I was refereeing a U9 Boys game and the ball was in the penalty area. One defender decided to go around the back of the goal (leaving the field of play during play) to go to the other side of the field (rather than running across the field).

Is this a cautionable offense? During the game, I waited until the next stoppage and just told the players that they couldn’t go behind the goal and run across. It was U9, so I thought a simple explanation/warning would suffice.

However, I was reading the ATR and it said that “if a player in possession of or contesting for the ball passes over the touch line or the goal line without the ball to beat an opponent, he or she is not considered to have left the field of play without the permission of the referee.”

So, now I am wondering if my “warning” was correct. The player didn’t really leave the field to commit trickery or force an offside call or anything, but just to beat an opponent (or 3). I always thought that players could go off for a second or two during the course of play, and this seemed to be an extreme. Now I’m not 100% sure. I just wanted to do a quick “double check” here.

USSF answer (June 10, 2008):
The intent of the Law is that players remain on the field while the game is underway. Avoiding an opponent by running outside the field and around the goal is inventive, but would not qualify within the Spirit of the Game. The player should be cautioned for deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission.

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