As part of U.S. Soccer’s Player Safety Campaign, U.S. Soccer unveiled the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative that provides guidelines that have been implemented since January of 2016.

The information contained in the initiative is intended to give U.S. Soccer Organization Members, as well as players, parents, team/club staff and coaches and referees, guidance and direction when dealing with head injuries and potential head injuries during soccer participation.

Included in the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative are specific changes to rules on substitutions and heading for certain age groups. Those changes included:

Modify substitution rules to allow players who may have suffered a concussion during games to be evaluated without penalty
Eliminating heading for children 10 and under
Please note that U11 is listed in the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative document because U11 players can be 10 years old at the beginning of the season
Limiting the amount of heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13

In addition to the safety initiatives, the following modified rule should be implemented:

When a player deliberately heads the ball in a game, an indirect free kick (IFK) should be awarded to the opposing team from the spot of the offense. If the deliberate header occurs within the goal area, the indirect free kick should be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred. If a player does not deliberately head the ball, then play should continue.

For more information, please refer to the frequently asked questions, which should help clarify questions regarding the new initiatives.


I have difficulty at times recognizing a slide tackle that
is a foul versus a legal one. Can you please give some guidance of what to look for and how I can be better at calling a foul on a hard tackle? Sometimes good tackles cause a player to fall so please help me with this.

Answer (February 6, 2016):
The term “slide tackle” refers to an attempt to tackle the ball away from an opponent while sliding on the ground. A slide tackle is legal, provided it is performed safely. In other words, there is nothing illegal about a slide tackle by itself—-no matter where it is done and no matter the direction from which it comes. Referees (and spectators) should not get hung up on the term “slide” tackling. There is nothing regarding “endangering the safety of the opponent” which limits it to a slide tackle. In fact, if, in the opinion of the referee, the tackle endangers the safety of the opponent, it makes no difference if there is contact or not.

The referee must judge whether the tackle of an opponent is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. Making contact with the opponent before the ball when making a tackle is unfair and should be penalized. On the other hand, the fact that contact with the ball was made first does not automatically mean that the tackle is fair. The declaration by a player that he or she “got the ball first” is irrelevant if, while tackling for the ball, the player carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force commits any of the prohibited actions. Remember that it is not a foul if a sliding tackle is successful and the player whose ball was tackled away then falls over the tackler’s foot.

How can tackles become illegal? There are many ways but two of the most common are by making contact with the opponent first (before contacting the ball) and by striking the opponent with a raised upper leg before, during, or after contacting the ball with the lower leg. Referees must be vigilant and firm in assessing any tackle, because the likely point of contact is the lower legs of the opponent and this is a particularly vulnerable area. We must not be swayed by protests of “But I got the ball, ref” and we must be prepared to assess the proper penalty for misconduct where that is warranted.

Certain “prohibited actions” would include lifting the tackling foot to trip or attempt to trip the opponent, using the other foot or leg to trip or attempt to trip the opponent, kicking or attempting to kick the opponent, etc., etc. Surely other similar fouls will come easily to mind.

Remember that “getting the ball first” has NEVER been absolution for whatever else may happen during or immediately after the tackle.

There is nothing illegal, by itself, about sliding tackles or playing the ball while on the ground. These acts become the indirect free kick 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. These same acts can become the direct free kick fouls known as kicking or attempting to kick an opponent or tripping or attempting to trip or tackling an opponent to gain possession of the ball only if there was contact with the opponent or, in the opinion of the referee, the opponent was forced to react to avoid the kick or the trip. The referee may warn players about questionable acts of play on the ground, but would rarely caution a player unless the act was reckless.


Before the ball enters the goal from an attacking player’s shot, a spectator enters the field of play and slightly touches the ball with his hand but does not manage to stop the goal. What decision should the referee make?

Answer (November 15, 2015):
In such cases, the referee must follow the guidance on p. 66 of the Laws of the Game:

Outside agents
Anyone not indicated on the team list as a player, substitute or team official is deemed to be an outside agent, as is a player who has been sent off.
If an outside agent enters the field of play:
• the referee must stop play (although not immediately if the outside agent does not interfere with play)
• the referee must have him removed from the field of play and its immediate surroundings
• if the referee stops the match, he must restart play with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when the match was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped

In your situation, Law 3 requires that the referee determine whether or not the outside agent—here the spectator—has truly interfered with play. Only the referee on the game can determine this; not the players, not the team officials, no one but the referee, with advice from the ARs, if necessary.


To all football associations, confederations and FIFA
Circular no. 3
Zurich, 17 July 2015 SEC/2015-C051/bru
Dear Sir or Madam,
Following requests from a number of football associations and confederations regarding offside, The IFAB would like to provide additional clarification and/or guidance relating to the definition of the offside offence of ‘interfering with an opponent’ and also to the definition of ‘save’ in the context of offside (Laws of the Game, p. 110).
This clarification follows detailed deliberations between our Technical Sub-Committee and the Technical Advisory Panel, which consists of refereeing experts from all the confederations.
Please be informed that this clarification replaces any non-IFAB instructions or guidance received previously with respect to this matter. We trust that this clarification will ensure a higher uniformity in the application of Law 11.
1. “Interfering with an opponent”
In addition to the situations already outlined in the Laws of the Game, a player in an offside position shall also be penalised if he:
• clearly attempts to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an
opponent or
• makes an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

• ‘clearly attempts’ – this wording is designed to prevent a player who runs towards the ball from quite a long distance being penalised (unless he gets close to the ball).
• ‘close’ is important so that a player is not penalised when the ball goes clearly over his head or clearly in front of him.
• ‘impact’ applies to an opponent’s ability (or potential) to play the ball and will include situations where an opponent’s movement to play the ball is delayed, hindered or prevented by the offside player.

However, just because a player is an offside position it does not always mean that he has an impact. For example:
• if the ball is on the right-hand side of the field and an ‘offside’ player in the centre of the field moves into a new attacking position he is not penalised unless this action affects an opponent’s ability to play the ball • where a player tries to play the ball as it is going into the goal without affecting an opponent, or in situations where there is no opposition player near, he should not be penalised

2. “Save”
Law 11 outlines situations when an offside player is penalised by becoming involved in active play and these include (p. 110):
• “gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball i. that rebounds or is deflected to him off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent having been in an offside position ii. that rebounds, is deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save by an opponent having been in an offside position A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage.

As indicated in the last sentence a ‘save’ can be made by any player and is not limited to the goalkeeper. Therefore, The IFAB wishes to clarify that: A ‘save’ is when a player stops a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of his body except his hands (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).

NB: This clarification is consistent with the use of the word ‘save’ in Law 12 – Offences by the Goalkeeper (p. 122).

Additional information: change of FIFA Quality Program logos Unrelated to Law 11, we would like to take this opportunity to mention the change to the FIFA quality marks on footballs (p. 16), which was not part of the previous correspondence. This change is already reflected in the printed editions of the Laws of the Game 2015/16, which you received recently.

Thank you for your attention and please feel free to contact us should you have any questions or enquiries.

Yours sincerely,
On behalf of the Board of Directors
Lukas Brud Secretary



Referee Health and Safety

As part of U.S. Soccer’s commitment to health and safety, our medical and referee experts have prepared the following recommendations for the referee community and incorporated them into our referee education materials.

In the interest of health and safety, U.S. Soccer recommends that match officials practice the following skin care guidelines:

• Consider wearing sunscreen daily on areas of exposed skin.
• Apply skin protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 15 minutes prior to being exposed to the sun.
• At a minimum, reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating extensively.
• Take advantage of halftime to reapply.
• Consider wearing long sleeves (or UV protective clothing) if applicable during high sun exposure periods.
• Periodically (once a year) review exposed skin for any changes or growths and consult your doctor or dermatologist.
• Caps may be worn so long as the cap does not endanger the safety of the official or the players.
• The cap should be consistent with the referee uniform and not conflict with the uniform colors worn by either team.
• The cap may not bear any commercial marks or logos.


I was curious about the free kick foul in last night’s USA-GER game in which the referee awarded the U.S. a penalty kick. Is there an interpretation of the German defender’s foul as “continuing” as Alex Morgan entered the penalty area? The defender certainly initiated contact outside the area and kept Alex Morgan from following her touch.

So was it clearly a correct call? An incorrect call? Or somewhere in between?

Question two relates to the caution on the U.S. back that resulted in the German penalty. Should she have been sent off for denying a goal-scoring opportunity, or was the goalkeeper’s proximity to the play enough to bring that within the referee’s discretion.

Answer (July 1, 2015):
All the pundits—the “soccer personalities” in broadcasting and some members of the soccer community, have it wrong: The referee’s award of the penalty kick was perfectly correct. This is based on the continuation principle, which has been implicit in the Laws of the Game for some years and was expressed in a paper issued by the U. S. Soccer Federation in 2007:

Subject: When Fouls Continue!
Date: April 30, 2007

Prompted by several recent situations in professional league play, a discussion has developed regarding the proper action to take when a foul continues over a distance on the field. Many fouls occur with the participants in motion, both the player committing the foul and the opponent being fouled, and it is not unusual for the offense to end far away from where the initial contact occurred.

Usually, the only problem this creates for the referee is the need to decide the proper location for the restart. Occasionally, however, an additional issue is created when the distance covered results in an entirely different area of the field becoming involved. A foul which starts outside the penalty area, for example, might continue into and finally end inside the offending playerеs penalty area. Or a foul might start inside the field but, due to momentum, end off the field. In these cases, the decision about where the foul occurred also affects what the correct restart must be.

In general, the referee should determine the location of the foul based on what gives the greater benefit to the player who was fouled. FIFA has specifically endorsed this principle in one of its “Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game” (12.31) which states that a penalty kick is the correct restart if a player begins holding an opponent outside the playerеs penalty area and continues this action inside his penalty area.

And yes, Julie Johnston should have been sent off for denying the obvious goalscoring opportunity for Germany.


During a game, can goalie speak to someone beside the goal during game? Referee issued yellow for not paying attention to game?

Answer (June 30, 2015):
There were two people of diminished mental competence involved here: the goalkeeper and the referee. There is no such rule in the Laws of the Game, and referees are forbidden to interfere in any player action that is not covered in the Laws.

NOTE: There are too many “cowboy” referees in our game. That is my term for referees who make up their own rules as they go along, confusing players, fellow officials, and the spectators. My recommendation to them: Just call the game in accordance with the Laws. It is so much easier on everyone.


Two players are going for the ball, and, within playing distance of the ball, one lowers shoulder and drives into other player. This is indeed a foul, but can you point to text in Fifa’s LOTG that would clarify this? It is a charge, of course, so is the only ground on which to blow the whistle that it was careless? I can’t find anything in Fifa’s LOTG about lowering the shoulder being illegal.

Answer (June 21, 2015):
P. 117 of the Laws of the Game:

Careless, reckless, using excessive force
“ Careless” means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution.
• No further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless

“Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent.
• A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned

“Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.
• A player who uses excessive force must be sent off

Charging an opponent
The act of charging is a challenge for space using physical contact within playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows.
It is an offence to charge an opponent:
• in a careless manner
• in a reckless manner
• using excessive force

Note: Charging can occur only in the area of the shoulder, never in the center of the back; however, when working youth games, the referee must consider any disparity in height and honor the act if a player is making a “best effort” to follow those guidelines.