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The answers to the questions on this page are not official AYSO nor FIFA rulings, but are the educated opinions of experienced Referees.

Click here to view our Simplified Rules of Soccer.

Click here is view our Referee Hand Signals.

Click here to view our Summary of Fouls and Misconduct.

Click here to view the AYSO National Rules and Regulations.

Feel free to Ask our Referee Administrator a question via email (


Penalty before drop ball

Q. At a drop ball, a player commits an offense before the ball touches the ground. What must the referee do? Including punishments and how is the game restarted?

A. Since the ball has not yet touched the ground, the offense is committed while the ball is out of play. Any offense committed while the ball is out of play does not change the restart, so the restart will still be a drop ball. In most cases (probably all cases involving a drop ball), the referee will delay the restart to deal with the misconduct. The nature of the misconduct will determine the punishment, either a caution (yellow card) or send off (red card).

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Impeding the Progress of an Opponent

Q. I'm a referee in the Northern Virginia area. I was wondering about a practice I observed being frequently used by defenders on the US National Team or on MLS squads. Many a time I've seen a defender run behind a rolling ball, last touched by the attacking side, and use his body to shield potential attackers from playing it, to win the goal kick for his keeper. In my mind, it seems that the defender is denying the attacker his right to play the ball. But, the defender in me believes that it is good, intelligent defense. The thing is, though, I've never seen it called. Does a Law cite this particular circumstance as a legal technique?

A. The issue here is whether the defender is legally shielding the ball from another player or is impeding the progress of an opponent. Impeding the progress of an opponent is a non-penal foul which would result in an indirect free kick (see Law 12). The critical factor in distinguishing legal shielding from impeding is whether the player doing the shielding (or impeding) is within playing distance of the ball. The player does not have to be playing the ball, he just has to be within playing distance (usually interpreted as about two steps). The situation you describe above is a common strategy of legally shielding the ball to win a goal kick. The defender does not touch the ball, but may use his body to prevent the attacker from getting to the ball. Should the attacker aggressively charge the defender, the referee will call a charging foul against the attacker.

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Ball Placement at Corner Kick

Q. When taking a corner kick, where can you place the ball? I'd like to place it as far from the corner flag as possible.

A. Law 17 states that the ball must be placed "inside the corner arc" for the taking of a corner kick. However, in soccer the ball is considered to be inside an area if any part of the ball is over any part of the area, and the lines are considered to be part of the area. So you may place the ball right in the extreme corner where the touch line meets the corner arc, and even slightly outside this corner as long as at least part of the ball is over the outside edge of the line.

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Protection of Goalkeeper

Q. At a game last week, the ball was bouncing around in front of the goal while the goalie was on the ground trying to control the ball. The goalie seemed to touch the ball a few times but never controlled it completely and eventually the offensive players scored a goal. The goalie actually claimed that he had trapped the ball with his hand on top of the ball against the ground when offensive players knocked it loose, but referee never saw this. At what point must offensive players refrain from kicking the ball when the goalie has his hands on the ball but may not be controlling it?

A. The goalkeeper is considered to have possession of the ball if he has the ball trapped on the ground with as little as one finger on the ball. Once the referee sees this, any attempt by an attacker to kick the ball loose would be a foul. In addition, during a scramble for the ball within the penalty area, the attackers have the obligation to avoid any significant contact with the goalkeeper. Any significant contact may be deemed a foul, whether or not the goalkeeper has possession of the ball. Although it's natural for attackers to try to score a goal, their first obligation (and the first obligation of the Referee) is to keep the game safe and protect the goalkeeper.

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Dangerous Play

Q. An attacker is dribbling the ball towards the opponent's goal. As he approaches, he accidentally trips (no foul by a defender) and falls such that his head is near the ball. At the instant he falls, the defender kicks the ball in what looks like nearly kicking his opponent in the head. Do you call dangerous play on the defender for not backing off, or on the attacker for putting himself in such a position?

A. In this situation, you need to ask who created the danger. The defender is supposed to try to kick the ball away, so if the attacker creates a situation where the defender cannot (safely) do his job, the foul is against the attacker and award an IFK to the defense. In an extreme case, if the defender did not hold back and actually kicked the attacker, you might caution the defender, but the correct restart would still be an IFK for the defense for dangerous play by the attacker.

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Handball by offense

Q. During a recent game one of our forwards was near the center of the opposing team's goal when a teammate kicked a b kick toward the goal. At the last second our forward saw the ball coming at his face and threw an arm up in a reflex action. The ball hit him on the side of the face and didn't touch his arm or hand. Our forward was yellow carded. I thought the rules were that our player would be carded if he deliberately used his hands to stop a ball from going into our goal.

A. If the referee thought the player struck the ball with his hand deliberately, perhaps in an attempt to score a goal, the yellow card would be the appropriate punishment (in addition to a direct free kick for the defense). Although I can't read the Referee's mind, from your description I assume this was the call. If the referee did not think the ball struck the player's hand or arm, there would be no foul, no call. On the last part of your question, if a player deliberately fouls to stop the ball going his own goal, he would be sent off (red card).

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Slide Tackles

Q. During a recent game, we were called for two slide tackles that seemed to be executed well (going for the ball and in front of the opposing player). At the beginning of our next game, I asked the ref to explain the ref's position on slide tackling to the players. The ref said that a slide tackle was illegal if it wasn't executed cleanly and the opposing player fell as a result of it. Based on this ruling, I told the kids to not even attempt a slide tackle during the last game.

A. The referee's explanation is correct but might require a little more elaboration. First, slide tackles are not in themselves illegal. A slide tackle must be carried out in a carefully prescribed manner. The defender must play the ball only, not the other player. The defender must contact the ball before any contact is made with the other player. The defender must not put himself or the other player in any significant danger by his actions. A defender may execute a slide tackle correctly, cleanly stop the ball, the other player may fall over the ball, and no foul has occurred -- PROVIDED that, in the opinion of the referee, the defender did not endanger himself or the other player. An incorrect slide tackle is always a foul and may also be a yellow or red card. A correct slide tackle may not be a foul but could still be dangerous play, depending on the age and abilities of the players.

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Are metal spikes allowed?

Q. Are metal spikes allowed in AYSO?

A. Metal spikes are rarely seen in youth games, but there is no specific prohibition against metal spikes. The spikes must be smooth and have no sharp edges or points. In addition, if the spikes are removable, the threaded bolt must be part of the spike and not the shoe.

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Physically challenging another player.

Q. I recently watched a game of 9 and 10 year old girls. Sizes of the girls range tremendously at this age. The smallest player on the field weighs 50 pounds. The largest weighs 110 pounds. Most of the time, the larger girls make fair physical challenges on the ball, using their size and bulk to effectively screen the smaller players. However, once in a while, the larger player would provide a "hip check" to move the smaller girl off the ball. I believe the hip check is effectively a push and should result in an indirect kick.

What criteria does the referee use to judge whether a physical challenge on the ball is fair or foul?

A. The referee must be guided by his primary obligation to keep youth games "safe, fair and fun". When players of different physical size or ability compete, the referee must ensure that the game remains safe for the smaller players. This does not mean eliminating contact altogether, but actions on the part of the ber players that might be considered "fair" against opponents of similar size and ability can create an unsafe situation with smaller opponents. The referee should use his discretion in determining that such actions are either dangerous play (IFK to opponent) or careless or reckless charges (careless = DFK, reckless = caution and DFK).

To answer the second part of your question, for players of roughly equal ability a "fair charge" is a momentary, staccato shoulder-to-shoulder contact. A "hip check" is not a fair charge. The restart would be a direct free kick for the opponent.

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Guidelines for direct and indirect kicks.

Q. What are the guidelines for determining a direct or indirect kick?

A. A direct free kick or indirect free kick is awarded depending on the foul or other violation of the Law that occurred. Indirect free kicks are awarded for "lesser violations" and include such things as offside, dangerous play (e.g., high kicks), impeding the progress of an opponent, and most goalkeeper offenses (e.g., picking the ball up a second time after putting it in play, or picking a ball up that is kicked directly to the goalkeeper by a member of his own team). Direct free kicks are awarded for most other fouls (pushing, tripping, handling the ball, etc.). The referee signals an indirect free kick by raising his arm straight up, and will hold the arm up until the ball is touched by another player.

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Goal scored by deflection during indirect kick

Q. If an indirect kick only touches one player from the kicking team, but deflects off of a member of the defending team and goes in the goal, does the goal count?

A. Yes. A goal may be scored against the other team from an indirect kick as long as the ball touches any other player of either team prior to going into the goal.

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Offside and deflected ball.

Q. If the ball is shot by a forward while a second forward is in an offside position between the shooter and the goalie, and the goalie or crossbar deflects the ball to the second forward, is the second forward offside?

A. Yes. If the ball goes directly into the goal from the first player's shot there is no offside violation (in most cases) because the second player does not get involved in the play (see previous question on this issue). However once the ball rebounds from either the post or the goalkeeper, the second player gets involved and the offside flag should go up immediately.

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Goalkeeper is red carded.

Q. If during the 4th quarter of an AYSO game (after all opportunities for substitutions have passed) a goalkeeper receives a red card and is sent off, is the team allowed to replace the goalkeeper?

A. The Law requires that each team have a goalkeeper at all times, but a player who is sent off may not be replaced. In the situation you describe, the team would have to identify one of the remaining players on the field as the new goalkeeper for that team.

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Handball by defender.

Q. During a shot on goal, a defender (not the goalkeeper) hits the ball with his hand in an effort to keep the ball from going into the goal. However, the ball bounces into the goal. What should the referee do?

A. The referee should award the goal. This is a situation where advantage should be allowed, and the hand ball foul should not be called since it would take the goal away from the offense. If the referee felt that the hand ball was intentional in a deliberate effort to keep the ball from going into the goal, the referee should award the goal and caution (show the yellow card to) the player for unsporting behavior. If the player had been successful at deliberately stopping a goal with his hand, the referee should send off (show the red card to) the player for a foul to stop an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, and the restart would be a penalty kick.

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Q. A striker is in an offside position within the goal area when his teammate shoots and scores. Should this goal count, or is this offside?

A. In most cases, this is not offside and the goal counts. Law 11 states that a player does not commit an offside infraction simply by being in an offside position, he or she must also be involved in active play. Simply being in the goal area (although obviously close to the play) does not imply involvement in the play if the other player shoots directly on goal. This would be offside only if the referee thought the player got involved in active play either by being so close to the goalkeeper as to interfere with the GK's movement, or by standing in front of the goalkeeper to screen the GK from the shot.

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Goal kick.

Q. On a goal kick, can the defense kick the ball to the side? Or does the ball have to be kicked forward to go past the 18-yard line marking the front of the penalty area?

A. Law 16 states that the ball is in play from a goal kick when the ball completely leaves the penalty area. The ball can leave the penalty area either to the front or to the side, so it is OK to kick the ball to the side on a goal kick.

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Offside during breakaway.

Q. Two forwards have a breakaway towards the goal. Player A (without the ball) is behind the ball when Player B kicks it forward. Player A then runs forward past Player B and kicks the ball towards the goal. Is this offside?

A. No. Law 11 states that the moment of judgment for offside is when the ball is played or passed by the teammate. Since at that moment Player A was behind the ball, he or she was not in an offside position.

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Goalie and defensive throw-in.

Q. The ball is kicked over the touch line by the attacking team near the goal line. The throw-in is taken by a defending team member, who then throws the ball toward his goalie. The goalie then picks up the ball. The ref blows the whistle to stop play. Is this a foul? If so, what is the penalty?

A. Prior to 1997 this play would be legal, but in 1997 the Law was changed to prohibit a keeper from handling a ball which is thrown-in directly to him by a teammate. The restart for this violation is an indirect free kick for the other team at the spot the keeper picked up the ball.

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Jumping during throw-in.

Q. A player on the team we played against would jump when he took a throw-in. The Ref didn't call this back. Don't you have to keep your feet on the ground when you take a throw-in?

A. Law 15 states "At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower [must have] part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line". The key words here are "at the moment of delivering the ball". After the player releases the ball, it is not a violation of the law if the force of the throw causes his feet to leave the ground. A player could throw-in the ball while standing on tip-toes, as long as his toes were on or behind the touch line.

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Corner kick

Q. In last week's game, I took a corner kick for our team. I kicked it towards my teammate, but he didn't see what I was doing and ran the other way. I had to race to the ball and kick it again before a player from the other team could get it. I didn't even touch the other player, but the referee called a foul on me. Why did he do this?

A. From your description, the referee probably called a foul on you for playing the ball a second time before another player had touched the ball. On most restarts (kick off, throw-in, corner kicks, free kicks, etc.) the player that takes the restart may not touch the ball a second time before another player has touched the ball. The penalty for this is an indirect free kick (IFK) for the other team. Since this is an unusual call, it probably would have helped if the referee had explained the call to you when the call was made.

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