In the league I referee in, a yellow card sends the player off the field temporarily. Then the coach can sub him in at the next substitution opportunity. My question is, if the goal keeper commits a cautionable foul and is sent off with a yellow card while the other team is awarded a penalty kick, can there be anyone defending the net for the kick?

USSF answer (September 19, 2008):
We are less concerned about your question than about the reasons that occasion it. Before answering your question directly, please allow us to state that the league in which you referee may be operating in contravention of a FIFA directive forbidding such “temporary expulsion.” This may also put the league in contravention of the stated policies of the U. S. Soccer Federation. As we mention often, if the referee accepts an assignment in a competition that uses rules that contravene the Laws of the Game, he or she must follow those rules; however, we recommend against taking such assignments.

In 2002, a directive from the International F. A. Board stated:

The Board strongly supports FIFA’s concern that some national associations continue to use temporary expulsions in lower leagues. The Board confirmed in the strongest terms that this procedure must cease immediately, otherwise disciplinary sanctions will be applied against the offending federation.

In 2002 we informed all USSF referees: The referee must be aware that leagues or other competitions which use the “hothead” rule, temporarily expelling players for whatever reason, are not operating with the authorization of the United States Soccer Federation. The U. S. Soccer Federation has no power to authorize modifications to the Laws that are not permitted by FIFA. This is a FIFA directive that must be followed by members of FIFA. There is less concern over this issue in recreational-level youth and amateur leagues, but it can certainly not be permitted in competitive-level youth and amateur competition. A referee who takes assignments in higher-level competitions that require temporary expulsions does so knowing that he will not be following the guidance of the Federation and may jeopardize his standing within the Federation.

The International F. A. Board reaffirmed in 2003 its instructions that no rules permitting temporary expulsion (being forced to play short for an infringement of the Laws) may be used. Here is an excerpt from USSF Memorandum 2003:

The Board re-affirmed the decision taken at its last meeting that the temporary expulsion of players is not permitted at any level of football.
USSF Advice to Referees: This instruction, which was first discussed in Memorandum 2002, is not subject to implementation by the referee: it is a matter for the competition authority. “Temporary expulsion” in this context refers to a rule purporting to require that a player leave the field temporarily under certain conditions (e.g., having received a caution – a so-called “cooling off” period) and does not include situations in which a player must correct illegal equipment or bleeding.

The USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” tells referees (in Advice 5.17):

There can be no “temporary expulsion” of players who have been cautioned, nor may teams be forced to substitute for a player who has been cautioned.


And the answer to your question: If a goalkeeper has been termporarily removed from the field in compliance with the rules of the competition, there must still be a goalkeeper on the team. Another player must assume that role temporarily, but must first don the correct equipment. When the goalkeeper is ready to return to the field, he or she must have the referee’s permission to do so and must be in full uniform.

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