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.…


Download a printable copy of the following checklist: KFTM_Checklist.pdf

To: National Referees
National Instructors
National Assessors
State Referee Administrators
State Youth Referee Administrators
State Directors of Instruction
State Directors of Assessment
State Directors of Coaching

From: Alfred Kleinaitis
Manager of Referee Development and Education

Subject: Kicks from the Penalty Mark Checklist

Date: April 2, 2009

In many parts of the country, tournaments are starting to occur and often their rules include requirements for breaking ties. However, information about the mechanics and procedures involved in taking kicks from the penalty mark to break a tie is spread across several sources:
• the Laws of the Game,
• the new “Interpretation and Guidelines” section of the Laws of the Game published by FIFA (and available on the USSF website under “Laws of the Game”),
• Advice to Referees, and
• earlier memoranda distributed by US Soccer Referee Department.

The following checklist of responsibilities, guidelines, and procedures is provided as a useful single source of guidance for referees who need to conduct this process. The checklist begins at the top of the next page to facilitate printing out just the checklist.

Kicks From The Penalty Mark Checklist
(References below to “regular play” include any additional periods of play required by the competition authority as a means of breaking a tie prior to the use of kicks from the penalty mark. References to “round” mean the entire set of eligible players for a team.)

Before the conclusion of regular play
• Cover in the pregame basic requirements for this procedure
• In competitions using unlimited substitution rules, remind both coaches at a convenient stoppage (e.g., between the first and second additional periods of play) that:
o Only players on the field at the end of regular play will be eligible to participate in kicks from the mark
o Eligible players must be kept separate from ineligible players when regular play ends

Between the conclusion of regular play and the taking of the first kick
• The “kicks from the penalty mark” phase of the match begins immediately upon the conclusion of regular play and includes the activities described in this section
• Determine the number of eligible players for each team
o Eligible players include any players temporarily off the field with the permission or at the direction of the referee (e.g., receiving treatment, correcting equipment, bleeding, or blood on the uniform who have not been substituted with the permission of the referee)
o A player temporarily off the field at the end of regular play who is declared unable to return after regular play has ended but before the first kick from the mark is taken may not be substituted for and will reduce the number of eligible players for that team
• If, based on this determination, the teams are of unequal numbers, the team with more eligible players must “reduce to equate”
o The captain of the larger team must identify the player(s) to be excluded from participating in kicks from the penalty mark as a means of making equal the number of eligible players on each team
o The excluded player(s) must join team officials and substitutes in the technical area
• Allow eligible players to receive water, treatment, equipment repair, or other such assistance on the field near their bench. Team officials may temporarily enter the field but must exit the field when directed by the referee.
• Decide which end of the field will be used for this procedure
o The senior assistant referee takes a position at the intersection of the goal line and the goal area line
o The other assistant referee will be located in the center circle
• Conduct a coin toss (winner chooses which team will kick first)
• At the conclusion of the break time set by the competition authority, ensure that only eligible players remain on the field
o Defending goalkeeper properly positioned at the goal
o Non-defending goalkeeper at the intersection of the goal line and the penalty area line behind the lead assistant referee
o All others off the field (substitutes and team officials in their respective technical areas)

During kicks from the penalty mark (from the first kick onward)
• All eligible players (including the goalkeeper) must conform with the uniform and equipment requirements of Law 4
• All players and substitutes remain under the authority of the referee
• A foul cannot be committed, but an appropriate card can be shown for misconduct
• A caution issued during regular play (including any extra time) is counted in causing a send-off if a second caution is given during kicks from the mark
• Team officials are required to behave in a responsible manner
• A player who is sent off or is injured and unable to continue will reduce the team’s pool of eligible players but the opposing team will not further “reduce to equate”
• Substitutions are not permitted
o However, an injured goalkeeper may be substituted if the team has not used all its permitted substitutions
o If the goalkeeper had kicked before being replaced, the goalkeeper’s substitute from off the field is considered also to have kicked
o No eligible player will be permitted to kick more than once in the same round of that player’s team
o The goalkeeper may change places with an eligible teammate at any time provided the requirements of Law 3 are met
• Except where modified by rules specific to this procedure, kicks from the mark are conducted in accordance with the requirements and procedures in Law 14, the Guide to Procedures, and the officiating team’s pregame discussion
o However, once the ball is in play, the kicker may not play the ball again in any way (including if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper, the crossbar, or a goalpost)
o A goal is scored by a kick from the mark only if it meets the requirements of Law 10
o If the kicker violates Law 14 and a goal is scored or if the goalkeeper violates Law 14 and a goal is not scored, the kick must be retaken
o If, as a result of a violation, the kick must be repeated, it may be taken by a different eligible player
• The other eligible player must not have kicked already in the same round
• The original kicker whose kick is retaken by a different eligible player is not counted as having taken a kick
o The senior assistant referee assists the referee with determining if a goal has been scored and whether there has been illegal goalkeeper movement which affected the outcome of the kick
o The other assistant referee assists in managing the eligible players in the center circle and maintaining an orderly movement of the players out from and back to the center circle, in accordance with the procedures discussed in the pregame
• If the end of the field being used for kicks from the mark becomes unplayable (pitch conditions and/or the condition of the goal), the referee may change to the other end of the field, but it is recommended that, if possible, this not be done until each team has kicked an equal number of times
• Unless otherwise specified by the rules of competition, the final match report will indicate the tied score at the end of regular play (including any extra time) and will then indicate the final tally of kicks from the mark which allowed one team to advance
• If, through misconduct, injury, or other cause, the number of players on a team falls below seven, the kicks from the penalty mark will continue so long as the team has at least a single eligible player

Initial group of 5 kicks from the mark
• Kicks from the mark are conducted in pairs, one from each team, for an initial round of up to five pairs
• Kicks from the mark are stopped and one team is declared the winner if that team has scored more goals than the other team and the number of kicks remaining for that other team is insufficient to make up the difference (e.g., 3-0 after three rounds — the team with 0 cannot make up the difference since only two kicks remain)
• Kicks from the mark proceed past the initial round of five only if, after five kicks by each team, the score is still tied

Initial round of all eligible players
• Past the initial group of five, kicks from the mark proceed only in single pairs
• At this point, kicks from the mark are stopped and one team is declared the winner if that team has scored in its pair but the other team has not
• An eligible player is guilty of misconduct (delaying the restart of play) if that player refuses or is not present to take a kick after all other eligible players have kicked in the round of that team and the player’s continued refusal or absence shall result in that player being sent off and declared ineligible
• If kicks from the mark proceed beyond all eligible players into a second or subsequent round, players are not required to kick in the same order as in any previous round…


When does the requirement to “Reduce to Equate” end.


At the final whistle Blue has 11 players, Red 9. The Blue captain tells 2 players that they cannot participate in the KFTPM. As the Blue players are leaving the center circle, and before the first kick a Red player says something and a fight breaks out between the 2 Blue players and the Red player. The 3 players (2 X Blue + 1 X Red) each receive a Red Card. As Red now has only 8 eligible players must Blue now reduce to equate again? If yes, does the “Reduce to Equate” period extend until the first kick is taken?

USSF answer (December 8, 2009):
The requirement to reduce to equate pertains only to the players remaining on the field or those temporarily off the field with the permission of the referee when the game ends. If a player is removed from the field for misconduct or injury AFTER the kicks begin the contest continues without him or her. If this occurs BEFORE the kicks begin, reduce to equate applies. So in your situation — the misconduct occurring before the first kick is taken — the two Blue players (who were ineligible in any event) are sent off and another Blue player is removed to meet the requirement to reduce to equate because the Red player has been sent off, the teams now play 8 Blue versus 8 Red.

We distinguish between when the “KFTPM phase of play” begins and when the “kicks from the mark begin.” The KFTPM phase begins the moment the final whistle sounds (including any required additional playing time). The kicks themselves begin only with the taking of the first kick. The distinction exists because the requirement to reduce to equate ends with the taking of the first kick.

This means that if Blue loses a player to injury or misconduct while, say, the coin toss is being performed to determine which team kicks first, Red will reduce by one. Marking the kicks phase is important because, once this phase begins, no substitution is permitted (except for an injured goalkeeper and only if the team has a permissible substitution remaining to it under the rules of competition). You will find this information in the USSF position paper of April 2, 2009, on Kicks from the Penalty Mark. (See the subsequent post, Kicks from the Penalty Mark — Checklist.)…