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What's The Correct AYSO Answer?

The following is a recently received question:

January 29, 2015

"In my U-14 game, blue #4 controls the ball approximately 10 yards outside his own penalty area when an opponent pressures him.  Blue #4 decides to kick the ball hard toward his goal. The blue team's goalkeeper, who is outside his own penalty area, sees that the ball is heading toward his goal and decides to dive and catch it with his hands while outside the penalty area. The goalkeeper was the last defender between the ball and the blue team's goal. Is this action considered denying a goal-scoring opportunity?”


When a goalkeeper is outside of his penalty area, he becomes a regular player and isn't allowed to deliberately handle the ball.  In this scenario, the goalkeeper deliberately handled the ball while outside of his penalty area, which is an offense penalized with a direct free kick.  

Since the ball was going toward the goal and there were no other defenders between the goal and the ball, the goalkeeper denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity with an offense that is punishable with a free kick. In this scenario, because the ball was headed for the goal, the referee can also determine that the goalkeeper denied a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball. In either case, the goalkeeper should be sent off.  

Therefore, the referee should stop play, show the red card to the blue team’s goalkeeper, send him off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity and restart the game with a direct free kick for the red team.

(See page 39 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

January 22, 2015

I’m watching professional games on television to learn more about refereeing.What should I look for?”


Watching games on television is a good way to learn more about refereeing and the game of soccer. There are obvious differences between professional and AYSO soccer players including technical, physical and mental skills. However, there are a lot of similarities at the individual and team levels, in how both AYSO and professional players play the game. They also show similar behavior traits in how they respond to pressure under frustrating or uplifting conditions. This is why professional referees apply the same officiating concepts that AYSO referees apply with our children.

Let's focus on two concepts which are critical to all soccer games regardless of the level: safe and fair. Players need to feel from the start that they will be safe and have a fair game. Learning how professional referees use every opportunity in each game to project safety and fairness will help you improve your refereeing skills. There are a lot of tools and skills that professional referees use to officiate a match. Here are a few critical ones to look for when you watch games on television:

Body language - It has to be very positive from start to end in order to connect with people. A friendly, firm, respectful and compassionate referee makes players feel comfortable (safe).
Setting a good tone – In the first minutes of the game, the referee will let the players know by his actions if they’re playing within the spirit of the game. There may be a few extra whistles if the game starts out choppy or some smiles if the players are providing beautiful soccer. 
Foul Recognition – Throughout the game the referee will look for opportunities to let the game flow if the play is fair, players are respectful of opponents and embracing the opportunity to play through some physical contact. Good referees identify key fouls early and throughout the game to help the players feel safe and remain under control. Examples of key fouls include those close to the benches, which, when not called, get the bench personnel very excited.
Offside – The objective is to give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking game. If two or more players are involved in an attack with at least one attacker who isn’t in an offside position, the assistant referee will wait longer to penalize an offside infringement to provide the attacker(s), in good position, with the best possible chance to play the ball.
Teamwork with assistant referees (ARs) – More than ever before, the referee will rely on the ARs and fourth official to get the call right. The referee has the primary responsibility to make decisions. But with play being faster and more technical, the referee needs a lot of assistance from the ARs. A professional referee team is more effective at using communication devices and if needed, the referee and ARs will have a brief conference to check the facts and make the right call.

Enjoy the games, take notes on what you like about the referees so you can use it in your games and keep learning.

January 15, 2015

The blue team has effectively used the offside trap, stepping forward just before a red attacker passes the ball to a teammate to leave the opponents in an offside position. In order to defeat the blue team's tactic, the red team places red #7 in an offside position as a decoy. At the next attack by the red team, red #10 who is dribbling the ball pretends to pass the ball to red #7 who is in an offside position. This causes the blue team to use the offside trap and move forward.  

However, red #10 keeps dribbling the ball past the blue defensive line, which was expecting an offside call to be made.  Is the use of the decoy considered active participation and therefore offside should be called?  Without the decoy the blue team would not have moved forward and gotten caught moving in the wrong direction.


There is an old soccer saying: "Live by the trap… die by the trap!"  For offside to be penalized, a player has to be in an offside position and then become involved in active play. The decoy player, red #7, was in an offside position but didn’t become involved in active play because red #10 never passed the ball to him.  Therefore, in this scenario there is no offside to be penalized.In youth games, players are still learning about the game.  In this scenario the referee can help teach the players by verbalizing as he allows play to continue.  The referee can point to red #7 and say “Keep playing. He is not involved in play."  In every game, both teams have the opportunity to use smart and creative legal tactics to attack and defend.  This is a part of the game that makes it enjoyable for all players and spectators.  

(See pages 35 and 108-116 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

January 8, 2015

“Some of our U-16 and U-19 players are starting to hold opponents during corner kicks. What can the referee do to stop this?”


Youth players learn bad things from watching others including professional players who hold opponents during corner kicks. However, referees can also learn how to manage this problem by watching professional referees.   

Holding an opponent includes the use of hands, arms or the body to prevent an opponent from moving. It’s important for the referee to manage the holding problem in corner kicks with a preventive approach.
The referee can hold the corner kick with a long whistle and tell the kicker and the assistant referee “Hold the kick please.” This action will help the guilty player(s) realize that the referee is aware of their behavior. 
The referee must warn any player holding an opponent before the ball is put into play from the corner kick.  
The referee should separate and talk to the offending player(s). 
The referee’s message to the players must be firm and clear.  
The referee should wait for player(s) to acknowledge the message before restarting the game.
If the guilty player(s) continue to hold the opponent before the corner kick is taken, the referee should show the yellow card and caution player(s) as necessary.
If the holding happens after the corner kick is taken, that is when the ball is in play, the referee can award:
­ A penalty kick if the holding is done by a defender inside his penalty area.
­ A direct free kick if the holding is done by a defender outside his penalty area. 

(See pages 38 and 118 in the 2011-12 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

December 18, 2014

“What is excessive celebration after scoring a goal?”


Scoring a goal is the maximum expression in a game! It generates a lot of passion and often the player’s desire to share it with everyone. The players may demonstrate their joy and passion when they score a goal, but their celebration may not be excessive.  

After any ball-out-of-play situation, including scoring a goal, the referee’s main objective is to restart the game as quickly as possible. Therefore, leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is acceptable, but the player(s) must return as soon as possible to demonstrate fair play. Referees should take a preventive approach to managing goal celebrations in order to avoid time wasting and or possible misconduct.  

Excessive celebrations that result in time wasting or misconduct should be punished with a caution. Examples of this include:
•    A player makes gestures which in the opinion of the referee are provocative, derisory or inflammatory.
•    A player climbing onto a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal.
•    A player removing his shirt or covers his head with his shirt as shown in this video clip, courtesy of USSF.
•    A player covering his head or face with a mask or other similar item.

A common example of excessive celebrations is the use of a choreographed celebration to waste time excessively, to demean the opponents or to be offensive to spectators. Youth players watch soccer on television and are exposed to this type of negative gamesmanship, so referees need to quickly identify it and manage it.   

(See pages 35 and 124 in the 2011-12 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

December 11, 2014

“What can I do to make good referee decisions in my games?” 


Nothing guarantees that a referee will make 100% correct decisions in a game, regardless of the level of the game and the referee. However, a referee can prepare to maximize the ability to provide good decisions in a consistent manner within each game. There are several ways to prepare to be a good referee and below are a few tips that will provide a referee and/or assistant referee with the necessary skills and tools to make and deliver good decisions:

Participate as often as possible in referee training courses and continuing education clinics and sessions.
Become a student of the game; learn the content and the application of the FIFA Laws of the Game and the AYSO/USSF referee-related publications and watch more experienced referees in order to learn from them.
Spend 30 minutes per week reading materials related to player management, interacting with children in team sports, teamwork and communications.
Improve your fitness every month; train to referee. Implement a fitness training program that will allow you to maintain and improve your fitness level.
Accept game assignments that match your fitness and experience level. This will help you keep up with play and be convincing with your decisions. In turn, you will be a successful and happy referee.
Get mentored; schedule two to three mentoring sessions each season to help you identify and continue to use your strengths and improve your weaknesses. 
Good referees always keep learning and improving their ability and skills.

December 4, 2014

“Please give me a good pre-game conference that I can use because when I ask different referees to share theirs, I get different answers.” 


The reason why you get different answers is because there can be different pre-game conferences depending on the type of game and the experience of the referee team members. The main goal for the pre-game conference is for the referee and assistant referees (AR) to agree on the communication to be used, and the responsibilities that each team member will have during the game.  Officials must arrive at the field with enough time to hold a pre-game conference.

The referee team must have a pre-game conference to discuss AR duties, signals to be used and other game-related topics. The AYSO Basic Referee Summary Sheet provides the information that should be discussed during the referee team's pregame conference.

The pre-game conference provides an opportunity for all participating officials to pool their information about the teams, individual players, the season to date, and other factors potentially shaping the match. Although led by the referee, the pregame conference is most effective when all individual members of the team are actively involved in the discussion. We will continue to address this topic in future editions of Whistle Stop but for now, the referee team should discuss at a minimum the following items:

The pre-game activities for the referee team.
AR positioning at restarts and during dynamic play.
AR signals for fouls, including penalty kicks.
When the AR should help the referee with foul recognition.
*Suggestion – the referee can say "If I'm close to and looking straight at the play, I get first shot at deciding fouls.If I have a doubt, I’ll take a look at you and that means I'm asking you if you have seen a foul. If yes, please give the signal for foul."
What the ARs should do for incidents not seen by the referee.
What the ARs should do when a goal is scored.
Who will keep record of the game?
What to do in case of possible offside situations.
What to do and who will do it during the substitution breaks

Game officials are at different levels of knowledge and experience and a great number are at the entry level. The pre-game conference provides a great opportunity for experienced referees to help others. Good teamwork is best started by the referee when he connects with the ARs to make them feel comfortable working together and providing input (signals) during the game. The referee should support the ARs throughout the game and thank them in a visible manner when they make good decisions. Halftime or postgame is a good time to mentor peers with less experience. Referee teamwork starts and continues with a good human connection.

November 20, 2014

 “How can we get more physically fit referees assigned to our challenging U-16 games?”


Sometimes there aren’t enough qualified referees to cover all of the challenging games with a three-referee team. The number of children playing soccer increases every week; this is the good news. The number of referees increases slowly, especially in the volunteer world; this is the opportunity for all of us who are involved in developing referees.

We can all help by providing a safe, fun and educational environment for referees to develop.  We need to support a zero-tolerance for negative behavior policy and provide ongoing training opportunities for referees. The happier the referees are, the more they will motivate themselves to learn and improve their skills.    

Referee assignors or schedulers make their best effort to assign referees to games that match their experience and fitness levels, but sometimes there’s a shortage of referees with the proper experience and fitness, required to cover the high-level games. There are referee assigning tactics and concepts that we can use to help alleviate the challenge of not having enough referees.  Referee assignors can sign up to participate in a webinar that teaches assigning concepts and shares techniques and tips to effectively assign referees. The webinar sessions can be found here.

We continuously review our program and continue to identify additional ways to help with the shortage of referees. Below are key things that referees can do to deal with their own fitness challenges:

•    Refereeing may cause negative impacts to one’s health if the referee isn’t fit. Referees should consider checking their health and fitness level with the doctor before the start of the season, and at least once during the season, to determine that the level of activity in which physical participation is safe.
•    Referees should have a training program in place that will improve fitness and maintain the level necessary to effectively referee games, including the ability to keep up and catch up with players.
•    AYSO doesn’t have requirements for re-certification, but referees do have the opportunity to lead by example. The referees can set their own fitness expectations and standards and accept game assignments that match their personal level of fitness.  
•    One of the fitness requirements to be certified as a national referee is a minimum distance of 1,800 to 2,200 meters (depending on age) to be completed in a 12-minute running test. Example of a personal standard: Referees who want to improve their ability to referee U-16 and higher games, can set their fitness standard at completing a minimum of 2,600 meters during the 12-minute fitness running test.
•    Referees should always do self-evaluation of their skills, including their fitness level. If a referee finds it difficult to keep up with play, he should consider refereeing games with lower fitness requirements in which he can effectively match his physical ability to the players' activity until he improves his fitness.  
(See page 4 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

November 13, 2014

 “I have been watching MLS games and it seems like the referees use different rules to referee those games. Do they use different rules?” 


AYSO referees use the same FIFA Laws of the Game, with minor modifications, that Major League Soccer (MLS) referees use. The modifications to the FIFA Laws of the Game are made to facilitate the management of soccer games at youth players’ technical, physical and mental levels. 

The modifications include the size of the field of play; the width between the goalposts and the height of the crossbar from the ground; the weight and size of the soccer ball; the number of player substitutions and the duration of the periods of play. Regardless of the level of the game, FIFA, MLS or AYSO, the players want and need to be safe and to have a fair competition, so they can enjoy the game.

In applying the Laws of the Game, referees consider the technical, physical and emotional levels of the players to determine if an offense should be sanctioned because it’s a foul or ignored because it is a trifling offense. This means that what a referee may consider a trivial, trifling offense in an MLS game may be a foul in an AYSO game because of the different levels of technical skills.   

A great aspect of the FIFA Laws of the Game is that they are simple. With minor modifications, referees have used them for over one hundred years to provide a safe, fair and fun environment for players of all ages.    
(See page 4 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game). 

November 6, 2014

 “Can attacking players position themselves in front of the opponents’ goalkeeper during the taking of a free kick?”


All the players have the right to position themselves anywhere on the field of play as long as they don’t interfere with the opponent in an unfair manner or make play unsafe for any player. Therefore, yes, the attacking team can position players in front of the opponent’s goalkeeper during the taking of a free kick.  

Being in the way of an opponent isn’t the same as moving into the way of an opponent. However, when attackers position themselves in front of the opposing goalkeeper, they tend to commit an infringement as they are likely to interfere with the goalkeeper as soon as the ball is kicked. The referee should closely monitor the situation in order to prevent frustration and/or misconduct.

Some examples for managing this type of situation include providing awareness to players of potential infringements; quickly calling any infringement(s); and if an offense is called the game should be restarted as quickly as possible. The referee can provide awareness by saying to the attacker(s) in front of the goalkeeper, "Don't interfere with the keeper when he positions himself or when he/she plays the ball after the kick is taken. Thank you." This will help the attacker(s) know that the referee is watching everything so the attacker will be less likely to commit an infringement. The referee's presence will help the keeper feel safe, focus on positioning and prepare for the free kick.

Examples of an attacker's actions which may be considered infringements include the player following the keeper and impeding his progress as he moves around to position himself, gesticulating to try and block the keeper's vision; playing the keeper instead of the ball and verbalizing to distract the keeper. If an infringement occurs before the ball is put in place the referee may decide to caution and/or send off a player depending on the nature of the infringement.

(See pages 38-39 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game)   

October 30, 2014

Some of my peers tell me to ignore coaches and spectators when they yell because I should only focus on what happens inside the field of play. Others tell me the opposite. “How much attention should I pay to what happens outside the field of play?”

Thank you to all the volunteers who are helping us referee AYSO games. A soccer game can be an overwhelming experience for players, coaches and spectators, which generate passion. Sometimes this passion is misdirected and can turn into negative behavior, including yelling and screaming. AYSO has zero tolerance for negative behavior and referees can help everyone support and embrace this concept.  

Referees can use a positive attitude and their authority to influence behavior. Taking the actions listed below, referees will make it easier for everyone to help ensure a safe, fair and fun environment for children and others in AYSO.

  • Team up with the coach and parents by connecting with them before the game starts.  

    •The referee can say to the parents “Good morning. Thank you for supporting the children and helping us keep the game respectful and fun.”

    • The referee can say to the coaches “Good morning. Thank you for being here for the children. Is there anything we can help you with to prepare?”

    • Connecting with the coaches and parents will show the human side of the referee and generate respect and support from the start.Throughout the game, encourage positive behavior by all. The assistant referee (AR) or referee can thank the coach or any person who exhibits positive behavior. Example: “Thank you for clapping for the other team’s goalkeeper when she made the save.”

  • Deal with negative behavior right away so it will not escalate. The referee can provide a “look”, or say a couple of words, as she runs by the touchline to let the coach know that she has heard or seen unacceptable behavior.
  • The referee has the power to stop, suspend or abandon the game because of outside interference to manage a situation. If the negative behavior from a spectator or coach continues, the referee should stop the game, briefly remind the coach about the Kids Zone® and ask for the behavior to stop. Be sure to say thank you after making the request.
  • Sometimes a person insists on being negative even after a couple of warnings. In such cases, the referee should ask the coach to dismiss the person from the field of play. If the negative person is the coach, the referee should work with the assistant coach to dismiss and replace the coach.     

    (See page 24 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game)   

October 23, 2014

In a U-14 girls game, Red #10 is about to take a free kick with the blue team’s defensive wall ten yards away. Just as red #10 is about to kick the ball, red #3, who was positioned within the blue team's "defensive wall" comes running out toward the ball, crossing in front of the defensive players and passes the ball to red #10.  Did red #3 unfairly distract the blue team?

Players can always use tactics to confuse the opponents as long as their actions don’t unfairly interfere with the opponent’s ability to play the ball or gain them an unfair advantage. During the taking of a free kick the defenders need to remain ten yards away until the ball is kicked (and it moves) by the attacking team.  

When red #3 moved toward the ball, she did not interfere in an unfair manner and wasn’t impeding the progress of an opponent because the blue team had to remain at least ten yards away from the ball. If red #3 was not using unnatural body positions or making unusual sounds as she was running toward the ball, and she was not doing anything else that in the opinion of the referee was considered unfair or dangerous, then the referee should allow play to continue.

If in the opinion of the referee, red #3 was guilty of an offense as she ran toward the ball, the referee should ask the red team to wait before taking the free kick and manage the possible misconduct. Managing the possible misconduct would likely range from talking to red #3 or cautioning or sending her off, depending on the nature of the action. After managing the possible misconduct, the referee should restart play with the free kick for the red team.   


October 16, 2014

I’m a basic certified referee. May I take the advanced referee course?

Referees should participate in as much training as possible in order to keep learning about the game and become better referees. However, one must learn to walk before one can run. This is best accomplished by following a logical training path. AYSO has designed the referee training and certification program with sequential courses, and the intermediate and higher level courses require knowledge and refereeing experience taught in the prior courses. Courses that come later in the sequence, such as the Advanced course, are best understood if the students have completed the courses that are earlier in the sequence.  

If a student skips a level, he will not be able to keep up with the instruction and will end up being confused and frustrated. We want students to successfully complete the courses, therefore, we’re constantly looking for new and improved ways to deliver the training, but a student needs to follow AYSO’s referee training path. Your Region, Area and Section staff will help you identify the right course to take.          

October 9, 2014

For a game scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m., I asked the players to line up so I could check equipment and provide pregame instructions at 9:55 a.m. One of the coaches got mad at me saying that it was too early for me to do the team checking. Was the coach correct?”

The referee should start the game on time. If the pregame inspection is done too late, the game may start late. However, if the pregame inspection is done too early, all players may not have arrived yet. The referee should check both teams early enough to confirm the right number of players, that their equipment is safe, etc. The referee needs the help of the coaches to manage the checking of the teams and to set up and maintain an environment for the players that reflect AYSO’s philosophies and core values. In some instances, the referee may want to check in both teams at the same time, or ask the assistant referees to check in the teams. Depending on the number of players on the team, the inspection can take 4 to 6 minutes per team.

To generate collaboration with the coaches, the referees can take the initiative by connecting with the coaches (and parents) before the game starts.  Connecting with people is as much about “What we do”  as well as “How we do it.” 

Below are recommendations to help the referee connect with the coaches and parents:

  • As soon as you arrive to the field, introduce your referee team to both coaches and teams.
    ­    *Smile and present a very positive attitude.
    ­    *Remind the coaches/teams of the process you will follow to check the teams and get the game started.
    ­    *Ask if there is anything you can do to help them get ready. Example: carry a small ball pump and offer to help inflate the balls if needed.
    ­    *Tell the coaches when you will return to perform the team checking. A common time is 10 to 15 minutes before the start of the game. If they want a different time, negotiate a time that will allow you to effectively perform the team checking and leave a couple of minutes before the official start of the game.
  • Stop by and briefly connect with the parents.
    ­    *Say “good morning” or “good afternoon.”
    ­    *Thank them for being at the game for the children.

Sometimes it is challenging for the coaches to have all the players ready on time to start the game. Therefore, the coaches have a focused plan, often to the minute, with their schedule of things to do to get ready. Things that take away from the coaches’ plan or makes them change things at the last minute, may frustrate them. When the referee connects with the coaches as early as possible to provide assistance, it generates support and respect from the coaches throughout the game.

October 2, 2014

“When I was checking the players’ equipment blue #10 told me that she had just recovered from a broken right arm. I asked her if she felt safe playing and she said yes so I allowed her to play. I monitored her and noticed that she was always challenging for the ball on her left side, keeping her right arm behind her.  I determined that it wasn’t safe for her to play anymore and asked her to stop at the substitution break. She said no and wanted to continue playing. I asked her coach who also said that she could and should continue to play. To keep her safe, I didn’t let her continue playing.  Was my decision correct?”

Thank you for caring; the safety of players, physical and emotional, must be the top priority for all referees and coaches. Asking a player if she is okay to play and bringing the awareness to the player’s coach is the right thing to do. However, referees do not have the authority to tell players that they can’t play without a justified reason. In this case, blue #10 was not wearing a cast and she said that she had recovered from a broken arm.  

When the referee suspects that a player is injured, she may stop play and ask the coach to have the player examined, and have her removed from the field of play.  Once the coach has examined the player, the coach makes the decision, after conferring with the player’s parent, if it’s okay for the child to continue playing. If the player returns to the field of play, the referee should continue monitoring her safety. If the player shows signs of not feeling good or being uncomfortable playing, the referee should have the player leave the field of play for further examination.

In all games, and especially in youth games, the coach should work with the referee in dealing with potential injuries. And when there is any doubt about the player’s safety, the player should be kept off the field until professional medical assistance is provided. After a serious injury has occurred that required medical attention, the coach has the responsibility to obtain a Participation Release form before allowing the player to participate in games.

September 25, 2014

“In U-8 and U-6 games, when should I stop the game because of fouls?”

The goal for referees is to keep the game safe and fair so that it can be a fun experience for the players. When a player commits a potential foul, the referee should consider if the action causes the opponent to lose control of the ball and/or creates danger to any of the participants - results which make the game less fun.    

In U-6 and U-8 there are few, if any, deliberate fouls. The most frequently observed fouls in these games are accidental kicking and tripping, and deliberate handling of the ball. There are also occasionally instances of playing in a dangerous manner, such as a player trying to play the ball when he is on the ground and other players are close by. It is more likely that the referee may have to stop the game to refocus the players after they stop playing because of a distraction off the field of play.  To keep the game fun, the referee should provide minimum interruptions and be very flexible with incidents where play may need to be stopped. In these situations, the referee has an opportunity to explain appropriate behavior to players.

If there is a player who insists on not playing well with others and behaving negatively, it is best to stop play and ask the player’s coach to manage the situation. There are times when a young player just needs a break from playing to settle down. The referee should be ready to guide the player off the field to the coach, so that the coach can provide the player with an appropriate break from playing.  If play was stopped for a foul, then after stopping play to engage the coach in helping a player, the game should be restarted with a free kick awarded to the team that deserves it.  

September 18, 2014

“Is slide tackling allowed in AYSO?”

Slide tackling is a skill that players develop over time and it is allowed in AYSO.  Slide tackling is a sideways slide that attempts to knock the ball away from the opponent's feet. The referee must judge whether the tackle is fair or whether it is careless, reckless, or involves the use of excessive force. For example, if the player making the slide tackle subsequently lifts his or her leg and thereby causes the opponent to fall, then the player is committing a foul. Referees should get into a proper position to judge the intent and fairness of a tackle.
A player guilty of committing a foul while attempting to slide tackle should be penalized with a direct free kick or penalty kick if the offense is committed by a defender inside his penalty area.  

Referees can look for the following player actions when evaluating a fair slide tackle.

  • Committed to the slide, looking at the ball and not the opponent.
  • Timing is such that the player has an obvious opportunity to contact the ball.
  • Sliding on one of side of their body.
  • Leading with one leg: for example, if sliding on their left side, leading with the right leg, extending the foot toward the ball, while the left leg is bent at the knee at approximately a 90-degree angle.
  • The leading foot is angled such that the cleats are down rather than pointed towards the opponent.
  • Leaning partway down on the side of the leg, as sliding in a more upright position will allow the player to spring up after the slide.
  • Making contact with the ball first.
  • Any subsequent contact with the opponent is minimal. Sometimes the opponent will trip over the leading leg after the ball has been successfully tackled. This is considered fair play as long as the leg has not been raised to cause the contact.
  • Knocking the ball far out of reach away from their goal or tapping it more gently if they are attempting to gain possession.
  • Using their arm and leg to quickly get up from the ground and get on their way.

This video, courtesy of USSF, has an example of a correct slide tackle. The video shows the following:

  • This is a fair, sliding tackle and no foul should be called.
  • In this tackle there is no unfair contact by white #2 with black #7.
  • Black #7 falls over white #2's leg after the ball has been cleared.
  • Players' awareness of one another.

           • Black #7 knows that white #2 is near and close to reach the ball.

            •White #2 commits to making the tackle, looking at the ball.

            •Black #7 is expecting this tackle and his foot is not on the ball as white #2 makes contact with the ball.

  • Other players' reactions.

             •No one looks the referee's way for a call.

             •Everyone knows/senses that this has been a fair challenge.

September 11, 2014

The goalkeeper told me that he was injured and asked to be substituted. If I believe that he is faking the injury, can I deny the substitution request?
The safety of the players is the top priority for the referee. But a referee is not a doctor; Even if the referee happens to be a doctor, the player and the player’s coach are responsible for evaluating the player’s medical condition. Therefore, the referee cannot decide whether a player is injured or not. In this situation, the referee gives the benefit of the doubt to the player and allows the substitution to take place.  

Sometimes young players do not want to be goalkeepers and they may fake an injury or say that they feel sick so their coach will substitute them. If the referee suspects that a player is uncomfortable playing as a goalkeeper, or any other position, he should let the coach know. The coach can address the player’s unpleasant feelings in a quiet and effective manner. By working together, the referee and coach can keep a player safe both physically and emotionally.     

September 4, 2014

In a game with monitored substitutions, blue #5 has asked the referee a couple of times why he called a foul. Blue #5 is substituted later and as he is walking off the field, he makes derogatory remarks towards the referees.  The referee asks, “What did you say?” as blue #5 exits the field. The referee beckons substitute blue #12 into the field to replace blue #5. Red #10 walks by the referee and tells him what blue #5 said, slightly embellishing his words. The referee then sends off blue #5. Does the blue team have to play one player short?

A substitution is completed when a substitute enters the field of play. From this point on, the substitute, blue #12, is a player and the player he replaced, blue #5, becomes a substituted player. Although a team must play short if a player is sent off, it doesn’t have to play short if a substitute is sent off. Therefore, because blue #5 was a substitute when he was sent off, the blue team doesn’t have to play short. Had the referee sent off blue #5 before blue #12 entered the field of play, blue #5 would still have been a player at the time of the send-off, and the blue team would have had to play short.

Referees should be careful with comments made by players that may get opponents in trouble. The referee should sense that red #10 may be exaggerating blue #5’s words. And since the referee is not 100% sure about what blue #5 said, he should take action based on only what he knows is true. In this case, since the referee did not hear what blue #5 said, a send-off or even a caution for dissent is inappropriate. 
(See pages 3 and 39 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

August 28, 2014

In our U-14 game our captain took a quick free kick and the ball hit an opponent’s foot and went to another opponent. Since the opponent that was hit by the ball was about six yards away, was the referee supposed to have the free kick retaken?  

Because the ball hit an opponent that was less than ten yards away from the ball, the referee has to consider two possible situations.  

Situation one – if in the opinion of the referee, the opponent moved toward the ball to control it, then the free kick should be retaken because the opponent failed to respect the required distance on a free kick. In this case, the referee may caution the opponent for misconduct. If no caution is given then the referee should verbally warn the opponent. The caution or verbal warning will send a message to all the players that such behavior is not allowed.  

Situation two – if in the opinion of the referee, the ball simply hit the opponent who was standing there or moving away from the ball, and the opponent was not making an effort to control the ball, then there is no offense and the referee should allow play to continue.  

This situation may cause the attacker to feel embarrassed for miskicking the ball and may cause the opponent to think that it is okay to be close to the ball during the taking of a free kick. Therefore, the referee should say something as she runs by. The referee can say to the attacker, “That can happen on a free kick.  Not your fault.” And to the opponent the referee can say, “Next time, move ten yards away from the ball as quickly as you can. Thank you.”          
(See pages 38 and 41 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game)..

August 21, 2014

I was the assistant referee in a game where the referee signaled a handling of the ball foul just outside the penalty area. He raised his arm and awarded an indirect free kick. A spectator wearing a referee uniform came close to me and yelled that handling the ball should be penalized with a direct free kick. Later, the same person told me that he was the referee manager and could have me removed if I did not correct the referee. I asked him to please be quiet and leave me alone or I would complain to the RC. What can I do when a referee interferes with the game’s referee team?  

It is unfortunate to find referees guilty of negative behavior towards their peers. Their behavior is not in line with the referee’s code of ethics and AYSO’s Good Sportsmanship Philosophy. A referee’s decisions, right or wrong, do not give any person the right to interfere with the referee team’s job.

In similar situations, the referee can manage negative behavior with the following steps:

  • At the next stoppage of play, identify the guilty person and inform the coach that the person needs to stop interfering or he/she will be asked to leave the premises.  In most cases, this action will fix the problem.   
  • If the person insists on interfering with the job of the referee team, ask the coach to have the person leave the premises. The referee may have to temporarily suspend the game to ensure that the guilty person leaves.
  • The referee should document the person’s behavior and their dismissal in the game report.

Assuming that the referee called handling of the ball, then the referee was incorrectly applying the Laws of the Game. Deliberately handling the ball should be penalized with a direct free kick. If the assistant referee believes the referee may be incorrectly restarting the game, he can get the referee’s attention and ask him/her.  

Depending on the referee’s response, the assistant referee can remind him/her of the correct restart. If the decision is critical, for example if a goal may be unfairly scored, or the decision jeopardizes the safety of the players, the assistant referee should attempt to help the referee immediately. Otherwise, the assistant referee can wait until the half-time period to discuss the decision and correct restart.       
(See page 36 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

August 14, 2014

The blue team’s captain wins the coin toss and decides to attack the north side goal because there is a strong wind blowing in that direction. During the halftime break, the wind shifts direction and is blowing strongly in the opposite direction. The coaches confer and decide that it would be fair if the teams play the second half staying on the same sides of the field rather than changing sides. May the referee allow this?  

Per Law 8, the team that wins the coin toss takes the kick-off to start the second half of the match. In the second half of the match, the teams change ends and attack the opposite goals. The coaches’ request is an example of the coaches wanting to make things fair for both teams. The referee should respectfully acknowledge the coaches’ effort to keep the game fair. However, the referee must enforce the Laws of the Game and require the teams to change sides.  

This case and similar ones create a challenge for the referee. The line between the execution of the written Law and the responsibility to keep the game fair can be confusing. A more experienced referee may be tempted to make things up, as he tries to keep the game safe, fair, and fun, unless he has a solid understanding of the Laws.  

The referee can bend the Laws of the Game by using common sense when applying them, but he may not break them. Wind strength and direction are factors that need to be accepted as part of the game and the teams should not be permitted to stay on their original sides of the field.  

(See page 24 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

August 7, 2014

What is the restart when a goalkeeper touches or plays the ball after it is directly thrown to him by a teammate from a throw-in? What if the goalkeeper deflects the ball with his hands and it goes over the crossbar?  

If the goalkeeper touches the ball with his/her hands after he/she has received it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate, the referee should award an indirect free kick to the opponent. If there is a possibility of a goal being scored by the opponent after the goalkeeper deflects the ball, the referee should wait and see if the ball goes into the goal. In this scenario, the referee is applying advantage inside the defender’s penalty area, therefore the referee should not use the advantage signal.  

When the referee applies advantage after the goalkeeper deflects the ball, he should consider the following options:    

  • If the ball goes into the goal, the referee should award a goal to the opponents and restart the game with a kick-off for the goalkeeper’s team. In this case, the advantage applied by the referee materialized.
  • If the ball does not go into the goal (the advantage does not materialize) and before the ball leaves the field of play, the referee can stop play to penalize the original infringement. If, for example, the goalkeeper’s team gains possession, the referee should stop play and restart the game with an indirect free kick for the opponents.  
  • If the ball goes out of play over the crossbar or wide of the goal, the referee should restart the game with a corner kick for the opponents.

 (See pages 72 in the 2014-2015 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game and Section 5.6 in the 2013-14 USSF Advice to Referees manual).

July 31, 2014

In a game I was watching, the referee had cautioned blue #3 for dissent in the first half. In the second half, blue #3 committed a cautionable offense but the referee did not caution him. When I asked the referee why, he said, "He deserved the second caution, but if I would have cautioned him, he would have been sent off and would have to sit out a game. He is a good player and his team needs him so I don't want to impact the team." Was the referee's action correct?

The referee has the responsibility to enforce the Laws of the Game in order to conduct and manage a game in a safe and fair manner. When the referee delivers good refereeing, it generates enjoyment for players, coaches, parents, referees and others.  

Cautioning and sending off players is challenging for referees. Referees, especially less experienced referees, feel bad cautioning and sending off players for different reasons. Referees don’t want to make children feel bad, impact the outcome of the game, leave a team short, etc. However, by correctly applying disciplinary action when players have earned a caution or send off, referees have a positive impact on the players and the game.

Players who get cautioned or sent off and receive an explanation from the referee learn to change their behavior for future games. The referees do not give the yellow or red cards, the players earn them and therefore need to be warned (cautioned) or lose the privilege to participate (sent off) in the game. Cautioning and sending off players should never become enjoyable for referees to do, but they need to learn to accept it as one of the responsibilities so they can maintain the best environment for the children to play.

Children who are under 12 years of age should not be formally cautioned or sent off unless there are exceptional circumstances. Referees should consider whether children in this age group are fully aware of their actions and should consult and work with the coach to get the desired behavior. Young players can usually be controlled by a verbal admonishment, thus avoiding the need to display cards.    

(See pages 38 and 39 in the 2013-2014 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game and page 19 in the 2014 AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents).

July 24, 2014

Every now and then, referees ask us if they should whistle to restart play after an offense.

The referee does not have to whistle to restart play after an offense. However, he must whistle for the following game scenarios:

  • To stop play for an offense resulting in a free kick or penalty kick.
  • To stop play when each half or extra period ends.
  • To stop play when a match must be suspended or abandoned.
  • For the taking of a penalty kick.
  • To restart play after delaying a restart to allow a substitution.
  • To start or restart play with a kick off for the first half, second half and after a goal is scored.
  • To restart play at free kicks when the referee has had to manage the required distance, also known as managing “the wall.”
  • To restart play after it has been stopped to issue a caution or a send off.
  • To restart play after it has been stopped to check on an injured player.

Except where required, the referee should keep whistling to a minimum and only when he needs to get the players’ attention to clarify a decision as in the following examples:

  • When a goal is scored and the ball goes back into the field of play.
  • To indicate a goal kick or throw-in when the ball leaves the field of play and goes back in.
  • To emphasize which team gets a throw-in when it is not clear to them and they start challenging for the ball or the incorrect team attempts to take a quick throw-in.  

July 17, 2014

When the assistant referee signals offside, does he have to wait until the referee sees the flag? Or, can he lower the flag after a couple of seconds and get back in position?          

When the referee misses the assistant referee (AR) signal for offside, the AR must stand at attention with the flag raised until one of the following happens:

  • The referee acknowledges the signal. Acknowledgement is whistling the offside infringement or waving the flag down.
  • The defending team gains clear possession of the ball. For example, the defending goalkeeper gets possession of the ball.
  • A goal kick or throw-in is awarded to the defending team.

To avoid the situation where the referee misses the AR’s signal for offside, the referee should automatically take a look at the AR on every attacking pass in the attacking half of the field. If there are two or more attackers moving towards the opponent’s goal, the referee should take another look at the AR when one of the attackers touches or controls the ball. The second look at the AR will catch an offside signal for a player that was in an offside position and got involved in active play a second or two later.

Note that the offside signal is a two part signal. The first part of the signal, flag straight up, merely indicates to the referee to stop play. It is only after the referee has acknowledged the flag by whistling to stop play and making eye contact that the AR should complete the signal by indicating near-third, middle-of-the-field, or far-third-of-the-field. This communicates that an offside infraction has occurred and where the restart should take place.
(See page 35 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

July 10, 2014

The World Cup referees seem to be making a lot of mistakes. How do they recover when they make mistakes?          

We should never comment on the decisions made by other referees as it is inappropriate and against the code of ethics for referees. Referees at all levels will make mistakes every now and then. It is what we do with the mistake that can impact our ability to effectively manage the rest of the match. Therefore, the referee’s objective after making a mistake is to “file the mistake” for after-the-game lessons learned purposes, move on and get back in the mindset that will help deliver refereeing that provides a safe, fair and fun game.

There are different ways to recover from making a mistake. One way involves a self-questioning technique where the referee quickly asks himself questions to get the mind focused on refereeing. Examples include:

  • What is the score?
  • Which team is dominating?
  • Are there any players with the potential to get cautioned?
  • Are the teams playing the offside trap?
  • Are there any players who may have to be cautioned for persistent infringement?
  • Are there highly talented players who are repeatedly fouled to prevent them from performing to the best of their ability?

This process allows the referee to refocus on refereeing and forget the mistake. If needed, questions can be added and/or changed and the process should be repeated to keep the referee’s mind focused on the game. Every now and then, all referees make significant mistakes. However, what is important is to not let them overwhelm you.

July 3, 2014

Several readers asked us about an incident during the World Cup match between Mexico and Holland when three balloons got onto the field while the ball was in play. The referee saw the objects, but did not do anything. Was the referee supposed to stop play?          

The referee should be careful in dealing with objects thrown onto the field during a game. In professional games, often objects such as confetti or other paper products are harmless celebrations and can be ignored. Usually, stadium personnel remove these items when the play is away from the objects. However, other objects, such as bottles, sharp objects, or fireworks are inherently dangerous for players, officials, or persons in the technical areas and play must be stopped as quickly as possible. In addition, a decision needs to be made as to whether the match must be terminated or if play may be safely resumed.

There are situations where objects thrown onto the field may not be dangerous, such as balloons, but have the possibility of interfering with play. In the Mexico vs. Holland game, the objects did not interfere with play and they did not create an unsafe or unfair condition for any player. Therefore, the referee was correct in allowing play to continue. The balloons deflated after a player stepped on them when play was far away from them. If the referee had stopped play to have the objects removed, he would have restarted the game with a dropped ball from the place where the ball was when play was stopped.   

In all games, professional and amateur, the referee should decide what action to take by considering whether:

  • The foreign object(s) is inherently dangerous;
  • The foreign object(s) is sufficiently numerous to make the playing surface unsafe if stepped on;
  • The foreign object(s) will cause confusion on the part of players (e.g., a ball or similar object); and
  • The potentially unsafe or unfair conditions are limited to one end of the field and, hence, might disadvantage one team over another.

(See page 71 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

June 26, 2014

In a U-12 girl’s game, red #10 is dribbling towards the blue team’s penalty area. Just outside the penalty area, blue #3 trips red #10, who manages to pass the ball to red #6. Red #6 controls the ball so the referee yells, “Advantage, Play on.” and red #6 scores. The referee checks with the assistant referee to confirm that it was a good goal and sees her signaling for offside. What should the referee penalize, the foul or the offside?       

The referee has the power to signal and apply advantage upon seeing a foul or misconduct. The referee may also penalize the original foul if the advantage does not develop as anticipated after a short time. In this situation, the referee determined that, when red #6 received the ball, she could apply advantage.  However, because red #6 was in an offside position, the referee cannot let play continue as it would break Law 11 and therefore, the advantage did not materialize. In other words, passing the ball to a teammate who is in an offside position does not constitute an advantage.  

In this situation, the referee should stop the game and restart it with a direct free kick (DFK) for the red team because of the foul committed by blue #3. This is a decision that may generate confusion among players and others. The referee should inform the players of the reason for restarting with the direct free kick.  The referee can say something similar to, "Advantage was not possible because red #6 was in an offside position, so I have to penalize the tripping foul committed to red #10."

(See pages 24 and 35 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

June 19, 2014

The referee awards a penalty kick to an attacker who was not fouled, but instead took a dive. The assistant referee sees that the attacker took a dive. What can the AR do?     

The duties of an assistant referee (AR) include, subject to the decision of the referee, are to indicate when misconduct or any other incident occurs out of the view of the referee and when offenses have been committed whenever the AR has a better view than the referee. When a player takes a dive to deceive the referee, the AR can and must assist the referee to ensure fairness in the application of the Laws.  

The AR can provide assistance to the referee via a consultation to share brief and factual information. In some cases, quick eye contact and a discreet signal can be used to let the referee know that the player took a dive. The signal to be used should be agreed upon and discussed in the pregame conference.

If the referee needs to talk to the AR, the AR can walk 2-3 yards into the field of play. When the referee and the AR are talking, they should face the field of play to keep an eye on things and avoid being heard by others. The AR should provide the facts and, if asked, a recommendation. The AR can say, “Red #3 made contact with the ball when he executed the sliding tackle. As blue #10 felt the contact with red #3, he went down on the ground. Red #3 never fouled blue #10.”  

If, after receiving information from the AR, the referee believes that there was no foul committed, he should notify the teams’ captains that he is changing the decision because there was no foul committed. In addition, if the referee believes that blue #10 took a dive, then the referee should show the yellow card to blue #10 and caution him for unsporting behavior. He should then restart the game with an indirect free kick for the red team. If the referee believes that blue #10 did not take a dive, after explaining the change to a no-foul decision, the referee should restart the game with a dropped ball.

If the players are U-10 and below, the referee should use this opportunity to mentor the players and teach them about good sportsmanship by asking blue #10 not to fall down when he feels contact from the opponent. This approach allows the referee to support coaches in teaching about fair play.    

If the referee does not accept the AR’s input, the AR should not insist and take the appropriate position for the restart.

If the referee acts based on the AR’s information, he should be ready to protect the AR. The attackers will likely dissent against the AR for assisting the referee into disallowing the penalty kick. If the attackers express their frustration, the referee should get between the players and the AR and manage the situation. The referee can say, “We’re a team and we help each other make correct decisions. However, I make the final decisions so I decided to change the decision. Now, let’s get the game restarted. Thank you.” If the AR has the courage to help make a correct decision, the referee needs to protect the AR.

(See pages 28 and 37 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

June 12, 2014

What is the best position for the referee during the taking of a corner kick?      


The best or optimal position in refereeing is one that is intelligent and flexible so you can be at the right place and at the right time to make the right decision. Position is intelligent when you keep the play between the referee and the assistant referee, do not interfere with play by getting hit with the ball or with players by occupying space that they need. The referee can read the likely course of play and move quickly as play develops.  

Position is flexible when the referee is able to move inside, if play requires him to project a stronger presence, or move outside, if play requires him to get out of the way. Below are the recommended starting positions for the referee for the two corner kick possibilities with the referee (represented by the letter “R”).  

 Whistle Stop Picture

The circle around the “R” is the general area where the referee should find the initial position for the taking of a corner kick. Feel free to pick different starting positions in order to accommodate the various characteristics of players, such as age, technical and physical skills, or emotional state. Remember to vary your position as things change so you can see as much of the action between players as possible, achieving the optimal position. Make sure you can see the following:

  1. The goalkeeper and those around him, watching for fouls and impeding
  2. The opponents who are making each other closely and jostling for position
  3. The area where the corner kick is likely to land. Don’t just watch the player taking the corner kick, the assistant referee can do that for you.                

June 5, 2014

Some of the young players have little or no control of their bodies when they play, so they have accidental falls, trips, etc. How can I make sure that I distinguish between accidental contact and fouls in these games?      

The referee enforces the Laws of the Game, which means that she has the discretion to determine what is a foul, what is a trifling offense, and what is not an offense. For an offense to be considered a foul, it must be committed by a player against an opponent and on the field of play while the ball is in play.

Refereeing in younger player games is an extension of the coaching program, and the referee needs to use a mentoring/teaching approach in dealing with game incidents. That is, refereeing younger player games requires teaching appropriate behavior as much, if not more than, enforcing the Laws of the Game. By being a mentor to younger players, the referee will keep the game safe and fair so it is a fun experience for the players.

Examples of players accidentally getting in trouble as they go after the ball and without committing a foul include running into each other, kicking the opponent instead of the ball, tripping the opponent, and falling down as they kick the ball at the same time. Typically, in these cases, the players run and try to kick the ball without sensing when it is safe to keep moving and when it is not. If a younger player falls down after contact, but there is no foul, the referee should stop play and make sure the fallen player is OK. The referee should then restart play with a dropped ball.  

Sometimes younger players commit careless fouls including kicking, tripping, and pushing. A younger player commits a careless foul primarily because of the lack of technical skills. In this case, the referee should stop play, signal the foul, and award the appropriate free kick.

When any of these incidents happen and a player might be hurt, regardless of whether the referee has signaled a foul, the referee should stop play and check for possible injuries. When the referee is checking for injuries, she can call the coaches to assist the players as appropriate. In the case of both accidental and fouling incidents, the referee should explain what was wrong with the player’s behavior, describe the expected behavior, and use a positive demeanor to communicate with the players.

(See pages 36, 117, and 143 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

May 29, 2014

A referee told me that a player may be in an offside position and receive the ball played to him by a teammate who acquired it from a dropped ball.  For example, blue #10 is in an offside position. Red #12 and blue #9 are in place for a dropped ball. The referee drops the ball which touches the ground and then blue #9 kicks it to blue #10. Was the referee correct?     

Referees should always discuss refereeing as it helps us learn from each other. Sometimes, when we discuss refereeing and share a lot of what-if scenarios, we end up providing wrong information and/or confusing referee concepts. It happens to all of us. In a dropped ball situation, play restarts when the ball touches the ground. If the player, who wins the dropped ball after it touches the ground is in an offside position, there is no offside infringement. This applies only to the player that first touches the ball after it is dropped.  

Any subsequent playing of the ball to a teammate could result in an offside infringement. That is, once the player touches the dropped ball, and every time a different player touches the ball, the referee starts a new snap-shot for potential offside decisions. In this scenario, the referee should punish the offside infringement because blue #10, who was in an offside position when he received the ball from teammate blue #9, interfered with play when he touched the ball. The restart is an indirect free kick for the red team.  

(See page 35 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

May 22, 2014

In a U-14 boy’s game, where I was the assistant referee, green #8 and white #12 ended up outside the field of play, behind the goal. White #12 kicked green #8 in retaliation for a previous foul. The referee sent off white #12 and restarted the game with a direct free kick for the green team. Was he correct?      

For an offense to be considered a foul, it must be committed by a player on the field of play while the ball is in play. Therefore, an offense that occurs off the field of play must be considered misconduct. In this case, white #12 kicked green #8 when he was outside of the field of play, which makes this a violent conduct offense. Therefore, the referee was correct in sending off white #12.

If the referee stopped play to deal with this misconduct and, in the referee’s opinion, white #12 was off the field of play when he committed the offense, then play should be restarted with a dropped ball from the position of the ball when play was stopped. If the referee believed that white #12 left the field of play in order to commit the offense, then play should be restarted with an indirect free kick for the green team, from the position of the ball when play was stopped.
(See pages 39 and 117 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

May 15, 2014

In our U-14 girl’s game, the referee awarded a direct free kick to our team just outside the opponent’s penalty area. The defenders set up a defensive wall and our best player, #10, lined up with them, facing their goal and being careful not to be in an offside position. Only the opponent’s goalkeeper was behind the defensive wall. Just before our kicker takes the free kick, #10 leans forward so her head was behind the defensive wall. When the ball is kicked into the empty space between the defensive wall and the goalkeeper, #10 runs to the ball, controls it and scores. The assistant referee signaled for offside and the referee took our goal away. Was the referee correct?      

A player is in an offside position if she is (a) in the attacking half of the field of play and (b) nearer to her opponents' goal line, than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent. “Nearer to the opponent’s goal line” means any part of a player’s head, body or feet. The arms are not included because the player cannot play the ball with their arms.

In this case, #10 was in an offside position when the ball was kicked by her teammate because of the location of her head. She interfered with play by touching the ball, so she was involved in active play. Therefore, the referee was correct in punishing the offside infringement.

(See page 108 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

May 8, 2014

In our game, the referee recruited a couple of parents to help as club linespersons. They called offside several times and they were wrong. Can club linespersons call offside?  

If qualified assistant referees are not available, the referee may recruit parents/spectators to help as club linespersons. This scenario provides a great opportunity for parents to get involved in their children’s game and enjoy the experience from a more personal perspective. And the referee may also invite the club linespersons to attend a referee course.    

Club linespersons do not have the training and knowledge needed to perform as referees or assistant referees. Therefore, club linespersons should have their responsibility limited to signaling when the ball goes completely over the touchline or goal line. If club linespersons are certified referees, but they do not have their uniforms, they are to act solely as club linespersons. To encourage effective cooperation and support from club linespersons, the referee may use the following procedure:

  • Recruit the club linespersons before the start of the game with plenty of time to provide them with clear, specific and simple instructions that will help avoid confusion.
  • Make a strong effort to recruit one person from each team.
  • Thank them for volunteering!
  • Make them feel comfortable in accepting the opportunity to contribute to the children’s game.
  • Inform the club linespersons that they only have one responsibility, to signal when the ball completely goes over the touch line or goal line, subject to the referee’s final decision.
  • Inform them that they will not signal offside, fouls, or any other offenses. This will put them at ease as they will know they only have one thing to signal.
  • Inform them that regardless of their personal opinions, the referee’s decisions during the game will be final and must not be questioned by them.
  • During the game, thank the club linespersons every time they signal a ball out of play.
  • At halftime and after the game ends, thank both club linespersons and invite them to take a referee course.

If the referee connects with the club linespersons in a positive and respectful manner, they will appreciate the referee’s authority and be supportive. This recruitment process will help the club linespersons accept decisions without questioning and/or challenging decisions should there be any difference of opinion among them.  

May 1, 2014

The referee gave my daughter a second yellow card in the first half and did not give her a red card. He gave her a red card in the second half and sent her off.  Was the referee correct?  

A player who receives a second caution (yellow card) in the same game must be sent off and their team must play with one player short. Unfortunately, in this case, the referee and assistant referees did not realize that the player had received a second caution and allowed her to continue playing until they became aware of the situation. The coach from the other team provided the awareness and the referee did the correct thing by sending off the player.    

If a referee fails to send off a player right after receiving a second caution, he must send off the player as soon as he realizes that a mistake has been made. The referee should stop play immediately to send off the player, unless the opponent has a clear opportunity to score a goal. Then, the referee should explain the mistake to the player and coaches, show the red card, and send off the player. When the referee stops play to correct the mistake, play should be restarted with a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play stopped.    

If the referee becomes aware of the mistake during the half time period, before starting the second half the referee should explain the situation to the player and coaches, show the red card to the guilty player (there is no need to show the yellow card again) and send the player off. If the player is off the field of play, within the team’s bench for example, the referee should explain the mistake, ask the player to remain off the field of play and notify the player’s team that they have to play one player short. The Laws of the Game was written with the highest level of players in mind, who are expected not to be affected by the showing of cards. In this case, there is no need to show the red card if the referee considers that doing so will only create a spectacle out of the referee’s mistake and possibly impact a youth player in a negative manner.

If the red card is shown during a stoppage that occurs immediately after a goal has been scored by the player who should have been sent off earlier, the goal must be disallowed.

If the player who received the two cautions was substituted, the referee should stop play immediately, unless the opponent has a clear, subsequent opportunity to score a goal, explain the mistake to the coach, ask the guilty player to remain off the field of play and ask the coach to remove one player from the field of play as the team must play one player short. The game should be restarted with a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play stopped.  

The referee and assistant referees (ARs) should document the player’s number for every player who gets cautioned in order to help each other correctly identify any player who receives a second caution. The referee should make it easier for the ARs to record a cautioned player’s number by isolating the player to a place on the field of play where their number is visible to the ARs and, if needed, verbalize the player’s number to the ARs. This type of incident should be documented in the game’s report.   

(See pages 31 and 39 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

April 24, 2014

When should the referee deal with player dissent?

Dissent is very negative and destructive to the game of soccer, so the referees should have zero tolerance for it. The referee should deal with dissent right away as it is easier when it first shows up. Dissent is committed by word or action, including gestures that directly challenge the authority of the referee or assistant referees, or by actively disputing an official's decision. Players, as well as substitutes, can be cautioned for committing dissent.

The referee needs to deal with dissent to support and maintain respect for the spirit of the game, maintain respect for the authority of the officials, and to eliminate the risk that other players will get frustrated and start dissenting, as dissent is contagious. The referee should evaluate dissent in terms of content (what exactly is said or done), loudness (the extent to which the dissent can be seen or heard widely), and whether it is clearly directed at an official (including assistant referees and fourth officials). Evaluating player behavior in this manner will help the referee recognize the difference between dissent, which is an affront to the referee’s authority and an emotional response due to frustration, which can usually be managed by a respectful but firm word from the referee.

This video clip, courtesy of USSF, provides an example of clear visual dissent. The white shirt player is dribbling and shielding the ball near the touchline when red #12 pushes him in the back. The referee correctly awards a direct free kick to the white team. This frustrates red #12 so he picks up the ball and, with both hands, slams it hard into the ground as a sign of dissent. In this case, the referee should show the yellow card to red #12 and caution him for dissenting in a public and visual manner.  

If a referee does not manage this type of dissent, including cautioning the guilty player, red #12 and other players will continue to dissent throughout the rest of the game. Such negative behavior will make it difficult to manage the game and potentially have a negative impact on the safe, fair and fun expectations for the match. This list, Game Management – Ten Tips To Help You Deal With Dissent, provides tips that will help the referee manage dissent.

(See page 38 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

April 17, 2014

I was coaching a U-10 boy’s team with only six players. One of my players showed up late and I asked the referee to allow him to join the game. The referee told me to wait until our team had possession of the ball. Was the referee right?

When a team is playing shorthanded for any reason other than having had one or more of its players sent off, that team may request to add a player at any stoppage (when the ball is out of play). In the Spirit of the Game, the referee team should make every effort to help players that arrive late to enter the field of play as soon as possible for a team that is playing short.     

In this case, the assistant referee can help by inspecting the player’s equipment and ensuring that paperwork is correct. Once the player has been properly checked-in, he should be allowed to enter the field of play at the next ball-out-of-play situation with the referee’s permission. The player should enter the field of play from the halfway line.  

(See page 33 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

April 10, 2014

I was refereeing a U-12 girl’s game when I awarded a penalty kick to the red team because blue #5 pushed red #10 inside the blue team’s penalty area. Right after I blew the whistle, red #10 gained possession of the ball and kicked it into the opponent’s goal. I was getting ready to set up the penalty kick when I noticed my assistant referee (AR) talking to the red team’s coach. My AR called me over and told me that the advantage was taken away from red #10 as she managed to score and suggested I should give the goal instead of taking the penalty kick. Is this allowed?

The ball is out of play when the referee makes the decision to stop play and the whistle announces such decision to everyone else. In this case, when the whistle was blown, play was stopped just before red #10 scored the goal. Unfortunately, the referee did not wait a second or two to apply advantage. Therefore, the referee may not allow the goal to count as it was scored when the ball was out of play. The referee should restart play with a penalty kick for the red team because of the pushing foul committed by blue #5.  

Advantage, allowing play to continue, should be applied when the team that receives an infringement will benefit from the application of advantage. This is done by showing the proper signal and verbalizing, “Advantage, play on!” to indicate that the referee has seen the foul. If the advantage does not materialize quickly, within three seconds, the referee should punish the original infringement.

For more information related to the application of advantage read the March 20, 2014 edition of “What’s The Correct AYSO Answer?” here.

(See page 72 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.) 

April 3, 2014

My daughter plays in a U-12 team. Her team was awarded a penalty kick and the other team decided to change goalkeepers prior to the taking of the penalty kick. Is this allowed?

Changing a player is different than substituting a player. Changing the goalkeeper with any other player on the field of play is allowed provided that the referee is notified before the change is made and the change is made during a stoppage of play. In this case, if the goalkeeper was changed with another player on the field of play (not substituted) while play was stopped in preparation for the taking of the penalty kick and the referee was informed of the change before it was made, then there was no infringement of the Laws of the Game.

The referee can explain this part of the Law to the players and coaches as needed. Coaches, players, and parents involved in younger player games are often learning about the game and the referee can provide information to help them understand the application of the Laws of the Game.   

(See page 18 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

March 27, 2014

What can the referee do if a spectator steps on the field of play to complain to the referee about her decisions?

The best approach to deal with spectators is for the referee to team up with the coach. The coach has a connection with the team and its spectators/parents. There is an expectation of respect and cooperation, which is set from the start when the coach and the parents first meet.  

The referee can take the following steps to team up with the coach to manage spectators:

  • The referee team should connect with both coaches before the start of the game and set teamwork expectations to help each other. This step will generate the coaches’ awareness to help prevent irresponsible spectator behavior and/or to assist the referees if it happens.
  • When necessary, the referee should stop play and go talk to the coach. The discussion should be brief and simple.  The referee can say, “Coach, please help us get that spectator under control.  Thank you.” Then jog away towards the place where the restart should happen.   
  • If the coach goes over and manages the situation, quickly restart play.
  • If the coach is having a challenge managing the situation, wait a minute or two before restarting the game. This will send a message to the spectator that the referee supports the coach and will not restart the game until the spectator stops the negative behavior.  

The Kids Zone, Code of Conduct, and Parent or Coach Pledges are AYSO programs and concepts that help influence behavior in a positive manner. For more information on these programs and concepts please go to

In most cases, the steps above will help manage the situation. However, if the unacceptable behavior continues and the coach is not able to manage it, the referee can suspend or abandon the match because of the outside interference. In this situation, the referee can provide a warning to the spectator. The warning can be something like, “If you don’t stop, I will terminate the match. Do you really wish to keep the children from playing? Thank you.” Then wait a couple of minutes and if the negative behavior does not stop, notify the captains and coaches, and abandon the match.  

All incidents of irresponsible behavior should be documented in the match report. One final word, stopping the game should be the last resort. Try every possible thing to have the spectators behave so the players can play.
(See pages 24 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.

March 20, 2014

When should the referee apply advantage in a foul situation?

Per Law 5, referees have the power to apply and signal the advantage upon seeing a foul or misconduct committed if, at that moment, allowing play to continue will benefit the team against which the foul has been committed. The referee may return to, and penalize, the original offense, if the advantage situation does not develop as anticipated after a short while – guideline is 2 to 3 seconds.  

The referee should consider the following factors when deciding to apply advantage:

•    Severity of the offense – If the offense warrants a send-off, the referee must stop play to send off the guilty player unless there is a CLEAR opportunity to score a goal.
•    Match atmosphere – If the game is not under control, the referee should stop play to avoid additional and stronger frustration and possible retaliation.
•    Ball possession – Active and credible ball control by the player who was fouled or a teammate.
•    Potential – The likelihood of continuing an immediate and dangerous attack on the opponent’s goal.
•    Personnel involved – The number and skills of the attackers relative to the number and skills of the defenders within two to three seconds of the offense.
•    Proximity – The distance to the opponent’s goal; the less the distance, the greater potential for a goal to be scored.

View this video clip

In this video, white #15 fouls blue #6, but the referee effectively applies advantage and a goal is scored.

Additional points about applying the advantage:

•    Regardless of the outcome of the advantage decision, the referee should deal with the infringement.  
•    If the offense warrants a caution, it must be issued at the next stoppage of play. However, unless there is a clear opportunity for scoring a goal, it is recommended that the referee stops play and cautions the guilty player.
•    If the guilty player simply needs to be made aware of what he did wrong, instead of stopping play, the referee should have a word with the player at the next opportunity.
•    Referees should note that the advantage is not defined solely in terms of scoring a goal.
•    Referees should not apply advantage for these two actions:
     o    Trifling infractions: offenses that have no significant impact upon play.
     o    Doubtful infractions: neither the referee nor the assistant referees are certain that an infraction has occurred

(See pages 24, 38-39, and 72 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)  

March 13, 2014

What is the restart if a defending player takes a free kick inside his own penalty area and the ball leaves the penalty area by rolling over the goal line section of the penalty area? (The picture below illustrates the question.)

Whistle Stop Picture

During the taking of a free kick by the defending team inside its own penalty area, the ball is in play when it is kicked directly out of the penalty area. For the ball to be in play, though, it also has to be on the field of play. Therefore, the only option for the ball to be in play from a free kick by the defending team inside its own penalty area is to be kicked into the field of play. If the ball is not directly kicked out of the penalty area and into the field of play, the free kick is retaken. If the free kick is not correctly taken, the referee can provide instructions to the player to ensure a correct execution of the free kick.

(See page 41 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)    

March 6, 2014

I was told that it was wrong for a player to move the ball after it had been placed on the ground for the taking of a goal kick as it is a delaying tactic and should not be allowed. What’s your thought regarding this?

Once the ball has been placed on the ground for a goal kick, it is expected that the kick will be taken. Younger, inexperienced players are learning about the game and they may move the ball, sometimes multiple times, without meaning to delay the game. The referee can help speed up the restart by getting close to the player and providing instructions in a friendly manner. The referee could say, “Leave the ball where it is and kick it as hard as you can.” Or, if the player has picked up the ball, say, “Put the ball down and kick it as hard as you can so we won’t waste time.” After the player kicks the ball, the referee can say, “Thank you,” to acknowledge the player’s cooperation.  

As the players get older, they do learn to use this tactic to delay the game, especially when they are winning. If the player moves the ball quickly to kick the ball towards the side with less defenders, then the referee may allow it if it is done within a couple of seconds and done only once. If the player keeps using this tactic to delay the game, then the referee can say something to stop the behavior.

If the player picks up the ball and slowly moves towards the opposite side of the goal area, the referee can quickly get close and encourage a faster restart by talking to the player. The objective is to encourage the players to restart play within a reasonable time and not use delaying tactics.  

February 27, 2014

Red #10 and blue #3 are challenging for the ball and their momentum carries them off the field of play, just outside the penalty area. With the ball still in play inside the blue team’s penalty area, red #10 decides to go for the ball. Blue #3 holds him outside the field of play so he cannot get to the ball. How should I sanction this incident and what is the restart?                                
No foul has occurred since the holding offense happened outside the field of play. Given this scenario, the referee has two options to consider.  

Option 1: Stop play, and if the players are U-12 or older, caution blue #3 for unsporting behavior - preventing an opponent from getting to the ball. In a U-10 or younger level game, it is recommended that the referee not use cards and instead manage such situations by verbally admonishing the player and working with the coach to teach them about appropriate behavior. Since the incident happened outside the field of play, the restart would be a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped.

Option 2: The referee may decide to wait and see what happens. If red #10 breaks free and gets to the ball, the referee may apply advantage and allow play to continue since red #10 would be inside the opponent’s penalty area with a good chance for a shot on goal. In this option, the referee may chose to verbally admonish blue #3 at the next opportunity. The referee may also decide to caution blue #3, if he is a U-12 or older player, at the next stoppage of play.

Ignoring the holding offense by blue #3 is not a good option as it would generate frustration and possible retaliation.          

(See pages 38 and 123 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

February 20, 2014

A player told me that she needed to wear a sweatband on her head because she sweats a lot and the sweat irritates her eyes so much that she cannot see or play well. Should I allow the use of sweatbands?                            
While sweatbands are not part of the basic player equipment, they are accepted as supplementary player equipment as long as the referee decides they are safe. The referee should check and decide if the sweatband is safe to the player wearing it or other players by making sure it is elastic, flexible and soft.  

Supplemental items, such as colorful feathers, worn only for adornment are not permitted. But items which the referee believes are not dangerous to the player or to other players and serve the purpose of hair control, perspiration absorption, or conformance to religious requirements, are permitted.  

The referee should check the players’ equipment as early as possible before the game starts. This approach will provide the referee with enough time to explain to the coaches and parents why an item is not approved to be used and give them a chance to manage possible frustration that comes with players spending time, and often money, to get these non-approved items.        

(See pages 21 and 69 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game and page 45 in the 2014 AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents.)    

February 13, 2014

Should a referee wear his referee shirt when he is coaching?                          
It is strongly recommended that referees should not wear their referee uniform or any other clothes that may identify them as referees when they are coaching or watching a game. Wearing referee equipment can potentially invite negative comments and/or challenging questions related to the referee team who is refereeing the game. To avoid this challenge, referees should carry non-referee clothes with them that can be used if they are coaching or watching a game before or after they officiate a game.

February 6, 2014

In a U-14 girl’s game, I blew the whistle to indicate an indirect free kick (impeding) offense by blue #4 against red #10. As I pointed the direction of the restart, red #10 deliberately pushed blue #4 to the ground. The pushing seemed more serious to me than the foul committed by blue #4. Therefore, I awarded a direct free kick in favor of the blue team. Was I right?                

The ball was out of play when you decided that blue #4 committed the impeding offense. You confirmed your decision and made the players aware of it by blowing the whistle. Since you stopped the game for the impeding offense committed by blue #4, the restart should have been an indirect free kick for the red team.

Red #10 committed the pushing offense when the ball was out of play. Therefore, red #10’s offense cannot be a foul. Because she deliberately pushed an opponent while the ball was out of play, red #10’s offense is misconduct. The restart, an indirect free kick for the red team, should have remained the same. In this scenario, the referee should show the yellow card to red #10 and caution her for unsporting behavior. Then, the referee should restart play with the indirect free kick for the red team.

To manage the situation, the referee may explain the reason for the restart - why the pushing offense does not change the restart, but it is punished with a caution - and ask red #10 to let the referee manage the game and not commit offenses. Similar scenarios generate frustration and possible retaliation so the referee has to quickly manage incidents and provide quick and brief explanations as needed.

(See pages 33, 36-37, and 117 in the 2013/14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)

January 30, 2014

Next week, I’ll referee my second game and so far the referees have talked to me about my responsibilities during the pregame. Do assistant referees need another talk at halftime or just in the pregame discussion? 

First, thank you for volunteering to referee as we're happy to welcome everyone who wants to join the AYSO referee team. We're glad that your peers are sharing information with you during the pregame discussion. This helps the referee team develop and share a plan to officiate the game, which can be reviewed and modified during the halftime discussion.  

The halftime period should be used by the referee team to prepare physically and mentally to referee the second half, which always offers more challenges as players are more tired and frustration is more likely to show up. This can be done by taking care of basic physical needs and evaluating and planning what the referees need to do in the second half.  

Referees should consider the following actions for the halftime period:

Leave the field walking together to project teamwork.

Stay healthy.

  • Drink water to rehydrate and maintain good health.  
  • If really hungry, take a small portion of food, preferably fruit.
  • If needed, use the bathroom.
  • Do stretching exercises to relax the muscles.

Share information useful for evaluating and planning while you are stretching, drinking water, etc.

  • Verify the game score and update the game record as needed.
  • Check cautions and/or send-offs.
  • Identify players with potential frustration.
           o    Consider talking to them before starting the second half.
           o    Keep a close watch on them.
  • Have there been a lot of fouls?

           o    Identify who has committed most of them.
           o    Get ready to manage possible frustration.

  • Do you have players with multiple fouls, persistent infringement?

           o    Consider talking to them before starting the second half.
           o    Consider talking to their coach so they can mentor them.

  • Is play getting careless, reckless, or starting to use excessive force?

           o    Consider tightening the game with a few more foul calls.
           o    Consider doing more talking to players in the second half.

  • Are you calling too many trifling fouls and frustrating players?

           o    Consider loosening up your foul recognition.
           o    Consider asking the coaches about your foul recognition.

  • Is one team getting significantly more tired or dominating the game more?

           o    Watch out for increasing, careless or reckless contact.
           o    Manage potential frustration and refocus the players by talking to them.

The referee team will benefit from reviewing their plan at halftime!

January 23, 2014

I started refereeing U-12 games and now pushing fouls are not as obvious as they used to be in the U-8 and U-10 games. What is a pushing foul in games with older kids?


Pushing fouls can potentially become more frequent and are more challenging to identify as the players get older because they do the pushing in different ways.

The criteria for a foul remains the same regardless of the age level. An offense becomes a foul when it is committed by a player on the field of play, while the ball is in play, against an opponent, and in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force.

The attached video clip provides an example of a pushing foul that can be challenging to identify. Blue player #14 is chasing the ball towards the touchline with white player #23 chasing him. Just as blue #14 reaches the ball, white #23 makes contact with the blue player's back and pushes him. The referee should be in a position where he can see both players. That is, the referee should be at an angle to the play so that one player does not block his view of the other player. This will help the referee have a better view of the action and pick up the signs that will help him or her make the correct evaluation.

The signs that will help a referee make a correct decision include:

  • Blue #14 gets into a better position to get control of the ball and slows down before making contact with #23. Therefore, it takes less contact to stop his progress and/or make him lose ball possession.

  • White #23 realizes that blue #14 beat him to the best position with a possibility of controlling the ball and decides to extend his arm at the last second, making contact with (pushing) blue #14's back.

  • The challenge is occurring near the touchline, where the player with the ball, or with the best chance of controlling the ball, has less room to maneuver and thus will be somewhat trapped. Play along the touchline, or goal line, often becomes scrappy due to this reduced area.

The contact is to the back from behind, pushing blue #14 into the ground which is very dangerous. It is important for the referee team to identify this type of foul and manage it in order to prevent injuries, player frustration and possible retaliation. In order to minimize or eliminate this type of foul, when play nears the boundary lines the referee and/or assistant referee need to be close by to ensure that players feel their presence with their voice and/or a stronger whistle. With this type of foul the referee should at least have a quiet word with the guilty player.

(See pages 36 and 117 in the 2009/2010 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

January 16, 2014

"In a U-8 game, I accidentally blew the whistle and everyone stopped. I was not sure how to restart the game so I gave the losing team a free kick. Was I correct?"


The correct restart for this stoppage of play is a dropped ball. Law 8 specifies that a dropped ball is to be used to restart the game when the referee stops play for any reason not listed elsewhere in the Laws. In scenarios where you are not sure of the restart and you have assistant referees, ask them as they may know the answer.

(See pages 31 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

January 9, 2014

"In a U-8 game our defender made a throw in towards our keeper. The keeper never touched the ball which went into our goal. What's the restart?"


A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw in. If the ball enters the thrower's own goal directly from a throw in, the referee must award a corner kick to the opposing team. Therefore, in this scenario since your team took the throw in, the referee should restart the game with a corner kick for the other team.

(See pages 48 and 134 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

What's the Correct AYSO Answer - 2013

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