I am a new 09 ref although at age 59 and a parent of 3, I have many seasons experience as a parent/fan, coach and assistant coach at the rec and classic level. I have been out of it long enough to note the small sided match approach as a great improvement in that it allows more kids to have more touches on the ball! I am however having a slight problem with the variation of the rules that exist between the official brochure I received at my 09 certification training (US Youth Soccer Handbook for Small-sided Games) and the “local” rules that coaches tell me they are following under our local soccer association. 
Perhaps my experience will better illustrate this. Last Saturday I was scheduled to be the sole referee at 2 U-8 matches. I studied up on the rules at this level as described by the manual named above and noted that it involved 4V4, no goalie, throw-ins with repeat for first foul throw, etc. when I got ready to start the first game, I noticed goalies warming up and asked the coach what was up with that. I was told that this was U-9 and that it was 5V5 and that goalies were added at this level. In the interest of letting the kids play the way they were used to, I let the game go on. It was a little awkward having the goal area be the “penalty area” (in terms of the keeper handling the ball) but the game went smoothly.  Also the coaches said that the teams were not used to switching halves at half time (despite what the handbook says) so I let that pass also. The next game I was also told it was U-9 despite what the scheduler (Arbiter). These coaches also said the same thing about the number of players (5 with one of them a goalie) but this time they said there were no throw-ins but rather kick-ins instead. As a new ref without a set of rules to refer to other than the Handbook which does not refer to a U-9 level at all (And trying to apply the U-10 rules on a field designed for U-8 creates a whole other set of problems!!!).  
I don’t want to sound like an obsessive/compulsive but I think that at some point the rules should rule the game although I recognize that at these age levels the primary focus should b having fun. I am going to forward this to my assignor who I hope will be able to give me guidance on this but I wanted to get a “state” answer as well. Thanks,

USSF answer (May 7, 2008):
You can download the current USYSA rules for small-sided soccer from their website. The rules may be found at and more information on small-sided competition may be found at .

As to local rules of competition, the intelligent referee will always obtain a copy of these rules before accepting any assignments. That way he or she knows what lies ahead and he or she can determine whether or not to accept assignments/appointments to those games.

In addition, a key element here is the assignor — the assignor should know what age level the assigned match is played at and should be able to provide the referee with, if not the rules themselves, some indication of where they can be found.

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