re Poland v Greece game 09/06/12. I feel the Law should be changed inasmuch that the team who has their goalkeeper sent off for an infringement resulting in a penalty cannot replace him/her until after the penalty has been taken.

The defending team is not penalised for deliberate foul by keeper that could have resulted in a goal by replacing with another keeper. The one to suffer is the player removed to enable the team to play with 10 men still.

Answer (June 9, 2012):
Law 3 requires that one of the players on each team be a goalkeeper, so a team cannot be required to play without a ‘keeper. The Law also permits substitution at ANY stoppage of play, such as a send-off or a penalty kick. After the player being replaced (in this case a field player) has left the field, the substitute may enter and begin to play. As there was no goalkeeper, some player must become the goalkeeper to meet the requirement of the Law. Your suggestion is interesting but runs counter to over 100 years of Law and tradition and would not be in the best interest of the game.…


Question Regarding Substitutions at the U13 Level: Our league plays under this local rule, “The XXXXXX Soccer Association follows FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS. The League operates in accordance with the policies of YYYYY State. All coaches and players shall become thoroughly familiar with the FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS.

In addition to the substitution rules as modified for Youth, a coach has the right to request to substitute a player who has received a yellow card at the time the card is given and 1 for 1 substitution are allowed for an injured player coming off the field.”

Situation is as follows: Team A with a 1 goal lead, late in the game.

Team A repeatedly substitutes during every stoppage of play in the final 10 minutes of play. With approximately 2 minutes of regular time remaining another substitution is made and the referee clearly watches his game clock, and then announces after the substitution, that 1 minute of “stoppage time” will be added. Next stoppage, with under a minute remaining in regular time, another substitution is requested and denied by the referee. In the added time, another stoppage occurs with the same request and it is also denied.

Naturally, Team B scores in the final seconds of stoppage time to draw the match. There is naturally now some controversy as to the referee’s decision to disallow the substitutions. The question is that it appears that the substitutions were within the laws of the game and advice to referees regarding substitutions should have granted the substitutions, however the unlimited substitution clause in the USYS gives the referee an apparent decision point contrary to the advice? In addition, the referee felt that the substitutions were often “not prepared”, although they were all field players and not ever the GK.

Rule 302. SUBSTITUTIONS Section 1. Except as provided by USYSA or its State Associations, substitutions shall be unlimited except where specified otherwise in the rules and regulations for a special competition.

Section 2. Substitutions may be made, with the consent of the referee, at any stoppage in play.

Could you please provide an opinion? This is not an isolated incident as subs are frequently denied in the final minutes of either half, however, it only creates controversy when seemingly, possibly affected the outcome. (would you expect a question otherwise? 🙂

My answer (April 18, 2012):
Disclaimer: I am no longer allowed to prepare and publish items as officially approved by the U. S. Soccer Federation, so this answer will have to do. It is totally correct under the Laws of the Game and common practice in the United States and the rest of the world.

The referee, while clearly having the best intentions in trying to prevent further gamesmanship by Team A, has misapplied the Laws of the Game.

Except for situations in which the substitution is requested just as the ball is ready to be put into play, referees may not ignore or deny permission for a legal substitution that is properly requested. Although Law 3 requires that the referee be “informed before any proposed substitution is made,” this does not mean that the referee can deny permission for any reason other than to ensure that the substitution conforms to the Law. Even if it seems that the purpose is to waste time, the referee cannot deny the request, but should exercise the power granted in Law 7 to add time lost through “any other cause.” Rules of those competitions that permit multiple substitutions and re-entries can sometimes lead to confusion.

Unless the rules of the competition specifically forbid adding time for such gamesmanship or any other reason, the referee should follow the guidance in Law 7 for adding time.…


After a substitute enters the field of play and trips an opponent from behind (blind side) the referee stopped play and showed the substitute the red card. He restarted with a IFK. At the end of the game while writing the report the referee is struggling with what reason to write for the red card for.

The LOTG states: A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offenses:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct

The referee wants to go with SFP since the play wasn’t that violent to go with VC. But AR reminds him that ATR 12.33 says:
This does not include serious misconduct by substitutes, who should be punished for violent conduct if they commit an act as described in the first paragraph of this section. (See 12.34.)

My question, can the ATR trump what is very clearly stated in the LOTG?

Answer (February 10, 2012):
There is nothing in the Advice to Referees that recommends anything that is contrary to or “trumps” the Laws of the Game. The Laws of the Game always take precedence over anything in the Advice, as clearly stated in the introduction to the Advice. Your scenario is clear-cut and the same answers are in both publications.

First you must justify the nature of any misconduct committed by the substitute before you decide how to punish it. In your scenario the sub who enters the field and trips an opponent, but has not committed any act of a violent nature. Why would you send him off for serious foul play? A substitute cannot commit serious foul play. He can commit violent conduct, but your scenario does not include any act of violence. Therefore the information in Advice 12.33 is absolutely correct: The substitute MUST be cautioned for unsporting behavior (entering without permission), but not necessarily until he interferes with play, and the opponents awarded an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when play was stopped. If the referee “needs” the second sanction for game management purposes, then he or she should caution the substitute for a second instance of unsporting behavior, tripping the opponent. If the trip from behind involved excessive force, then send the sub off for violent conduct.…


I was watching a clip of a professional men’s match when the following occurred. Team A attacked Team B’s goal, and missed, with the ball being shot into the hands of team B’s goalkeeper. The team A shooter’s momentum carried him off the field of play to the right of team B’s goal.

Team B’s ‘keeper carried the ball out to about his 12 yard line and put the ball down to kick it upfield, whereupon the team A shooter who had left the field of play “snuck” up behind the ‘keeper, and stole the ball, dribbled once, and scored. The goal stood.

My question is related to whether or not the scorer was eligible to even re-enter the field of play without the referee’s permission.

Clearly, his leaving the field of play resulted in a tactical advantage, although he did not originally leave the field intentionally. Does the goal count?

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
Because the shooter left the field during the course of play through his momentum, he does not need the permission of the referee to return to the field. The goalkeeper was “punished” for his lack of shortsightedness in losing track of where the opposing player was. Score the goal.…


This past weekend I was centering a BU14 game with 2 AR’s that I had not worked with in the past.  Our pre-game conference unfortunately, did not cover the situation which unfolded as follows.  During the first half a Blue Attacker struck a volley shot from about 25 yards out.  I was positioned approximately 10 yard from the shot and about 30 yards from the goal line. The shot was driven over the outstretched arms of the opposing keeper and then struck the crossbar, directing it downwards toward the ground.  The ball struck the ground and due to the spin on the ball bounced back out towards the top of the goal area, where it was eventually cleared by the defense.  From my vantage point, I could not tell if the whole of the ball had cross over the goal line and a goal had been scored.  I looked to my AR, who was positioned about 10-12 yards from the goal line (even with the 2nd to the last defender) and clearly in a much better position than me to see if the ball had entirely crossed over the goal line, albeit, not in the optimal position of being on the goal line.  He raised his flag excitedly waiving it, but then put the flag down & waived his free arm at waist level from side to side, in what I believed to be a negative manner.  (Here is where the confusion began)  I called to him to inquire if the ball had crossed the line.  Due to his negative gesture, I believed he was indicating “no goal” and indicated verbally for play to continue.  At no time did I blow my whistle to stop play.  Several minutes later at the stoppage for halftime I went to AR and confer with him at which point he indicated that the ball had in fact crossed the line and was indicating that it was a goal.  At the time I had discovered my error, we did not correct it and the game ended with the Blue team losing 2-1, as opposed to a 2-2 tie.  I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted) The game report was submitted with an description of the error that was made.  Furthermore, league officials were present at the game & I immediately made them aware of the matter as well.

At halftime, I reviewed the AR’s procedures and signals for indicating a goal and getting the center Referee’s attention if a problem arises, but again, the mistake had already occurred.  This will now be part of my pre-game instructions.

I have reviewed the Laws of the Game, specifically Law 5 – The Referee and Law 10 – The method of scoring and cannot find anything specific to this situation.  I also reviewed Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.  My next thought was to check Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, but then submitted my question here.  Clearly the pre-game could have been a bit more thorough and communication between the myself and my AR should have been better, However, the error was made and I now find myself searching for an answer to address the issue.

Law 5 clearly states “that 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.  The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the 4th official, provided he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Here is my question.  Play was never restarted and continued on as I believed that no goal had been scored.  The match was not terminated and merely ended upon the expiration of regulation time.  I suspect that the answer will be the final determination will be left up the the league.  However, in the future, procedurally, should the error have been corrected at halftime or at the next stoppage in play when the error was discovered or did I handle it correctly in documenting it in the game report & leaving it up to the league to resolve?

USSF answer (December 20, 2011):
Your problem lay in failure to follow standard procedures during the pregame conference and during play. If you had followed them, as we know you will in future, you would have stopped play immediately.

The correct procedure in the case of goals seen by the lead assistant referee is to follow the guidance given on p. 25 of the USSF “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”  If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played and this is not clearly seen by the referee, the AR raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, the AR puts the flag straight down and follows the normal procedures for a goal. In turn, the referee should check visually with the assistant referee long enough to see a signal for a goal in cases where the ball is being played close to the goal and may have briefly but fully entered the goal.

In cases of doubt, stop play immediately and check verbally with the AR. If (as would have happened here) you decide that a goal WAS scored, well and good. If it turns out that the AR’s arm waving meant that there was no goal, then ou can always apologize to the players, something referees do not do often enough, and restart with a dropped ball.

We assume that this sentence, “I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted),” refers to whether you might have stopped play upon realizing (somehow) that a goal had been scored. For this, we recommend following the International Football Association Board’s instructions that, when the ball leaves the field and the referee does not see (or does not understand) the AR’s signal, play can be stopped at any time the realization dawns unless “too much play” (including a stoppage and a restart) has gone by. In this case, the ball going into the goal is merely a specific example of the ball having left the field.…


I dont ref all that often, but when I do ….

Attacking team kicks the ball out over the goal line. Player from the attacking team goes off the field, is right next to the ball, but does not retrieve the ball. I actually did think about carding this young lady for Unsporting behavior?

To paint the picture, she was right there, but, in the opinion of this referee, deliberately did not make any effort to gather the ball back for the defending team to take the goal kick.

Also, got me thinking about this case, which DID NOT actually happen today, but …

Defending team kicks ball out over the goal line. Player from the defending team retrieves the ball, sends it to the corner. Attacking team takes the kick before said defending player – oh lets say it is the goal keeper – is back in position. Unsporting behavior?

By the way, when I coached, I did tell my players to never retrieve a ball for the other team ….

USSF answer (November 24, 2011):
As we all know from experience, no coach will ever tell his or her players to provide any sort of aid to the opposing team’s players.

It is certainly common courtesy for a player to retrieve the ball if he or she is near it, but there is no requirement that the team that put the ball out of play must retrieve it. Just as in the case of the referee waiting until a substitute reaches his or her proper playing position for the restart, it is also traditional that the team with the restart wait until the opponent who retrieved the ball has returned to a proper playing position. The referee must be proactive and stop the restart if the team is unsporting enough not to wait for that player. However, it is not illegal if the player takes the corner kick before the goalkeeper returns to the field — provided that the goalkeeper was not the player who retrieved the ball.…


I have two questions re: U10 Girls soccer:

1) We have played a team multiple times that if they are ahead, will substitute their goalie with less than 5 minutes left in the game.

When they substitute, the girl coming into the game is not ready…not pinny, no gloves. Instead, we have to wait for them to switch pinny and goalie gloves. This eats up the clock and obviously slows the momentum of the game in their favor. What are the rules in relation to subing a goalie?

2) One of our girls was going to a 50/50 ball with the opposing team.

Our girl was tripped and while trying to get up, got kicked in the head (and was not playing the ball). The ref called a dangerous play on our girl and gave the opposing team the free kick. If she is not playing the ball and merely trying to get up (while the other team is kicking the ball into her and kicking her), shouldn’t it be a dangerous play with a drop ball?

Thank you!

USSF answer (October 19, 2022):
1) As with the substitution of any player, the referee must ensure that the new goalkeeper is already fully prepared to enter the field before the referee permits the restart to be delayed for the substitution.

Players, including goalkeepers, must be ready to play with all uniform/equipment parts in place when they appear at the midfield line to indicate a request to substitute. The only “delay” allowable in a goalkeeper substitution is to hold the restart until the new goalkeeper has reached the goal.

2) If the situation was precisely as you describe it, then the referee would seem to have made an error in calling playing dangerously on your player and not calling a foul on the girl from the opposing team, who kicked your player. In no case can the kicking by the opposing player be considered to be playing dangerously by either player: it is clearly at least careless play by the opponent and must be punished with a direct free kick.…


1. A game was being played during hot weather. A player came to the sideline for a drink of water without leaving the field of play. As he was taking a drink the ball came his way and he took off dribbling the ball with water bottle (plastic) in hand.
Which Law has he broken?
Should the player be cautioned?
What would the restart be?

2. During a game the ball had been hit hard and was certainly going out of play with no players ever getting a chance of making it to the ball to stop it. As the ball headed towards a coach he put his foot on the ball to stop it from going way beyond the field of play. The problem is that the coach stopped the ball before it had gone out of play.
Has the coach entered the field illegally? And should he be cautioned as such? And a Free Kick awarded to the opposing team?
Is the coach treated as an “outside agent” in this instance and a drop ball used to restart play?
Or do we recognize it as a glaring error by the coach who had good intentions and award the throw as if the ball had gone out of bounds?

USSF answer (October 10, 2011):
1. As he had not left the field, the player committed no offense by playing the ball; however, by carrying the unauthorized bottle of water with him, he was playing in violation of the requirements of Law 4. If a player is discovered to be wearing (in this case “carrying”) unauthorized equipment during play, the referee need not stop play, but should immediately inform the player that the item in question must be removed from the field. The player must leave the field only if he is unable or unwilling to comply and could be cautioned if he willfully refuses to comply or, having been told to remove the item, is discovered to be carrying the item again.

2. No, the coach (or any other team official) is not regarded as an outside agent. Team officials are in a separate category under the Laws. (See the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the book.)

Despite the coach’s good intentions (keep this in mind), he has entered the field without the permission of the referee. Under the Laws of the Game coaches cannot and must not be cautioned or sent off and shown any card at all (unless the rules of the competition require it); however, they can be expelled for irresponsible behavior, one example of which is entering the field without permission. If, as in this case, we recognize the coach’s act as motivated by good intentions, rather than any base desire to aid his team (and his earlier actions in the game will provide a good gauge for this decision), the referee will stop play immediately, because the coach has interfered with play. If the coach’s behavior is irresponsible the referee must expel him from the field of play and its immediate surroundings. In this case, the referee will have a quiet word with the coach and restart play with a dropped ball in the position where the ball was at the time when the match was stopped.…


Normally, if a player has a minor injury, I would allow them to step off the field, receive treatment, then reenter with my permission, or be subbed at the next stoppage. If a goalkeeper is injured but wishes to remain in the game, does he have to give his jersey to another player while he is being treated and can he go back to keeping goal at the next stoppage?

USSF answer (September 10, 2011):
Unless a goalkeeper is so seriously injured that he or she must be removed from the game and taken for more complete medical attention and care, the ‘keeper will be treated on the field. If the ‘keeper needs to be treated off the field and might return after the treatment, then an outfield player must assume the uniform and duties of the goalkeeper. See the following excerpt from the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of your Law book, under Law 5:

Injured players
The referee must adhere to the following procedure when dealing with injured players:
• Play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in the opinion of the referee, only slightly injured
• Play is stopped if, in the opinion of the referee, a player is seriously injured
• After questioning the injured player, the referee may authorize one, or at most two [medical staff persons], to enter the field of play to assess the injury and arrange the player’s safe and swift removal from the field of play
• Stretcher-bearers should only enter the field of play with a stretcher following a signal from the referee
• The referee must ensure an injured player is safely removed from the field of play
• A player is not allowed to receive treatment on the field of play
• Any player bleeding from a wound must leave the field of play. He may not return until the referee is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped. A player is not permitted to wear clothing with blood on it
• As soon as the referee has authorized the doctors to enter the field of play, the player must leave the field of play, either on a stretcher or on foot. If a player does not comply, he must be cautioned for unsporting behavior
• An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted
• When the ball is in play, an injured player must re-enter the field of play from the touch line. When the ball is out of play, the injured player may re-enter from any of the boundary lines
• Irrespective of whether the ball is in play or not, only the referee is authorized to allow an injured player to re-enter the field of play
• The referee may give permission for an injured player to return to the field of play if an assistant referee or the fourth official verifies that the player is ready
• If play has not otherwise been stopped for another reason, or if an injury suffered by a player is not the result of a breach of the Laws of the Game, the referee must restart play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when play 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 when play was stopped.
• The referee must allow for the full amount of time lost through injury to be played at the end of each period of play
• Once the referee has decided to issue a card to a player who is injured and has to leave the field of play for treatment, the referee must issue the card before the player leaves the field of play

Exceptions to this ruling are to be made only when:
• a goalkeeper is injured
• a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention
• players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention
• a severe injury has occurred, e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg.


A team chooses to play a game with the minimum # of players, but have an injured player on the bench. The team then gets a red card putting them under the minimum requirement to play, however they elect to sub in the injured player to maintain the minimum requirements on the field because there is only a couple minutes left in the game–are they allowed to use that player to maintain the minimum and continue the game?

USSF answer (September 7, 2011):
Unless having had a player sent off actually created the situation, there is nothing in the Laws of the Game to forbid a team that has been playing under strength — for whatever strange reason — to augment its numbers to a greater (but still within the number established by Law 3 or the rules of the competition) by inserting a substitute already listed on the roster (if rosters are required in this competition), not as a replacement for the red carded player, but to augment an understrength team. The only problem in this scenario might be the ability of the “injured” substitute to play.…