I watched a HS game last night in Wisconsin and Team A won in overtime and a number of the boys celebrated on the field by chasing the goal scorer as he ran towards his fans. A couple of them had removed their jerseys in celebration and the referee singled out one of them and yellow carded him for “unsportsmanlike”. This was his second yellow of the game so he also produced a red card. The ref literally chased him off the field to card him (after the game was over). Does the team have any recourse in terms of an appeal so that this player can play in the next game? What is the rule regarding carding a player after the game is over and the players are no longer on the field of play?

Answer (October 18, 2013):
As I consistently state in my answers (and the “About” section of the site), I do not answer questions regarding high school rules or referees. The rules are from another planet and some high school referees seem to have joined the migration.

Under the Laws of the Game, the rules the world plays by, the referee has no authority to punish players for purely technical offenses such as removing their shirts that occur AFTER the final whistle. (Look at all the international and professional games where this occurs on a regular basis.) Violent behavior or related actions, yes, but not removing the shirt. Please note, however, that if time had not actually run out when the disrobing and chasing occurred, then the referee was correct. On the other hand, if the game was truly over, then you should take this matter to the AD of the school for him or her to resolve.


My GU15 team played in a tournament this weekend with 30 minute halves. First off the referee declared he was starting his watch before either team was on the field. My team took the field, and the other team took an additional minute and a half to enter the field in which I assume the referee was still continuing the time. I had started my watch when the referee initially declared he had started time. 28 minutes into the game and my player is fouled just outside the 18-yard box. I call a sub and get another player on the field. My player takes position to have a shot on the free kick and the referee blows for halftime before the kick is taken and before he blows the whistle to allow my player to take the shot, and at 29 minutes. Is this allowed, from what I understand, the ball must be in play to call a game or halftime. The play was dead in result to the free kick. Was the referee right to be able to call for halftime?

Answer (May 30, 2013):
There are a number of possibilities in this situation, but I shall list only the possibility most flattering to the referee:
Because they have scheduled too great a number of games on too few fields–and do not want to engage more referees or more fields, both of which would cost more money–many tournaments instruct the referee to start the game precisely at the time specified in the tournament program and to end the game in time for the field to be cleared immediately for the next game. The referee is allowed no flexibility in the timing. You will likely find this in the small print of the tournament rules.

In addition, no matter what the tournament rules may be, referees should NEVER take away a scoring opportunity from any team. That should be a no-brainer.


My son plays u9 soccer and has been sliding as an offensive move to shoot the ball. They keep saying that he is slide tackling…which I believe is a defensive move..can you help me determine the difference, so the organization can discuss what is permitted. I think there is some confusion between the two.

Answer (May 13, 2012):
Unless there is some well-intentioned but totally unauthorized (and unfounded in Law) prohibition on slide tackling in the rules of the competition in which your son plays, there is absolutely no rule that a player cannot slide tackle for the ball. The concern in the Laws of the Game (the rules the world plays by) is that all play shall be fair and safe. As long as the sliding tackle is carried out safely, with no danger to the opponent, then it is not illegal.

As to sliding to shoot the ball, it is hard to imagine how anyone would consider that to be illegal. In order for a play to be called a foul, it must have been committed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.

The referee must judge whether the tackle of an opponent is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized.

“Careless” indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play. It does not include any clearly accidental contact.

“Reckless” means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage.

“Involving excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.


Question Regarding Substitutions at the U13 Level: Our league plays under this local rule, “The XXXXXX Soccer Association follows FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS. The League operates in accordance with the policies of YYYYY State. All coaches and players shall become thoroughly familiar with the FIFA laws of the game as modified for Youth by the USSF and USYS.

In addition to the substitution rules as modified for Youth, a coach has the right to request to substitute a player who has received a yellow card at the time the card is given and 1 for 1 substitution are allowed for an injured player coming off the field.”

Situation is as follows: Team A with a 1 goal lead, late in the game.

Team A repeatedly substitutes during every stoppage of play in the final 10 minutes of play. With approximately 2 minutes of regular time remaining another substitution is made and the referee clearly watches his game clock, and then announces after the substitution, that 1 minute of “stoppage time” will be added. Next stoppage, with under a minute remaining in regular time, another substitution is requested and denied by the referee. In the added time, another stoppage occurs with the same request and it is also denied.

Naturally, Team B scores in the final seconds of stoppage time to draw the match. There is naturally now some controversy as to the referee’s decision to disallow the substitutions. The question is that it appears that the substitutions were within the laws of the game and advice to referees regarding substitutions should have granted the substitutions, however the unlimited substitution clause in the USYS gives the referee an apparent decision point contrary to the advice? In addition, the referee felt that the substitutions were often “not prepared”, although they were all field players and not ever the GK.

Rule 302. SUBSTITUTIONS Section 1. Except as provided by USYSA or its State Associations, substitutions shall be unlimited except where specified otherwise in the rules and regulations for a special competition.

Section 2. Substitutions may be made, with the consent of the referee, at any stoppage in play.

Could you please provide an opinion? This is not an isolated incident as subs are frequently denied in the final minutes of either half, however, it only creates controversy when seemingly, possibly affected the outcome. (would you expect a question otherwise? 🙂

My answer (April 18, 2012):
Disclaimer: I am no longer allowed to prepare and publish items as officially approved by the U. S. Soccer Federation, so this answer will have to do. It is totally correct under the Laws of the Game and common practice in the United States and the rest of the world.

The referee, while clearly having the best intentions in trying to prevent further gamesmanship by Team A, has misapplied the Laws of the Game.

Except for situations in which the substitution is requested just as the ball is ready to be put into play, referees may not ignore or deny permission for a legal substitution that is properly requested. Although Law 3 requires that the referee be “informed before any proposed substitution is made,” this does not mean that the referee can deny permission for any reason other than to ensure that the substitution conforms to the Law. Even if it seems that the purpose is to waste time, the referee cannot deny the request, but should exercise the power granted in Law 7 to add time lost through “any other cause.” Rules of those competitions that permit multiple substitutions and re-entries can sometimes lead to confusion.

Unless the rules of the competition specifically forbid adding time for such gamesmanship or any other reason, the referee should follow the guidance in Law 7 for adding time.


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.


I was attending the Association Cup Quarter Finals yesterday and in the pregame to officials, our State Youth Referee Administrator instructed us that he better not catch us using colored whistles. He further elaborated that only black whistles are to be used and if he any of the referee were to use anything but BLACK whistles we would not be working for him again. I simply have two questions. One is, does USSF support such comments and secondly does the State association or in this case, SYRA has the power to instruct the referees with this sort of demands?

USSF answer (January 16, 2012):

The Federation has no requirement that whistles be of any particular color; however, the traditional color for plastic whistles used by referees is black. Your SYRA would have a hard time enforcing such a requirement for referees who use metal whistles. However, at an independently-sponsored tournament the director could insist on this.


I have two questions:
1. I whistled once at a poor call by a referee. A simple whistle. No words were spoken. At the half, the referee came over to the entire group of parents on our side of the field and said if he heard a whistle again, he would throw all of the parents out of the game. Is this permissible/legal under the rules? The whistle did not sound anything like the referee’s whistle.

2. A player on the opposing team was purposely hurting my son and others on our team by spiking them and knocking them off of their feet to the ground with his shoulder. The coach seemed to be encouraging this and the referee would do nothing about it. If I video this behavior taking place, who can I report it to? I was seriously concerned that my son was going to be hurt. He was 12 years old playing on a varsity team with 17 and 18 year olds. Our coach would do nothing, the opposing coach did nothing and the referees did nothing.

What should I have done?

USSF answer (January 3, 2012):
First of all, we are not authorized to answer questions involving high school rules. That is the job of a high school rules interpreter. We answer only questions based on the Laws of the Game, the rules the world plays by.

1. If this game had been played under the Laws of the Game (and not including any special rules of the particular competition), then the answer is no, the referee cannot clear the spectators out of the area of the field. That does not mean that spectators at a soccer match are allowed and enabled to harass the officials. A referee can require proper behavior from the sidelines if it is interfering with his/her authority and/or affecting play unfairly. If proper behavior does not occur, the referee can suspend or terminate the match (after taking appropriate measures to have team officials or competition authority representatives resolve the issue before having to take such stringent measures).

2. There is no such foul as “spiking,” so we are uncertain what you mean. A player is allowed to charge his opponents fairly — generally shoulder to shoulder, with both players having at least one foot on the ground and without using excessive force. The use of excessive force (in the opinion of the referee) should result in the sending-off of the guilty player, but that decision is up to the referee, not the parents or other spectators. A younger player and his parents take their chances when the youngster plays with teammates and opponents who are much larger and stronger. The referee will certainly give the smaller player as much protection as the other players, but he is not entitled to special consideration. It would seem that the referee and the coaches knew what they were doing.

As to “reporting” player behavior, if the referee and both coaches were not concerned, it would seem unlikely that the competition authority (the league, etc.) would act.


I have a U12 Girl who is telling me that she cannot remove her earrings due to her religion. She is a Muslim.  They are saying that Islam will not allow her to remove the earrings for any reason.

What should I tell them ?

USSF answer (October 13, 2011):
No referee should be placed in a position in which a decision on this matter must be given by the referee. This is not the job of any referee. If learned theologians can disagree on what a religion requires, and armies of adherents can take up arms to enforce to the death their particular vision of salvation, then the lone individual referee has no chance.

The competition authority (league, tournament, etc.) should be the one to decide if a player may be permitted to offer the religious exemption by applying to them with a description of the item of clothing or equipment which the player desires to wear on the field and accompanied by an explanation of how and why (and under what authority) that item is required to be worn by the player’s religion.

The competition authority should then decide to accept or reject the application. If it accepts the application, it should issue a written decision which the player, the player’s coach, or the player’s parents should have with them at each and every game in which that player wishes to participate. The referee’s sole responsibility is, based on this approved application, to inspect the item described in the approval to determine if it is safe both at the start of play and throughout play.

The competition authority has no business encroaching on the referee’s responsibility for safety, and the referee has no business making any decision about religious doctrine.


state association has a issued a memo stating that only players,and coaches on the roster may be in the bench area. situation a spectator places a seat between the players bench,and the goal line on the players side of the field before the match starts. This spectator is asked three times by center official to move,spectator refuses. spectator asks if he doesn’t move what will happen, official responds that they will be asked to leave. spectator responds that isn’t permissible,as it is in a public park. what is the rule?

USSF answer (September 14, 2011):
In a case like this, the referee should work through any league/tournament representative on site or, if none, through one or both coaches, with their incentive being that the match is suspended until the spectator leaves in compliance with the competition authority’s rules and the match will be terminated if compliance is not achieved within a reasonable period of time.


This is not a situation I have encountered, but came to mind when reading “Subbing the Referee” (March 8, 2011). My question relates to a different hypothetical, inspired by the answer given.

It has been established that a CR cannot be subbed out and should remain the CR throughout the match. It was established elsewhere that a CR who is injured and cannot continue may be replaced by the fourth official or senior AR. But what if a CR, for whatever reason, does not wish to continue, but sees no cause to suspend, abandon, or terminate the match? Sounds weird, I know, but I strained myself to think of just such a situation:

CR is working a match when his very pregnant wife (sitting at pitch-side) goes into labor. The CR is physically able to continue the match, but feels obligated to go with his wife to the hospital. The CR appoints the fourth official (4O, I call him) to continue in his stead and finish the game.

Let’s make the following assumptions:

1. We know that the Laws do not have allowances for this or any other personal matter; match officials (CR and company) are well-aware that they are expected to give the match the highest priority when they choose to accept the match, and in an ideal world, the CR might not have accepted the assignment knowing that his wife is due any minute.

2. We assume that the league director was aware of the circumstance and didn’t have any problem with it; maybe this CR was the best in the league and the director was willing to take the risk for this championship game… or something.

3. The director designated the 4O to be the CR’s first alternate in care of incapacity, pursuant to the second bullet point in this page:

In the event that the CR is able but unwilling to continue the match, or even if he just “walks off the job” as it were, can or should the 4O take over as CR? Should the match be considered abandoned and replayed with a new CR who isn’t going to put other obligations ahead of his game?

I’m split, as the incapacity clause might be invoked if the CR, due to his wife’s medical condition, is found psychologically incapable of continuing – a condition not unlike a physical incapacity. But it’s also a stretch, since the CR here is voluntarily choosing to abdicate his authority to the 4O. What would you do?

USSF answer (August 14, 2011):
We are not familiar with the term “CR,” but presume it to mean the referee.

Unless the game involves only a single referee, with no neutral assistant referees or fourth official, your citation from the Notes at the end of the Laws of the Game regarding who will succeed the referee who must leave the game for any reason before the game has been completed is correct. The competition authority, i.e., the people who make the rules for the competition, determine which match official will take over if the referee has to relinquish control of the match. The reason for the departure is immaterial; if the referee must leave, whether for physical or mental health or for any other legitimate reason, then he or she must be replaced by designated match official.

If the game is officiated by that single referee mentioned in the previous paragraph, then the game must be terminated and a full report sent to the appropriate authorities.

We certainly hope that no referee would leave a match simply because of “other obligations” — beyond the pregnant wife or seriously-ill relative/partner. To do so would be a violation of the first three points of the referee Code of Ethics (see below), for which the referee could be severely punished by the refereeing authorities.

Code of Ethics for Referees
(1) I will always maintain the utmost respect for the game of soccer.
(2) I will conduct myself honorably at all times and maintain the dignity of my position.
(3) I will always honor an assignment or any other contractual obligation.

The only possible problem that might arise if the referee leaves is choosing the correct restart when the game is halted for referee departure. If it was for any reason not stated otherwise in the Laws of the Game, it would be a dropped ball.