Offside — U-10 Version

(Originally published on 7/20/17, “Operation Restore”)

Esther, a U-12 and under fan, asks:

I was watching a U10 game.  R9, a Red forward, had been hanging out offsides. The ball got kicked up the field towards the goal Red was attacking and it passed R9. He ran after it and kicked it. The ref called him offsides. My question is this: was he offsides because he was offsides before the ball passed him or was he onsides because he didn’t touch the ball until after it passed him? Note: the other team’s defenders weren’t involved–they weren’t even on their side of the field!

Answer

We are sighing (metaphorically) as we face once again a question regarding Law 11 (Offside) which we can’t really answer because crucial information is missing.  Why is this so?  It’s not because someone is deliberately withholding it but, rather, because (we’re guessing here but guessing based on a lot of experience) so many people don’t know what “offsides” is and therefore don’t know what the Referee has to know in order to make the correct call.

Pardon us if we vent just a little bit more.  There is no such thing as “offside” — indeed, there is no way using proper English that the word “offsides” would ever be correct (unless we were talking about several of them).  Moreover, in the offered scenario above, the word (plus it’s kissing cousin, “onsides”)  was used five times and in each case it is arguable as to which of the two standard meanings was intended.  So, let’s start:

  • Offside Principle #1: There is no such thing as “offside” unless the word is paired with one of two other words — position or violation.
  • Offside Principle #2: An “offside position” is a condition an attacker acquires by being in a certain place at a certain time.
  • Offside Principle #3: An “offside offense” is a violation of the Law and, in most cases, is punished by stopping play and giving the opposing team an indirect free kick.
  • Offside Principle #4: Every offside offense requires being in an offside position but being in an offside position is not by itself an offense.  In logic, this is can be stated as “An offside position is a necessary but not sufficient condition for an offside offense.”

One more thing before we move on to the substance of the question.  Most U-10 recreational soccer teams (boys or girls) use what are called “small-sided” soccer rules rather than the “full blown” Laws of the Game and these “small sided” rules were set up years ago by the US Youth Soccer organization affiliated with US Soccer.  Those rules do not include Law 11.  In brief, therefore, we were confused right at the very start when the scenario implicitly declared they were two U-10 teams which were apparently using “offside” in their game.  Certainly, this is possible because many local organizations have their own special local rules that don’t always follow what the national or state soccer organizations say they should.  Given this is is apparently the case here, it becomes impossible to guess what those rules may be since, technically, they shouldn’t be there at all.

Accordingly, the only thing we can do is to discuss the scenario as though the teams involved were using Law 11 exactly, without any special local rules.

R9 had every right to be where he was (although it must be noted that Law 11 was intended to be a specific deterrent to “hanging out offsides”) — which we are going to translate as “offside position” because that is the only meaning it could have at this point.  This makes the further assumption that the designation of “offside position” was used in the meaning of Law 11 that R9 was past the midfield line, past the ball, and past the second-to-last defender while one or more of his teammates had possession of the ball.  We assume that, when the ball was kicked “up the field,” it was kicked by a teammate of R9.  When R9 “ran after it and kicked it,” he committed an offside offense (becoming involved in active play by interfering with play — kicking the ball — while in an offside position).  He was, therefore, correctly and appropriately called for this offside offense.

R9’s offside position was created the moment his teammate kicked the ball while he occupied the position we described above.  He kept the offside position through anything and everything that happened between the time his teammate kicked the ball until he committed the offside offense … which is when play was stopped by the referee’s correct decision. No other issues were involved.  A9 could have not run after the ball and, though still in an offside position, would not have committed an offside offense.  A9 could even have started running after the ball and still not have committed an offside offense so long as he did not touch the ball or interfere with an opponent.

 

Sorting Out Injury Restarts

(Originally published on 7/7/17, “Operation Restore”)

Adam, a U12 and Under coach, asks:

My question is, if my team (U8 players) kicks the ball and one player on the other team stops it with his face and gets injured, is that team then rewarded with a free kick in the penalty area?  Or would it be a drop ball or my team’s ball?

Answer

Let’s at least take a moment of concern for the poor opponent who stopped a ball with his face!

OK, now let’s see if we can sort this out.  First of all, teams don’t kick a ball, individual players do.  Second, these individual players can kick the ball during play or at a restart.  Finally, these individual players kicking balls may, on any given kick and regardless of whether it occurs during play or a restart, strike the face of an opponent with evil intent (i.e., on purpose) or by accident.  Getting things down to this level helps us work out the answer.

If the kick occurred during play and the stoppage-by-face was not intentional, then play must be stopped for the injury and, under the Laws of the Game, once things have settled down, the restart must be a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped (note: special rules apply if that location happens to be in a team’s goal area). Same scenario but the kick that started it all was on a restart, then everything stays the same assuming that, depending on the restart, the ball was in play by the time the stoppage-by-face occurred.

If the ball didn’t make it into play (and, offhand, we think that the goal kick is probably the only restart in which this might or could be an issue), then play must be stopped and, after the dust settles, retake the original restart.

Ah, but now, if the kick (and this would apply as well to a throw-in) was directed at the face of an opponent, then play must still be stopped quickly but, in this case, the stoppage is not “for the injury” but for the offense (kicking).  Further, given the violent way it occurred and after the higher priority matters related to the injury are taken care of, a red card should be shown for violent conduct (not “serious foul play” because it didn’t happen while competing for the ball) — unless this game is being played under standard small-sided rules for U-8 players, in which case your duty is to explain what a bad thing was done while you escort the miscreant off the field.  Because “kicking an opponent” is a Law 12 offense, the restart is a direct free kick for the opposing team taken from the location of the opponent whose face stopped the ball (penalty kicks are not allowed for U-8 games).

As above, if the kick leading to the evilly intentional stoppage-by-face result was on a restart and the ball had not gone into play by the time of the face smashing, then retake the original restart but don’t forget the card if it is allowed or at least the removal of the player by some means.

By the way, under no circumstances and by no stretch of the imagination could your team, even theoretically, ever “get the ball” if it was one of your players that kicked the ball in the first place (unless it was on a restart by your team and the ball was not in play by the time your player smashed an opponent’s face with the ball).

Timewasting and Goalkeepers

Andrea, a parent of HS/College age players, asks:

Can a keeper waste time by falling on a pass back every time?

Answer

Yes … and no.  First of all, we are assuming that, when you use the term “pass back,” you are referring to a situation in which a teammate kicks the ball to her goalkeeper such that, if the goalkeeper were to pick up the ball, she would be guilty of an indirect free kick offense.  We are also assuming you know that the goalkeeper is allowed to play the ball in any otherwise legal way (i.e., with feet, head, torso, knees, etc., just not with the hands).

So, yes, it is entirely legal for the goalkeeper to “fall on the ball” as a means of taking possession.  It is not “wasting time” any more than would catching the ball in the absence of the “pass back” problem.  Unless you are a goalkeeper and have tried to do this, however, you may not appreciate how difficult it would be for her to recover from this “falling on the ball” without at least accidentally, if not instinctively, touching the ball with one or both of her hands.

On the other hand, the goalkeeper is subject to the same constraints that any other player would encounter should she “fall on the ball” during play.  In “Refereeing 101,” soon-to-be new officials are taught that a player on the ground covering the ball or with the ball trapped between the legs is a flashpoint problem because the first instinct of opponents is to attempt to play the ball and do not always recognize that there is likely no safe way to do this.  Goalkeepers may think they can rely on the protection normally provided by the Law’s requirement that no opponent can legally attempt to challenge for the ball in the goalkeeper’s possession, forgetting that this applies only to having hand possession, which in this case the goalkeeper cannot legally have.

This particular flashpoint problem is normally resolved by allowing a reasonable amount of time for the goalkeeper (or any other player similarly situated) to safely extricate herself from the situation and thus free up the ball to be safely competed for (it is not illegal for the goalkeeper, or any other player who is in this difficult situation, to attempt to get out of this problem by playing the ball safely while on the ground).  Any opponent who, ignoring this, attempts immediately to tackle or kick the ball is committing a dangerous play offense and, if there is actual contact by the opponent’s foot with the downed goalkeeper, the opponent would be guilty of a direct free kick foul (kicking) with the added possibility of the Referee deciding that the opponent was being reckless and thus earning a caution.  On the other hand, if the goalkeeper does not make a reasonable attempt to get up and thus extends unfairly the inability of any opponent to safely challenge for the ball (which may have been the intention of the goalkeeper all along), then it is the goalkeeper who could be charged with a dangerous play offense.  All of this is affected significantly by the age and experience of the players — meaning that the younger the players the quicker the referee must make the decision as to who is creating the danger.

Restart Management

Hyung, a referee of U12 players, asks:

It’s not clear to me how to manage restarts for free kicks when the attacking team doesn’t know the procedure/options (e.g., ceremonial vs quick ).  Should the attacking team always initiate asking the Referee for a ceremonial restart? What if they don’t ask?  Is it the Referee’s duty to ask the attacking team?  A few seconds pass and it’s obvious the attacking team will not take the free kick quickly.  Also, they didn’t request enforcing the minimum distance (10 yds).  Is it at this point the Referee should take charge and do the free kick ceremonially?  If the attacking team doesn’t ask for 10, is 5 yds acceptable? Is this in the rules? Is it best for the Referee to lead in this confusing situation and restart ceremonially?

Answer

You have some good questions here, all of them pertaining to issues of correct or preferred mechanics and procedures but not so much matters of Law.  In fact, the term “ceremonial restart” is not found anywhere in the Laws of the Game — it is entirely a matter of tradition and recommended procedures.  In short, you will not find answers to any of your questions except in publications which, mostly unofficially, attempt to explain the art of refereeing.

We can, however, start with some fundamental principles and work from there.  First, the core definition of a free kick (Law 13) is a restart given to a team because the opponents have violated the Law in some way and the Referee has stopped play for it.  It is called a “free” kick because the team awarded this restart must be given the opportunity to put the ball back into play without hindrance or interference (i.e., freely).  To this end, all opponents are required by Law to retire (move away) at least ten yards from the location of the free kick in every direction.  This is a legal burden placed on the shoulders of every opponent and the Referee’s job is to punish any opponent who fails to do so (before, during, or after the kick).  In a perfect world, what should happen is that, as soon as the Referee whistles for a stoppage and signals a free kick restart (indirect or direct), all opponents hurriedly move at least ten yards away in the spirit of sporting behavior and the attacking team is able to take its free kick in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately, this expectation is rather akin to also asking players who commit an offense to publicly admit their error, apologize to the opposing team, hand the ball over to them, and clear a path between the kick and the defending team’s goal.  Needless to say, this is not what happens in our imperfect world.  What usually occurs, depending on the circumstances of the stoppage, the temperature of the game, what’s at stake, and simple hormonal imbalances, is that some opponents will try to interfere — by not moving at all, by standing near the ball, by kicking the ball away, by blocking the likely path of the kick so as to diminish the attacking team’s ability to recover from their opponent’s commission of a violation, and other tactics limited only by the inventiveness of wily soccer players trying to gain an advantage at almost any cost.

All of this is summarized briefly in the general principle that the Referee’s obligation in these cases is to allow, expect, and protect as much as possible the taking of the quick free kick.  Why?  Because a quick free kick (a) gets play moving again — usually a good thing, (b) restores as much as possible the condition of the harmed team prior to the offense, and (d) serves as a better deterrent to future illegal acts.  The antithesis of the “quick restart” is the “ceremonial restart.” (more…)

Goalkeeper Safety

Tabithia, a parent of a U12 player, asks:

My son is a goalie and like most of the kids he plays pretty rough.  At his last game I noticed that the attacking team would continue to kick the ball once he had his hands on it in an attempt to kick it out of his hands. He nearly got kicked in the face. Is this legal?

Answer

First, at the U12 recreational level of play, no one is supposed to play “pretty rough” — it is not expected and it should not be condoned with the argument that it’s simply playing “like most of the kids.”  If this is the case, it is the fault of everyone involved in the match — the parents, the league, the coaches, and the referees.

Second, what you describe is illegal at all levels of play, from little kids all the way up to the professionals and international players.  The Law requires that, once the goalkeeper has taken hand control of the ball, all challenges against the goalkeeper must stop and may not even be attempted, much less performed, so long as that control continues.  There are no maybes here.  In fact, the younger the players involved in the match, the more tightly this rule must be enforced.

Having the ball controlled by hand means that the goalkeeper is holding the ball with one or both hands or is holding the ball against any part of his body or against the ground or a goalpost.   Being “in control of the ball” also includes the goalkeeper bouncing the ball on the ground or tossing it up in the air and catching it or tossing it even slightly in the process of preparing to punt the ball. During this entire time, no opponent can challenge the goalkeeper in any way.  “Cannot challenge” means there cannot be any attempt to cause the goalkeeper to lose control, whether by charging or tackling, much less by kicking the ball which is, by itself, very dangerous.  If no contact is made with the goalkeeper, this is at least a dangerous play and the goalkeeper’s team would get an indirect free kick where the action occurred.  If there was any contact with the goalkeeper, it would be a kicking foul and at least a caution, if not a red card, should be shown, followed by a direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team.

Referees must respond quickly and firmly to any illegal contact or attempted contact by an opponent against a goalkeeper who has hand control of the ball.   At the U12 age level, we would expand that to cover even a situation where the goalkeeper is about to take hand control of the ball (remember, the game at this level is all about safety because the players are neither skilled nor experienced).

A soccer ball is not a golf ball and a goalkeeper should not be seen as a tee.

CAN ‘CHARGING’ BE ‘EXCESSIVE FORCE’?

Question:
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.

Thanks!

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.

GOAL KICKS IN U8 SOCCER

Question:
My child plays U8 soccer. There is no goal box, only a penalty area. When taking a goal kick, the ref insists the ball sit on the corner of the penalty area. The offense of a team we played either stood immediately in front of or rushed the ball while it was being kicked. For larger fields, the offense has to stay back because of the goal box being inside the penalty box. since they’re one in the same for us, can the offense stand immediately in front of the ball?

Answer (May 9, 2012):
According to USYS Rules for U8, there is no penalty area in U8 soccer; they use only a goal area, which has two lines drawn at right angles to the goal line three (3) yards from the inside each goalpost. These lines extend into the field of play for a distance of three (3) yards and are joined by a line drawn parallel with the goal line. The area bounded by these lines and the goal line is the goal area. The opponents must remain outside the goal area and at least four (4) yards from the ball until it is in play. There is absolutely no requirement that the kick must be taken from one of the corners of the goal area, just as there is no such requirement in adult soccer

Addendum:
One of our readers, Greg Brooks, supplied this useful information:

I thought I’d chime in on the U-8 question posted today. In a league
which I officiate, they allow the U-8 players to take goal kicks from
the edge of the penalty area instead of the goal box. I believe the
required minimum distance is 8 yards, so that should apply to those
goal kicks in such U-8 games, correct? I’ve never had a problem with
failure to maintain the required distance, but this gives me something
to think about.

AR POSITIONING; CHANTS & DANCING; “WINNER’S TUNNEL”

Question:
Quick positional question. If you are AR on a game, where is the best place to line up for judgement of offside? dead even with the last defender,or even with the back heel of the last defender to see across the plane of their back. second, u15 post match the winning team goes back onto the field faces their fans sideline,lines up performs a chant,with or without choreographed movements. unsporting behavior? same question post match in youth games,and parents coming on field post match,and forming a “winners tunnel” for team to run through.

USSF answer (November 29, 2011):
1. The AR should be level with the second-last defender. If you are confused about the status of the goalkeeper, just remember that the ‘keeper is a defender, a member of the same team as the field players. If you are confused about whether to line up with the second-last defender’s back heel versus his torso or kneecap or forehead, you need to review the USSF publication “Guide to Procedure for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”

2. The game is over. As long as nothing derogatory is said about the other team, who cares?

3. Such things are rather juvenile, but who cares; the game is over.

RETAKING THE THROW-IN AT U8 LEVEL

Question:
In a U8 game, players get to redo a throw in if there is an infraction. This player lifted his foot the first time and was given a second chance. On the second chance, the ball never came in. Does he get a THIRD chance or does the other team get the throw in?

USSF answer (May 18, 2011):
According to the USYS U8 small-sided rules, this is the procedure:
Law 15 The Throw-In: some U8 players do not yet have the eye-hand coordination to execute a throw-in to the letter of the law. However, some U8 players have sufficient eye-hand coordination to attempt the throw-in. One ‘do- over’ per thrower should be the normal response if the throw-in is incorrect. The adult officiating the match should explain to the child how to execute the throw-in correctly.

LENGTH OF PLAY IN U8 SOCCER

Question:
for u8 what is the correct timing ?

USSF answer (May 13, 2011):
According to the US Youth Soccer rules for small-sided U8 soccer:

Law 7 – The Duration of the Match: The match shall be divided into four (4) equal, twelve (12) minute quarters. There shall be a two (2) minute break between quarters one and two and another two (2) minute break between quarters three and four. There shall be a half-time interval of five (5) minutes.