What is the correct procedure for the lead AR who has called a foul in the penalty area on the defending team? We have hours of discussion on this subject and cannot find anything in the procedures book that gives us the details.

One position is this. The AR calls the foul with his flag in his right hand waves and then after making eye contact with the center runs to the corner area, to get ready for the PK.

Another is: The AR calls the foul with the flag is is Right hand, makes eye contact, then points in the direction of the foul and then makes a run to the corner area to indicate a PK.

Another is: the above but instead of running the corner, the AR runs directly to the area between the 6 and the 18? Not necessary for him to point direction.

What is USSF position on this subject?

USSF answer (January 27, 2012):

We are not certain where the problem lies. The procedure outlined in the Guide to Procedures, p. 37 (p. 38 in the PDF version), should work fine:

Assistant Referee
• Determines that the direct free kick foul by a defender inside the penalty area was not seen by the referee and that, per the pregame conference, the referee would likely have stopped play for the foul if it had been seen
• Signals with a flag straight up
• Upon making eye contact with the referee, gives the flag a slight wave
• If referee stops game, assistant referee first indicates penalty kick by holding flag across the lower body and then begins walking toward the corner flag
• Takes the appropriate position either for the penalty kick if confirmed by the referee or for the next phase of play if the referee orders a different restart

In addition, the AR should always signal with the flag in the hand that indicates direction (if necessary) or, in cases not involving direction, in the hand that gives the referee and the AR a good line of visual communication.…


Two quick questions, at the half of a u18 game. AR approaches the center,and states the center is “calling for the other side” Center tells AR the game is being called for both sides. AR argues the point,and is asked by the center to return to their sideline,AR at such time throws down their flag,and quits the game. Is this not a very poor behavior,and an example by the AR,who is also a referee? forget if LAW 5 or 6 covers AR. is this not reportable to the local association. second during a very physical game, team A and Team B are struggling for the ball,play continues. center verbally warns both players about use of elbows. A spectator jumps up out of their seat on the sideline in a aggressive manner,moves to the touch line,ands starts yelling at center about elbows. center approaches partway to sideline, tells spectator both players have been warned,and it’s under control,to sit back down. after game same spectator enters the field,and approaches the center, verbally assaults,and threatens the center. spectator is instructed to leave the field. does the referee retreat,or does he still have the field?

USSF answer (November 2, 2011):
Regarding the assistant referee, Law 6 tells us: “In the event of undue interference or improper conduct, the referee will relieve an assistant referee of his duties and make a report to the appropriate authorities,” using the the match report form each referee should fill out after every match. This AR has also failed to live up to the Referee Code of Ethics and could be brought up on charges under U. S. Soccer Federation Policy 531-10 – Misconduct of Game Officials .

Regarding the aggressive spectator, Law 5 tells us that the referee stops, suspends or abandons the match because of outside interference of any kind. Before abandoning the game, however, the referee should ask the home team (tournament/league officials, if present) to have the person removed. If there is no help from these officials, then the match is abandoned and the referee includes full details in the match report.…


Here is what happened: During the first 10 minutes of the game a goal is scored but right afterward, (during celebration of the goal), to everyone’s surprise, the center referee stops play and goes to talk with the side referee. No one knew why at the time. Players that were in the area of discussion said that the center ref asked the side ref why he had put his flag up and then quickly down before the goal was scored. The side ref told the center referee that he did not mean to put up his flag and that it was a goal. The center ref says well you did put up your flag and so I blew my whistle and so whether you meant to put your flag up or not, you did, and so since I therefore blew my whistle I can not call it a goal. The side ref then said well it was a goal I made an error and I clearly saw that the goal scorer was behind the defender and it was a goal. But again the center ref said well I can’t count it as a goal. So he calls it no goal and does a drop ball. Now I must add that no one heard the whistle be blown and play continued during the goal being scored, no players stopped playing. What is the rule on this? How can an obvious goal not be counted just because the side ref accidently puts up his flag for a brief moment? And then the side ref says it is a goal. The center ref even came over to the head coach during half time to say that he knew that it was a goal but was sorry that he could not count it but under the circumstances he could not. By the way, this goal ended up being very important to the out come of the game. It was the only goal scored and made the difference between a tie and a win! And the points were needed, now its the difference between 1st & 2nd place in the bracket! Bummer! Thank you for your explanation and can anything be done at this point? Can a protest maybe correct this?

USSF answer (October 31, 2011):
The referee acted correctly only if in fact he had blown the whistle upon seeing the AR’s flag go up. He apparently reacted (albeit inaudibly) to his assistant referee’s flag and stopped play for whatever the flag may have meant — offside, foul, etc. The fact that the AR then lowered the flag does not make any difference in the outcome; the referee’s decision was made and the whistle was blown (even if inaudibly). Play stops when the referee decides it has stopped. Anything that happens after the decision to stop play has been made does not change the fact of the stoppage.

No, the referee has not misapplied the Laws or called something counter to the Laws, so we doubt that any protest would be allowed. If the referee included full details in the match report perhaps the competition authority will have pity.…


During the course of a game the assistant line judge raised a waving flag to indicate a purposeful hand ball on white. The foul along with the assistants waving flag was not seen by the referee.

White clearly gained an advantage on the field of play over black and the progressive play resulted in a white goal. Which in my opinion should have been brought back but the assistant lowered his flag before the goal without black gaining possession or an advantage. My question is if an assistant notices a foul but it is unseen by the referee is there a certain amount of time this foul should be called or was the assistant justified in lowering his flag due the referee’s unawareness even though black never gained possession or an advantage?

It is my opinion that the assistant should have not lowered his flag unless black gained possession thus resulting in a black advantage.

The play should have then been brought back resulting in a no goal.

Would this be the correct play procedure or etiquette?

USSF answer (October 11, 2011):
Our instructions to referees (and players and coaches and spectators who care to read them) on the matter are collected in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.” The citation below pertains to your scenario:

Lead Assistant Referee
* Determines that the infringement was not or could not be seen by the referee and that, per the pregame conference, the referee would likely have stopped play for the infringement if it had been seen
* Signals with the flag raised vertically in the hand appropriate for the restart direction and, after making eye contact with the referee, gives the flag a slight wave
* If the referee stops play, signals with the flag held 45 degrees upward in the direction of the restart if the foul was committed by any player outside of the penalty area or by an attacker inside the penalty area
* If misconduct is observed associated with the foul, makes eye contact with the referee and advises either a yellow card by placing the free hand over the badge on the left jersey pocket or a red card by placing the free hand on a back pocket on the shorts
* Indicates the location of the restart if necessary
* If the referee does not see the signal, continues to hold the flag straight upward in accordance with the pregame conference
* Per pregame conference, assists in enforcing the required minimum distance if closer to the restart location
* Takes position to assist with offside on the free kick and monitors other player actions in accordance with the pre-game conference
Trail Assistant Referee
* Mirrors the lead assistant referee’s flag signal if this is not seen by the referee and, upon making eye contact with the referee, directs the referee’s attention to the lead assistant referee

In this case, the game does not seem to have stopped until the ball entered the goal. The assistant referee should have kept his flag raised throughout this sequence of play and then, when the ball entered the goal, dropped the flag and stood at attention to gain the referee’s attention. After a discussion between the two, the referee should have disallowed the goal and brought the ball back to the spot of the foul and awarded the direct free kick to black for the deliberate handling by the white player. The referee should make eye contact with each of his ARs frequently. This referee appears not to have done so.

The issue of maintaining flag signals for events not seen by the referee is also a topic strongly recommended for inclusion on the pregame discussion among the members of the officiating team. The protocol for maintaining a flag for an offside violation is fairly clearly delineated, as is the protocol if the event not seen by the referee involves violent misconduct, but the decision about holding on to a signal for a foul is largely a matter of preference by the referee and this needs to be clearly set forth by the referee ahead of time.…


If an attacking team shoots a shot on goal against the defending team and the ball bounces off the top goal post and straight down, clearly going over the line, but then spins back out of the goal and the AR signals that a goal has occurred, but the Referee yells play on because he either doesn’t believe it was a goal or didn’t look at the AR then what should the AR do in that situation if he is sure it was a goal but has not been acknowledged by the referee or fears the referee may be overruling him incorrectly and play continues?

USSF answer (October 6, 2011):
If the referee does his (or her) job correctly and the AR does his (or her) job correctly, there should have been no problem in awarding the goal immediately, provided they used the information supplied in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”

The referee’s job is to check visually with the AR and ensure that his view of the AR is maintained 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. The AR’s job, if the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played (and the referee’s view of the situation was obscured), is to raise the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, to put flag straight down and follow the prescribed procedures for a goal (see the Guide). You do not tell us how you signalled the goal, but might it have been counter to the guidance given in the Guide to Procedures?

If the referee and the AR do not use the correct procedure and play continues, the AR’s next job is to get the information to the referee as quickly as possible. We certainly hope that the referee and the ARs discussed a suitable procedure for such events during their pregame conference. One way to do this would be to stand at attention at the goal line and not move with play; when the referee realizes that the AR is not moving with play, then he should stop the game and speak with the AR…


As an assistant referee, what is the proper way to indicate that a goal has been scored when not immediately apparent to the center referee that the ball has crossed the goal line between the posts?

USSF answer (September 15, 2011):
We are not authorized to answer questions regarding high school soccer, but this question covers material that is universal. This guidance from the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials” should answer your question:

• If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played, raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, puts flag straight down and follows the remaining procedures for a goal
• If the ball clearly enters the goal without returning to the field, establishes eye contact with the referee and follows the remaining procedures for a goal
• Runs a short distance up the touch line toward the halfway line to affirm that a goal has been scored
• Keeps moving to avoid confrontation if approached
• Observes the resulting player behavior and the actions in and around the penalty area
• Takes up the position for a kick-off
• Keeps players under observation at all times
• Records the goal after the trail assistant referee has recorded it


red – attacking
blue – defending
U-18 Classic play
one player from both teams were in a hard (FAIR) challenge for the ball in red’s defensive third (where both end up on the ground).
The ball, then was played all the way up to red’s attacking third (60-70 yards), i kept an eye on the players (once on the ground, now up and trotting up field) as long as i could before turning and sprinting to follow the break-away.
The blue defender was beat, red had only the keeper to beat, while ‘juking’ the keeper, blue was able to catch up just enough to put a leg in and trip red just before red scored on an empty net. No question that this was a send-off for DGF on the blue player.

I quickly run over and showed the red card to blue and send him off. I am setting up for a PK when i see my lead AR waiving his flag. As I go to him he points to a player on the ground in red’s defensive third. As I go over to the player my trail AR signals me that he needs to chat. I make sure the trainer and coach know they may ‘take care’ of the injured player, and then proceed to the trail AR. He tells me that as soon as i turned to sprint to follow play, words were spoken between the two players from the original hard challenge and that red, after the exchange of words, punched blue in the face. I asked him if this occurred before the goal or after. He said it occurred well before.

this is what i did… and my questions!!
i went to the coaches and explained that play was dead as soon as the ‘strike’ (VC) occurred; therefore, the blue player that was sent-off no longer was sent off and the card retracted, and that the red player who struck blue would be sent-off. After ‘sending back on’ blue and sending off red i restarted with a DFK for blue at the site of the punch. Even though i don’t think anyone was happy i believe my actions were correct.

Were they, and if not, what are the correct actions. I do know that before a restart a ref can change a caution to a sent off if, in reflection, he deems it necessary, but can he change a red to a yellow or a yellow (AFTER THE CARD HAS BEEN SHOWN, BUT BEFORE THE RESTART) to ‘a nothing’ just a foul?

USSF answer (May 26, 2011)
This response is based on the assumption that the trail AR actually signaled at the moment of the infringement and you agreed with the information. (More on that in the final paragraph.)

As long as there has been no intervening restart of play, the violent conduct committed by the red player takes precedence over what has gone on in the other end of the field. The restart for that foul (and serious misconduct) is a direct free kick from the place where the infringement occurred. That leaves you to deal with the action that occurred while you were unaware of the violent conduct in the other half.

There can be no denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity because the ball was technically out of play (even though you had not called it yet). The blue player is cautioned for unsporting behavior or sent off for violent conduct, according to the nature of the contact. (Yes, if there has been no restart a send-off may be converted to a a caution — or vice versa.)

Restart is as stated above, a direct free kick for blue where the original violent conduct occurred in the other half of the field.

The problem mentioned at the beginning of the answer is that if the trail AR did not in fact signal for an offense not seen by the referee, but simply tells the referee later, this makes it very difficult to rewind the action back to that point. If the AR signals and the referee agrees with the AR’s advice, thus implementing the “sequential fouls” scenario that we talk about in other documents, then all is well.…


The ball is shot, the keeper fumbles it, but vision of the goal line is not clear. I look to my AR to see if the ball crossed the line, and instead the AR gives different flag signals that are confusing(such as pointing to the attacking side and pointing at the goal) (and also she did not give the signal for the goal, which is to run back to the center with flag down). The keeper punted the ball before I could ask my AR what she meant and I waited until the ball went out of play (about 45 seconds) to stop play. Then I ran over to my AR and asked her if the ball crossed the line and she said yes. She confirmed the goal and I counted the goal (also the team that scored was already winning if that plays a part, after the goal it was 2-0).

I know the AR messed up the call but would you stop play right there if the ball is already in play to confirm or wait until it went out of bounds, or would you have continued to allow play to go on and not count the goal and not consult the AR. Also it was for the recreational championship.

USSF answer (May 13, 2011):
Because the ball was never out of play, it is theoretically legitimate to award the goal after so much time has passed; however, this is not something that the referee should allow to become common practice.

One way of doing that is to use the pregame conference to ensure that your ARs know what signals to use to indicate a goal, ball over the line and back into the field, etc. This information is taught in the entry-level course, but many instructors fail to follow up classroom instruction with practical work, so the less-experienced AR may not remember. If you do not know your AR and have never worked with him or her before, make use of the pregame conference to remind both ARs what signals you want to see in such tough situations.…


From: Warren Wright
I volunteer for asst referee duties in mini-soccer and am confused by an apparent anomaly in the rules. It relates to child welfare and possible mass confrontation issues.

If you enter a pitch without a referee’s permission you could be charged with misconduct – but if your help is needed, you are prevented from helping because of the fear of being charged with misconduct!

What is the correct answer for the following case study…?

“A tackle in a youth game results in a broken ankle. It was a fair tackle but an unfortunate accident. No foul is given. Play is stopped due to the injury.

The parent of the child whose leg is broken runs on the pitch and screams at the referee. The referee (aged 16) explains that the tackle was fair but that the boy fell awkwardly. The parent doesn’t accept this explanation and proceeds to shake the “tackler” by the shoulders and lets off a volley of expletives.

The referee goes to help the child but by now the adult is out of control and punches the referee to the floor”.

You are the assistant referee. Would you …..

a.) Instantly recognise a trigger issue. Follow procedure, intervene at the earliest possible moment to protect the child, prevent the referee from being punched and to help calm the situation down?

b.) Wait until after the child was shaken and the referee punched to satisfy yourself that help was needed?

c.) Do nothing. You are not allowed to enter the playing area unless instructed to do so by the referee. The fact that he/ she is a child and now incapable of sending or receiving a signal is irrelevant.

USSF answer (April 17, 2011):
The club linesman (CL), which is what you are in this situation, has absolutely no authority to do anything but indicate that the ball has passed out of play. However, any decent person acting as CL will recognize that only trouble can occur if any unauthorized person enters the field without the permission of the referee The CL would be within his rights to do whatever was necessary to protect the players or the referee from injury by an outside person who has invaded the pitch. We hesitate to give any specifics here, as local laws on such things vary.…


The ball kicked by the attacking team over the defending team goal line for a goal kick the referee thought went of the defending team and award CK for the attacking team and they score of the CK than the referee saw the AR standing behind the Corner flag went to talk to him the AR advice the referee he gave the wrong restart, at this point can the referee disallowed the goal and award GK to the defending team?

thank you

USSF answer (January 18, 2011):
Rather than answering your question directly, let us consider some alternatives.

Ordinarily, the referee can correct a mistake in giving the restart to the wrong team (as, for example, might be the case if the referee announced a free kick for the Blue team but then realized, just as the Blue team is kicking the ball, that the free kick should really have been given to the Red team). The argument in favor of this correction even though someone had already taken the kick is that (a) the language in Law 5 that a decision cannot be changed once play has been restarted was historically intended to apply specifically to goals and cards becoming official and unchangeable, (b) the restart was actually illegal because (although the referee announced “Blue”) the referee’s intention was that Red be given the restart and it is the referee’s intention that counts, and (c) making the correction is clearly fair.

However, in this regard there are several additional factors that must be considered.

One is that considerably more time passed before the mistake was realized.

If the referee in this case had seen the AR’s signal and realized his error just before or as the corner kick was being taken and had whistled a stoppage, the decision to correct the corner kick to a goal kick would have been much easier to “sell” (it would not have mattered whether the ball went into the net or not). Furthermore, in this case (as described), it was not the referee who initially realized his mistake in awarding the wrong restart, it was the AR and it took a discussion between the referee and the AR to sort the matter out.

In order to “sell” a decision to recall, cancel, and retake a restart because the referee made a mistake in giving it to the wrong team, the action must have been taken quickly and it must have been on the referee’s own initiative. With so much time having elapsed and with the resolution having required consultations with one or both ARs (or fourth official), the correction to a goal kick might in fact raise more of a controversy than simply letting the corner kick stand. You would have to “take the temperature” of the match in order to decide to make the correction. The apparent scoring of a goal on that apparently incorrect corner kick adds complexity to the issue — allowing the corner kick to stand means necessarily allowing the goal to stand and that might be too significant a punishment for a team to suffer for the referee’s error.

All of this, of course, would have been avoided if the referee had been vigilant in maintaining eye contact with the AR in the first place. The error would have been corrected before the incorrect restart had even occurred or, at worst, the intention to correct would have been announced before the ball went into the net.…