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September 12, 2013

"In our U-8 game, a player wearing jewelry scored a goal against our team. Is the goal valid?"


Yes, the goal is valid. However, because wearing jewelry can be dangerous to a player and/or his/her opponents, the referee should ask the player to remove the jewelry. If needed, the player should leave the field of play so the coach can help remove the jewelry. After the player removes the jewelry or leaves the field of play to have it removed, the referee can restart the game with a kick-off for the opposing team.

To avoid possible injury, jewelry of any kind worn in any visible manner must be removed before a player is allowed to participate in a practice or game. The referee should arrive early to the field of play and check the players for proper equipment before starting the game. Coaches should also check the players before starting a practice to make sure all jewelry is removed. Parents can help by asking and/or helping their children to remove all jewelry before they go to the field.    

Referees and coaches are role models and should avoid wearing jewelry during practices and/or games.

(See page 43 in the 2012-13 AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents).




September 5, 2013

"Can a player play the ball after taking a throw-in and hitting a teammate in the back?"



Yes, a player may play the ball after taking a correct and safe throw-in that strikes a teammate. A throw-in taken correctly, may strike an opponent or teammate as long as it is done in a safe manner. Players in older youth games learn and use this legal restart to deceive the opponents. Usually, a teammate comes up to the player with the ball and then turns around so the player's back is close to the player who will take the throw-in. The opponents temporarily relaxed, because the teammate turns his back and they think another player will receive the throw-in. However, the player with the ball takes the throw-in, surprising the opponents and getting control of the ball.

It is possible for a player to use a throw-in in a manner that can be considered unsporting behavior or violent conduct. To judge possible misconduct the referee should consider the following factors:


  • Force used to strike the player with the ball. For a fair throw-in, the player usually just tosses the ball gently at the player so that it remains within a close distance.
  • Part of the body where the ball makes contact. For a possible misconduct, often the player will deliberately hit the player in the face or other part of the head.
  • If the player takes the throw-in with a sense of frustration, there is a possible misconduct.


If the referee believes there is misconduct, the restart is a free kick for the opponent from the place where the throw-in strikes the player. If the player strikes an opponent, the restart is a direct free kick, but if it strikes a teammate the restart is an indirect free kick.

(See pages 38-39 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).



August 29, 2013

"How do I determine how much time to add to the match for time lost during the game?"



The referee may add time to each period of play to compensate for time lost due to substitutions, player injuries including the removal of injured players from the field of play, wasting time and any other cause at the discretion of the referee. The referee must not compensate for a timekeeping error during the first period of play by increasing or reducing the time length of the second period of play.
  • Here are some things to consider when determining how much time to add:
  • In AYSO, we identify specific times to conduct substitutions. These substitution times should not last long and they are not intended to be coaching moments. The referee and assistant referees can take proactive action to keep the time used for substitutions to a minimum, by reminding the coaches before the start of the game to have their players ready for substitution approximately halfway through each period of play.   
  • The referee should manage situations in which players seem to be wasting time. Typically this happens in games with older players when a team is winning. For example, the winning team's goalkeeper will take longer to retrieve the ball and execute a goal kick. In this case, the referee should remain close to the goalkeeper and verbally encourage a fast taking of the goal kick.
  • The referee team needs to be very proactive during the game in managing time that is wasted by the players and others. This becomes more critical in tournaments where there are many games played throughout the day with limited time for each game. In this scenario, the tournament authorities use a loud device (typically a horn) to announce game ending times. In such cases, there is little or no time available to add to the match.
(See pages 29 and 104 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).



August 22, 2013

"What is the punishment for a player that gets sent off by the referee?"   



A minimum of one game suspension is required for any player, substitute or substituted player sent off by the referee. Depending on the severity of the misconduct for which the player was sent off, the competition authorities may impose additional disciplinary action. The referee must document in the match report the details related to all the misconduct incidents that happen in a game, in order to help the competition authorities evaluate each incident and apply additional disciplinary action as appropriate.

The specific types of misconduct that may require additional disciplinary action, that is, more than a one-game suspension, include violent conduct, spitting at an opponent or any other person, using offensive or abusive language and/or gestures and serious foul play.

Different competitions set up different game suspension numbers, but they all stay within a consistent range. In AYSO, the specific disciplinary action guideline(s) and related game suspension numbers should be developed by the rules committee, and shared with the management, coaching and refereeing components for them to provide a "sanity check." The National Tournament Commission can review the final product to ensure that it is supportive of AYSO's core values and goals.

The examples below are a list of misconduct offenses and their respective game suspension numbers that reflect the practice of other soccer organizations.

  • Offenses - Game Suspension
  • Two cautions in the same game - One
  • Denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball or an offense - One
  • Use of offensive or abusive language - Two
  • Serious foul play (SFP) - Two or more*
  • Spitting at an opponent - Three
  • Violent Conduct (VC) - Three or more*

* To be determined based on the severity of the SFP or VC.

Share your Section/Area/Region disciplinary plan with parents and coaches before the start of the season and throughout the season on your websites. Occasional emails to your volunteers and parents may be helpful reminders as well. This will help parents and coaches work together to encourage players to avoid being sent off from games and focus on having a good AYSO experience.

For more information on the use of cards and appropriate management of players who get sent off, please read the February 7, 2013 and September 29, 2011 editions of "What's The Correct AYSO Answer?"

(See page 47 in the 2012-13 AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents.)  


August 15, 2013

Do we apply offside in U-8 games? I started refereeing last week and I had a couple of parents yelling, "Offside."   



Law 11 - Offside, applies only in U-10 and older games. For U-8 and younger players, small-sided games are played with 5 v 5 or less. They are too young to learn and understand how to apply the offside Law. Therefore, we do not apply Law 11 for younger players, because the focus is to have them enjoy playing the game without implementing complicated rules.

Parents are also learning about the game, including the Laws. Before the game starts, at halftime and after the game, a referee can spend a couple of minutes helping to teach parents about the game by explaining rules, such as why we don't apply Law 11 in U-8 and younger games.




August 8, 2013

In a U-12 girls' game, I blew the whistle to indicate that blue #4 impeded the progress of red #20. As I'm pointing in the direction for the restart, red #20 pushed blue #4 into the ground. The pushing seemed more serious to me than the foul committed by blue #4, so I awarded a direct free kick to the blue team. Was I right?  



The moment you decided that blue #4 committed the offense, impeding the progress of an opponent, red #20, you stopped the game and the ball was out of play. You confirmed your decision and made the players aware of it by blowing the whistle.

A foul is an unsafe and/or unfair act committed by a player against an opponent, on the field of play and while the ball is in play. In this scenario, the push occurred when the ball was out of play, so the push is not a foul.

Any offense that happens when the ball is out of play may be punished as misconduct. The restart should be the one associated with the original offense, which in this case, is impeding the progress of an opponent.

Therefore, since play is already stopped, manage red #20's offense as appropriate per your opinion, using at a minimum a firm, verbal warning. You can also caution or send off red #20 if you believe her action merits it. Check with blue #4 to make sure she is not injured from the pushing by red #20. Then, restart the game with an indirect free kick for the red team from where the impeding offense occurred.

(See pages 37-39 in the 2013-14 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)




August 1, 2013

"Why don't the referees explain their decisions to the coach?"



Soccer is a game that is much more fun for players and spectators alike when it is played with as little interference as possible. Therefore, referees are trained and expected to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law. They are also trained to quickly restart play after stoppages so the excitement of the game can continue as quickly as possible. This concept is best explained in the last paragraph located on the final page of AYSO's version of the FIFA Laws of the Game.

Taking extra time to explain the reasons for stopping play to coaches and/or spectators would delay the game and only distract and possibly frustrate the players. Of course, the referee may briefly explain a decision if he/she thinks it's advisable to improve the players' understanding of the Laws. Coaches and others can read and learn the Laws of the Game by accessing a copy here. <>  Better yet, coaches and others can sign up for a referee course to learn the Laws of the Game and participate in the great experience of officiating children's games in AYSO.

If you need contact information for your Region, type your zip code into AYSO's Region Locator. <>    

(See page 139 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).




July 25, 2013

"May I send off a player who dissents while I'm recording his number because I just cautioned him for unsporting behavior?"



Yes, you may send off a player for dissent if he has received a prior caution in the same game. In this scenario, show the yellow card to the player for dissent, then show him the red card for committing a second cautionable offense in the same game and send him off. Restart the game per the reason for stopping play to execute the first caution.

In similar scenarios, the referee can help the player avoid a quick and emotional second caution by taking these steps:


•    Don't display the yellow card right away unless you suspect retaliation on the part of the fouled player or his teammates.
•    Calm the player that will be cautioned.
•    Say something to the player that will help him refocus on safe and fair play.
o    Example, "Calm down. You're going to hurt somebody."
•    If needed, allow the player to briefly vent in a respectful manner.
•    If you allow venting, redirect the player's mind to the offense he committed and remind him that it is unacceptable.
•    Once the player calms down, show him the yellow card.
•    Sometimes with older players, you may need to act immediately to shut down the verbal dissent that may come up as you're executing a caution. This is especially true if you have already given the player a verbal warning. In this case, you quickly say something like, "No more. Thank you." As you gesture with both arms, pause to look him in the eyes and then show him the card for the caution.


These actions will help players avoid a second caution.

(See page 39 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game.)



July 18, 2013

"For a corner kick in U-10 games, should the opponents be at least 10 yards from the ball or from the corner arc?"

Answer: The distance is measured from the arc, not from the position of the ball. For corner kicks in U-10 games, the opponents must remain at least eight yards from the corner arc until the ball is in play. The 10 yard requirement for corner kicks is for U-12 and older games. The ball is in play when it is kicked and moved. The player who takes the corner kick must not touch the ball again until it has touched another player.


The AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents has U-10 game information and much more that is helpful for a quick review of game rules.

(See page 48 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents).


July 11, 2013

"Is there a maximum distance away from the point of exit of the ball from where a throw-in may be taken?"

Answer: The throw-in should be taken from the point where the ball crossed the touch line. However, a player taking the throw-in is in motion retrieving the ball and/or positioning them self to take the throw-in and will not necessarily be exactly at the point of exit. Therefore, it is acceptable for the throw-in to be taken from within one yard of the point of exit, up-field, downfield, or back away from the touch line.

When a player is moving further away than one yard to take a throw-in, the referee should immediately help identify the point of exit. The referee should line up with the point of exit, point to it with an extended arm and get the player's attention before the throw-in is taken. The referee should blow the whistle loud to get the player's attention and when eye contact is made, verbalize direction if needed. The referee can say, "Back up. Thank you."

(See page 25 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents)


July 4, 2013

"I read in Whistle Stop that in U-8 games, the referee should allow a second throw-in if the first attempt was improperly done. How about in U-10 games?"

Answer: Second chances are not given for improper throw-ins for U-10 and older players. An improper throw-in results in a throw-in for the opposing team. However, the referee should judge if the throw-in violated the Spirit of the Law or if the violation was trifling and not worthy of stopping play. The objective is to keep the game moving by avoiding unnecessary or trifling interruptions.


  •  The proper procedure for throw-ins dictates that at the moment of delivering the ball, the   thrower:
  •  Faces the field of play.
  •  Has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line.
  •  Holds the ball with both hands.
  •  Delivers the ball from behind and over his head.
  •  Delivers the ball from the point where it left the field of play. And remember, when in doubt, let the children play.    

 (See page 48 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and     Parents).


June 27, 2013

"In a U-14 boys' game, red #10 passes the ball to red #9 who is even with the next to the last defender. The assistant referee (AR), thinking red #9 was offside, raises his flag to signal the infringement. The referee sees the flag and blows the whistle just as the AR realizes that red #9 was not in an offside position when the ball was last played by red #10, so he brings the flag down. When the referee sees the flag down he yells, "Play on!" and allows red #9 to score. Was the referee correct?"

Answer: Once the referee blows the whistle, play must be stopped. Whether or not the AR was correct, the referee cannot change his mind once the whistle is blown. In this case, after blowing the whistle the referee should stop play and do the following:
  • If he accepts the AR's final input, that red #9 was not in an offside position, he should explain the mistake to the captains and restart play with a dropped ball from where the ball was positioned when play stopped. The dropped ball restart is due to the referee stopping play with a quick whistle.
  • If he does not accept the AR's input and believes red #9 was offside, he should restart play with an indirect free kick for the opposing team from where red #9 was when the ball was passed by red #10.

Referees should never yell "Play on" to indicate that there is noinfraction. Instead, phrases such as "No foul" or "Keep playing" shouldbe used for this. "Play on" indicates that the referee has seen a foulor some other infraction and has elected to apply advantage, rather thanblow the whistle.

June 20, 2013

"In a U-10 game, I awarded a penalty kick to the orange team. I paced the distance for the penalty mark and placed the ball barely outside the penalty area at twelve yards from the goal line. Was I correct?"

Answer: In AYSO U-10 games, the penalty area should be thirty yards long, centered within the goal line and extended fourteen yards from the goal line (14 x 30 yards). The penalty mark should be at 10 yards from the goal line. Given your description, the penalty area was not wide enough, not extended far enough from the goal line and you placed the ball for the penalty kick at 12 yards instead of the required 10.

Below are penalty kick points, which should and can be enforced by checking the field before the game starts and making corrections as needed:
  • A penalty kick must be taken from inside the penalty area.
  • In U-10 games, the penalty mark should be placed 10 yards from the goal line.
  • In U-10 games, the penalty arc should be at eight yards radius from the penalty mark.
  • If the penalty area cannot be fixed before the match starts, and its width is shorter than the distance required for a penalty kick, please notify both teams that penalty kicks will be taken from the penalty area line parallel to the goal line.

(See page 46 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents.)

June 13, 2013

"Our game's assistant referee (AR) waived his flag after the other team fouled our player barely inside their penalty area. The referee whistled the foul and the AR ran to the corner flag, so we thought our team would get a penalty kick. However, the referee stopped just outside the penalty area and awarded a free kick to our team. Did the AR give the wrong signal for the penalty kick?"

Answer: The scenario you shared is very challenging to evaluate as it is about perception in the opinion of the referee. The AR has the duty, subject to the decision of the referee, to indicate when an offense has been committed whenever the AR has a better view than the referee - including offenses committed in the penalty area.

In this case, provided the AR saw a direct free kick foul inside the penalty area, he used the proper signal to indicate the foul. Signaling with a flag straight up with a slight wave after the referee makes eye contact with the AR is the proper indication. Before running to the corner flag, the AR probably held the flag across his lower body to indicate that the foul was committed inside the penalty area. Therefore, the AR performed his duty as far as signaling the foul.

However, the referee makes the final decision as he uses the information provided by the AR. In this case, it seems that the referee believed the foul was committed outside the penalty area and indicated the spot where the free kick should be taken. The referee team for this game probably discussed this situation after the game and identified ways to be more synchronized as a team for future games.

(See pages 28 and 98 in the AYSO edition of the Laws of the Game)

June 6, 2013

"A referee at one of our games was wearing tennis shoes without socks. Is this okay?"

Answer: Referees should be role models in many areas, including wearing appropriate uniforms. It is very challenging for the referee to ask players to wear proper uniforms when he/she does not wear a complete referee uniform. To help identify proper referee attire, please read the June 2, 2011 edition of "What's The Correct Answer?"

Wearing an appropriate uniform brings a lot of benefits to the referee team including:
  • Respect - properly uniformed referees cultivate respect from players and others.
  • Leadership - properly uniformed referees are perceived as leaders.
  • Professionalism - properly uniformed referees project professionalism.
  • Teamwork - all officials wearing the same color uniforms, preferably from the same manufacturer, projects teamwork.
  • Authority - properly uniformed referees project appropriate authority.

There are times when it is financially challenging to provide uniforms for every referee. Here are some tips to help your Region minimize costs and facilitate consistency related to referee uniforms:
  • The Regional Commissioner and Board should include referee uniforms in their annual planning as they develop the budget.
  • Every season, budget one complete referee uniform for every new referee.
  • Start everyone with the gold color shirt to facilitate consistency.
  • As a retention tool, budget one additional shirt of alternate color for every returning referee.
  • Use the "starter kit", typically less expensive, as the first uniform.
  • Collect and recycle uniforms to share with near-by Regions.
  • Use additional shirts, shorts, etc., to influence referee motivation by providing additional equipment to thank referees.
  • Recruit a local business to be the referee program sponsor.

May 30, 2013

"In U-6 games, when the ball leaves the field of play over the touch line, should the game be restarted with a throw-in or kick-in?"

Answer: When the ball goes out of play and across one of the touch lines, the referee should restart the game with a throw-in. Whether the throw-in is taken correctly or not, allow play to continue. U-6 players can learn the correct technique in taking throw-in's during practice, or later as they continue to play soccer.

May 23, 2013

"My instructor said that I can use the whistle to help the players distinguish fouls. How can I do this?"

Answer: The referee uses the whistle to communicate with the players, including the signaling of fouls. The gravity of fouls can escalate from careless to reckless, and to the use of excessive force. The referee can use the tone of the whistle to get the players' attention and to distinguish the escalation of fouls.

The length and intensity of the whistle sends a message to the players. The video clip, courtesy of USSF, provides an explanation of how to use the whistle to communicate the referee's interpretation of a foul to the players. Referees can use the tips provided in the video clip and can practice using the whistle in future games.

May 16, 2013

"With hot weather coming our way, can I allow water breaks when I referee?"

Answer: Per the FIFA Laws of the Game, we don't allow water breaks during the game. However, we must keep the players hydrated so they can remain safe while playing soccer. Below is a recommended approach for the referee team to team up with the coaches and help the players remain hydrated:
  • Discuss the plan with both coaches before the game starts.
  • Ask the coaches to be on the look-out for players who may need water.
  • The referee team should also be on the look-out for players that need water.
  • In the presence of the coach, let the players know that if they feel thirsty, they should go to the touch line near their team's coach, drink water and get back to the game.
  • Remind players that when they are getting water, they should not interfere with play.
  • Tell the players that it is best if no more than two players go drink water at a time.
  • Remind the coaches that this is not the time to coach a player.
  • Ask the coaches to have water ready to expedite the process, so the players can get back to enjoying the game.
  • The assistant referees should help monitor and manage this process.

For additional information to share with coaches and parents, please visit the following links: and

Please team up and help us keep our players safe!

May 9, 2013

"May female players use their hands to protect their chest from being hit with the ball?"

Answer: Both female and male players can use their hands to protect themselves in situations where they may be hit with the ball, as long as they are not trying to control the ball. This situation happens often during free kicks as players in the wall protect their bodies from the ball. It may happen during play when a player kicks the ball from a short distance with a lot of force, surprising another player who reacts by using their hands to cover their face or other body parts.

The referee has the responsibility to determine if the hand contact with the ball was deliberately done to control the ball or for self protection. The referee should look for the following when making a decision:
  • The distance from where the ball was kicked and the force used to kick it. The longer the distance and/or less force used, the more time the defending player has to control the ball without the use of hands, or get away from the ball.
  • The defending player's eyes. If the player is looking for teammates at the same time as making contact with the ball, the player is most likely attempting to control the ball.
  • The age level of the players. With younger players, this scenario is mostly about self protection.
  • When in doubt, don't penalize the incident and instead provide a quick word to the player.

(See page 53 in the Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers & Parents).

May 2, 2013

"In my daughter's U-12 game, an attacker took a shot on goal. A defender raised her hands over her head and deflected the ball. Right after the referee blew the whistle to award our team a penalty kick, the ball went into the net. The referee did not give our team the goal. Why?"

Answer: Given the description of this scenario, the referee could have applied advantage to wait and see if the ball was going into the net for a goal. However, there are times when even experienced referees "jump the gun" and blow the whistle too soon.

Law 5 - The Referee, provides a clause that allows the referee to apply and signal advantage. That is, applying advantage allows play to continue when the team against which the offense has been committed will benefit from such an advantage. The advantage clause also allows the referee to penalize the original offense, if the anticipated advantage does not materialize within 2-3 seconds.

Referees should consider the following when thinking about applying advantage:
  • The attacking team has a good chance of scoring a goal or generating a scoring possibility.
  • The referee should penalize the original infraction if the advantage does not develop quickly within 2-3 seconds.
  • Advantage does not require that a goal be scored.
  • If the ball goes out of play across a boundary line, the referee may still penalize the original offense.
  • If the original offense merits disciplinary sanction, the referee should take the appropriate (verbal admonishment, caution, send off) action when the ball next goes out of play.
  • Advantage should not be applied when the safety of a player is at risk.
  • Advantage should not be applied if there is a high possibility for player retaliation.
  • Advantage is applied more in games with players that have a higher level of technical and physical skills.

Additional information and a video clip was provided in the May 27, 2010 entry of "What's The Correct AYSO Answer," which you can find below.

(See page 24 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

April 25, 2013

"While my son's game was going on, a ball from the adjacent field rolled over and the referee did not stop the game. The other team scored a goal while the extra ball was on our field and won the game. Why didn't the referee stop the game?"

Answer: If an extra ball, some other object or an animal enters the field of play during the match, the referee must stop the match only if it interferes with play. Assuming that the referee saw the extra ball, she decided that in her opinion, the extra ball did not interfere with play and therefore, she allowed play to continue. The referee can help the players avoid the distraction of the extra ball by verbalizing guidance. The referee can say, "Keep playing and ignore the extra ball."

In this scenario, the referee should have the extra ball removed at the earliest possible opportunity. If the extra ball was not removed before the goal was scored, the referee should remove it before restarting the game with the kick-off.

(See page 69 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

April 18, 2013

"Who is responsible for keeping track of the game time and goals, the referee or assistant referee?"

Answer: Part of the referee's duties is to act as the timekeeper and keep a record of the match. However, it is acceptable and highly encouraged to have the assistant referees (AR) also keep record of the match. At halftime and after the end of the match, the referee can compare his record with the ones from the assistant referees to make sure that the correct information is submitted in the final game report.

The typical items that an assistant referee can help track include:
  • Goals scored - each time a goal is scored, the referee can let the AR know the scorer's number.
  • Game duration time - officials should start their timers at the opening kickoff.
  • Cautions/send-offs - for each card, the referee can communicate the number of the disciplined player to the AR.
It is the referee's responsibility, but the ARs can assist in providing an accurate game record.

(See page 24 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

April 11, 2013

"I was refereeing a U-8 game and was confused about corner kicks. Do we have corner kicks in U-8 games?"

Answer: Yes, we have corner kicks in U-8 games. A corner kick is awarded to the opposing team, in U-8 and older age games, when a defending player last touches the ball before it completely crosses the goal line, without it going into the goal. The opposing team must be at least six yards from the ball when the corner kick is taken in U-8 games.

It's easy to forget key information about small sided games. Before every game, take five minutes to review the game requirements provided in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, other Volunteers and Parents. This review process will quickly help you confirm the correct information and generate an appropriate mindset to referee the game.

(See page 45 in the 2012-13 AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, other Volunteers and Parents).

April 4, 2013

"Can a player participate in the game if she is wearing a belly button ring?"

Answer: A player must not wear anything that is dangerous to herself or another player, including any kind of jewelry. Body piercing and all jewelry that is visible to the referee should be removed before a player is allowed to play. Using tape to cover jewelry is not acceptable. However, a player can wear a medical alert bracelet with information related to medical conditions that must be known in order to keep the player safe. To ensure that the medical alert bracelet does not present a danger to the player or other players, it must be secured to the player with tape, a cloth wristband or equivalent, making sure to leave the medical information visible. You can also write "Medical Bracelet" on the tape covering the bracelet, with a bold, permanent marker.

The referee must respect players' privacy and may not deny them from participating, because of a suspicion that a player has a body piercing. The following steps will help the referee team properly manage possible jewelry issues:
  • Check the teams' equipment as early as possible to provide the players with enough time to remove all unauthorized equipment and/or jewelry.
  • Ask players to remove all jewelry and tell them why.
    • "Please remove all of your jewelry, as it is dangerous to wear it when you are playing. Thank you."
    • Make sure the coach hears your request - a coach will team up with the referee to ensure safety of the players.
  • Asking the team to remove jewelry may prompt players with jewelry that is not visible to ask if they need to remove it. If so, tell them yes.
  • Ensure that all visible jewelry and piercings are removed.
  • If you suspect that a player has jewelry that is not visible, do not request them to lift or remove their clothing for inspection of body piercings.

Region staff and coaches, please continue to remind parents about jewelry and provide awareness of the rules and safety. However, referees need to still team up with the coaches on game day to help those players that may not know the rules or forget the proper things to do.

(See page 21 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

March 28, 2013

"Is it okay to referee your own child's game in AYSO?"

Answer: Refereeing your child's game is significantly different than coaching their game, as the referee has to make decisions that can influence the outcome of the game. It is best not to referee your child's game to avoid having your child, family and friends resent you if they lose, or from having the opposing team's parents resent you if your child's team wins. However, AYSO's goal is to ensure that all games are played, as long as they are conducted under safe and fair conditions. Also, sometimes there are not enough neutral referee teams to cover all of the games.

The following options are recommended to assign a referee team:
  • A neutral referee team should be assigned in every game - one without family and friendly ties to the teams.
  • In the absence of an assigned neutral referee, make an effort to recruit referees from the games to be played before or after your child's game.
  • Schedule the referees in a manner that they can officiate other teams and be able to see their own kids play.
  • If there are no neutral referees available, then the parent of a player may referee the game. This should be the last option and both coaches must be notified that every effort was made to get neutral referees.

Advanced planning by the referee assignor makes it easier to have enough neutral referees. Plan early, provide dates and times as soon as they are confirmed and rotate the referees so they can officiate and watch their kids play.

March 21, 2013

"Two players challenged for the ball and one of them went down hard, but there was no foul. The player's father got very upset with me because he wanted a foul and a red card. How can I convince his parents that I was right?"

Answer: That is a good question and one that can be discussed for hours. There are times when a player may feel like he/she was fouled. The referee must find ways to communicate his decision and influence the player to remain focused on fair play. We provided a list of high level concepts and tips that can be used to project good officiating. In future editions of Whistle Stop, we'll address these and other items in more detail.

Things that come with the territory (being a referee):
  • Soccer is a contact sport.
  • Most spectators will be biased during the game.
  • The referee should expect spectators to disagree with some decisions.
  • Actions to help the referee project competence and fairness in no-foul situations:
  • Set an appropriate foul recognition level from the start of the match. Players will quickly know what to expect and the spectators will see that the referee is focused on keeping the game safe from the start.
  • When a player goes down in a no-foul situation, verbalize it to the players so they know that you have seen the action.
  • As you continue to monitor play, run by the player and ask if he/she is OK.
  • If you stop play because a player may be injured, immediately ask the coach to assist the player.
  • As the coach is tending to the player, briefly explain to the player what you saw so they know why it was not a foul. This will allow the coach to hear your explanation and he can convey it to the spectators.
  • Don't let the coach engage you in a discussion about your decision. Respectfully remind him to tend to the player and say, "Thank you."
  • Try to get the game restarted as soon as possible.
  • Closely monitor the players involved in the no-foul situation for the next few minutes to help them focus on fair play.

March 14, 2013

"I awarded an indirect free kick to the blue team. Blue #9 took the free kick and unintentionally hit me with the ball, which rolled back to her. She dribbled the ball and took a shot on goal but missed. Should I have called anything?"

Answer: If a player taking a free kick touches the ball again, before it is touched by another player, then the referee should award an indirect free kick to the opposing team from the place where the infringement (the second touch) occurred. When standing on the field of play, the referee is a neutral part of the field, just like the corner flags.

In this scenario, blue #9 took the free kick and touched the ball a second time before it was touched by another player. Therefore, the referee should stop play and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team, where blue #9 touched the ball the second time.

After signaling a free kick, the referee should quickly get away from the player taking the kick and of the potential passing lanes to avoid being hit by the ball. This scenario can happen so quickly that the referee may not see it clearly. Or, because this scenario does not happen often, it may take the referee by surprise. This may cause the referee to incorrectly evaluate the incident and allow play to continue. If this happens, the assistant referee may help by signaling the infringement.

(See page 42 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

March 7, 2013

"In my game, the goalkeeper launched herself to make a save and caught the ball. When she fell on the ground she hurt herself. I stopped play and restarted the game with a dropped ball. Because the goalkeeper had control of the ball, it seemed unfair that the opponents had a chance to get the ball when I dropped it."

Answer: Per the Laws of the Game, there is no requirement that players from both teams take part in the execution of a dropped ball. Players from both teams can participate during the execution of a dropped ball, as long as they do it in a safe and fair manner. However, the referee can execute a dropped ball in a manner that supports the Spirit of the Game. In the scenario you described, it is fair that the goalkeeper should get the ball back upon the restart of the game.

Therefore, one way to execute a dropped ball in which supports the Spirit of the Game and that is accepted in the game of soccer at all levels, can be done as follows:
  • Make sure that the goalkeeper is safe and ready to keep playing.
  • If the goalkeeper is hurt, ask the coach to replace the goalkeeper.
  • Tell the goalkeeper's opponents that she had control of the ball when you stopped the game.
  • Ask the opponents to please back away from the keeper before dropping the ball and thank them.
  • Once no one is near the goalkeeper, drop the ball.

February 28, 2013

"Is slide tackling allowed in AYSO?"

Answer: 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 with the intent to cause the opponent to fall, then he/she is committing a foul.

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. A player who tackles an opponent in a manner that endangers the safety of the opponent, must be sent off for serious foul play.

Recommendation: Referees can look for the following player actions when evaluating a fair slide tackle:
  1. Committed to the slide, looking at the ball and not the opponent.
  2. Sliding on one side of their body.
  3. Leading with one leg, if sliding on their left side or leading with the right leg, extending the foot toward the ball, while the left leg is bent at approximately a 90-degree angle.
  4. 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.
  5. Making contact with the ball first.
  6. Knocking the ball far out of reach, away from their goal or tapping it more gently if they are attempting to gain possession.
  7. Using their left arm and left leg to quickly get up from the ground and get on their way.
The video clip below is a great example of a correct slide tackle. The points below are related to the video clip.


  • 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 even looks the referee's way for a call.
    • Everyone knows and senses that this has been a fair challenge.
  • In games with older or more experienced kids, referees should be expecting defenders to tackle in a situation similar to this one.
  • Referees should read play and get into a proper position to judge the intent and fairness of a tackle similar to this one.
(See pages 36-39 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

February 21, 2013

"When should an assistant referee signal a foul committed by a player?"

Answer: The assistant referee (AR) has the duty, subject to the decision of the referee, to indicate when an offense has been committed whenever the AR has a better view than the referee. The AR should take the following actions before signaling the offense to properly assist the referee with foul recognition:

  • Quickly look at the referee to ensure that the offense was not, or could not be seen by the referee.
  • Decide that the referee would have not considered the offense trifling.
  • Decide that the referee would not have applied advantage to the offense.

After evaluating the situation and deciding to signal the offense, the AR should take the following actions which can be discussed in the pregame conference:
  • Raise the flag straight up with the same hand that will be used for the remainder of the signal. This will give the referee an indication of who committed the offense. When the ARs are running a typical left-wing diagonal, the right hand indicates that the attacking team should get the restart. Using the left hand would indicate that the defending team should get the restart.
  • Make eye-contact with the referee. This will give the referee the opportunity to wave down the signal if he has a different evaluation of the incident.
  • If the referee waves down the signal, the AR should maintain a position that is appropriate for determining offside infractions.
  • If the referee stops play, give the flag a slight wave back and forth to indicate that a foul was committed.
  • Indicate the direction of the restart.
    • If the offense was committed by a defender inside his own penalty area, the AR should hold the flag horizontally across the lower body to indicate that the foul occurred inside. Then, visibly move towards the corner flag to indicate that a penalty kick should be awarded.
    • If the offense was committed by any player outside of the penalty area, or by an attacker inside the penalty area, hold the flag up at 45 degrees in the direction of the restart.
  • If the referee indicates a different restart, the AR should take the appropriate position for the restart.

A good pregame discussion between the referee and assistant referees will establish the teamwork, mutual respect and support needed by the AR to correctly assist the referee with foul recognition.

(See pages 28 and 97 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

February 14, 2013

"Can we make substitutions throughout the game in our Region?"

Answer: Everyone Plays is one of AYSO's six philosophies and it means that every player is guaranteed to play in at least one half of the game. We encourage, and many Regions have adopted a "three quarter rule" where no player should play four quarters in a given game until all players have played three quarters.

To help facilitate, ensure and manage the application of the Everyone Plays philosophy, substitutions during regulation play occur only at quarter breaks or following an injury. Substitutions are managed by the referee with the help from the assistant referees by stopping play approximately midway through the first and second halves. Substitutions also happen at the half-time period.

Substitution stoppages should be short and the objective is to quickly make the substitutions. These stoppages are not intended to be used for coaching or any other function that will take playing time away from the children.

"Monitored Substitution" is when substitutions do not need to occur at preset intervals (quarters), and it is only allowed in U-16 and U-19 games. Monitored substitution is only allowed if there is a process in place to ensure that every child plays at least one half of every game. The process must have a time monitor who is responsible for checking each player in or out of the game. This monitor must be independent of either team or coach, and the Regional Commissioner or Area Director should monitor and evaluate the monitored substitution process during the season. For more information on monitored substitution please visit: and

With the help of subject matter experts including Commissions, AYSO constantly reviews soccer concepts such as monitored substitution, so as the game changes we can ensure that we're using what is best suited for youth players.

One key objective in youth games is to provide participants with as much playing time as possible. Regions/Areas that use monitored substitution should consider that it may reduce playing time, or impact the players' ability to learn and enjoy the game as they may be substituting too often. Or, it may be used to delay a restart or influence the opponent team's rhythm, which can take away from the beautiful experience of what soccer can be. We'll continue to provide related information in future editions of Whistle Stop.

(Page 9 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents).

February 7, 2013

"Should cards, yellow and red, be used in youth games?"

Answer: Referees must manage player misconduct in all games. Yellow and red cards, invented and introduced in soccer by the late Mr. Ken Aston, are a tool used by referees to communicate disciplinary decisions related to player misconduct. In AYSO, the referees should not use cards in U-10 games and below, and should try to avoid them in U-12 games. In these games, referees should use their game management skills and team up with coaches to manage players.

In games with younger players, the referee and the coach can team up to manage players' misconduct without the use of cards by taking the following actions. When the player exhibits the first signs of negative behavior:
  • The coach can call the player to the sideline and calm him down.
    • The referee should quickly and briefly acknowledge the coach's assistance with a "Thank you", thumbs-up sign, etc.
  • If the coach misses the opportunity, the referee can talk to the player.
    • After the referee talks to the player, his coach should keep an eye on the player and follow up, communicating with him as needed.
  • When the coach and/or referee manage negative behavior early, it usually just takes a verbal admonishment to control a player.
If after the coach and/or referee talk to the player, the negative behavior continues:
  • The coach can have a stronger word with the player, making sure the player acknowledges the desired understanding.
    • The coach can ask the referee's permission for the player to temporarily leave the field of play so he can talk to him.
  • If the coach misses the opportunity, the referee can have a firm word with the player and accompany him to talk to his coach.
Young players' negativity is effectively managed with the two prior actions. However, once in a while there may be exceptional circumstances where the referee may have to caution or send off a player to manage misconduct. Examples of exceptional circumstances include spitting, violent conduct and serious foul play. In these cases, the referee can use the cards to communicate the disciplinary decision, but instead we recommend that the referee communicate the caution or send off decision privately with the player and the coach to prevent unnecessary embarrassment or traumatizing situations. All cautions and send-offs should be documented in the game report whether or not a card is shown.

The main objective with younger players is to have referees and coaches collaborate and try different behavior management options in order to get the desired player behavior. To support this objective, we are working to enhance combined training for referees and coaches such as the Problems Outside the Touchline training session.

(Page 23 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents).

January 31, 2013

"May I warn or caution a coach for giving instructions during the game?"

Answer: Coaches are permitted to give tactical instructions to their players during the game as long as the coach does it from the designated technical area. The recommended process for providing technical instructions and when to do it effectively is covered in AYSO coaching courses and workshops. One example of tactical instructions is saying, "Debbie and Maria, change positions."

Therefore, the referee may not warn or caution a coach for giving instructions to the players during the game. However, the referees should pay attention to the delivery of the instructions. The coach should be respectful, encouraging and use an overall positive approach to communicate with the players.

If a coach talks, yells or communicates with the players in a demeaning manner that negatively impacts the player development and enjoyment for the game, then the referee should take action. The action can consist of a simple look to the coach reminding him to use a positive, instructional and encouraging approach, to a verbal warning to remind the coach about AYSO's Kids Zone.

Coaches understand that we need to let the children play, try new things, make mistakes and have fun because that is how they learn and develop as players and human beings. But, sometimes the stress of the game causes a coach to misdirect passion and it can result in negatively impacting the players. With a simple reminder, a referee can help the coach remain within the technical area and behave in a responsible manner.

(See page 56 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game)

January 24, 2013

"My son plays U-8 and last weekend the referee said he made an incorrect throw-in, so he awarded the other team with the throw-in. To me and many of our parents, it looked like my son made a good throw-in. Was the referee right?"

Answer:In U-8 games, incorrect throw-ins should not be a reason to constantly interrupt the game. The proper procedure for throw-ins dictates that at the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower:
  • Faces the field of play
  • Has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line
  • Holds the ball with both hands
  • Delivers the ball from behind and over his head
  • Delivers the ball from the point where it left the field of play

In U-8 games, if a throw-in is done incorrectly but it is done in a safe manner, the referee should let it go and allow the coach to teach and reinforce proper technique later. The referee may provide some guidance, a brief instruction to help the thrower position himself or throw the ball over the head, but the referee should not constantly stop the game for incorrect throw-ins.

(See page 45 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents and page 48 in the 2012-13 AYSO FIFA Laws of the Game).

January 17, 2013

"For small sided games, are there a minimum number of players needed per team to start the game?"

Answer:There is no official minimum number of players needed for small sided games to start. When there are not enough players to start a game with the recommended number per team, the primary objective is to make the best effort to have a game for the children to play. The children wait an entire week looking forward to the wonderful experience of playing soccer, and we have the responsibility to apply common sense and try every possible way to make it happen.

Given the scenario where the blue team is playing against the red team, below are some options to try when there are not enough children to play the game with the recommended number of players:
  • Blue has fewer players - suggest to the red team that they field the same number of players.
  • Red may consider sharing the extra players with blue.
  • Blue, red or both teams have fewer players - players from both teams can be divided into two new teams for this particular game.

In all options, let the children have the maximum amount of playing time.

If win/loss standings are required for determining division winners, tournament standings, etc., follow the established competition rules. After a winner has been determined per the established rules, apply AYSO philosophies and let the children play a friendly game using one of the recommendations listed above, putting emphasis on the enjoyment of playing.

(See page 65 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents).

January 10, 2013

"How far should opponents be in U-8 games during a free kick?"

Answer:All free kicks in U-8 games are direct free kicks. The opponents must be at least six yards from the ball. If the distance from the ball to the opponent's goal is less than six yards, then the defenders must be on the goal line between the goal posts.

Youth players typically don't know the rules, so the referee should be prepared to help them quickly position themselves on the field. The referee may have to repeat the instructions for a few free kicks before the players remember what to do. In youth games, refereeing is an extension of the coaching program as the referee spends more time teaching and reconfirming concepts shared by the coach, and less time applying the Laws of the Game.

(See page 45 in the AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents).

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