Situation: There’s a 12th player that a coach snuck onto the field at a water break. A goal is scored but after being notified about the extra “player” by the fourth official you ask the coach which player is the extra one and the coach refuses to tell you. I thought it standard answer dismiss the coach and if no one will tell you, you pick one, caution him and get him off the field and get on with the game. Almost everyone says can’t do this and the game must be abandoned. Seems abandoning a game is drastic but they may be right as I guess you can’t arbitrarily caution a player. Help me!!

USSF answer (March 31, 2010):
The Advice to Referees tells us:

If, while the game is in progress, the referee finds that a team has more than the allowed number of persons on the field, play must be stopped and the extra person identified and removed from the field. If the referee stops play for that purpose, the game is restarted as specified in the Law; if the game was stopped for some other purpose, the game is restarted for that particular reason. Other than through referee error, this situation can occur only if someone enters the field illegally. The “extra player” can include an outside agent (such as a previously expelled player or a spectator); a player who had been given permission to leave or been ordered off by the referee for correction of a problem, but re-entered without permission; or a substitute or substituted player who enters without permission and/or during play.

In all competitions, especially those that allow substituted players to return, the officials must be extremely vigilant in counting the number of players who leave and substitutes who enter to prevent problems of this nature. Similarly, players off the field temporarily who require the permission of the referee to re-enter must be monitored to ensure that they do not participate in play until this requirement and any others (e. g., inspection to confirm the correction of the equipment or bleeding problem) are met.

The referee will allow the captain to select the player to be removed. (The captain may wish to consult with the coach, but the referee will not do so — under the Laws of the Game, the coach has no input in the process.) If the captain and anyone whom he/she consults refuse to identify the extra player, then there is no choice left to the referee but to actually makes a decision and select the player to be removed. The goal must be canceled if any player on the team with the illegal player scored it (and the goal is counted if any player on the opposing team scored it)., If the goal is canceled, the restart must be a goal kick. The referee must submit full details in the match report, including the coach’s action in putting the extra “player” into the game illegally.

Incidents like this make a clear case for not restarting the game without confirming with each assistant referee and the fourth official that the appropriate number of players is on the field. The failure of the referee, the ARs, and the fourth to take immediate action by counting and doing their jobs before the restart casts doubt on the ability of the officials to manage the game wisely and correctly.

Notice that we do not recommend cautioning anyone here, because the players were simply obeying the instructions of their coach — and in all events, as mentioned above, it is the responsibility of the match officials to keep track of the number of players on the field.

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