Blue defender #6 fouls Red attacker #9 in the penalty area and the center referee whistles and signals for a penalty kick. Before the PK is taken, one of the assistant referees signals the center referee for a conference and informs him that the Red team has too many players on the field, and that Red #9 was supposed to have substituted out of the game at the last substitution break but came back onto the field.

1. What is the proper restart? What if any disciplinary action should
be taken?

2. What restart is proper if the extra Red player is not discovered by
the referees until after Red #14 had taken and scored on the penalty
kick but before the ensuing kickoff?

3. Same as #2, but the extra Red player is not discovered by the
referees until after the ensuing kickoff? What should the referee do

Answer (October 17, 2012):
Law 3 (in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game in the back of the book) tells us:

Substitute or substituted player
If a substitute or a substituted player enters the field of play without permission:
• the referee must stop play (although not immediately if the player in question does not interfere with play or if the advantage can be applied)
• the referee must caution him for unsporting behavior
• the player must leave the field of play
If the referee stops play, it must be restarted with an indirect free kick for the opposing team from the position of the ball when play was stopped (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

In question 1, the referee did not stop play for player #9’s entry without permission, but because he was “fouled” by defender #6. Because #9 was NOT a player, no foul could be called for #6’s “foul”; however, #6 may be cautioned for unsporting behavior. Player #9 must also be cautioned for unsporting behavior (entering without permission) and removed from the field, and the game will be restarted with an indirect free kick for #6’s team from the position of the ball when play was stopped for the “foul” (see Law 13 — Position of free kick).

In question 2, the goal is disallowed and the indirect free kick (as in Q1) is the restart. There can be no penalty kick for a “foul” against a non-player, which is what a substituted player is.

In question 3, the goal is allowed to stand. The assistant referee ought to be removed from his/her duties for gross negligence in not bringing the matter to the referee’s attention immediately, but this will likely not happen. The referee must stand in shame, as he/she has also neglected his/her duties in keeping track of who should be on the field. Full details of the fiasco must go in the match report, with both officials sharing in the blame for poor performance of their duties.…


A coach I know recently thought up a strategy for giving his team an advantge that should win if the game goes to penalty kicks in the very final game of a tournament. Theory goes like this, after the initial five pk takers are designated and before the first player on his team, who is his best penalty taker, takes the pk, he will have every one of the 10 remaining players eligible to take penalties step up to the official and insult him sufficiently to be red carded and dismissed from the game. This will insure that his best penalty taker will take all of the pks while the other team will have their lesser skilled players taking kicks.

What would you do as it seems to be perfectly suited to exploit the reduce to equate as currently practiced?

I could only state that while technically accurate and seemingly legal, I would disqualify his team for prolonged and repeated infraction of the laws.

Answer (July 13, 2012):
We have seen similar questions in the past (e.g., the coach simply declared these players “unable to play” due to injuries or whatever) but the principle is the same: There are things that can happen on a soccer match which are “wrong” (against the Spirit of the Laws), but over which we have no authority to fashion a correction. Another example would be the situation that occurred in Asia some years ago where one team TRIED to lose by scoring against itself and then the other team, because of what such an outcome would mean (it had to do I think with determining a field site for the next round of competition), began matching the opposing team’s goal for goal by doing the same thing. The referee does not have the authority to prevent this. In fact, the referee cannot make anyone play nor force any substitution.

Accordingly, the coach’s ploy will succeed and his team will be reduced to 1 player. However, (1) the opposing coach could do the same (or have the other ten players become injured and unable to participate in the kicks) and then ultimately there would be Kicks done 1 v. 1 (with the nonkicking player serving as the goalkeeper); and/or (2) the Kicks could proceed with 11 v. 1, but the ploy could backfire since the one player would have to kick each time against a new and fresh opposing kicker; and (3) the referee would include full details (facts and reasonable inferences from those facts) in his game report (which is what the referee in the Asian game did) and let the competition authority decide if the behavior of the team should be allowed — the action was not upheld in the Asian case, and there were fines and/or suspensions involved.

And lest we forget, under the Laws of the Game kickers are never “designated” nor put on a checklist for the referee. Players go to take the kick as a slot is available.…


In my age group, the referees (usually R8s and R9s) tend to be very inexperienced. Many calls are incorrect (don’t worry, I was an R8 ref a few years ago, so I know they were wrong). Is it frowned upon for a referee to change a call once made after players and/or coaches argue? I am an arguer (i.e. refs I don’t personally know generally don’t like me), and a ref has never changed a call, whether they know it was wrong or not. Can they, or is a call final no matter what?

Answer (July 7, 2012):
Yes, a referee may change a call, provided that he or she has not already restarted play. And, even if play has already restarted, if the referee realizes he has made a mistake, as long as this realization came to him or her before the restart occurred — and only the referee knows if that is true.…


Can you please expand on your April 4th answer? This has sparked a lot of discussion in the referee community on what constitutes control, or a mis-kick.

USSF answer (April 5, 2012):
Not sure why there should be any discussion at all. This matter is addressed in the entry-level referee training courses and there has been no change in policy or interpretation or guidelines: If the opponent who does not have the ball under control (i.e., clear possession and the ability to play the ball deliberately to a place to which he wishes it to go) misplays, misdirects, deflects or miskicks the ball, he has not affected the status of the player who was in the offside position when his teammate played the ball.

In any event, the decision is solely “in the opinion of the referee,” based on all the “facts and circumstances” of the event — all of which means that no formal, official, concrete definition is possible (or even desirable), only guidelines.…


During the March 30, 2012, DC United vs. FC Dallas MLS match, there was a play late in the first half where Dallas player Perez (#9) scored after receiving the ball following a deflection/misplay by DC United defender Dudar (#19). At the time the ball was last played by Perez’s teammate Hernandez. who chested the ball forward, Perez was in a clear offside position. All of our training as well as the Advice to Referees states that in order for the offside situation to “reset” the defender must control and play the ball. A deflection, miskick, or misplay is not supposed to reset the offside situation. In this case the AR did not raise his flag for offside and the goal was allowed to stand.

USSF answer (April 4, 2012):
An official review of the situation at the highest levels confirms that the call should have been offside.…


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.…


Suppose two players from opposite teams are challenging for the ball. Inadvertently, one player clearly handles the ball. The other player who was challenging for the ball, assumes that the referee would definitely have called the handling offense, and immediatly grabs the ball with his hand and places it on the ground with the intent of taking a quick free kick.

What should the referee do?

USSF answer (March 21, 2012):
To quote an old soccer aphorism: “The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of players.” Inadvertent handling is not a foul; deliberate handling, as described in your scenario, is a foul. Punish accordingly.…


We have three long tenured, hard headed referees sitting around after a match discussing what throw in signaling procedures the R and AR’s should perform and how. All disagree. So here we go:

What takes precedence: Laws of the Game or Guide to Procedures?

LOTG Referee Authority: In Law 5: “Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game ….”

LOTG Assistant Referee Duties: In Law 6 the two “assistant referees … duties (are) subject to the decision of the referee ….”

In Guide to Procedures: THROW-IN

• Referee’s End Of Touch Line: Referee “Signals stoppage of play (whistle only if necessary); Points 45 degrees upward to indicate direction of throw-in”. Assistant Referee “Provides confirming flag signal after referee indicates throw-in decision. If referee makes obvious eye contact to ask for assistance before indicating a decision, uses signal to establish direction which was agreed to in the pre-game conference, and then provides confirming throw-in flag signal after referee indicates decision.”

• Assistant Referee’s End Of Touch Line: Assistant Referee “Signals with flag 45 degrees upward in the direction of the throw-in”. Referee “Points in direction of throw-in only if assistant referee signal needs to be corrected due to unseen contact with the ball”.

May pre-game conference instructions from the Referee overrule the Guide to Procedure procedures?

Discussion points:
• There is a different sequence in Guide to Procedures to signaling throw-ins which is different in the Referee’s and the Assistant Referee’s ends of the field. Must these be strictly adhered to?
• If the Referee during the pre-game conference instructs the Assistant Referees that they must always seek eye contact with the Referee before signaling and:
– The Assistant Referee will always seek eye contact with the Referee before signaling.
– If no eye contact (choice of the Referee), the Assistant Referee should not signal.
-After eye contact, both the Referee and Assistant Referee will indicate their choice of throw-in direction by signaling discretely with the appropriate hand or arm/flag. Then Assistant Referee will signal (and choice of Referee is indicated, that is, by hand signal but not always pointing upward).
– It also appears to be common practice for the Referee to signal throw-in direction on most all throw-ins, that is, in contrast to the above procedure to only signal to correct the Assistant Referee’s signal for Assistant Referee’s End Of Touch Line.

Two of us enjoy the eye contact as an opportunity for teamwork, communication, and camaraderie.

One of us feels his duties as AR are being encroached and inappropriately limited, and wishes to strictly follow the Guide to Procedures.

Please give us your thoughts. The more detail, the better.

USSF answer (March 21, 2012):
The Guide to Procedures is all about, well, procedures (i.e., mechanics) and, as such, is always secondary to the Laws of the Game. The assistant referee should use the procedures and mechanics specified by the referee in the pre-game (and will carefully ask questions to ensure that any instructions which are out of the ordinary are well and truly understood). The Guide is, as it states in the Foreword, the source of officially-approved mechanics. They were developed by officials at the highest competitive levels, tested at all levels, and are assumed to incorporate the “best practices” in the covered situations. Please note the following final statement in the Foreword:
“Alternate signals, procedures, and methods of communication within the officiating team are not authorized for games under the jurisdiction of the United States Soccer Federation using the diagonal system of control.” (emphasis added).

What this means is that, where the Guide does not include a pertinent scenario, the officiating team is free to develop additional mechanics, but they must not (a) conflict with those already established in the Guide, (b) are not intrusive, (c) are not distracting, (d) are limited in number and purpose, and (e) are discussed within the team in advance. However, assistant referee should realize that, if instructed otherwise, they are to follow the referee’s requirements and trust that the discussion between the referee and the assessor after the match will be very interesting.…


When a player is injured and the referee stops play for the injury, is it acceptable for a referee to touch and handle the player? This referee (adult) is not a medical proffesional, I asked him. He seems to want to do a full medical exam on both youth boys and girls as well as adults. This referee will grab the players knee or ankles which ever is injured and pull, twist and poke the injury. This referee does not allow the coach on the field until he has done this with the injured player. Many coaches and parents are becoming extremely concerned over this practice. This has happened at least 10 times in 2012.

To sum it up, I guess my question is: Are referees taught to do a medical exam of the injured player by touching/twisting of the injury? And are they allowed to do this?

USSF answer (March 13, 2012):
We are pleased once again to emphasize the following principles regarding referees and players (most particularly youth players).

First, unless specifically certified by a public authority to provide medical care (i.e., doctor, paramedic, nurse, EMT, etc. — a Boy Scout First Aid badge does not count), no referee should be rendering any medical care to anyone, under any circumstances, at any time. This is a matter of law, the details of which can differ from state to state and we cannot therefore be more specific than simply … don’t do it. If a referee is medically certified, then the laws of the state where the injury has occurred are usually clear as to the duties to render assistance of certified medical personnel and, if such assistance is provided, the provider ceases to be a referee and becomes at least momentarily a doctor, paramedic, nurse, EMT, etc. until that responsibility for care is handed over to someone who is medically more qualified.

Second, USSF does not and has never provided training regarding the care of player injuries beyond what The Laws of the Game require. That care is defined solely in terms of deciding if an injury has occurred and then whether it is not serious, is serious, or is severe, and then recognizing what actions are proper depending on the answer to that question. These decisions and actions are summarized by the following quotes from the Laws of the Game and their Interpretations:

Law 5, bullet point 8 under Powers and Duties:

The Referee
– stops the match if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured and ensures that he is removed from the field of play. An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted.

Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidance for Referees (pp. 69-70):

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 authorise one, or at most two doctors, 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 authorised 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 behaviour
• 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 authorised 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 located 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
It seems pretty clear to me: If the referee considers an injury serious enough that someone is called into the field to treat it or see to the player, then the player must leave until the game has restarted, just as it says in the law.