Red attacker with ball avoids a slide tackle by jumping over tackler (no contact), but lands akwardly on his ankle twisting it (later determined to be broken). This occurred close to the bench-side touch line. Red attacker, in obvious pain, is yelling profanities.  In this moment, the newer referee was not sure what to do–whether to card for the offensive language or not.  Fellow referees in our area disagree–some say card, others no card. What’s your view and recommendation?

USSF answer (March 31, 2008):
If, in the opinion of the referee, . . . with that opinion formed by some standards.  We already allow for momentary outbursts of frustration and should probably allow the same for momentary outbursts of pain, but not if they continue beyond the moment, not if (other things equal) they are shouted at the top of the lungs, and not if (other things being equal) the language itself is patently offensive (based on the audience and/or by being directed at someone — e. g., the opponent over whose leg the player jumped or the referee whose fault all this clearly was).…


My son has a medical reason for needing to wear a hat when he is reffing a game. Would you please send me a list of what medical reasons qualify you to wear a hat when in uniform.

USSF answer (March 26, 2008):

Since it was formalized in 1994, U. S. Soccer Federation policy has been in line with the following question and answer, published in 1999:

Q. May referees wear caps and sunglasses?
A. With regard to caps, the policy of the United States Soccer Federation was stated in the Spring 1994 issue of Fair Play magazine: “Under normal circumstances, it is not acceptable for a game official to wear headgear, and it would never be seen on a high level regional, national or international competition. However, there may be rare circumstances in local competitions where head protection or sun visors might sensibly be tolerated for the good of the game, e.g. early morning or late afternoon games with sun in the officials’ line of sight causing vision difficulties; understaffed situations where an official with sensitive skin might be pressed into service for multiple games under strong sunlight or a referee who wears glasses needing shielding from rain.” Sunglasses would be subject to the same considerations. In addition, we ask referees to remember that sunglasses have the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that the referee or assistant referee is severely visually impaired and should not be working the game. They also limit communication between the officials and the players by providing a barrier against eye-to-eye contact. Sunglasses, if worn, should be removed prior to any verbal communication with players.


This means that your son may wear a hat to work games at the recreational level and in the younger age groups of youth soccer, but not in top-level competition. There should be no problem with this, but if there is, we suggest that you ask your son’s physician to provide a formal letter, stating the reason that a cap is necessary, and send this letter to the State Referee Administrator or State Youth Referee Administrator of your state. You may also use this e-mail as proof that you have communicated with the Federation on the matter.…


I was coaching my daughter’s u10 game and a younger ref did the equipment check… I have a girl on the team who has softball/baseball cleats on – they have a plastic stub on the front it is a smaller stud not one that want of great length – he informed her that he had to cut the stub off or change shoes… I told him that I am an R8 Ref and I had looked at the cleats and wanted to know what was unsafe on them… he said that he dose not allow baseball style cleats regardless if they metal or not… I told him I did not agree with the interpretation but it was his game so she played in a spectator’s shoes (they swapped) …

So I have 2 questions: 

Cutting off a stud on the fields — I have to say that getting a knife and cutting off the stud could leave “shaper” or uneven edges…  I would call that more unsafe…
Where in the rules does it say baseball cleats as a whole are not legal?

I clearly remember in the this years re-cert class that baseball cleats are legal in USSF if they are safe; unsafe in my opinion would be metal… or if the front stud sticks out farther then the others.  I did not want to disagree with the ref and tell him I was a ref and he was wrong as it was his game but I would like to have a better understanding for future to tell this parent if they need to get new cleats and I can address it with the club and the assigner.

USSF answer (March 26, 2008):
It is illegal to play soccer in football or baseball cleats of the traditional sort with toe cleats, even if the toe cleats are cut off. There is no documentation on this, other than the requirement that players’ equipment must be safe for them and all participants. Traditional football and baseball cleats are unsafe and not permitted in soccer games. In any event, the final decision rests on the opinion of the referee.…


At the end of the game whistle is blown, everyone knows game is over.
Both teams lined up to shake hands, two players from team A take their shirt off and are walking towards the line to shake hands without jerseys.
I want to know what the procedure for this is, This was a youth game U17.
In my mind this is a misconduct since those players are being disrespectful to the opponents.
What is your take on this?

USSF answer (March 11, 2008):
Removing the shirt after a game is over should not be treated as misconduct in most cases.  When the match is over, the referee’s best course of action is to leave and, while leaving, to be only concerned about player actions which are violent, which direct dissent at the officials, which include taking off more clothing than just the jersey, or which involve clearly abusive, insulting, or offensive language.…


In a very well-tempered match with 4 minutes remaining, an attacker dribbles around a tired and apparently frustrated defender (his team is losing 2-0). The defender, in a violent manner, deliberately kicks at but completely misses the unaware attacker, who has already sped by him with the ball.

The attacker is streaking into the Penalty Area with a perfect opportunity on goal, I holler “Advantage” and also immediately inform the defender that he will be dealt with at the next stoppage.

The attacker is rewarded with an outstanding scoring opportunity that is saved brilliantly by the keeper into the corner of the field.

I am now looking for any reasonable reason to stop play to send off the defender. However, after the ball rolls toward the corner play continues peacefully without even a hint of a foul, retaliation, or other issues. I stop play four minutes later to end the match, quietly remind the player of his earlier misconduct, he reluctantly nods in agreement, and is shown the red card.

The Laws of the Game support my decision, but many referees I have discussed the situation with have suggested I stop play after the advantage plays out (ball into corner of field) and then award an IFK to attackers after sending off the defender. How is the latter supported in Law or sense (it gives attackers two opportunities toward goal)? Are there any further alternatives other than stopping play immediately?

USSF answer (March 10, 2008):
You are, of course, perfectly within your right, under the Law, to send off the defender for attempting to kick his opponent, even after you have invoked the advantage clause. However, if you are going to punish this player off at all, whether with a sending-off or a caution, we would suggest doing it within the statutory 2-3 seconds after deciding to invoke the advantage, rather than waiting four minutes — during which time the defender has committed no further acts of misconduct, which may have been a result of your comment that you would deal with him at the next stoppage. There is no need to wait for a so-called “natural stoppage” to do this; if the act must be punished, then stop play and do it.

That brings us to a second decision you must make, whether to stop the game and then reward the attacking team for an act that apparently had no true effect on the game. You should wait long enough to see whether or not the advantage has been properly applied — in other words, the attacking team kept control of the ball, continued the attack, etc. Only then would we suggest stopping play, if necessary, and coming back to manage the situation with the defender. The extra benefit to this approach is that you can now bring the ball back and give the attackers an IFK for the misconduct (the foul having been wiped away by the advantage).…


When I watch international games I always see referee’s talking to or warning players after a particularly tough challenge. My question is what are they saying? I understand that this is an alternative to giving a yellow card when a foul is bordering on reckless, but not quite warranting a card. But what are some ideas of things to say to players so they still respect your decisions, will be more mindful in their play but yet it doesn’t turn into an arguing match between you and the player?

USSF answer (February 26, 2008):
This is a difficult question to answer, as each referee is different in personality from every other referee and thus takes an individual approach to dealing with the many things that players do during the match. You might also consider that a referee might say different things to different players depending on the personality of the player. The best we can do for you is give some general guidance.

Some referees will come straight out with a no-nonsense statement that the player had better mend his/her ways or face the consequences. Others will put the matter more humorously.

The best plan is to say as little as possible. Deliver your message, whatever it may be, and move away quickly to the next place you will be needed.…


I am coaching a U10 Boys team. A penalty kick was awarded to the opposing team. The referee provided the goalkeeper with proper directions for staying on the line until the kick was made. The opponent took the kick and it went wide of the goal. The goalkeeper was still standing in the middle of the goal after the ball went wide of the goal mouth. The assistant referee then signaled that the goalkeeper had left the line and the kick needed to be retaken. The kick was retaken and this time was successful. As a result of this call by the assistant referee the goalkeeper was afraid to move at all during the second kick and refused to play goalkeeper during the second half of the game. My question is this. The only things I can think of are that the goalkeeper was standing with his heels on the line. As the kick was about to be taken the goalkeeper rotated onto the balls of his feet therefore lifting his heels off of the line, or as he moved sideways his foot moved less than the length of his shoe off of the line (in other words not very far, and not intentionally forward). Should either of these situations be grounds for a retaking of the PK? Is there some kind of guidance that can be provided as to what constitutes remaining on the line and what is just ordinary movement? I know that for a throw-in, a player who lifts his heel while his toes are inside of the touch line is considered no longer having part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line, is this the same guideline to be used for a goalkeeper during a penalty kick.USSF answer (April 23, 2007):
This would appear to be what we call a BRSU (Basic Referee Screw-Up), committed in this case by the assistant referee (AR). We must admit that some ARs are a bit overzealous about flagging for supposed infringements at a penalty kick. We apologize for this likely error and hope that this team is not penalized by having such a zealous AR in its future games.

Moreover, while it is certainly a BRSU by the AR, the referee must also take blame for (1) failing to recognize that he is not obliged to accept the input from the AR and (2) failing to recognize that the keeper’s action (even if not consistent with Law 14, which I have already disputed) is entirely consistent with the flexibility which “doubtful/trifling” gives to the referee.

We are more concerned about your statement that the player who lifts the heel, yet keeps the toes on the ground, is considered to have failed to meet the requirements of Law 15. The throw-in should be considered for what it is, a way to restart the game. Only truly major infringements of the Law should be flagged by ARs or called by referees, particularly in youth games. In fact, we might go a step further (no pun intended) and say that a keeper or a thrower who simply lifts his heels is still within both the letter and the spirit of the Law. The lines involved are planes and, though the heel might not be touching the ground, it is still ON the line.

In short, there was no infringement and the goal should have been upheld by the referee.…


I’m sorry to trouble you with such a detail, but the question came up and no one present had, or could find a definitive answer to the following question:
If provided the option/ability should the referee team choose a jersey color before or after checking in both teams? Good arguments where raised for both before and after. I guess if there is nothing written, is there a generally accepted “best practice”?Though it was generally understood that a referee should not wear a jersey either too or from the pitch, again we could find nothing written.

Is either of this covered in the “Referee Administrative Handbook” and we missed just missed it, or is documented someplace else?

Any insight you could provide would be wonderful as we would like set the best possible ground work for our younger referees.

USSF answer (April 11, 2007):
Referees should exercise common sense (you will see this again below) and choose the uniform color that causes the least confusion for both players and the officiating crew. This is not covered in the Referee Administrative Handbook, but If you need a reference, then we suggest that you use this excerpt from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

Referees may wear only the gold primary jersey or the black/white-, blue/black-, or red/black-striped alternate jerseys, and may wear only the approved socks. No other colors will be worn without express permission of the USSF. If the uniform colors worn by a goalkeeper and the referee or by a team (or both teams) and the referee are similar enough to invite confusion, the goalkeeper or the team(s) must change to different colors. Only if there is no way to resolve the color similarity, must the referee (and the assistant referees) wear the colors that conflict least with the players. Referees and assistant referees must wear the same color jerseys and the same style of socks, and all should wear the same length sleeves. The referee uniform does not include a hat, cap, or other head covering, with the exception of religious head covering. Referees must wear the badge of the current registration year.

In addition, referees should exercise common sense and not wear their uniform or other clothes that identify them as referees when they are coaching or watching a game, or when traveling to the field. Wearing such clothing as a spectator invites comment and cries out for spectators or others to question the non-working referee on the calls of the officials on the field. Wearing such clothing as a coach could be considered a form of gamesmanship.…