The limitation on scoring directly from a drop ball. Can you clarify the meaning of directly in this situation. Thanks.

My confusion arises because in other free kicks (corner, IFK, DFK, GK, PK) the kicker is not able to play the ball twice. e.g. they must kick it, and they cannot dribble the ball (e.g. kick or play it twice in a row without an intervention from another player).

However, in the drop ball, a player can in fact take possesion of the ball (usually by foot since the ball must touch the ground to in play), dribble some distance, and kick the ball, without the intervention of another player without comitting a violation of the laws.

Hence, I’m trying to understand what “directly” means in the new Law 8 (Start and Restart) text for drop balls. The new law says, “If the ball enters the goal: * if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, goal kick is awarded” (Similar for own goal with a corner kick.

Is “directly” in this case ONLY the first touch or play of the ball, or is directly meant to include all initial play by a player, until the ball has been touched or play by any other player?

Thanks for clarifying the situation for me. I am a referee and a coach. Recently, as a coach, this situation nearly happened to one of my players. In her case she missed the shot wide, so the ball did not enter the goal. However, had she made the shot (off a pull back move at the drop, two quick dribbes to open space in the penalty area, and a shot with no touch from any other player), I realized that I was unsure if the goal would have counted or not had she made the shot.

As a referee, and realized I should come to understand the correct call in this case should I come to see it again. This is a new law change, and I haven’t seen any guidance in this situation.

Answer (January 8, 2013):
This year’s Law 8 on the dropped ball:

If the ball enters the goal:
• if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal kick is awarded
• if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the team’s own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opposing team

Yes, it is indeed a change in the Law, likely not noted by many people. It is an unusual change and is probably more confusing to referees, coaches, and players than necessary. Thank you for asking, and we are pleased to present the reason, straight from the International Football Association Board, as published for the IFAB by FIFA. And yes, it applies only to the first touch after the ball is in play.

FIFA Circular 1302, 31 May 2012: Amendments to the Laws of the Game — 2012/2013:

There have been a number of occasions where goals have been scored from “uncontested” dropped balls. This has put a great deal of pressure on the referee as he has to allow the goal to stand. We then have the unseemly situation where the opposition allows the team to score from the kick-off without any players trying to stop them in order to rebalance the game.

Just for the clarification of others, the dropped ball is NOT a free kick.…


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.…


In a U10 Premier Boys game a defender stood in the goal behind the goal line at the far post on a corner kick. This team did this on every corner kick. On one of the corner kicks the goalie when up to catch the ball but dropped it into the field of play and a attacker kicked the ball to the post where the defender was standing behind the goal line. The ball struck the defender right at the goal line (The ball never complete crossed the goal line so no goal was scored) The referee allowed play to continue with no call.

My question is should this have not been deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission by the defender that left the field? Advice to referees on the laws of the game 3.9 say about accidentally passes over in the course of possession of or contesting for the ball. It looks to me that this team was using the tactic of standing in the goal area to have more time to react to a play.

What should have been the correct call.

USSF answer (March 21, 2012):
Players are not supposed to leave the field of play at a restart without the permission of the referee, other than to fetch the ball and to take the kick or the throw-in. That applies to defenders as well as the restarting team. In your scenario, if any part of the player inside the goal breaks the vertical plane of the goal line, then that player is still in and on the field of play.

If the referee knows for certain that the player has left the entire field of play (confirmed by the AR), then the player should be cautioned.…


Let’s call A1 and A2 two players of Team A. A1 runs towards the opponents’ goal, but he is fouled inside the penalty area. The referee awards a penalty kick to Team A, but A1 is compelled to leave the field of play because of an injury due to the foul. He cannot return the field of play until the penalty kick is taken (‘An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted’, Law 5, Injured players).

A2 is going to take the penalty, and the referee blows his whistle.

Before the ball is in play, A1 commits an offence (e.g. strikes the assistant referee, uses an abusive language or throws an object to a substitute/substituted player of Team B), while remaining outside the field of play.

Now, A2 kicks the ball, but the goalkeeper catches it. So, according to Law 14 (an infringement committed by a teammate of the kicker), since a goal has not been scored, referee has to stop play, and an indirect free kick from the place where the infringement occurred has to be awarded to the opposing team.

But since the offence occurred outside the field of play:
1) Where has the indirect free kick to be taken from?
2) Does the IFK become a dropped ball from the penalty mark, since the offence occurred outside the field of play?

USSF answer (January 21, 2012):
Law 14 tells us:

• After the players have taken positions in accordance with this Law, the referee signals for the penalty kick to be taken

Infringements and sanctions
If the referee gives the signal for a penalty kick to be taken and, before the ball is in play, one of the following occurs:

a team-mate of the player taking the kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
• the referee allows the kick to be taken
• if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
• if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and the match is
restarted with an indirect free kick to the defending team from the place where the infringement occurred

However, because the infringement occurred off the field of play there is no choice allowed by Law if the answer is to be determined by Law 14. Therefore another choice must be made to solve this conundrum.

The scenario says that A1 commits an offense “before the ball is in play” and thus the offense has occurred during a stoppage and so, despite the signal to start, play did not start… Therefore the referee must treat the kick as if it had not occurred. In this case the referee makes the decision to stop play for the offense which took place before the kick has been taken Deal with whatever A1 did (if this involves a red card, Team A plays down because A1 was a player of record, even though off the field, at the time), and then start with the original penalty kick (not a retake).…


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.…


I am having trouble reconciling a seemingly contradictory interpretation of the laws of the game. Law 8 states that on a kick off, the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward.

Therefore, if the ball is kicked backward, the ball has not been put into play, and therefore the kick is retaken. Law 14 contains the same verbiage, “the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward.” Law 14 also states that if the kicker infringes on the laws of the game and the ball does not enter the goal, then award an indirect free kick for the opposing team. Obviously, if the ball is kicked backwards, it would not enter the goal. I noticed in “Advice to Referees” (2009/2010) version, section 14.12, it states that kicking the ball backward would result in an indirect free kick for the defending team at the penalty mark. If the wording, “The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward” were removed from the law, then this seeming contradiction would appear to go away. Any insight would be appreciated.

USSF answer (August 10, 2010):
You would seem to be arguing apples and applesauce. We see no dichotomy or contradiction here, as the kick-off and the penalty kick are two separate and discrete types of restarting the game.

Law 8:

• the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward
In the event of any other infringement of the kick-off procedure:
• the kick-off is retaken

Law 14:

• After the players have taken positions in accordance with this Law, the referee signals for the penalty kick to be taken
• The player taking the penalty kick must kick the ball forward
• He must not play the ball again until it has touched another player
• The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward
the player taking the penalty kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
• the referee allows the kick to be taken
• if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
• if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and the match is restarted with an indirect free kick to the defending team, from the place where the infringement occurred

Advice 14.12 (2010/2011 edition):

If, after the referee has whistled for the penalty kick to be taken, the identified kicker back heels or kicks the ball backwards to a teammate who kicks it into the goal, the International Board has determined that this particular violation of Law 14 is to be regarded as failure to follow the procedures outlined in Law 14.  In this situation (whether the ball is subsequently kicked into the goal or not), the restart is an indirect free kick for the opponents at the penalty mark.

In other words, the IFAB has declared that, kicking the ball backward shall be considered a violation of Law 14 and treated as simply one among all other violations of Law 14. In short, logic in this case cannot provide the correct answer, only a rote knowledge of the Laws of the Game as propounded and explained by the International Board.…


In the April 16 question about failure to respect the distance, my question is how do we call this at the lower levels when it is not called at the higher levels? I don’t think I’ve ever seen failure to respect the distance enforced in a professional match in spite of it occurring on nearly every foul called.

USSF answer (April 27, 2010):
The argument given by those who are reluctant to enforce the distance at a free kick is that the players do not expect the rule to be enforced and are willing to put up with it. It is clear that this is not true and the Federation has launched a campaign on this problem. Ask your State Director of Referee Instruction to let you know when there will be a clinic on the “Managing the Free Kick” module.

In addition, please note that this is an important consideration at the professional level and is certainly called at every level of the professional game. However, we acknowledge that referees at all levels are sometimes a bit lax and need to be more forceful in enforcing the law.…


goal keeper throws his shoe to deflect a ball from going into the goal. The ball goes out of bounds over the endline.

What is the call and what is the restart?

USSF answer (February 20, 2010):
The goalkeeper is cautioned for unsporting behavior and the match is restarted by an indirect free kick to be taken from the place where the ball was when it was struck by the boot or similar object (see Law 13 for position of free kick).

The correct action for the referee depends on where contact with the ball occurred, not where the goalkeeper was when he threw his boot. If the place of contact was inside the penalty area, caution for unsporting behavior and indirect free kick where the goalkeeper was when he threw his boot. If the place of contact was outside the penalty area, red card for denying the obvious goalscoring opportunity and direct free kick where contact with the ball was made. If it was a defender other than the ‘keeper, red card for denying the obvious goalscoring opportunity regardless of where contact was made and a direct free kick if that location was outside but a penalty kick if inside.

The boot or similar object is considered as an extension of the player’s arm. Play would be stopped. If the boot struck the ball inside the penalty area, a penalty kick would be awarded and the offending player would be sent off for preventing a goal by deliberately handling the ball. If the boot struck the ball outside the penalty area, a direct free kick would be awarded and the offending player would be sent off for preventing a goal by deliberately handling the ball (see Law 13 for position of free kick).…


For clarification purpose, I would like for you to honestly assist with normal procedure and correct interpretation of the law and in accordance to; and in US Soccer and FIFA opinion the correct procedure and your recommendation to the following.

In the first half of a competitive match, a corner kick was being taken from the leading AR side. Properly, the Assistant referee applied the distance of encroachment and the team taking the corner kick tricked the defense as the kicker walked away and another player acted as if he was going to take the kick started dribbling the ball towards the goal when he got to the corner kick spot. I made eye contact with the leading AR who did nothing and I let the play go.

In the same half, a corner kick was awarded to the same offense, but now in my quadrant. The ball was set, and the kicker stood over the ball with his foot on the ball but made no movement because the defense this time were encroaching. When I realized the the attacker won’t play the ball, I instructed the defense to respect the distance of which they obliged. While we were waiting for the corner kick to be taken, number 7 of the team taking the corner kcik who was behind me in the goal area loudly yelled to his team mate on the the ball. “Leave it, let me take it.” He then ran past me and the defenders while his team mate walked away from the ball. When he got to the ball, he took position as if he was going to put the ball back in play, then he started dribbling the ball towards the goal. All these happened while I was still holding back the defense from encroaching. When I realized he was in active play, I blew the whistle walked to him and cautioned him for unsporting behavior. I then restart the play with an indirect kick to the defense for double touching a direct kick restart. 

As usual, the cautioned player pleaded his case and claimed that was their trick and my response was that you were deceptive. I told him it’s legal to apply trick fairly, and by audibly being deceptive, you gained unfair advantage.

USSF answer (February 6, 2010)
The kicking team is allowed to use a certain amount of trickery at any kick restart, including corner kicks. If the kicker actually kicks at the ball, then it is now in play. Observe these two video clips of corner kicks, one of which was not allowed by the referee. However, both were totally legal, as the ball was played in a kicking motion by the original player on the ball.

First clip:

We responded to a question on this clip back on January 30, 2009:
It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct; in that case, the referee would call the second player for a double touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

Second clip:

The assistant referee’s flag was incorrect and the referee should have waved it down; the resulting goal should have been allowed.

So, what is NOT allowed?
The ball must move a perceptible distance from “here” to “there” to be considered in play through a kick. If the “kicker” only steps on top of the ball and does not kick it, and therefore the ball has NOT moved from “here” to “there,” the kick was not properly taken and must be repeated. It is not a cautionable offense. …


In the USSF training (at least in my area) for many years now the instruction has been that for out of bounds calls for which the officials do not see/know which team ought to get the possession, a throw in or a goal kick should be awarded to the “defense.”

I assume this has been USSF’s preference all along as well. Given the emphasis today by FIFA and USSF on “scoring” and “offensive play” for soccer should we officials now be awarding throw ins and corner kicks for the “attacking” team rather than the defense when we are uncertain who last touched the ball? (Yes, I know this circumstance should never occur – esp. with 3 officials – but unfortunately it does!)

USSF answer (February 1, 2010):
Although INFORMAL advice for many years was to award the ball to the defending team on any questionable situation where the ball had passed out of play across one of the boundary lines, that WAS NOT and IS NOT the Federation’s formal guidance on a ball passing out of play.

Referees should take care not to use any unofficial option as a means of avoiding a difficult but necessary decision as to which team should have the restart. Nor should the referee use the dropped ball to restart play as a crutch in those cases where there is some question about the correct restart. The referee must make a decision and announce it firmly.

This excerpt from the Advice to Referees 2009/2010 should give referees all the guidance they need:

The referee should promptly signal a clear decision on the direction for the restart when the ball appears to have gone off the field from “simultaneous” touches by members of both teams. Under the Laws of the Game, it is not permissible to give a dropped ball restart in situations where the referee cannot decide which team has possession. The players quickly identify referee indecision, and will use it to their advantage.

To emphasize the point: MAKE A DECISION, REFEREE!…