I observed an interesting situation last weekend. At the start of the second half, the ref counted players and somehow missed the 12th on Team B. Team A kicks off and immediately loses the ball. Team B takes it in and scores in the first few seconds. To the ref’s credit, he senses something is amiss and begins to count players. Team A’s coach picks up on this and and starts screaming “No goal! Too many players!” The ref goes to both coaches and says something. He then waves off the goal and restarts the second half. We found out later he told the coaches his watch had not started so he just restarted the 2nd half, disallowing the goal. Interesting way to solve a problem, but is it correct?

USSF answer (April 30, 2007):
A very creative solution, but, despite demonstrating the referee’s ability to think outside the box, it was not quite correct.

We supplied this answer last December. It is still valid:
USSF answer (December 12, 2006):
In all cases the extra player is removed and cautioned (unless an outside agent) for unsporting behavior.

If the extra player is discovered only after the ball has been kicked off, the goal counts. The game is restarted in accordance with the Law–i. e., if it went out of play, the restart is a throw-in, corner kick, goal kick, or free kick, depending on the reason the ball was out of play. If the referee stopped play, it is an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when the referee stopped play.

If the extra player is discovered BEFORE the kick-off, the goal is canceled only if the extra player was on the scoring team or if the extra person was an outside agent who, in the opinion of the referee, did not in any way interfere with play or any player. The restart is determined by who the extra “player” was. If it was an outside agent–not a player or a substitute or substituted player–the restart is a dropped ball at the top of the defending team’s goal area. If it was a player who had left the game with the referee’s permission but re-entered without permission , the restart is an indirect free kick for the defending team, to be taken from within their goal area. If it was a substitute who had entered without the referee’s permission, the restart is an indirect free kick to be taken from the defending team’s goal area.


How does USSF look at referees whom do not give signals on throw-in, corner kicks and goal kicks but verbalize their decisions? As an AR, I mirrored what the referee was verbalizing but, I simply like to know the proper protocol.

USSF answer (April 30, 2007):
The point of signals is to let everyone involved in the game know what is happening (players, ARs, team officials, etc.), not just those within earshot. Just as with the advantage signal needing to be as public as blowing the whistle, simply verbalizing possession for a TI, GK, or CK (even if understood perfectly by the players in the immediate vicinity) may not be enough for others who need the same information but who are farther away. Unless one’s voice is sufficiently stentorian to be heard around the entire field, visual signals are needed.


There has been a great deal of debate on some web forums regarding the Red Bull New York v. Houston Dynamo game last Saturday. (4/21/07)From the wing, a player crossed the ball square into the area clearly on target to 2, unmarked, wide open strikers about 7-8 yards from goal. A player on Houston jumped up, while in the area, and grabbed the ball deliberately with 2 hands fouling up a certain goal scoring opportunity.

The debate has been whether or not he should have seen red, under UEFA standards he easily could have been, according to my understanding of USSF rules, he didn’t meet all of the so called “4 D’s” since the cross was definitively heading towards goal but rather square to goal.

Is this a proper reading of USSF standards or could the Houston player, in fact, have been shown red?

USSF answer (April 30, 2007):
We did not see the game and cannot tell from your description whether or not the conditions for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, and thus for sending off the evildoer, were met.

There is already a send-off offense for deliberate handling, number 4 under the seven send-off offenses: denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area). It does not require any particular alignment of players for either team, but simply the occurrence of the offense.

In your description of the incident, you appear to be applying criteria which are involved in a red card for offense #5, when in fact what occurred was offense #4. The “4 Ds” memo is specific in its terms — it is talking about offense #5 in connection with these conditions. The general rule of thumb in #4 violations is that the red card is justified only if (in the opinion of the referee), but for the handling offense (in this case, by the goalkeeper outside his PA), the ball would have gone into the net.

In addition, the terms of the USSF position paper of September 16, 2002, on “Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity Denied (The 4 Ds)” do not include any reason for a gratuitous caution for unsporting behavior where it is not merited. Nor is this true of any other document dealing with the correct application of the Laws of the Game.

The defender should have been cautioned for unsporting behavior (commission of a tactical foul that broke up attacking play), not for handling to prevent a goal, and play restarted with a penalty kick as the offense occurred inside the defender’s penalty area.

Please, let common sense prevail in the web fora.


The local youth league requires players that are sitting out a game due to either a red card or accumulation of yellow cards, be present at the game for the sit-out to count. This weekend I was the center ref for a U-19 boys game, and one of the teams had a player serving a sit-out. Towards the end of the game, this player starting yelling foul and abusive language at an opponent. The AR on that side of the field attempted to diffuse the situation, but was unable to get the player to shut-up. During the next stoppage of play, the AR got my attention, informed me of what happened, and I then issued a red card to this player, and made him leave the area.My question is, since this player in not eligible to participate, is he still considered a substitute? In other words, can I still show him a red card? It is more a technique question, as I can expel anyone from the team area for improper behavior, but I can only show a card to a player or substitute. If I didn’t follow the proper procedure, what would the proper procedure be?

USSF answer (April 30, 2007):
The fact that the player was present at the game should have been enough to satisfy the league’s requirement. You may be sure that the league will pay special attention to a player who does not take to heart the lesson they were trying to teach.

If the player is required to be present, even in a non-playing role, he is considered to be a part of the team, a quasi-team official for lack of any other convenient term. It would not be proper to show this person a card, but as a team official he would be expelled for irresponsible behavior. The referee must provide full details in the match report.

Referees should not be held responsible for enforcing league-imposed punishment. That is a matter for the league to police.


Where would I find a printed citation which requires a referee to follow the administrative rules of the organization. association, tournament etc which employees him? This question is not intended to apply to acceptable alterations top the Laws of the game as allowed by FIFA.This question is asked for the sole purpose of locating a citiation which would (or would not) require a referee, working an organization. association, tournament game, to only allow players who are listed on a roster which has been validated by said organization. association, tournament administrative official to participate in the match.

This is opposed to the ref just accepting a roster which was not validated for organization. association, tournament play allowing those players listed to partuicipate.

I am hoping this is not a “Law 18” answer

USSF answer (April 26, 2007):
By accepting the assignment to a game in a competition, the referee agrees to accept the rules of that competition governing play and players. Rules such as you cite are fairly common for cup and tournament play, and it would be hard to find a good argument against them.

We have included this information in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The criteria for registering players in a league and/or for determining if a player is permitted to participate in any given match are set by the competition authority and may not be modified by the referee. The competition authority may require that the referee check rosters, player passes, and similar documentation as a prerequisite for allowing a player to participate in a match. Where the validity of any player’s documentation or right to participate in the match is or becomes a matter of dispute between the two sides, with no resolution, the referee must allow the player to participate and to include all details in the match report. (An example would be the case where one team says that the opposing player has been suspended and is not eligible to play in this game, but the player’s team disputes this.)

If there is an obvious discrepancy between the player documentation and the player in question, and the referee can verify that the player and the documentation do not match one another, the player will not play. The referee will retain the documentation and forward it to the competition authority with the match report. In the absence of an obvious discrepancy or fabrication of player credentials, the issue must be decided in favor of allowing the player to participate in the match, with full details included in the match report.


I am coaching a U10 Boys team. A penalty kick was awarded to the opposing team. The referee provided the goalkeeper with proper directions for staying on the line until the kick was made. The opponent took the kick and it went wide of the goal. The goalkeeper was still standing in the middle of the goal after the ball went wide of the goal mouth. The assistant referee then signaled that the goalkeeper had left the line and the kick needed to be retaken. The kick was retaken and this time was successful. As a result of this call by the assistant referee the goalkeeper was afraid to move at all during the second kick and refused to play goalkeeper during the second half of the game. My question is this. The only things I can think of are that the goalkeeper was standing with his heels on the line. As the kick was about to be taken the goalkeeper rotated onto the balls of his feet therefore lifting his heels off of the line, or as he moved sideways his foot moved less than the length of his shoe off of the line (in other words not very far, and not intentionally forward). Should either of these situations be grounds for a retaking of the PK? Is there some kind of guidance that can be provided as to what constitutes remaining on the line and what is just ordinary movement? I know that for a throw-in, a player who lifts his heel while his toes are inside of the touch line is considered no longer having part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line, is this the same guideline to be used for a goalkeeper during a penalty kick.USSF answer (April 23, 2007):
This would appear to be what we call a BRSU (Basic Referee Screw-Up), committed in this case by the assistant referee (AR). We must admit that some ARs are a bit overzealous about flagging for supposed infringements at a penalty kick. We apologize for this likely error and hope that this team is not penalized by having such a zealous AR in its future games.

Moreover, while it is certainly a BRSU by the AR, the referee must also take blame for (1) failing to recognize that he is not obliged to accept the input from the AR and (2) failing to recognize that the keeper’s action (even if not consistent with Law 14, which I have already disputed) is entirely consistent with the flexibility which “doubtful/trifling” gives to the referee.

We are more concerned about your statement that the player who lifts the heel, yet keeps the toes on the ground, is considered to have failed to meet the requirements of Law 15. The throw-in should be considered for what it is, a way to restart the game. Only truly major infringements of the Law should be flagged by ARs or called by referees, particularly in youth games. In fact, we might go a step further (no pun intended) and say that a keeper or a thrower who simply lifts his heels is still within both the letter and the spirit of the Law. The lines involved are planes and, though the heel might not be touching the ground, it is still ON the line.

In short, there was no infringement and the goal should have been upheld by the referee.


If a player kicks the ball and during the kick his footwear gets off and flies toward the goalkeeper distracting him from catching the ball is the game stopped or continues, or if a goal is scored is it allowed?USSF answer (April 23, 2007):
We answered similar questions in January 2005 and September 2003:

As defined in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” (Advice) and clear from the perspective of the Spirit of the Game, a foul is an unfair or unsafe action committed by a player against an opponent or the opposing team, on the field of play, while the ball is in play. (Advice 12.1) Although the loss of the shoe was inadvertent and accidental, it was also careless. A careless act of striking toward an opponent is punishable by a direct free kick for the opponent’s team, taken from the spot where the object (or fist) hit (or would have hit) its target (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8). Although the shooter wanted to play the ball when he kicked it and did not hit the goalkeeper with his shoe deliberately, he has still committed a foul. Direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team from the place where the shoe struck the goalkeeper (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).

The only difference would be that in your case the shoe did not hit the goalkeeper; however the effect and the decision are be the same. The goal is not scored; restart with a direct free kick for the goalkeeper’s team from the place where the shoe would have hit the goalkeeper.


I want to get clear answer on this ruling: player A is takes a penalty kick, goalkeeper B blocks the kick and deflects it right back to player A who shot the penalty. I let the goal stand since there was a second touch on the ball. My instructors say that since the keeper doesn’t really control the ball by deflecting it, its considered a second touch same as if it would have deflected from the cross bar or post. Please clarify this because they seem to be the only ones who are argue this with me.USSF answer (April 23, 2007):
We are sure you must have misunderstood your instructors. Instructors who read the Laws of the Game are never wrong. Instructors who read the Laws would find this, right there in Law 14:

– the player taking the penalty kicks the ball forward
– he does not play the ball a second time until it has touched another player

The last time we looked in the Laws of the Game, the goalkeeper was a player and is considered “another player” under the terms of Law 14. Your decision to allow the goal was correct.


During a boys U10 game a boy continued to go after the ball, using his feet, even though he had fallen on the ground. The fallen player did not trip or impede the other player, but did still effect the ball. The ball was not in the box, but the offending player was. The referee called a penalty and awarded the other team a penalty kick. Questions: Is it a penalty for a player to play the ball if he is on the ground? If so is it a penalty punishable by a direct kick? If not, what should happen and is there anything that can be done with game already over?Finally this happened in the final minutes of a tied up game and therefore decided the outcome of the game, what should a coach of a young team do at the moment when they arenÕt sure about a call that affects the game like this?

USSF answer (April 23, 2007):
Here is what we teach ALL referees throughout the United States about playing dangerously. It comes from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.”

Playing “in a dangerous manner” can be called only if the act, in the opinion of the referee, meets three criteria: the action must be dangerous to someone (including the player committing the action), it was committed with an opponent close by, and the dangerous nature of the action caused this opponent to cease active play for the ball or to be otherwise disadvantaged by the attempt not to participate in the dangerous play. Merely committing a dangerous act is not, by itself, an offense (e.g., kicking high enough that the cleats show or attempting to play the ball while on the ground). Committing a dangerous act while an opponent is nearby is not, by itself, an offense. The act becomes an offense only when an opponent is adversely and unfairly affected, usually by the opponent ceasing to challenge for the ball in order to avoid receiving or causing injury as a direct result of the player’s act. Playing in a manner considered to be dangerous when only a teammate is nearby is not a foul. Remember that fouls may be committed only against opponents or the opposing team.

In judging a dangerous play offense, the referee must take into account the experience and skill level of the players. Opponents who are experienced and skilled may be more likely to accept the danger and play through. Younger players have neither the experience nor skill to judge the danger adequately and, in such cases, the referee should intervene on behalf of their safety. For example, playing with cleats up in a threatening or intimidating manner is more likely to be judged a dangerous play offense in youth matches, without regard to the reaction of opponents.

There is nothing illegal, by itself, about playing the ball while on the ground. It becomes the technical foul known as playing dangerously (“dangerous play”) only if the action unfairly takes away an opponent’s otherwise legal play of the ball (for players at the youth level, this definition is simplified even more as “playing in a manner considered to be dangerous to an opponent”). At minimum, this means that an opponent must be within the area of danger which the player has created.

If this is not the case (for example, the player had no opponent nearby), then there is no violation of the Law. If the referee decides that a dangerous play violation has occurred, the restart must be an indirect free kick where the play occurred (subject to the special rules that apply to restarts in the goal area).

By the way, even if a dangerous play violation has been called, the referee should never verbalize it as “playing on the ground” since there is no such foul in the Laws of the Game.

The coach of the team has no recourse in the matter of a judgment call by the referee, but may enter a protest only if the referee misapplies the Laws. If the referee awarded a penalty kick in the case you bring forward, that would be correct only if the player on the ground actually kicked or attempted to kick the opponent. If there was no contact or no attempt to kick, then there was no direct free kick foul, but the act might have constituted playing dangerously, for which an indirect free kick should have been awarded. If the incorrect free kick–indirect or penalty, as the case may be–was awarded, then there might be grounds for protest, but it could still come down to the referee’s ;judgment, rather than a matter of misapplication.

The game would be best served if the coach used the situation as a teaching tool for his or her team.


Simple question: once the ball has gone out of play (for a GK, CK, TI), can the restart be changed based on information the referee received *after* the ball went out of play? I know that if the ref decides to make a call, and the ball goes out of play before he blows the whistle, he can still make the call and award the proper restart for the call. Here’s an example:Ball goes out of play for a TI. Before the ball is thrown in, the referee looks at the trail AR, who raises his flag after eye contact is made. The ref holds the TI and goes to confer with the AR, who tells him that a foul was committed before the ball left the field of play.

Can the referee change the restart from a TI, since play was not restarted? Or does the fact that the ball went out of play *before* the ref was aware of the foul mean the ref can’t call the ball back onto the field for a kick?

USSF answer (April 19, 2007):
As long as the referee has not restarted play, any restart may be changed, particularly corrected restarts based on information from the assistant referee.

See Advice 5.14:

If the referee awards a restart for the wrong team and realizes the mistake before the restart is taken, then the restart may be corrected even though the decision was announced after the restart took place. This is based on the established principle that the referee’s initial decision takes precedence over subsequent action. The visual and verbal announcement of the decision after the restart has already occurred is well within the Spirit of the Law, provided the decision was made before the restart took place.