Ask the Referee
Our Advisor on the Laws of the Game, Steve Hawkins, takes a few minutes to answer a question.
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- Goal Kick Corner Switch
- Do 7U do throw ins or kick ins?
- Must players exist the box when the goalkeeper has the ball?
- Offside touches
- What part of the body do I watch for offside?
- Playing on the ground
- Buildout line and goal kicks
- Offside – what does “snapshot” mean?
- Does the goalkeeper have the ball?
- Cautions and send-offs
- 6 seconds
- Carrying the ball across the line?
- Holding the ball outside the penalty area
- I keep tripping over the coach
- Keeper controlling the ball
- Offside, over and back?
- Bouncing the ball?
Q: In 12U on a goal kick, can my goalie (or even a regular player) take the ball to one corner of the box, place it on the grass (but not remove their hands) but then pick up the ball and run to the other corner of the box, place it down, and kick it? Or does it need to be kicked from the spot where he first put it down (even though he did not remove his hands)?
A:A few things to keep in mind here. First, on a goal kick the ball is not in play until it is kicked and clearly moves. So, the ball is still not in play when the goalkeeper (or other player) puts it down in the ground. The only potential issue about picking it up and moving it before kicking it is an inappropriate delay of the restart. There is no specific rule in the Laws of the Game about moving the ball from side to side. If the referee believes this is or is becomes a delaying tactic, it could become a caution (yellow card) to the player for delaying the restart of play. (The restart would continue to be a goal kick.) In a 12U game, this can typically be handled by the referee encouraging the players to get play restarted more quickly.
Q: Do 7U do throw ins or kick ins?
A: In Region 13, 7U teams do throw-ins. We only do kick-ins for 6U. Note that this and other rules specific to U6/U7/U8 can be found in Region 13 Guidelines for 6U/7U/8U Referees.(You can find this and other useful referee materials on our Region 13 website by going to the Referee page, selecting Referee Resources, and selecting Referee Document Library.) All U6/U7/U8 referees are encouraged to be familiar with the document and use it as a resource for reminders for the rules that apply for those age groups.
Answered September 17, 2023
Q: When a goalie gets the ball and is going to punt or throw the ball out do all of the players on the opposing team need to be outside of the box?
A: No, opponents of the goalkeeper do not need to leave the penalty area when the goalkeeper has the ball. (This sometimes gets confused with a goal kick after the ball goes out of play over the goal line; on goal kicks the opponents do have to have the penalty area until the kick is taken.) While opponents can be inside the penalty area, they cannot interfere with the goalkeeper trying to punt or throw the ball. Law 12 tells us an indirect free kick is awarded when an opponent “prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands or kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it.” So as long as the opponent in the penalty area is leaving the goalkeeper alone, there is nothing the referee needs to do. If an opponent is bothering the goalkeeper, it is often more effective for the referee to simply call out “leave the goalkeeper alone please!” rather than blowing the whistle. That allows the goalkeeper to go ahead and punt or throw the ball instead of having to put the ball down for a free kick.
Q: What if a player is offside, and another player on his team kicks the ball to him. However, before reaching the first player, the ball is touched by an opposing player. Is it offside or not?
A:The overly simple answer is “it depends.” But that isn’t helpful, so let’s dig in a bit. The key question for the AR and referee on this play is the nature of the “touch” by the defender. If it is a deflection off the defender, then the player would remain offside and should be penalized. But if the defender played the ball, it would remove the offside restrictions if the ball went to that attacker who had been in offside position when the ball was passed by a teammate. It is often obvious that a ball was simply a deflection or that a defender deliberately passed the ball to a poor spot. But sometimes it can be more challenging. (Indeed, in writing the Laws, IFAB has been shifting things a bit trying to find the right criteria, and there can be a lot of nuance to the determination.) For practical purposes in an AYSO game, before we consider it a play, we are looking for the defender to have demonstrated some level of control over the ball. If the defender can only stab at the ball or can’t reach the ball readily to make a clean play on the ball, we should consider that a deflection, and if the ball goes to that offside positioned attacker, we should award the indirect free kick for interfering with play. At the 10U and 12U levels, if you are having trouble deciding if there was enough to be considered a play, you should treat it as a deflection.
(There is a more advanced concept that can come into play. If a defender traps the ball and keeps it close, the player who was in an offside position is not permitted to immediately challenge that opponent for the ball. If the player who was in offside position when the ball was passed does challenge the opponent immediately after the opponent received the ball, the player should be called offside for interfering with an opponent. At younger levels, if you aren’t sure whether the challenge was immediate, you should err on the side of calling an offside offense.)
Answered September 9, 2023
Q: When I’m watching for offside, what part of the body of the players am I supposed to focus on? Feet? Torso?
A: For each player we consider the part of the body closest to the goal line except for the arms.
A bit more detail: As assistant referees, keeping track of the players can be a challenge. That’s why we want to stay with the second to last defender or the ball, whichever is closest to the goal line. When we are with the second to last defender, squarely facing the field, we are watching what part of his body (ignoring the arms) is furthest back toward the goal line. In practice, this is almost always the back foot, but on occasion can be a the player’s head or shoulder. If we keep that spot identified, then any attacker with a body part (other than the arms!) past that is going to be in offside position. Don’t forget that offside position only matters if the player is in that offside position at the moment a teammate plays or is touched by the ball, and then the offside position player becomes involved in active play. (Some people ask about goalkeepers—even for those situations where the goalkeeper becomes the second to last defender, we don’t consider arms in assessing offside position.)
Answered September 2, 2023
Q: Is a player allowed to keep kicking the ball while the player is on the ground? (No injury or foul has occurred)
A: If no injury is involved, the question. For the referee is whether an offense has occurred. “Kicking the ball from the ground” is not an offense. But playing in a dangerous manner is an indirect free kick offense. So the question is when, in the meaning of the Laws of the Game, kicking the ball while on the ground becomes playing in a dangerous manner (sometimes referred to as “PIADM”). The concept of the playing in a dangerous manner offense is that by creating danger to herself or an opponent, the player unfairly makes it hard for the opponent to safely play the ball. So if there is no opponent around, it’s easy—there can’t be PIADM because there is not an opponent to unfairly interfere with. When there are opponents around, the referee has to make a judgment call. In general, if there are several players around the ball and one on the ground trying to kick the ball instead of getting up , it will likely be PIADM, as the other players can’t kick at the ball without kicking the player on the ground. But if the player is on the ground and just gives a quick kick to get the ball away before opponents are unfairly impacted, then no offense has occurred. This comes down to the judgment of the referee. The younger and less skilled the players, the more quickly the referee should decide that the player on the ground is creating an unsafe situation and call a PIADM offense against the player on the ground.
Q: Regarding goal kicks, when may the attackers cross the buildout line? After the ball leaves the penalty box? Or after the first touch by defender?
A: For goal kicks, there was a revision to the build-out line rule for 2018. On a goal kick, the opponents may cross back from the build-out line when the ball is in play. With the 2019 law changes, this means as soon as the ball is kicked and clearly moves. (For goal keeper possession, the opponents may come back from the build out line as soon as the goal keeper releases the ball from her hands. An excellent video on the AYSO build-out line, including the 2018 revisions can be found on the Section 1 website.
Answered 9.17.18 Revised 9.6.19
Q: I understand that the best way to detect offside offenses is to keep track of a snapshot that’s taken every time a teammate touches the ball. My question is: when do you throw out the snapshot? Law 11 does not explicitly discuss the snapshot, but I see that the snapshot approach is compatible with the law.
A: It is true that a “snapshot” is not in Law 11 expressly, but is the concept in the Law. This is the language in Law 11 that suggest the snapshot as a way to think of tracking offside: “A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a teammate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by…” There are three ways that we get rid of a snapshot:
- If a teammate touches or plays the ball, we throw out the old snapshot and replace it with a new one.
- If play is stopped (the ball leaves the field or the referee stops play for a foul or any other reason), we throw out the snap shot–there will not be a new snapshot until a player on that team touches the ball again.
- If an opponent deliberately plays the ball, then the offside snap shot is thrown out and not replaced.
While this could perhaps be written more clearly in Law 11, it becomes clear if you parse through the language about “gaining an advantage.” If the ball simply deflects or rebounds off a defender (or a defender makes a save), we keep the snap shot and consider a player who was offside at the moment his teammate last touched the ball to have gained an advantage from the offside position and penalize the infraction. But Law 11 also tells us that “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.” In other words, once an opponent deliberately plays the ball, we throw out the snap shot.
Q: Regarding 10U Boys: an attacker kicks the ball toward the goal, the goalie attempts to pick up the ball but fails to gain possession. May the attacker continue play and kick the ball while the goalie is attempting to gain possession (pick up the ball)?
A: An opponent may not kick or attempt to kick the ball when the goalkeeper has possession. Possession includes the goalkeeper having a hand (or body) on the ball pinning the ball to the ground. But if the goalkeeper fumbles the ball so that the ball is loose, opponents are free to challenge for the ball as long as they do so with appropriate care. If an opponent trying to get the ball kicks the goalkeeper, that is a kicking foul. But if the attacker can kick the ball without kicking the goalkeeper and without pushing the goalkeeper off the ball, that is not a foul. There is no special rule at 10U—this is simply application of Law 12. At 10U, referees should err on the side of protecting the goalkeeper—but that does not mean a referee should call a foul on an opponent who is fairly and safely challenging for the ball. answered 9/29/18
Q: Regarding 10U, is tackling allowed? If not, what is the penalty for tackling?
A: In soccer, the Laws of the Game define a tackle as “A challenge for the ball with the foot (on the ground or in the air).” (Page 175.) So the simple answer would be that, yes, of course, tackling is allowed. But I don’t think that would really answer your question. Law 12 tells us that one of the direct free kick fouls is tackling when it is careless, reckless, or with excessive force. (Page 101.) Put another way, a challenge for the ball with the foot must be done with care so that it is not dangerous to the opponent. That generally means there should not be significant contact with the opponent who had the ball, and that any contact should come only after the contact on the ball. If the tackle is simply the defender stopping the ball with his foot, and the opponent then trips over the ball, that is not a foul. If what you really meant was are slide tackles allowed in 10U games, the answer is that they are only permitted if done with adequate care. But most 10U players lack the skill to execute a fair slide tackle, so attempts at slide tackles at that age are very likely to be careless tackles, which means it is a direct free kick foul. Keep in mind the referee mantra: Safe, Fair & Fun. And if what you meant was an American-football type tackle, of course that would be a foul. And whether the referee sees it as a holding foul, charging foul, or pushing foul, it doesn’t really matter–any of those would be direct free kick fouls.
Q: At what age should AYSO referees begin using yellow and red cards?
A: Yellow and red cards are a communication too used by referees to indicate that a player has been formally cautioned or has been sent off for misconduct. (They were first imagined in 1966 by Ken Aston (who later became a great friend of AYSO) to overcome language barriers in international matches.) As a matter of philosophy, AYSO avoids them at younger ages, not because misconduct is acceptable, but to avoid the public nature of showing the card. That means that referees can still caution or send off players for misconduct, but they would do so by the less public process of speaking to the player and the coach. (Any such cautions or send offs should be noted on the game card.) Fortunately, in the younger ages misconduct is unusual, so the issue rarely arises. As a general matter in AYSO, the cards are not used as a communication tool until 12U. (At 12U and even 14U, referees are encouraged to be kind and low key when using the cards, and to explain what is happening to the player and why the player is being sent off.) In the unlikely event a younger player is sent off for misconduct during a game, in addition to noting it on the game card, referees should promptly contact the Division Referee Administrator.
Q: Another team’s goalkeeper controlled the ball with hands in her own penalty area for more than six seconds on multiple occasions which would normally result in an indirect free kick offense. Unlike other calls where perception and judgement is involved, counting 6 seconds requires less judgement.
A: While the 6 second rule sounds like it is a simple black and white rule, that is not how the Game applies the rule. The rule is intended as one of judgment–and it carries a very harsh penalty, as it creates a significant scoring opportunity for the opponent. Accordingly, referees are not trained to count off the seconds the way a basketball referee would and catch the goalkeeper with the ball. (Indeed, watch a professional match and goalkeepers routinely hold the ball for more than 6 seconds. Yet I only know of only one example of the rule being infraction being called in a professional game–in the women’s world cup between the US and Canada, which created a bit of a fire storm even though the goalkeeper had been consistently holding the ball for more than 10 seconds.) The rule (which replaced a “four step” rule for goalkeepers) is simply intended to be applied with judgment so that game moves forward without excessive delays. So despite the way the the rule is written, it is ultimately a rule for referee judgment. When in the opinion of the referee it is necessary, referees should encourage goal keepers to release the ball more quickly. Only when a goalkeeper continues to delay after being warned should a referee consider calling the infraction. (As an aside, it often seems the goalkeeper has the ball longer than she does as nothing is happening. And even from a technical perspective, the 6 seconds does not start until the goalkeeper has clear possession and, if necessary, time to get to her feet.) Note for 10U: the 6 seconds would not start until all opponents have retreated beyond the build out line.
Q: There was one goal which we thought was scored. The ball was blocked by the goalkeeper, but while in the goalkeeper’s possession, went across the goal line into the goal. It was not recognized as a goal by the AR. My question is: If the ball is touching and on the goal line (ie not completely over it) could that be a reason the goal was not recognized by the AR?
A: Exactly! For a goal to score (and indeed any time the ball leaves play) the whole ball must cross over the whole line. That is true whether the ball is in the air or on the ground–the line shoots straight up. On close plays, one has to be very close to the goal line to know for sure whether the whole ball crossed the whole line, or whether than last smidgen of the ball is hanging over a smidgen of the line. Assistant Referees should be trying very hard to be standing on the goal line when these events arise so they can make the close call. One trick that Assistant Referees use is to see the goal posts, which should have their back edges on the back portion of the goal line. If the Assistant Referee is on the goal line so that the goal posts line up, she can tell if the whole ball crossed the whole line by seeing if the ball passes the post.
Q: When a goal keeper catches ball along the penalty side line and steps across it with ball in hands what is the penalty?
A: Short answer: Direct free kick. A bit more information: When the goalkeeper is outside of the penalty area, the goalkeeper has no special rights or privileges. Since deliberate handling is one of the direct fee kick offenses in Law 12, that means that if the goalkeeper deliberately handles the ball outside the penalty area, the offense results in a direct free kick. Outside of the penalty area refers to the position of the ball. If any part of the ball is on or above even a smidgen of the line, the goalkeeper is still able to touch any part of the ball. On punts, referees need to keep in mind a couple of things. What matters is where the ball is when the goalkeeper lets go of the ball — not where the ball is when it is kicked. Many goalkeepers will release the ball inside the penalty area, but kick the ball well outside, which is perfectly legal. If referees or assistant referees suspect minor violations on punts, it is advisable to warn the goal keeper before calling the infraction. (Many wise coaches teach goalkeepers not to get right on the line to avoid an inadvertent violation.) 5.29.17
Q: What can we do to make sure that coaches and parents leave enough space between the sidelines and their chairs so the assistant referee can move along. Sometimes the chairs are placed too close to the lines.
A: Short Answer: Ask them to move back! A Bit More Information Assistant Referees are entitled to enough space to do their jobs. Many parents (and some coaches) aren’t familiar enough with what they do to really understand that Assistant Referees need space behind the touchline at that end of the field because they are running down the touch line, with a flag in one hand, while looking at the field, not the spectators. Before the game starts, Assistant Referees should check and make sure there is enough space. If there isn’t, simply ask the parents too move back — do it with a smile, and maybe say something like “I really don’t want to land in your lap when I’m running!” If they inch up, or new arrivals come and set up to close, again, ask them in a friendly way to move back. In those rare cases that parents are not responsive, ask the coach for help — explain that you can’t do what you need to do unless he gets the parents to back up and give you enough space. In the unlikely event that the Assistant Referee working with the coach is not enough to solve the problem (and this should be extremely rare in AYSO), the Assistant Referee should call the Referee to the touchline to assist. If he needs to, the Referee can tell the coach that the game will not start (or restart) until the parents move back so that the Assistant Referee has enough space. But things shouldn’t get that far — polite requests should be enough to get parents (and their kids!) back where they need to be so the Assistant Referee is safe and can focus on doing his or her job well. Answered 9.9.2015
Q: What’s the rule if the goalie has his hand on the ball but doesn’t really have full control? May a player kick it out of his hand and then score? The head ref waved off the goal, and the lines person overruled after consultation. So this may be a two part question: 1) the rule re the hand; 2) the lines person overruling.
A: Editor’s note: In Core 10U, if a goalkeeper’s little finger is touching the ball, nobody should be swinging a foot at them.
Short Answer: (1) If in the opinion of the referee a goalkeeper has possession of the ball an opponent may not kick the ball. (2) It is completely appropriate — and encouraged — for the referee team to work together and referees to consult with their assistant referees when the assistant referee has information that may help the referee make a final decision. The ultimate decision is up to the Referee.
A Bit More Explanation: (1) When, in the opinion of the referee, a goalkeeper has possession, kicking the ball is a foul and a direct free kick would be awarded to the goalkeeper’s team. In its Advice to Referees, USSF has explained goalkeeper possession: “12.B.4 Goalkeeper Possession of the Ball The goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball when the ball is: • held with both hands, • held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e.g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper’s body), or • held in a single hand (gripped or in an outstretched open hand). “Once established, possession is maintained while the ball is held as described above, while bouncing the ball on the ground, running with the ball, or while throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, after throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to hit the ground. For purposes of determining goalkeeper possession, the holding includes contact with any part of the goalkeeper’s arm from the fingertips to the shoulder. “When a goalkeeper has possession of the ball, any attempt by any opponent to charge, tackle, or otherwise challenge for the ball is prohibited. Such a challenge is considered to be a direct free kick foul because it is directed at the person of the goalkeeper and not as a legal attempt to gain the ball. A ball controlled by the goalkeeper using means other than his or her hands is open to legal challenge by an opponent. The referee must consider the age and skill level of the players in evaluating goalkeeper possession and err on the side of safety.” Thus, the goalkeeper simply touching the ball does mean the opponents have to let the goalkeeper then pick up the ball. If in the opinion of the referee the ball is still moving around uncontrolled, opponents are free to try for the ball, so long as they do so in a safe and appropriate manner. If, however, the goalkeeper (in the opinion of the referee) was actually holding the ball or has pinned the ball to the ground, that would be sufficient to establish possession and no opponent should attempt to kick the ball. Ultimately, this is a key question of judgment for the referee team and the final judgment of the referee is the only opinion that matters. (2) A bit of terminology to start. There is no such thing as a head referee or a lines person. The referee team is made up of a referee (who has the whistle) and two assistant referees (who have flags). Ultimately, the referee is responsible for all decisions on the field — the role of the two assistant referees is to assist the referee. The referee team should always be working together to do the best they can to “get it right.” On a play such as the one described, it is fully appropriate for the referee to consult with the assistant referee. Law 5 of the Laws of the Game make clear that a referee may change a decision based on input from an assistant referee if the game has not yet restarted. If, upon consultation with the assistant referee, the referee decides it was not a foul, he can reverse that decision — it sounds as if that is what happened here. (That change could be based on considering what the assistant referee saw or on discussing how to evaluate if it was a foul.) And so long as the whistle had not blown before the ball entered the goal, awarding the goal would then be completely proper. Answered 11.17.14
Q: An attacking player is in an offside position but returns to an onside position before the ball is directed to him or to another teammate. Is it OK for him to participate in the play?
A: Short Answer: Offside position will be re-evaluated each time the ball is played by or touches a teammate. So if the player returns to an onside position and the ball touches a teammate, the player will no longer have offside status. A bit more explanation< : Law 11 tells us that offside position is evaluated each time the ball is played by or touches a teammate. A player in offside position at the time a teammate plays or touches the ball is off his side (off his team) and cannot become actively involved in play until one of three things happens: – play is stopped (the ball leaves the field or the referee otherwise stops play) – a teammate again plays or is touched by the ball (at which time the referee would again decide if here were in offside position or not) – an opponent plays the ball but the play is not a save Our question doesn’t say how the ball was redirected. If the player was in offside position, for example, when his teammate took a shot, and came back to an onside position while the ball struck the goal post directing the ball to him, the player would still be called for an offside infringement as none of the three things occurred to re-set the offside analysis. If, however, it was another touch by a teammate that directed the ball to him, then his offside position would be reevaluated at the time of that next touch — each touch by a teammate completely restarts the offside analysis. If the ball was redirected by an opponent, two things are possible: (1) If, in the opinion of the referee, the ball deflected off an opponent or was a save by an opponent, the player would still be called for an offside infringement as none of the three things that re-set offside occurred. (2) If, in the opinion of the referee, the opponent played the ball (other than a save) and directed it to the attacker, there would be no offside possible as the ball was last played by a defender. Answered 11.14.14
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.)