Ask the Ref

This feature was created to help coaches, referees, players, parents and spectators get answers to questions about refereeing from the Region 13 Referee Staff.

Use the text box below to submit your question(s) about calls made, or not made, during a recent game. In addition, your questions may be about Region 13 policies, such as whether or not slide tackles are allowed (Yes, they are, provided they are done correctly), or about how many quarters a player may play in goal in a U10 game. While all questions and answers will be treated confidentially, those of general interest will be posted below for others to benefit from, without the names of those who submitted the questions.

Please ask your question below.

  • (###) ###-####
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

   Goalkeepers bouncing the ball

Q: Are goalkeepers allowed to bounce the ball like a basketball before they kick it?

A:

Short Answer:
Yes.

A bit more explanation:
The official Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees (second part of the Laws booklet) provides in its discussion of Law 12 that a goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball "while in the act of bouncing it on the ground or tossing in into the air."  That means that when the goalkeeper bounces the ball, an opponent is not permitted to try to kick the ball away.

While a goalkeeper is permitted to bounce the ball, it may not be a good idea.  If, for example, the ball hits an odd clump of grass and bounces away, an opponent is free to challenge for the ball.  And since the goalkeeper released the ball, the goalkeeper would not be permitted to use her hands to get the ball back unless the attacker touched the ball first.  (If she used her hands it would be an indirect free kick for the other team as she touched the ball with her hands after releasing the ball from her possession before it touched another player.)  Of course, it is up to coaches, nor referees, to instruct their goalkeepers regarding bouncing the ball, as the bouncing is perfectly permissible under the Laws of the Game.

(Historical aside:  Once upon a time, goalkeepers were limited to taking four steps rather than limited to six seconds with the ball.  During part of the four-step era, a bounce counted as a single step even if the goalkeeper took several steps during the bounce.  So, back then, bouncing the ball made sense, as it allowed the goalkeeper to move farther up the penalty area before punting.)

Answered 10.12.2014

   Protecting the Goalkeeper

Q: This question relates to the notion of "protecting the keeper". The goal keeper makes an attempt to handle the ball inside his own penalty area. A charging opponent kicks the ball before the keeper has complete control of the ball. What is the appropriate call? Is this a foul? If so, what is the appropriate restart? Is this "playing in a dangerous manner" restarted by an indirect free kick or is it a direct free kick for an offense against the keeper. Thank you.

A: Short Answer:

If, in the opinion of the referee, a goal keeper has possession of the ball (which includes a single finger on a stopped ball), and it is kicked by an opponent, the offense by the opponent is kicking and a direct free kick should be awarded to the goalkeeper’s team.

A Bit More Explanation:

In order to protect goalkeepers, the Laws of the Game create a very broad definition of possession by the goalkeeper. USSF’s Advice to Referees (section 12.B.4) makes clear that goalkeeper possession includes a ball trapped or pinned by the goalkeeper against the ground, a body, part, or even the goal post. The Advice to Referees goes on to note that in deciding if the goalkeeper has possession, the referee should consider the age of the players and err on the side of safety. In other words, in a U10 or U12 game, all doubt in the referee’s mind about whether the goalkeeper has possession should be resolved in favor of the goalkeeper and a decision that he has possession. Once in the opinion of the referee the goalkeeper has possession of the ball, an opponent who kicks the ball (or the goalkeeper) has committed a kicking foul against the goalkeeper, and a direct free kick should be awarded to the goalkeeper’s team.

When, in the opinion of the referee, the goalkeeper does not yet have possession, an opponent is free to try to kick the ball – as long as it is not done in a dangerous way that makes it unfair for the goalkeeper who is trying to grab the ball. In deciding if the play by the attacker is dangerous rather than fair, the referee should consider where the foot is in relationship to the ball, whether the attacker has a reasonable chance to play the ball, and where the foot is in relationship to the goalkeeper’s face. If, in the opinion or the referee, the attacker’s behavior is unfairly dangerous to the goalkeeper, the referee may call the indirect free kick foul of playing in a dangerous manner, and award an indirect free kick to the goalkeeper’s team. Again, the younger the age group, the further the referee should go in erring on the side of protecting the goalkeeper.

There will also be occasions on which the ball is simply loose and two players – the goalkeeper and the attacker – are each trying to get the ball. By tradition, when a goalkeeper is trying to play the ball with his hands, we do not tend to consider that action to be the offense of playing in a dangerous manner to himself, as we have permitted goalkeepers to take a certain amount of risk as part of the game. But referees should be aware that sometimes goalkeepers go too far in their pursuit of the ball, and may be guilty of fouls for pushing, charging or tripping in their effort to get the ball, each of which would result in a penalty kick if occurring within the penalty area. Similarly, referees should observe whether the charging attacker unfairly charged or pushed the goalkeeper who was scrambling for the ball or kicked the goalkeeper while trying to kick the ball.

To loop back to the original question, if in the opinion of the referee what happened is the goalkeeper knocked the ball down such that it bounced in front of him, and the attacker kicked the loose ball before the goalkeeper could get a hand on it, unless the attacker did so in an unfairly dangerous manner or ran into the goalkeeper to do so, there would not be a foul. If, on the other hand in the opinion of the referee, what happened is the goalkeeper pinned the ball to the ground, but had not yet pulled the ball into his body, and the attacker kicked it away, the attacker would have committed a kicking foul and a direct free kick would be awarded to the goalkeeper’s team.

Answered 10.10.2014

   Indirect Free Kicks

Q: In an indirect kick the kicked ball must be touched by another player on either team before crossing the goal line, correct? If this is correct and the main judge does not see the ball deflect off a players foot prior to going over the goal line, however, the side judge does, what is the proper protocol to ensure the correct call is made, without being an interfering coach? In our particular game, the side ref stated 'the ball was deflected' but the main judge didn't hear the statement or look for confirmation. Is there a way to request a brief conference between refs to ensure the correct call is made while not questioning the main ref's call? Thanks,

A:

Short Answer:

Yes, an indirect free kick cannot score unless, in the opinion of the referee, it touches a second player (from either team) after it is in play and before the ball entirely crosses the goal line.

 

A Bit More Explanation:

as the question notes, the key element of an indirect free kick (see Law 13) is that it cannot score directly – it must be touched (which includes a deflection) by a player from either team after the ball is in play in order to score.  If that second touch does not occur, it will be a goal kick or corner kick depending on which team took the free kick.

If an Assistant Referee believes that the ball was touched by a second player, and it appears the Referee did not see it, the Assistant Referee should raise his flag and seek to get the Referee’s attention to have a conversation about what each saw.  So long as the Referee has not permitted the restart (the goal kick or corner kick) to take place, the Referee may choose to change his decision and award the goal.  But the decision remains with the Referee (who may well have been closer to the play), who may decide that he had the better view and there was no deflection. 
(The question did not state whether the kick was by the attacking or defending team.  If the free kick was by the defense from within the team's own penalty area, the ball would not be in play if it had not left the penalty area, and it would not matter if it was touched within the penalty area, as the ball was still not in play and the kick would still need to be properly taken.)

Part of the question here was ultimately what can the coach do to ensure the Assistant Referee and Referee have a discussion.  Unlike some sports that have special provisions that allow coaches to call time out and request officials to consult or clarify a ruling, neither the Laws of the Game nor AYSO grant coaches any such rights.  Coaches have only the right to provide technical advice to their players – nothing else.  (And, of course, AYSO coaches are directed to do so according to “PIE” – Positive, Instructional & Encouraging.”)  That said, if a coach very politely lets a Referee know that the Assistant Referee has information for him, the Referee may oblige by speaking to the Assistant Referee.  But he also may not for a variety of reasons – perhaps he already understands what the Assistant Referee thought he saw and believes he as referee had the better view, or perhaps he saw something else  that prevents the goal from scoring.  Ultimately, coaches need to accept the decision of the referee and move on, notwithstanding the possibility that an error was made.

Answered 10.9.2014

   Deliberate Handling and Reflexive Protection

Q: A long throw-in went to the middle of the field where a player put up both her arms to cover her face and the ball deflected off her forearms. The referee did not call it a foul because she was covering her face to protect it from the ball coming at her, and anyway he said, the other team had advantage. Was that correct?

A: Short Answer:

If in the opinion of the referee the handling was not deliberate, then no offense has occurred.  As a general matter, referees will not consider handling as deliberate when a player reacts reflexively to protect herself from a ball.

A Bit More Explanation: 

While we often hear cries of "hand ball" from the touch line, the offense in Law 12 is not "hand ball" but "handles the ball deliberately."  "Deliberate" has a particular meaning in the Laws.  Among the factors that have long been recognized is that deliberate does not include reflexive protection -- there is only so much we can do to shut down our protective reflexes, and those reflexes should not be punished.  (See Advice to Referees section 12.A.9.) It can be challenging at times for referees to draw the line between when a player reflexively protects herself and when a player decides to use her hands to put in front of her face instead of playing the ball with her head or chest or getting out of the way.  A couple of the key factors to consider are how fast the ball is coming at the player and from how far away -- put another way, did she have time to decide what to do, or was it an instinctive act?  (What is enough time will depend on age and skill level -- a professional player will be expected to be much better at not using his or her hands than a U10 player.)  Often a long throw-in is slow enough and far enough away that a player has time to make a decision; if in the opinion of the referee she does have time, and instead decides to use her hands or arms, that is deliberate handling. 

This question also raised the issue of "advantage."  A referee uses the advantage clause to not call a foul (such as deliberate handling) when in the opinion of the refereethe offended team is better off if the foul is not called. (In other words, it applies only when the referee has decided a foul occurred and decided to apply advantage.). At lower levels, the advantage clause is not used frequently, in part because players are still learning what is or is not a foul, and calling fouls helps them learn.  When the referee does decide to apply advantage and not stop play, the referee should call out "advantage, play on!" And should give the advantage signal (both arms swept up above the head (see page 81 of the Laws of the Game for a picture of the signal). At younger levels, it is generally best to apply advantage only when there is a chance for the offended team to score and that chance is better than the chance would be to score from the free kick that would otherwise be awarded.

Answered 10.6.2014

   Changing goalkeepers without telling the referee.

Q: what happens when a field player switches with a goalie and they dont inform the referee? what does the ref do when he sees the new goalie handling the ball?

A:

Short Answer:

The referee should allow play to continue with the new goalkeeper until the next natural stoppage and then, if age appropriate, caution the players.   (See Law 3.)

 

A bit more explanation:

Law 3 states:

      If a player changes places with the goalkeeper
      without the referee’s permission before the
      change is made:

         • the referee allows play to continue

         • the referee cautions the players concerned
           when the ball is next out of play

In youth games, when players trade the goalkeeper  jersey without telling the referee, it is generally because they don’t know any better.  At younger ages, the best remedy to that lack of knowledge is simply to explain that the Laws of the Game require the players to notify the referee before making a change.  (See Law 3.)  At older youth levels, the players should know what the Laws require, and the referee should caution the players who are involved in swapping the jersey (showing both players a yellow card). 

During the time that play continues, the player wearing the goalkeeper jersey is the one who is considered the goalkeeper and is entitled to use his or her hands within the penalty area.  (In other words, it is not a penalty kick if the new goalkeeper uses his or her hands – the game simply continues until a natural stoppage for another reason.)

(Note that if the goalkeeper changes takes place during half time, or at the substitution stoppage halfway through a half, the referee is presumed to have recognized the change when the referee restarts play.)

(Answered April 1, 2014)

   Goalkeepers and penalty kicks

Q: What is the rule for the goalie movement during a penalty kick? At what point can she move? Can she move laterally on the line before the player kicks?

A:

Short answer:

The goalkeeper may move side to side before the ball is kicked, but may not move off the line until the ball is kicked.

A bit more explanation:

Parents who played may remember a time when the keeper was supposed to be stationary until the ball was kicked – that is no longer what Law 14 says.  It says:

     The defending goalkeeper:
     • must remain on his goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked

 Accordingly, the goalkeeper may move sideways in advance of the ball being kicked, but may not move forward (or backwards) off the line.  Any part of the foot being on the line means the foot is on the line – a shred of toenail or sliver of heel will suffice.  (Some goalkeepers will line up with just their toes on the back of the line; more will line up with their heels towards the front of the line.) 

As with all infractions of the Laws of the Game, however, referees exercise judgment in making calls.  Not every technical violation of this provision may be called, as referees are advised not to call “trifling” infractions of the Laws.  If, in the opinion of the referee, a goalkeeper’s violation of this requirement was more than trifling, and a goal does not score, the referee would order the penalty kick to be retaken. 

Those interested in more details about penalty kicks can find them in USSF’s Advice to Referees under Law 14.  A link to finding the publication is in the Reference Materials section on the Referee page of the Region 13 website.

(These same guidelines apply in the case that kicks from the penalty mark are used following a tied game.)

Answered 12.4.2013

   Handling by the GK outside the penalty area

Q: The defending team's goalkeeper crossed the penalty area line with the ball still in her hands and I called a foul. Should it have been an indirect or direct kick? I thought it was direct since it was a hand ball.

A:

Short Answer:

You were correct – deliberate handling is the offense, and it is a direct free kick offense.

A bit more explanation:

When the goal keeper leaves the penalty area, she no longer has any special privileges and is like any other player.  So if she deliberately uses her hands outside the penalty area, it is just as if any other players used her hands.  So you are correct that it would be a direct free kick from the spot she left the penalty area.  (This is different from what happens if a goalkeeper commits one of the goal keeper related handling infractions inside the penalty area.  As explained in Law 12, those offense (such as picking up a ball a second time or if it was deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a teammate) would warrant an indirect free kick.)

(Referees may, depending on the particular circumstances, consider it “trifling” if the goal keeper barely leaves the penalty area while releasing the ball.  In such a case, the referee may appropriately exercise his or her discretion not to call the handling offense at all, but may warn the goal keeper to be more careful about the line.)

Answered 11.10.13

 

   Minimum Number of Players

Q: What is the minimum number of players for U10? For U12?

A:

Short Answer:

For Region 13 U10 games, a team must have a minimum of five players to start or continue the game.  For U12 games the minimum is six.

A bit more explanation:

The Laws of the Game require seven players to start a game in a full sized (11 v. 11) game.  AYSO follows this  for full sided games:  at U14 and above, the team must put seven players on the field to start or continue the game.

Since U12 games are only 9 versus 9 instead of the full 11 v. 11, we reduce the minimum by one player making the minimum 6.  Similarly, in U10, since we play only 7 v. 7, we reduce the minimum by one more player making the minimum 5.  All of the modifications used in Region 13 for U10 games can be found in the Region 13 Guidance and Interpretations for U10, which can be found towards the bottom of either the Referee page or the Coach page of the Region 13 website.

Answered 11-1-13

   Flipping fields in U6/U7/U8

Q: In a U6/U8 game, does the the Visitor team or the Home team switch fields after the half? Where do I find the official documentation about this?

A: Short Answer:
As set forth in the Region 13 Modifications for U6, U7 & U8 Divisions, the home team has its players switch fields.

A bit more explanation:
The
Region 13 Modifications for U6, U7 & U8 Divisions can be found on either the Referee or the Coach page of the Region 13 website and sets out the various modifications and procedures applicable to these non-competitive games.  The change of fields by the home team is simply a way of mixing up the game and letting the kids play against all of the players on the other team.  Coaches, referees, and parents are reminded that these are non-competive divisions designed for a fun introduction to the beautiful game.  The fact that a team flips fields is ultimately more important than which team does so -- if no one can remember that the home team is designated, please make sure that one of the teams does so to achieve the objective of the rule.

Answered Halloween 2013

   Slide tackles

Q: Is slide tackling allowed in Region 13 BU12? I think not, but today my son's coach told us it was.

A:

Short answer:

Your son’s coach is correct:  a properly executed slide tackle is legal.

A bit more explanation:

Law 12 of the Laws of the Game tells us that a tackle is a direct free kick foul if it is executed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.  A slide tackle is a kind of tackle to which these guidelines apply.  If, in the opinion of the referee, the player is careless (or more) in executing the tackle, a foul will be called. 

Referees will look at a variety of factors in determining whether the tackle was careless.  If the tackler makes contact with the opponent before the ball, a foul should be expected.   If the tackler gets to the ball first, the referee may still conclude the tackle was careless based on other factors, which can include (among others) whether the tackler was primarily playing the ball or the opponent, how high the leg was that was being used to attack the ball, how much force was used, the direction of the tackle (from the side or from behind?), and what the trail leg did on following through with the tackle.

If, in the opinion of the referee, the tackle was reckless, in addition to the foul, the player will be cautioned and shown a yellow card.  If, in the opinion of the referee, the tackle was done with excessive force such as to be dangerous to the safety of the opponent, the player will be sent off and show a red card (this is not common in AYSO games).

Answered 9/ 5/13

   Toe cleats

Q: Can players wear cleats that have a toe cleat in AYSO soccer games?

A:

Short Answer

 It depends.  Players may wear shoes that, in the opinion of the referee, are safe for that player and the other players on the field.  There is no blanket prohibition against toe cleats.

 A bit more explanation

 As we oft repeat, at the core of what we do is the concept of Fun, Fair & Safe.  And soccer isn’t much fun if someone is wearing unsafe cleats that could cause an injury.  So the question for the referee is what makes them unsafe? 

 In days of yore, many considered toe cleats inherently dangerous – perhaps because the “toe cleats” they would see were the long, hard toe cleats on traditional American football cleats.  But shoe design and shoe materials have changed over the years.  AYSO recently explained:

It is a misconception that neither metal cleats nor toe cleats (rubber cleats extending from the sole of each shoe at the front) are permitted on soccer shoes. Both are allowed if, in the opinion of the referee, they are safe to all players. The toe cleat must be an unmodified part of a shoe from a recognized manufacturer. Examples of these athletic shoes can be found on the manufacturers’ websites or can be examined at a sports store. Sneakers, tennis shoes, running shoes, and basketball footwear are also permitted. Note that metal cleats can sharpen and develop burrs from the player walking on hard surfaces so they should be inspected carefully.

 AYSO Guidance for Referees, Coaches, Other Volunteers and Parents.

Ultimately, the Laws of the Game place the responsibility upon the referee to decide whether a particular shoe (including one with a toe cleat) is safe.  In considering a toe cleat, referees are likely to consider how hard the material is (most cleats these days are made of softer materials than they were in the past and metal cleats for youth players are extremely rare, especially on the dry fields of southern California) and how long the toe cleat is (a toe cleat that is longer than the back cleats is presents more hazard than a half-inch toe cleat).  The longer and harder the toe cleat the more likely the referee is to consider the cleat dangerous.

While players ideally wear soccer shoes designed for soccer, youth today often play multiple sports, and families reasonably want to be able to reuse shoes before players outgrow them.  So long as those shoes, in the opinion of the referee, are safe for that player and other players, they will be permitted.   But please note that under no circumstances should metal baseball or track spikes be considered safe.

(Players who have cleats that are not soccer-specific cleats may find it advisable to bring another pair of athletic shoes just in case a referee may find the shoes unsafe.)

Answered 9-29-13

   Hair beads and jewelry

Q: I know referees require girls to take metal hair pins and barettes out of their hair, but is it acceptable for them to have plastic beads braided into it? Many girls get beads braided into their hair so that it can stay neat looking for weeks at at time. Will girls wearing beaded braids be excluded from play?

A:

Short answer

You are correct about metal pins or hard barrettes not being permitted for safety reasons.  Beads in the hair are not permitted for the same reason.

A bit more explanation

Law 4 of the Laws of the Game expressly prohibits players from wearing anything dangerous and includes jewelry within this prohibition.  The United States Soccer Federation has advised that the jewelry prohibition applies to hair adornments such that anything hard in the hair is not permitted.  In an official interpretive memorandum, USSF explained “Hair control devices which are elastic, flexible, and soft should be allowed.” The memo further expressly advised that “Beads or other similar decorative devices woven into or affixed on the hair are inherently dangerous and are not allowed.”  AYSO follows the teachings of USSF, and referees are asked to ensure that players have nothing hard in their hair for their own protection and for the safety of those with whom they may collide.

Answered 9/18/13

   Splints, casts, and safety

Q: I have a player who caught their finger in a car door last week. Currently the finger is in a splint. What is the rule regarding her eligibility to take the field this Saturday?

A:

Short answer:

Consistent with the AYSO credo of “Fun, Fair, Safe,” an AYSO player may not play with a splint (or cast) and may not remove a splint (or cast) once at the field in order to play – this policy applies to practices as well as games.

 A bit more explanation:
The most important thing in these situations is to protect our players from further injury.  To do that, AYSO policy prohibits players from playing with a splint and prohibits players from removing a splint in order to play.  Specifically, the AYSO National Rules and Regulations (pg. 8, section VI, K) provide:

Team members shall not be allowed to practice or participate in any game with any type of cast or splint. Removal of any type of cast or splint at the field or surrounding area in order to participate shall disqualify the team member from practice or game participation.

You can find the National Rules and Regulations at http://www.ayso.org/Libraries/Resources/rules_regs.pdf

To protect the player, you should encourage the parents to consult with their doctor and to remove the splint only if it is in the best interest of the child.  That determination would need to be made before your player arrived at the game, as if she arrives wearing the splint she would not be eligible to play.  Simply put, her finger is more important than a soccer game – even a playoff game.  (This AYSO policy needs to be enforced by coaches as well as referees.)

 answered 11/27/12

   sporting restarts after injuries

Q: The Blue Team has an obvious advantage and is moving the ball out of their end. A White Team player slightly behind the play has fallen down injured. I blow the whistle to stop play and check on player well-being. How do I best return the advantage to the Blue Team when play resumes?

A:

Short Answer:

When the referee stops play to check on an injury, the restart is always a dropped ball from where the ball was when play was stopped.  The referee can encourage players to be sporting about how play is restarted when the ball is dropped.

A bit more explanation:

Referees must use their discretion in determining when to stop play for an injury.  The Laws of the Game dictate that the referee stops play for a serious injury -- in youth games, we must keepin mind that "serious" is an age appropriate conisderation.  Once the referee decides the injury is serious enough to stop ongoing play, the referee needs to remember where the ball was, as that is where the dropped ball will take place.

As a technical matter under the Laws of the Game, the referee has no right to force players to do the sporting thing when the dropped ball occurs.  However, the referee does have the ability to use his personality to encourage the players to do the right thing.  (And given that one of AYSO's core philosophies is good sportsmanship, coaches should be assisting the referee in encouraging the players to participate in a sporting restart.)

To go back to your scenario, one way you can approach it is to announce there will be a dropped ball, explain to the white team that the Blue had the ball when play was stopped for the injury, and ask White if they will do the sporting thing and let Blue have the ball back.  They will usually agree.  If more encouragement is needed, you can point out that the pros always do it, which is usually enough to convince players to do it.  (If necessary, ask the White coach to help explain to the White players -- but this is usually unnecessary.)

There are different ways the sporting dropped ball can take place.  In your scenario, White could just back away and let Blue take the ball when it is dropped.  Or, especially if it is near the sideline, you could suggest that White kick the dropped ball over the touch line for a Blue throw in, or pass it back to a Blue player.  (When the ball is in the penalty area, an easy way to restart is to ask White to let the Blue goalkeeper have the dropped ball.  Explain to the the goalkeeper that you are going to drop the ball, and he or she can pick up the ball and do whatever he or she would like to do, just as if he or she had picked it up any other time in the game.)

[For those readers who may have high school players, the rules that govern games between high schools are different.  The answer above is correct for AYSO games -- as well as other USSF and FIFA games.]

Answered 11/4/12

   When to put down the flag?

Q: When I am an AR, if I raise my flag to signal offside, when do I put my flag down if the referee does not see me?

A:

Short Answer:

If the referee does not see the flag, the assistant referee should keep the flag raised until either (1) the defensive team gains complete control of the ball, or (2) a goal kick or throw-in is awarded to the defending team.

A bit more explanation:

The advice above comes for Advice to Referees, which is put out by the United States Soccer Federation to provide guidance to referees. 

The purpose of the indirect free kick for an offside infraction is to ensure that the ball is turned over to the side that did not commit the offside infraction.  Once the offended team has the ball back clearly in its possession, there is no point going back to award the indirect free kick.  But while the attacking team still has the ball, the assistant referee should remain standing in the same place with the flag raised so that the referee can stop play.

These types of situations are why it is important for referees to look toward their assistant referee on a regular basis -- especially when there is a reasonable probability that there may be an offside infraction.

 

Answered 10/8/2012

Email Alert Service

Follow Us

Calendar