In indoor soccer, if a ball is struck BEFORE but crosses the goal line AFTER the final whistle, has a goal been scored or is the game over immediately upon the final whistle?

USSF answer (February 4, 2010):

We cannot speak to whatever rules may be played at the arena you use, but normally with indoor rules you have to live with the arena horn. The rule states: “. . . the whole of the ball must cross the goal line BEFORE the horn begins to sound for a goal to be scored.” We suspect that is why pro indoor uses goal judges, even though the referees on the floor have the final decision.  …


A Match is a few mins into the second half when you realize that the teams did not change ends at half time.

I know that you would have to restart the second half again and nullify EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING which happened in the time which was played.

This raises a further question: What would happen if you sent somebody off in this now nullified time?

I say you would have to allow them back on.

This question was asked at a Referees Seminar in [another country[ last year and the organizers were dubious of my answer.

USSF answer (January 26, 2011):

Without having full details of what occurred in the match, and knowing full well that there is nothing in the Laws of the Game to cover this situation, our opinion (and it is no more than an opinion) would be to stop play as quickly as possible, have the teams switch ends of the field, and restart with a dropped ball where the ball was (but with this location determined by the reversed polarity of the field — i. e., if 3 yards past the midfield line into the Blue end of the field, drop the ball 3 yards past the midfield line into the NEW Blue end of the field). Allow all earlier actions to stand, regardless of what they were, and then provide full details and a “ea maxima culpa” in the match report. There is no basis in the Laws to restart the half anew; doing so would imply that the actions occurring since the original start of the second half did not occur and the culprit would thus escape without punishment.…


I was the center referee in [a local] U-11 girls game. . . . Just was looking for your expertise in the matter of applied add-on time. I felt my actions were justified. Many referees do not add on time and to me, ruin the spirit of the game. I understand time constraints in tournaments and multiple games on the same field yet, this was not the case. What is your outlook on upholding add on time?
Thank you!

USSF answer (November 10, 2010):

Unless the local rules of competition specify otherwise (as in some tournaments, which do this counter to the Laws of the Game), there is no set or particular moment to end a game. Law 5 empowers the referee to act as timekeeper and to keep a record of the match. Law 7 instructs the referee to add time (at his discretion) for time lost in either half of a game or in any overtime period for the reasons listed in Law 7 (Allowance for Time Lost). Five minutes added time to U11G may seem a bit much at that level of play, but it can easily be justified.

Referees allow additional time in all periods for all time lost through substitution(s), assessment of injury to players, treatment of injuries on the field , removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment, wasting time, as well as “other causes” that consume time, such as kick-offs, throw-ins, dropped balls, free kicks, and replacement of lost or defective balls. Time must also be added for deliberate delays or other infringements of the Laws at restarts and for disciplinary matters.

Many of the reasons for stoppages in play and thus “lost time” are entirely normal elements of the game. The referee takes this into account in applying discretion regarding the time to be added. The main objective should be to restore playing time to the match which is lost due to excessively prolonged or unusual stoppages. Law 5 tells us that the referee’s decisions regarding facts connected with play are final. The only time lost that is normally not added to a period of play is ball retrieval for goal kicks, corner kicks, or throw-ins, unless they are extended through timewasting tactics by either team.…


On what grounds can a referee stop and abandon a soccer match

USSF answer (March 31, 2010):
An interesting question, one that requires a good bit of space to answer completely.

Under the Laws of the Game (or, as they are called in Great Britain, the Laws of Association Football), the referee has the power to stop, suspend or abandon the match, at his discretion for any infringements of the Laws or for outside interference of any kind. A referee (or where applicable, an assistant referee or fourth official) is not held liable for a decision to abandon a match for whatever reason.

We need first to differentiate between “abandon” and “terminate” a match. The difference between terminating a match and abandoning a match is a subtle one, but it is historically correct and supported by traditional practice. (Research into the history of the Laws will reveal this clearly; the IFAB now uses “abandon” almost exclusively, most likely just to confuse us all.) The referee may abandon a match if there is an insufficient number of players to meet the requirements of the Law or the competition, if a team does not appear or leaves before completion of the game, or if the field or any of its equipment do not meet the requirements of the Laws or are otherwise unsafe; i. e., for technical (Law 1) or physical (Law 4) safety. An abandoned match is replayed unless the competition rules provide otherwise. The referee may terminate a match for reasons of non-physical safety (bad weather or darkness), for any serious infringement of the Laws, or because of interference by spectators. Only the competition authority, not the referee, has the authority to declare a winner, a forfeit, or a replay of the match in its entirety. The referee must report fully on the events. “Suspended” means that a match was stopped temporarily for any of various reasons. After that the match is either resumed, abandoned, or terminated and the competition rules take over.

• Law 1 states that if the crossbar becomes displaced or broken, play is stopped until it has been repaired or replaced in position. If it is not possible to repair the crossbar, the match must be abandoned. In addition, if the referee declares that one spot on the field is not playable, then the entire field must be declared unplayable and the game abandoned.

• A careful inspection of the field before the start of the game might lead the referee to abandon the game before it was started. If, once the match has begun, the referee discovers a problem that is not correctable, then the referee’s decision must be to abandon the game and report the matter to the competition authority.

• Under Law 5, the referee is authorized to stop play if, in his opinion, the floodlights are inadequate.

If an object thrown by a spectator hits the referee or one of the assistant referees or a player or team official, the referee may allow the match to continue, suspend play or abandon the match depending on
the severity of the incident. He must, in all cases, report the incident(s) to the appropriate authorities. Using the powers given him by Law 5, the referee may stop, suspend or terminate the match, at his discretion, for any infringements of the Laws or for grave disorder (see below). If he decides to terminate the match, he must provide the appropriate authorities with a match report which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players, and/or team officials and any other incidents which occurred before, during or after the match. In no event may the referee determine the winner of any match, terminated or not. Nor may the referee decide whether or not a match must be replayed. Both of those decisions are up to the competition authority, i. e., the league, cup, tournament, etc.

“Grave disorder” would be any sort of dustup involving the players and/or spectators and/or team officials which puts the officials in immediate or likely subsequent jeopardy — fights which metastasize beyond just 2 or 3, masses of spectators invading the pitch, throwing dangerous objects (e. g., firecrackers, butane lighters, etc.) onto the field, and so forth.

• The referee has no authority to force a team to play if they do not wish to continue a game nor to terminate the match in such a case. The referee will simply abandon the game and include all pertinent details in the match report.

• In the opinion of the International F.A. Board, a match should not be considered valid if there are fewer than seven players in either of the teams. If a team with only seven players is penalized by the award of a penalty-kick and as a consequence one of their players is sent off, leaving only six in the team, the game must be abandoned without allowing the penalty-kick to be taken unless the national association has decided otherwise with regard to the minimum number of players.

• The referee must not abandon the game if a team loses a kicker after kicks from the mark begin. The kicks must be completed.

• If a player has been seriously injured and cannot leave the field without risking further injury, the referee must stop the game and have the player removed. If, for whatever reason, there is no competent person available to oversee removal of the seriously injured player from the field for treatment, then the match must be abandoned.

• If player fraud is alleged prior to the game and the player will admit that he is not the person on the pass he has presented and the game has already begun, the referee will have to deal with the matter of an outside agent on the field. If the fraud were not discovered until after the game had been restarted, the only solution would be to abandon the match. If there is no goal issue, the fraudulent player is removed and the game is restarted with a dropped ball.

• If a player, from a team with only seven players, leaves the field of play to receive medical attention, the match will stop until this player has received treatment and returns to the field of play. If he is unable to return, the match is abandoned, unless the member association has decided otherwise with regard to the minimum number of players.

In all cases, the referee must submit a full report to the appropriate authorities.

If the referee discovers that a period of play was ended prematurely but a subsequent period of play has started, the match must be abandoned and the full details of the error included in the game report.

The Laws make the point that the coach and other team officials must BEHAVE RESPONSIBLY and thus may not shout, curse, interfere, or otherwise make a nuisance of themselves The coach’s presence, or the presence of any other team official, is generally irrelevant to the game — under the Laws of the Game, but it may have some importance under the rules of youth competitions. If the coach or other team official is removed, known in the Law as “expelled,” that person must leave the field and its environs. If it is a youth game and the coach and all other team officials have been expelled, then the referee should consider abandoning the game. A full report must be filed with the competition authority. The referee has no authority to determine who has won or lost the game, whether by forfeit or any other process; that is the responsibility of the competition authority. The referee must file a report on all events associated with the abandonment.

Once the game begins, only the referee has the right to decide whether the game continues, is suspended temporarily, terminated or abandoned. If a game is abandoned or terminated before it is completed, the determination of the result is up to the competition authority (league, cup, tournament). In most cases, competitions declare that if a full half has been played, the result stands, but that does not apply to all competitions. The referee does not have the authority to declare what the score is or who has won the game. The referee’s only recourse is to include in his game report full details of what caused the match to be abandoned or terminated. The status of an abandoned is determined by the rules of the competition or the competition authority itself. There is no set amount of time, but many rules of competition will call a game complete if a full half has been played.…


At halftime, one player from each team went to the toilet with the referee’s permission. Under the rules of the competition, the halftime break is 15 minutes. The referee started the second half after ten minutes without both the missing players, as both captains agreed it was too cold to hang around. I believe the referee was correct in invoking the part of Law 8 which states that the duration of the interval may be altered with the consent of the referee. Also Law 8 states that the interval must not exceed 15 minutes, not that players are entitled to 15 minutes. In addition competition rules can stipulate the interval duration, which could, of course, be 10 minutes. Was this a correct action by the referee?

USSF answer (February 5, 2010):
No, the referee’s action was not correct. Consider the history of the halftime interval:
* The interval was in the game before 1896 because an FA Cup Rule of that year says, “THE interval at half-time shall not exceed five minutes, except by special permission of the Referee”
* 1906: The FA decided “Players have a right to an interval of 5 minutes at half-time.” Reason not given, but believed to allow players a breather.
* 1919: Another FA decision – “Referees must observe the Regulation that the halftime interval must not exceed 5 minutes, except with their consent, which is only to be given in exceptional circumstances.”
* 1961: An IFAB Decision stated “Players have a right to an interval at half-time.”
* 1995: “Halftime interval not to exceed 15 minutes” One reason recognized that dressing rooms were sometimes ‘a long way from the field,’ but a more practical view is that coaches wanted more time to have injuries treated and to confuse their players with more tactical mumbo-jumbo. Also, top players need more time to fix their makeup for TV!
* 1997 to now. “Players are entitled to an interval at half-time. The halftime interval must not exceed 15 minutes. Competition rules must state the duration of the half-time interval. The duration of the half-time interval may be altered only with the consent of the referee.”

Now to the question: You will not find it in any official statement, but traditionally the clause clearly applies to ALL players and if ONE requests the full allotted period he must not be denied. Because he is occupied with a call of nature is no reason to prevent him from taking part in the game – even for a minute or two. We cannot imagine any committee issuing a formal statement allowing a referee to reduce the period for the reason given by the captains in your question. They would be better employed organizing their teams in warming-up exercises for 5 minutes.…


In a recent game, there was an unexpectedly short halftime break and the referee chose to start the second half before some of the players for Team B were on the field. I know that Law 8 says that “all of the players must be in their own half of the field” before a kickoff can take place, so my view would be that a kickoff cannot legally be allowed at this point (although theoretically someone might be cautioned for delaying the resumption of play).

However another referee says that all that is required to allow the kickoff is for seven Team B players to be on the field (including a GK) and that it does not matter if these seven are anywhere near their playing positions. He says that this is true even if Team B had 11 players during the first half and the referee is well aware that they have more than 11 available for the second half.

So my questions:

1. Can a referee legally order a second half kickoff if the other team has only 7 players on the field?

2. Can a referee legally order a second half kickoff if 11 players have entered the pitch but are nowhere near their playing positions (although they are in their own half)?

3. Even if technically legal, is it acceptable/proper for a referee to do either of the above?

USSF answer (October 29, 2009):
We all need to remember that the players are entitled to a break at halftime. Even if only one player wants the full break time permitted under the rules of the competition, then all players must be given the full amount of time allotted under the rules. It is pretty clear that the referee in your scenario has failed to consider the welfare and safety of the players.

1. Yes, provided that the full time allotted for the halftime break has passed.
2. Yes, with the same caveat.
3. It certainly shows a lack of respect for the players and the game to do what your scenario suggests.

We need to remember that it is THEIR game, not ours.…


When does the jurisdiction of the referee end?

A U13 game held in the snow/freezing rain. Coach believes game should not be played due to the age of the players/weather/field conditions. First half gets completed when the referee decides to call the game. Final whistle has blown, players are leaving/have left the field. The coach decides to let the referee know that he felt it was inappropriate to even start the game. Referee red cards the coach for his dissent. Is this allowed?

USSF answer (October 20, 2009):
Only the referee may decide whether a field is playable and whether the game should go on — see Law 5 (The Referee). The coach has no say in the matter. In addition, only the referee knows when the game is over — see Law 7 (Duration of the Game). However, any coach has the option of deciding that, in HIS opinion, the game should not be played and withholding his players from any start or restart.  As a result, the referee would have no option but to abandon the match due to one or both teams having an insufficient number of players on the field.  The coach, of course, runs the risk of the competition authority deciding that he was wrong and awarding a forfeit to the opposing team.

Coaches are never punished for dissent. If coaches perform what would be considered as dissent in a player, they are expelled for behaving irresponsibly. That is, unless the rules of the competition provide for showing the card to a team official.…


Can a match be restarted and completed even after the Center Ref has signaled it abandoned?

I was the center for a U16 Boys Classic 1 contest in which I expelled the loan team official during the 2nd half of a tied match (this decision was not done lightly and probably would have been done earlier if not for the circumstances)

When I expelled the coach, he confirmed there were no other team official present. I felt I had no option but to abandon the match and indicated that I was doing so by whistle and word. Within a very short time (not much more than a minute or so), while the teams were still on the field pleading with me to let the game continue somehow, the players indicated that a parent was coming to take responsibility of their team.

Because I wanted the boys to be able to complete their game I conferred with my ARs, and after speaking with the captains of both teams we restarted the match from the point the game had been abandoned (ball was in touch).

Since our state requires only that a team official be present to begin a match and allows for a responsible parent to take the place of the official during a match, my question is whether I had the authority to restart the match after I had signalled the match abandoned?

Thanks and I so much appreciate the service that your sight provides.

I only wish there were more questions/answers to read.

USSF answer (September 29, 2009):
1. Our job as referees is to allow the game to reach its natural completion whenever possible. The referee is permitted to change his (or her) mind on a decision of this nature only if the teams remain on or in the near vicinity of the field and the rules of the competition permit it. We might suggest that if such a situation should occur again — heaven forfend! — that you or whatever other person is refereeing first consult with the team(s) to determine if someone is available to take the place of the coach before abandoning the game.

2. You can find more questions and answers in the various archives on this site. They go back to at least 2000 — although some have clearly been rendered slightly less useful by changes in the Laws or in interpretations from the IFAB, FIFA, or the U. S. Soccer Federation. …



We had a situation this morning in a championship game of a tournament. The game was tied after regulation of this U-13 girls game and went to two-10 minute “sudden death” overtime periods.

At the end of the 2nd overtime period, one of our players broke away and was 5 yards ahead of the defender and entered the penalty box when the ref blew the whistle to end the overtime–and onto penalty kicks.

Who knows if she scores , or not.

I have observed three or four matches during the games of three of my kids over the years where the ref blows the whistle to end a half or a game immediately following a goal and I was always told that refs will allow an “advantage” situation to play out.

Which philosophy is right if there is no rule about this.

USSF answer (July 22, 2009):
Many referees realize that the Laws of the Game (the rules we all play by, except in college or high school) allow the referee to be the judge of when time must be added and when the proper amount of time has elapsed.  Most referees will wait until the ball is in a “neutral” area before saying “time is up” and ending a period.  Some, restricted rules of particular competition or by their lack of knowledge of the Laws, will not.  However, when we say that time is up, that means that the referee has made all necessary allowances for time lost.  The only exception one might make would be when the ball is in the air heading toward goal and only the laws of physics and the skill of the goalkeeper will determine if a goal is scored or not.

We must add that “sudden death” (also known as “golden goal”) is not a permitted method of deciding a game.…



I was the official of a game that started 10 minutes behind schedule.
Before the game, I advised the teams that the 1st half was going to be reduced 10 minutes but, the 2nd half was going to be the 45-minute half.
I was a little skeptical in my decision because I have seen other referees adjusting each half equally for the time that was behind schedule (ie, if 10 minutes behind, then 40 minutes halves). None of the teams made any comments nor did my assistant referees.
What is the procedure to do this?
Did I make the correct decision?

USSF answer (July 21, 2009):
Unless there is something in the rules of the competition in which you were refereeing that permits the referee to arbitrarily shorten periods of play, then you have to follow the Laws of the Game.

Periods of Play
The match lasts two equal periods of 45 minutes, unless otherwise mutually agreed between the referee and the two teams. Any agreement to alter the duration of the periods of play (for example, to reduce each half to 40 minutes because of insufficient light) must be made before the start of play and must comply with competition rules.

As you can see, the Law calls for “two equal periods,” not one of 35 and one of 45.  If you are going to shorten the periods, you must get the agreement of BOTH teams and make the decision that is fairest to all concerned.  This must be done before the game begins.  (And, if you were being assessed, the game would not count because the full amount of time was not played.)…