In looking at the most recent posting under Ask a Referee, there was a question regarding unlimited substitution.

It was pointed out that the Laws of the Game allow this for U16 and younger games, but no older.

As far as I am aware this is completely ignored in U17,18 and 19 play throughout the US , including the McGuire (National) Cup turnament. It is also true of many adult amateur leagues. This would appear to be a clear violation of the Laws of the Game.

Does USSF, USYSA and/or AYSO have an exemption from FIFA to allow unlimited substitution at U17 and older age groups? Of course, FIFA does allow it in Girls (Womens) matches.

On a related note, if a USYSA State Association asks or requires a league to violate the Laws of the Game (e .g., today it’s using Kick Ins or not calling Offside in the youngest age groups, but tomorrow it may be using a Rugby ball …) how should the league handle this (Assuming the league simply wishes to follow the Laws of the Game)? If there are allowed exceptions, where are they published?

USSF answer (January 18, 2010):

The Laws of the Game permit the following modifications, as stated in the Notes on the Laws of the Game:

Subject to the agreement of the member association concerned and provided the principles of these Laws are maintained, the Laws may be modified in their application for matches for players of under 16 years of age, for women footballers, for veteran footballers (over 35 years of age) and for players with disabilities.
Any or all of the following modifications are permissible:
* size of the field of play
* size, weight and material of the ball
* width between the goalposts and height of the crossbar from the ground
* duration of the periods of play
* substitutions
Further modifications are only allowed with the consent of the International Football Association Board.

In addition, the referee must be aware of what to do if/when he or she encounters a local rule exception which appears not to be consistent with the Laws of the Game (in an affiliated match). Check with your local referee authorities about the rules of competition for all leagues and other competitions in which you referee. Forewarned is forearmed.

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