Before a corner kick or a direct kick or an indirect kick, the team with the ball is placing a player directly in front of the keeper. Also, that person is screening the keeper and is pushing backwards on the keeper and trying to push the keeper into the goal.

The screening player will do everything to prevent the goalkeeper from getting in front of them. I believe this is a violation of “Impeding the Progress of an Opponent”. All this is happening before the kick is made and when the ball is put into play. What is the ruling?

Answer (June 2, 2012):
What you describe is actually pushing or holding, both direct free kick offenses that should be punished by the referee. (Unfortunately, many referees do not recognize this and make no call or fail to bawl out the goalkeeper.)

It is a general principle underlying the Law that players are not permitted to “play” the opponent rather than the ball. Except under certain conditions spelled out in the Laws (such as at a penalty kick or throw-in or goal kick), a player is permitted to stand wherever he or she wishes. After the ball is put in play, a player who — without playing or attempting to play the ball — jumps up and down in front of the goalkeeper to block the ‘keeper’s vision or otherwise interferes with the ‘keeper’s ability to play the ball is committing the foul of impeding an opponent. If there is contact initiated by the player doing this, the foul becomes holding or pushing. When such activity occurs, the referee should immediately stop the restart and warn the players to conduct themselves properly. If, after the warning (and before the restart), they do it anyway, they have committed unsporting behavior and should be cautioned. The restart remains the same.

Before the ball is in play, the referee can simply allow the opponent of the ‘keeper to impede, wait for the restart to occur, blow the whistle, award an indirect free kick coming out, and card if needed. This is the “harsh” approach and it carries the danger, provided the jostling doesn’t sufficiently enrage the goalkeeper (or any other defender), that the tensions or violence will escalate to something more serious. It is also not a good approach when it is an attacker who is doing the jostling.

The referee can see the situation developing and verbally and/or by a closer presence encourage correct behavior on the part of the jostlers in the hope that they will cease their misbehavior. This is the “proactive” (some would call it the “wimpy”) approach and is more likely to prevent escalation, if it works. If it doesn’t work, the referee can always hold up the restart, caution, and then signal the restart or go to the option above.

Such actions against the goalkeeper can also occur during dynamic play and are very often missed by both referee and assistant referee.…


Can ‘Charging’ be ‘Excessive Force’?

This question keeps getting asked and the answer always seems to be ‘soccer can be violent’ and ‘as long as its shoulder to shoulder its OK’

Therefore, I will ask as I keep seeing it, especially with a U14 that is playing up several age groups:

Can a 200-lb defender drop his shoulder and very puposefully barrel into a smaller player with the ball at a 90 degree angle, at speed, to the point that the smaller player with the ball goes flying off the pitch, a** over a teakettle?

This happens VERY often but only occasionally is called as a foul. I will respect your answer, but if this doesnt fall under ‘excessive force’ or ‘charging’, than I am lost.


Answer (May 9, 2012):
We define charging thusly: A fair charge is shoulder to shoulder, elbows (on the contact side) against the body, with each player having at least one foot on the ground and both attempting to gain control of the ball. The amount of force allowed is relative to the age and experience of the players, but should never be excessive. This is as defined by the referee on the game, not some book definition, adjusted as necessary for the age and experience of the players and what has happened or is happening in this particular game on this particular day at this particular moment. It all boils down to what is best for the referee’s management and the players’ full enjoyment of the game.

Although often overlooked by spectators, it is important to remember that a player’s natural endowments (speed, strength, height, heft, etc.) may be superior to that of the opponent who is competing with that player for the ball. As a completely natural result, the opponent may not only be bested in the challenge but may in fact wind up on the ground with no foul having been committed. The mere fact that a player fails in a challenge and falls or is knocked down is what the game is all about (and why coaches must choose carefully in determining which player marks which opponent). Referees do not handicap players by saddling them with artificial responsibilities to be easy on an opponent simply because they are better physically endowed in some way.

Fair charges include actions which do not strictly meet the “shoulder-to-shoulder” requirement when this is not possible because of disparities in height or body type (a common occurrence in youth matches in the early teenage range where growth spurts differ greatly on an individual level within the age group). Additionally, a fair charge can be directed toward the back of the shoulder if the opponent is shielding the ball, provided it is not done dangerously and never to the spinal area.

The arms may not be used at all, other than for balance, which does not include pushing off or holding the opponent.

Children of the same age differ in their development. They and we have to live with it. No foul if there was no offense other than being larger or faster. As noted above, the decision as to whether the force used is excessive is up to the individual referee.…


I was the Center referee for an A division Co-ed match. There was a through ball for the attacking team, the forward run through to dribble into the penalty area. The keeper runs out to stop the ball, and missing it completely, and collided with the attacking player and took him out of play. I was near the top of the 18 yard, and had a clear view of the contact. I signalled a penalty kick, and issued a caution to the keeper. Since, it was his 2nd caution in this match, then I proceeded to show him the red card.

The defending team started screaming and said look at your assistant referee. He is standing firm around the 25 yard line, signalling an offside.

I reversed my call to an indirect free kick for the defending team, and took back the cards.

My reasoning is that I should have looked at my assistant referee first, and blown my whistle for the offside. If I had done that, it would have avoided the contact by the keeper and the forward.

Did I make the right call ?

USSF answer (March 28, 2012):

Your decision to use the information supplied by the AR was correct. Award the indirect free kick for the goalkeeper’s team. It is possible that the goalkeeper still engaged in certain behavior, whether it was during play against an opponent or during a stoppage resulting from the offside offense, so pleases consider the following:
Misconduct is separate from the foul (unless the foul was for serious foul play or denying a goalscoring opportunity through an act punishable by a free kick). Accordingly, the second caution which resulted in a red card should not have been withdrawn SOLELY because the referee accepted the advice from the AR and declared that the stoppage was for the offside. The ‘keeper’s act itself might warrant the caution (and red) or a straight red regardless of the change in the decision. If the goalkeeper’s act was purely careless, rather than reckless (caution) or done with excessive force (send-off), then there is no need to caution the ‘keeper.…


We were debriefing after a match and the following technical restart questions came up. As part of my U18M Premier Division pregame I instructed the AR’s to not call technical throw-in violations unless the attacking team gained an unfair advantage or was creating a match management problem; I specifically included stepping on the field as a potentially trifling technical violation. During the match I chose a goal kick when an offside player booted the ball over the goaline – after the AR raised his flag, but without my whistle.

1. We know from Advice for Referees on the LOTG that given a choice of IFK for offside infraction and a goal kick or throw-in, to choose the latter in deference to game flow. How about if the offside player kicks the ball over the goal or touch line? Does the obvious game interference take precedence and result in the IFK restart?
2. We know from Advice for Referees on the LOTG that the primary purpose of the throw in is to get the ball quickly in play, and, at competitive levels, technical throw in infractions should be considered trifling. Obviously if the thrower gains an unfair advantage or the infraction may result in a match management problem, the throw in infraction is not trifling and should be called. How about if the thrower has one or both feet completely on the field (no unfair advantage gained nor a match management problem)?

USSF answer (March 23, 2012):
The referee is permitted a certain amount of discretion in enforcing the Laws of the Game, taking into consideration just the sort of things you suggest: game flow, level of skill, effect on match management, etc. However, the referee’s judgments must not be perceived as setting aside the Laws in his or her discretionary acts.

1. Only the referee knows which choice better fits the situation in this particular game. This one clearly comes under the advantage concept as well as the “easier to explain” concept.

2. Infringements of Law 15 are usually trifling (and occasionally doubtful), with the exception at times of being in the wrong location. The infringement needs to be blatant and obvious before the referee calls a “bad” throw-in when it comes to feet. In youth play, even “U18 Premier Division,” the referee should be proactive in dealing with this by stopping the throw-in before it is taken and having the player do it right. Game flow is one thing, but flouting the Law is another. However, having one or both feet fully in the field of play – and well beyond the touchline — is usually more than a trifling infraction.…


I’d like to revisit one aspect of the distinction between abandoning and terminating a match. I understand the basic distinctions and the process for determining which course of action a referee should take as described in your answer at . However, I would like to ask specifically about the case of a youth match played in the US: if the last “responsible adult” in the team area has to be expelled for irresponsible behavior (thus leaving no adults in the team area), would the match be abandoned or terminated. I lean towards the latter answer since it seems to fall within the realm of serious breaches of the Law and should result in a game that cannot be replayed. However, I can also see that one may argue that the match should only be abandoned so as to allow for replay of the match once the competition authority has dealt appropriately with the inappropriate adults. Which is the most appropriate choice?

For completeness, if the last responsible adult must leave for some reason other than irresponsible behavior (e.g., illness, family or work emergency, etc), it seems to me that abandonment would be the appropriate decision for the referee in such a case. Do you agree?

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):
Our original answer of March 31, 2010, titled STOP, SUSPEND, ABANDON OR TERMINATE, simply suggested that the referee abandon the match in the scenario you put forth. Why? There is nothing in the Laws of the Game to cover this specific situation — and may not be in the rules of the competition either — but common sense suggests this to be the safest course to follow.

The International Board’s use of the word “termination” is, as in a number of other cases, a bit loose, suggesting only that the game is declared to be ended (as in the final paragraph of Law 5 on “Decisions of the Referee”). In most cases it is generally reserved for a situation where non-weather influences (invasion of the field, general melee, etc.) have made the game no longer playable.…


I am not fluent in Spanish, but I understand enough to distinguish between disagreement and a flurry of obscenity. Generally speaking, I punish Spanish F/A just like English F/A.

Recently I was AR for a game where all the players spoke English, and some spoke Spanish too. After one foul call by the CR, a player let fly with a very “colorful” insult at the CR. The CR (who speaks fluent Spanish, too) looked at him and gave him a verbal warning. In English, for everyone to hear.

After the game, I asked the CR if he would have responded the same way if the player had said the equivalent in English. He said no, it would have been straight red. His reasoning was that by choosing to use a language that fewer people understood, the player was doing the equivalent of mumbling under his breath. In other words, he didn’t make it public.

I have to applaud the CR for his man management in this case. The game proceeded without further incident. But I’m wondering if this principle is one that can be used in general. Does switching to a second language give the players more liberty?

USSF answer (April 17, 2011):
Under the Law, a player is sent off for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures. That incorporates the whole of human communication. “Liberty” must be defined within the context of the particular interaction. The Laws of the Game do not care which language a player, team official, referee or AR speaks. What is important under the Laws is what that person actually says or means or understands. None of that is necessarily language-dependent. Given that basis, our answer follows.

Yes, the player should probably have been sent off for an infringement of the Law, but the referee chose not to do it. It would seem that his manner of dealing with the use of the colorful language was correct for this particular incident. It might not have worked for all of us and it might not work for that referee with another player or in another game, but it worked here. However, it did work and that is one of the elements of good refereeing, to find a solution that works for everyone and ensures that the Spirit of the Game prevails.

Remember, whatever the language, a red card for abusive, insulting, or offensive language cannot really be justified if, in the opinion of the referee, no one was abused, insulted, or offended by it.…


This is a very important point that creates a lot of confusion amongst the players, coaches and referees:
• A team that was behind in a game scores and all the sudden sense a comeback. A player from the team that just scored; rushes to the net to grab the ball to bring it as fast as possible to the center. The goalie (who just got scored on) grabs the ball from the opponent since it is “his team possession” (kickoff after being scored on).
• I believe that the team who got scored on has the right to bring the ball to the center in a timely matter as long as there are no signs of wasting time.
• We see this incidence over and over in professional soccer. One time, there was a game between Arsenal (ARS) & New Castle (NC) where NC was down 4:0 and as soon as they scored, the goal scorer ran to the net to grab the ball so the ARS goalie blocked him and went to grab it himself. The referee ended up cautioning ARS goalie as he considered him wasting time. Of course, when the goalie rushed to the net to grab the ball, he was pushed by the opponent player (who got away from a card).

My question here: What is the proper approach/call that the referee must take in such a situation? I am sure this is a common situation in U13 & up games especially for high flighted games.

USSF answer (April 5, 2011):
Your logic would seem to be correct. The ball actually “belongs” to the team scored against, as they must kick off. If the referee detects delaying or timewasting tactics in this process, he or she is empowered by Law 7 to add time to make up for that which was lost.

The following answer was published on January 23, 2010. It includes the reasoning and suggestions for what the referee should do in such cases.

After the referee has stopped play for a goal, the ball, although “dead” until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Red). A player who provokes confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (See Law 12, “Delaying the restart of play,” in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2009/2010.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (B) who was interfering with the Team A player carrying the ball to the center of the field.

The team which has possession (Red) may “allow” the opposing team to hold/transfer/carry/etc. the ball by acceding to the action (i. e., not disputing it). However, the opposing team does this at its peril. In your game, Blue, perhaps believing that Red was moving too slowly to carry the ball back to the center circle for the kick-off, tried to take the ball that “belonged” to Team Red. Blue has no right at any time to request that the ball be given over to it (including such childish behavior as attempting to grab the ball or punch the ball out of the Red player’s control.

Rather than immediately cautioning either player, the true owner (against whose team the goal was scored) and the “wannabe” owner (whose team will be defending at the kick-off), it would be better if you simply spoke quickly to both players, admonishing the wannabe owner to leave the ball alone. You could also tell the player that you will judge whether there is any “delay” in getting the ball back to the center spot and will, if necessary, add time to make up for any time lost.

There is little reason to immediately caution either player if you do what we suggest above. In any event, the possibility of a caution would depend on HOW the Blue player attempts to gain possession (i. e., how aggressively, how prolonged, etc.). We cannot see how the mere fact of attempting to gain possession is itself cautionable.

The critical fact that makes the player’s action cautionable is that his attempt to retrieve the ball caused a tussle with the true “owner” of the ball, the GK. If this hadn’t been inserted into the scenario, then the referee could well have ignored the whole thing . . . because there would in fact have been no delay.


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.…


An attacker is fouled, but the referee immediately (not waiting for 2-3 seconds to elapse) sees a clear opportunity for the attacking team to benefit from continuing play and calls out “play on” with the appropriate hand signal. Within 2-3 seconds an attacker (but not the attacker initially fouled) fouls a defender. The referee blows his whistle to stop play and calls the original foul for the attacker and has the ball brought back to the point of the original foul for a free kick to the attacking team; rather than a foul by the attacking team and a free kick for the defending team.

The question came up that calling “play on” is an immediate “calling the foul” and “instantaneous restart”. Therefore, the referee had made a decision and could no longer decide to call the original foul. Had the referee waited a bit longer before signaling “play on”, he could then appropriately call the original foul.

In other words, once the referee calls “play on” can the original foul still be penalized or has the opportunity “gone away” because the referee has indicated his decision? If the “play on” negates calling the original foul, when the referee blew his whistle to stop play the appropriate restart would have been a free kick to the defending team.

USSF answer (November 16, 2010):
It is rarely a mistake for the referee to wait that 2-3 seconds to ensure that the advantage has been realized before announcing the decision to “play on.” By so doing, the referee can generally avoid awkward situations like the one you present.

Our recommendation in this specific situation is to forget the first foul and call the one that occurred after the advantage was announced, but to be prepared to handle any misconduct which may have attached to the first foul.

Signaling “Play on!” does not now nor has it ever “negated” the foul. That’s what the 2-3 seconds are for – to see if the proto-advantage we (in our wisdom and experience) saw as enough of a possibility that we were not prepared to blow the whistle immediately actually reaches some fruition. The theory, of course, is that the speed of soccer play (at the sort of competitive level where we would look to apply advantage) needs only 2-3 seconds to either resolve itself or not.

Over the years, two distinctly different approaches to operationally implementing “advantage” have developed.

Approach A – signal advantage as soon as the foul occurs in the presence of an advantage POSSIBILITY, and then come back to stop play for the original foul if, after 2-3 seconds, the advantage was neither realized nor maintained.

Approach B – observe the foul, decide if there is an advantage possibility, observe play for the next several seconds and then either comeback to the original foul if the advantage was neither realized nor maintained OR signal the advantage if it was.

Either is acceptable, both have pluses and minuses to their use (all of which are discussed in several position papers (on the US Soccer website). See also Advice to Referees 5.6.…


Is there a period of time before and after a match whereby an incident involving a player and ref is no longer related to the match. An example would be where a player swore at a referee two hours after the match had ended.

I understand the Respect element however I want to ensure the disciplinary is dealt with in the correct context.

Many thanks.

USSF answer (September 14, 2010):
The referee’s authority ends after he (or she) and the players and other team personnel have left the vicinity of the field. Any misconduct committed by players or substitutes after the field has been cleared must be described in the game report and reported to the competition authority. The referee may display cards as long as he or she remains on the field of play after the game is over. Referees are advised to avoid remaining in the area of the field unnecessarily, as this can lead to the sort of situation you describe.

After two hours, the statute of limitations on including this matter in the match report has run out. We would suggest that you submit a separate report on the matter to the competition authority and to the state association.…