions must be made in an instant, with little time to reflect on what might have been. That is one reason that we see the advantage signaled in professional games only after it has already been realized. Sometimes the referee gets it exactly right and sometime he or she does not. The important thing is that the referee at the top levels knows he or she has to make that decision, and does so, rather than dithering.

This position paper issued by USSF on April 11, 2008, may be of interest to you:

From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center:

To: National Referees
National Instructors
National Assessors
State Referee Administrators
State Directors of Instruction
State Directors of Assessment
State Directors of Coaching
From:  Alfred Kleinaitis
Manager of Referee Development and Education
Subject:  Advantage in the Penalty Area
Date:  April 11, 2008

Special circumstances govern the application of advantage for offenses committed by defenders inside their own penalty area. Although the basic concept of advantage remains the same, the specific decision by the referee must be governed by both the close proximity to the goal and the likelihood of scoring from the penalty kick restart if play is stopped instead of applying advantage.

The basic elements of the decision are straightforward:

Advantage is a team concept and thus the referee must be aware not only of the fouled player’s ability to continue his or her attack but also of the ability of any of the player’s teammates to continue the attack themselves.
Advantage has been applied when the decision is made, not when the advantage signal is given. The signal itself may often be delayed for 2-3 seconds while the referee evaluates the advantage situation to determine if it will continue.
Where it does not continue, the Laws of the Game provide for the referee to stop play for the original foul.
If the original foul involved violence, the referee is advised not to apply advantage unless there is an immediate chance of scoring a goal.
Inside the penalty area, the competitive tension is much greater and the referee is called upon to make quicker decisions. The time during which the referee looks for advantage to continue becomes defined by the probability of scoring a goal directly following the foul or from the subsequent play.

In the attached clip of an incident occurring in the 27th minute of a match on April 9 between New England and Kansas City. NE defender #31 (Nyassi) fouls KC attacker #11 (Morsink) near the top of the penalty area. Just as Morsink is fouled, however, he passes the ball to his teammate #19 (Sealy).

The referee properly recognized the advantage but then whistled for the foul against Morsink after he decided that a goal would not be scored by Sealy. In fact, Sealy made a shot on goal just as the whistle sounded and the ball failed to enter the net.

In the absence of a whistle stopping play and if the ball had entered the net, the advantage would clearly have continued and the goal would be counted.
If, in this case, the ball had entered the goal after the whistle had sounded, the goal could not be counted.
Ideally, the referee in this incident should have delayed stopping play for the original foul until he saw more concretely what Sealy would have been able to do with the ball.
In this incident, the penalty kick for the original foul was successful.


At a youth soccer game, the coach of one team questioned the ref if the game ball was the correct size and weight since he seemed to think it was not. The ball was like playing with a rubber kick ball with a lot of bounce. The ref answered the coach that both sides have the same advantage and disadvantage with this ball and he was not going to change it, even though there were plenty of balls on the sidelines to choose from.
Should a ball be marked somehow showing that it is the proper size and weight for a game? And if so, then it would have been easier for the ref to point this marking out as proof that the ball is correct.

USSF answer (April 16, 2008):
Although the referee has the final decision, the players deserve to play with the best ball available. There are standards for all balls, specifying circumference, weight, and air pressure. A proper soccer ball should be marked with its size (based on the circumference). The referee should guarantee that the weight and air pressure are sufficient for a good contest.…


I recently stopped play to issue a caution for unsporting behavior, the ball was in the possession of the goal keeper at the time of the foul. While I used to simply do a “drop ball” to the keeper to restart play, allowing him/her to pick it up (it only seemed fair…), I realize that the correct restart is an indirect free kick. I instructed the keeper that he needed to put the ball down and restart with an indirect free kick, a teammate of the keeper decided that since his keeper had the ball and was going to punt it until I had stopped play, he would have the keeper ‘flick’ the ball to him as a restart and he would simply head it back to the keeper. I explained that would be a violation of the ‘pass back’ rule – using trickery to circumvent the law – and he would not be permitted to do that. After reading the laws a little closer, I’m not sure I was correct…

Can a keeper ‘flick’ the ball to a teammate on a restart, have the teammate head the ball back to the keeper, then the keeper can catch it and punt it away??

USSF answer (April 14, 2008):
We will not go into your former way of restarting play, other than to say that it is certainly not correct now.

If play was stopped for a caution, then
(1) there was no foul;
(2) it doesn’t matter whether the ball was just laying there, being played by someone, or being held by the goalkeeper;
(3) giving the restart to the goalkeeper was (a) valid only if it was an opponent who committed the misconduct and (b) beyond the referee’s authority since the indirect free kick restart can be conducted by anyone on the GK’s team (assuming the offense was by an opponent).  The questioner’s scenario makes it appear that he believes the GK must perform the IFK (because he was holding the ball at the time?).

Explaining about pass backs and trickery etc. is also beyond the referee’s authority unless the players were very young (of course, the referee could respond to a brief, direct question about the Law if asked by a player).

Finally, if the restart is any sort of kick by the goalkeeper (DFK, IFK, GK, or CK — we exclude penalty kicks solely for practical reasons), “flicking” the ball to a teammate who then heads it back to the ‘keeper cannot be considered trickery since there would be no possibility of a so-called “pass back” offense occurring anyway.  The trickery rule has to be based on the restart of kicking the ball deliberately to the goalkeeper. If there is no possibility of the offense by the goalkeeper handling the ball after it has been kicked deliberately kicked by a teammate, then there is also no possibility of the misconduct.…


While doing  a pre-game inspection of players prior to a game, I noticed that one of the boys was wearing shin guards that were totally inadequate to protect more than a few inches of his shin — they were about the size of a mens’ wallet. I told him that I would not allow him to play until he found some larger ones, and lo and behold, he did. I later mentioned this to the referee,but he told me that I had no authority in the matter, and if the player wanted to risk his legs, so be it. I disagreed, pointing out that the law prohibits a player from wearing anything that presents a danger to himself, or others, but the man doing the center replied that this referred to items other than mandatory uniform.
Does the U.S.S.F have any guidance as regards this?

p.s. I think that laws or no, I was right- I want no broken legs on my watch!

USSF answer (April 14, 2008):
USSF guidance follows Law 4:
– are covered entirely by the stockings
– are made of a suitable material (rubber, plastic, or similar substances)
– provide a reasonable degree of protection

If, in the opinion of the referee, the shinguards do not “provide a reasonable degree of protection,” then they should not be allowed.…


In a U15 game the keeper made a play for the ball and went to ground at the edge of the box. She fumbled the ball with her body, and both she and the ball slide outside of the box. By the time she finally grabbed the ball with her hands both she and the ball were about a foot or so outside the box, and about two-thirds of the way up from the goal line. The lead attacker had run past the keeper and the ball at this point. There were other defenders in the box, but roughly in-line with the keeper and not deep in front of the goal. As center I called a direct kick, which the attackers took immediately while the keeper with still trying to get up (no resulting goal). The attacking team’s coach was insistent that the goalkeeper should have gotten a red card. In fact he stated at halftime that a red card was “automatic” in that situation. The goal scoring opportunity did not seem “obvious” to me at the time, and in looking at 12.37(b) in the “Advice” I don’t believe that all four conditions where firmly in place, although they were certainly on the margin.

I had two very experienced refs as ARs. One (on my end of the field but on opposite side of the play) agreed with my call. The trailing AR thought I should have at least shown the keeper a yellow card but did not want to second guess the details given his position.

(a) Should I have ejected the keeper in this case? (b) Would a yellow card been appropriate and why (the keeper appeared to have made an error in confusion)? (c) If the keeper is ejected at this point is it appropriate to allow the defenders time to designate and suit up a replacement before the direct kick?

USSF answer (April 14, 2008):
(a) No.
(b) No.
(c) Yes; and not only would it have been appropriate, it would have been MANDATORY. Law 3 requires the team to have a goalkeeper.

And some answers to unposed questions:
(d) No matter what coaches say, there is no such thing as an “automatic red card.”
(e)  The keeper’s violation was trifling under virtually all possible readings of the circumstances.
(f) There is no need to assess the “4 Ds” for the obvious goalscoring opportunity, because there was no offense in the first place.…


Most youth teams do not have long-sleeved shirts or thermal underwear as part of their team uniform. Instead, it has been customary in cold weather for players to wear their own long-sleeve shirts or thermal wear under their jerseys. More often than not, these undergarments do not match the players’ jerseys. Now that the new “matching undergarments” rule has been adopted by FIFA, in cold weather games should a referee (i) enforce the rule and thus require the youth players to either remove their mismatching undergarments (risking hypothermia) or not play or (ii) follow the guidance of the USSF’s position papers on the “no sleeves” rule and exercise common sense and judgment, not enforce the rule, and allow the players to play with the mismatching undergarments?

A leading question to be sure, but one that could use official guidance from the USSF.

USSF answer (April 10, 2008):
Even with the recent IFAB interpretation regarding the color of all undergarments, this answer of November 14, 2002, still applies. Please note that we have updated the excerpt from Advice to the current edition:

Under normal conditions, players are restricted to the uniform and equipment specified in the Laws of the Game under Law 4: jersey or shirt, shorts, stockings, shinguards, and footwear. This and other pertinent information is encapsulated in section 4.1 of the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

It is implicit in the Law that each side wear a distinctively colored jersey, that shorts and socks be uniform for each team, and that the uniforms be distinguishable from the uniforms worn by the other team. However, the details of the uniform are governed by the competition authority and can vary widely from one match to another. The referee must know and enforce the rules of each competition worked. Players’ jerseys must remain tucked inside their shorts, socks must remain pulled up, and each player must wear shinguards under the socks. All undergarments (slide pants, undershirts, etc.) which extend visibly beyond the required uniform must be as close as possible in color to the main color of the uniform part under which they are worn.
//rest deleted//

However, the intelligent referee will try to make an exception due to severe weather conditions, such as knit caps or gloves on very cold days. This would even extend to tracksuit pants, provided everyone on the team wears the same color — which need not be the same as the color of the shorts.
//rest deleted//

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for local leagues (less so tournaments) to have a local rule exception dealing with less than perfect uniforms.…


I am even embarrassed to ask you this question but I promised my referees to get an answer for them. Here it goes, one of our State referees indicated at State Cup this weekend that USSF is no longer looking favorably on referees handshake (three way hand shake as we call it in this neck of the woods as MLS handshake). The first thing that it came to my mind was that I am sure that USSF have more fish to fry than worrying about a handshake. Could you please solve this mystery?

USSF answer (April 7, 2008):
There is no such restriction on referees shaking hands before the kick-off. It is traditional and done throughout the world. This would seem to be a case of someone misunderstanding something said by an assessor.…


Law 1 states that “the field of play is divided into two halves by a halfway line”.

Law 11 states that a player is not offside if “he is in his own half of the field of play”.

I assume that I was correct when I flagged two players this past year for having a foot on the halfway line (but not over), since the player (technically) was not in his/her half of the field. However, some seasoned refs told me that having a foot on the half way line should not result in being called offside when that player received a pass.


USSF answer (April 3, 2008):
Technically, if any part of a player that can legally play the ball is past the midfield line, they are in the opponents’ end of the field and could be in an offside position — depending on the positioning of the opposing players.  That counts head, feet and any other part of the player that can legally play the ball — but certainly not the hands. If the referee finds that this player is in an offside position and becomes actively involved in play from that position after a teammate plays the ball in his or her direction, then he or she should be declared offside.…

Denying a Goal Scenerios

I have a question about judging denying a goal or obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball: ATR 12.37 (a) states in part “but simply the occurrence of the offense under circumstances in which, in the opinion of the referee, the ball would likely have gone directly into the goal but for the handling”.

What if the deliberate handling by a defender prevents the ball from reaching an attacker who would be able to simply put the ball into an unprotected goal (no other defenders or the goal keeper to prevent the goal)?  In this situation, the handling prevents an obvious goal scoring opportunity, but this does not seem to meet the criteria as stated in ATR 12.37 (a) “the ball would have likely gone directly into the goal”.

Thank you for your help.

USSF answer (April 2, 2008):
The information in Advice 12.37 applies only to situations in which, but for the handling, the ball would have gone into the net (in the opinion of the referee, of course).  What you are asking about is at least one step removed from that and would require the referee to decide that, but for the handling, the ball would have gone to another attacking player who, maybe/possibly/perhaps, would have made a shot on goal which, maybe/possibly/perhaps, would have gone into the net.

Your scenario, rather than applying under Advice 12.37, is a perfect example of handling as a tactical foul — breaking up attacking play — and thus merits no more than a caution, followed by a direct free kick or penalty kick (if applicable). The referee cannot spend valuable time dithering over whether or not a player might/could/should/would have done something, but must decide what has happened now. We judge an offense on its own, not on action extended into the future.

For information on dealing with the tactical foul caution, see Advice 12.28.1.…


With the new requirement for undergarments being the same color as the uniform, is it required that all players wear undergarments or can some players wear undergarments and others not wear undergarments.

USSF answer (April 1, 2008):
The requirement for matching colors between undergarments applies only to those players who actually wear the undergarments in question. One would assume that all players wear some sort of undergarments, but we are concerned only with those that show.…