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Build-out Lines - Referee's Worst Nightmare?

Build-out LinesIn the fall of 2016, US Soccer introduced “build-out lines” for small sided youth games in order to help teach young kids how to play the ball out from the back in an unpressured setting.  The build-out lines are painted on the filed exactly halfway between the midfield line and the edge of the penalty area (some complexes have them as a solid line while others have them as a dashed or dotted line).   It’s a commendable idea in terms of long term player development but it’s really and truly a nightmare for referees to have to deal with.  Here’s a variety of reasons why. 


The first and perhaps most significant rule (for the players) is that once the goalkeeper has the ball (or it goes out for a goal kick) the attacking team must retreat to behind the build-out line.  Once the attacking team is behind the build-out line the goal kick can be taken or the keeper can play the ball by throwing or passing the ball out (punting is not allowed).  Once the ball is put into play, the attacking team can then cross the build-out line and go after the ball.  Again, this is in some way a commendable effort by US Soccer to teach kids at an early age the importance of playing the ball out from the back.  Here’s where this part of the rule has the potential to be a problem for the referees.  Say that the keeper catches the ball and instead of waiting for the attacking players to get across the build-out line, immediately plays it and it gets stolen by an attacking player who scores.  What happens then?  The parents and coaches go crazy (which is something that happens way too much anyway so this extra, unneeded stress is not appreciated) and berate the referee because the attacking players weren’t on the other side of the build-out line.  Here’s the thing though: it’s not the job of the referee to make sure the keeper waits for everybody to get back across.  The ball is in play when the keeper plays it.  If the keeper choses to play it quickly, that’s not the referee’s problem. 


The biggest issue with the build-out lines though is how it affects the way the ARs will call offside.  Calling offside has always been relatively simple for an AR.  If the attacking player is in the attacking half of the field, ahead of the ball and behind the second to last defender, it’s offside.  But now with these new build-out lines there’s a catch to that.  The catch is that from the midfield line to the build-out line the attacking player cannot be offside, even if all of the criteria for being in the offside position are met.  The reasoning behind this is not clear but one possibility is that it helps to offset the disadvantage of not being able to cross the build-out line to attack in the first place.  For ARs, especially ones that are new to being referees, this is a nightmare.  The best thing to do in this situation is probably just to run the line the way it’s meant to be run and just mentally note the build-out lines and remember that there is no offside between midfield and the build-out line. 

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How to get ready for a weekend long tournament.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Soccer-Goal.jpgTournaments are currently what makes youth soccer go.  It’s where the kids get to play the bulk of their high level games and it’s where referees get to work the bulk of their top games.  Tournaments are usually played in any and all kinds of weather: sun, rain, heat, cold, snow, etc.  They can also be a lot of fun with the proper preparation.  Here are some handy tips on how to be properly prepared for a weekend tournament.  


First and foremost is to have all of the proper gear and equipment.  Just like the players can’t play without the proper equipment, the referees can’t work without the requisite gear.  Most important is to have more than one jersey.  Lots of younger and newer referees attempt to do tournaments with just the gold/yellow jersey.  This may work for the local league, but at a tournament there are many more teams and thus a higher likelihood of teams wearing yellow.  It is highly recommended that referees have all five jerseys, but not all young referees can afford them or have the need for them.  In that case, try to have at least three (usually gold/yellow, red and green).  After jerseys, shorts and socks are also very important.  Black shorts with no logos or excess stripes are required.  For the socks, again all black are required.  Three stripe socks are still acceptable.  Always have an extra pair of socks handy as well.  It may be wet and running around in soggy socks for a whole weekend is no fun.  Proper, comfortable shoes are very important.  Also, make sure to have cold weather gear handy at all times, just in case.  Again, make sure it’s all black.  In terms of non-wearable gear, make sure to have at least one working watch, a pair of flags, a booklet with yellow and red cards (they tend to be necessary from time to time) a coin (preferably a referee coin and not just US currency) and a sturdy bag to hold all of this stuff.  In the case that any of these items have become dilapidated or gone missing, check out for all of your referee equipment needs.  


After having all of the required gear, the next most important thing to be prepared for a tournament is to be physically prepared.  Now, this does not mean being in peak physical shape and ready to go run a marathon, though that is not at all discouraged.  However, signing up to work a tournament after spending all summer on the couch watching TV is not acceptable.  If a referee is physically unprepared to work a tournament, he or she can potentially injure themselves and thereby put the assignor in a bad spot trying to fill all the holes in the schedule.  To avoid this from happening, at least try to do something during the offseason to keep in decent shape.  It’s also a good idea to have worked some other, low intensity games (possibly rec or church league) to get games back in the legs.  For further physical preparedness advice visit this site's Referee Forum.  

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Parental abuse of referees must stop! Now!

b2ap3_thumbnail_referee-abuse.jpgIt’s been established that referee abuse in the world’s top soccer leagues is a major problem that needs to be stopped.  But it’s not just a problem at the top of the soccer world.  It’s also an issue in youth leagues all across the country. It’s an issue that could lead to a large number of younger and newer referees not wanting to deal with it and just quitting.


Parental behavior at any youth sporting event has forever been an issue, but in recent years it’s become a very concerning one especially at soccer events.  It’s perfectly acceptable for parents to disagree with whatever call the referees make because referees are human too.  But what tends to happen is a few brief seconds of reasonable disagreement somehow morphs into an entire game long feud with the referee.  In far too many instances the disagreement explodes into a variety of personal insults, profanity laced tirades, arguments with parents from the opposing team and worst of all, physical attacks upon the referee.  It’s one thing to do any of this to an adult referee who is capable of defending themselves.  It’s absolutely disgraceful for any parent to ever do this to a new and young referee.


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Will US Soccer's attempt to prevent head injuries cause more problems than it solves?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Head-Injuries.jpgIn November of 2015 US Soccer adopted new rules banning players age eleven and under from heading the ball as part of its campaign for player safety.  This specific measure was adopted in an attempt to curb the rising number of concussions in youth soccer.  While US Soccer has been mostly commended for trying to make the game (and the long term health of the players) safer, it has created some confusion for referees and some unintended consequences/side effects.


The first issue is that many referees are just not used to having to award an indirect free kick because somebody headed the ball.  They’ve called the game a certain way for however many years and it will take some getting used to.  Similarly, a number of the players in the affected age groups are not used to not being able to head the ball as they’ve played the game a certain way for however many years.  Luckily, this is a small issue and one that will be resolved with the passing of time as players and referees get used to the new rules.



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Referee abuse has to stop!

Referee AbuseReferee abuse has to stop.  Plain and simple.  Coaches and players complaining about the way the referees call the game is nothing new.  In fact, something would seem just a little bit off if they weren’t doing it.  But in the last two or three years (and 2015 especially) it almost appeared as if there was a directive stating that referee abuse needed to be ramped up to new heights.  And it’s not just players, coaches and fans: most of the soccer media have jumped on the anti-referee bandwagon writing piece after piece about this referee not being good enough or that decision being wrong, etc (my personal favorite is every commentator saying every send off is “harsh”).  It has to stop.  


The problem starts in youth leagues.  Players, coaches and parents all want to win.  When things don’t go their way the referees usually take the brunt of whatever went wrong.  Players are told by coaches and their parents (at a more alarming rate than ever) that it’s not their fault they lost, it’s the referee’s fault because of a penalty that was or wasn’t given or any number of contentious decisions that happen during the course of a game.  So, when they don’t get the calls they want they start mouthing off to the referee.  Eventually everybody starts to do it over and over again until it snowballs out of control.  Until corrective action is taken, the problem will only continue to get worse.  


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Instant Replays in MLS: To Review… or Not to Review?

b2ap3_thumbnail_videoreview.jpgWe have lots to cover in this discussion, so let’s get right to it.


The introduction of Official Reviews (use of Instant Replay) in Major League Soccer is long overdue, and I fully support a roll out as soon as 2016… assuming U.S. Soccer and Sunil Gulati can somehow obtain the blessings of FIFA (lame duck) President Sepp Blatter.


At the risk of potentially “dehumanizing” the world’s most emotional sport… why should MLS use video replays?  Let me count the ways… and allow me to begin by stating for the record that not every idea shared in this article is my own, but you’ll soon see that my position is a bit more extreme than others.


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Fast Track at 40: Meet Robert Sibiga, MLS’ newest Referee

b2ap3_thumbnail_431.jpgEvery year or two, we read with great interest about the arrival of a new referee in Major League Soccer, and it’s usually all about reaching the pinnacle of a career after a journey of 12+ years of dedication, determination and incredibly hard work.  Mental anguish, battling burnout, overcoming the taunts of abusive parents (yes, the antics of spectators at a U10 game)… so many of our MLS referees were tried-and-tested first at the competitive youth level, and were then thrown into the deep fryer of ethnic amateur games for several years, where survival instincts advance the best and bravest to the next level. 


And it certainly helps if the ball takes a favorable bounce or two along the way.


The predominant unwritten rule (or at least the prevailing trend) suggests that officiating talent must be “discovered” before age 25 and continuously refined over ten or so years, so that we can herald the arrival of the next Brian Hall, Kevin Stott or Mark Geiger before the referee turns 35.


Of course, there are notable exceptions to nearly every rule, and that’s a very good thing.


Making up for lost time, Robert Sibiga, all of 41 years young, has arrived on the scene in Major League Soccer, and deservedly so after dedicating the last seven years of his life to studying, growing and advancing with the World’s Game.  To say he made up for lost time is an understatement, and if his first two MLS performances are a true indication of the man’s talent, we’re probably going to see a lot more of him.

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Turmoil in Tukwila: Open Cup Fiasco Could Have Been Avoided

b2ap3_thumbnail_dempseyredcard.jpgIf the third time’s a charm, what is the fourth time? 


For the US Open Cup, the Fourth Round of competition (the Round of 32 teams and 16 games) signaled the anticipated debut of the 17 U.S.-based MLS teams.   And while only two matches saw MLS teams fall to lower division opponents (one each from the NASL and USL), three other MLS sides squeaked by via penalty tiebreakers.


Speaking of fours – before the Orlando City/Charleston Battery game was ultimately decided by 10 rounds of tiebreaker kicks from the mark, referee Rubiel Vazquez whistled and pointed to the spot no less than four times.  Orlando City’s Carlos Rivas bagged his first career hat trick by converting all three penalty kicks awarded to the Lions.  Interesting stuff indeed.


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US Soccer Associations changing the LOTG to suit themselves.

b2ap3_thumbnail_NCAA.jpgThe FIFA Laws of the Game are supposed to be applied to all associations around the world but not, it appears, in the USA.


The differing governing bodies that control Intercollegiate and other soccer associations there appear to “tweak” the “rules” to suit themselves.


The 2015 “SOCCER GUIDE INTERSCHOLASTIC (HIGHSCHOOL) EDITION” by Don Dennison, NISOA National Clinician, sets out where these tweaks should be. Mr Dennison wrote the guide based upon:


  • “NCAA Soccer Rules and Interpretations – 2014 – 2015
  • National Federation Soccer Rules Book – 2015-2016
  • [USSF] FIFA Laws of the Game – 2014/2015
  • And Other Authorised Supplemental Materials.”

 Revised March 29, 2015.


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Referee brutally head butted by player!

b2ap3_thumbnail_refereeattacked.jpgA Scottish referee was brutally and violently attacked by a player in a game in Saudi Arabia.


The incident happened in a local derby between two of the KSA’s fiercest rivals Al Hilal and Al Nasr.


Such is the intensity of the rivalry between these two teams that referee John Beaton and his two assistants, Stuart Stevenson and Douglas Ross, were sent to the Middle East after a request from the local association for outside match officials.


In the 67th minute with the score at 1 – 0 the referee red carded Al Hilal’s Mohammad Jahfali.


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Assistant Referees: Plan to Succeed… Know Your Surroundings!

b2ap3_thumbnail_goal.jpgNostalgia time.  I remember my first Major League Soccer assignment like it was yesterday: Old Mile High Stadium in Denver… April 14, 2001.  This rookie was going to be the Junior Assistant Referee for Kevin Stott in the Colorado Rapids’ home opener against the MetroStars.  In hindsight, I probably should have informed Kevin more than 30 minutes prior to kick-off that this would be my first career MLS game.


No worries.  Mr. Stott has an amazing sense of humor.  And an even more amazing presence on the field.


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MLS Referee Alan Kelly's five star performance at the Citrus Bowl.

b2ap3_thumbnail_OrlandoFC.jpgAt last!  It's been long coming and, quite frankly, we thought we would never seen it.  But, it finally arrived.


No, we are not really talking about the start of the new MLS season this weekend.  Although, obviously, we are thrilled that the season started on time and without work stoppage which, as it was reported, was quite still probable just a couple of days before the kickoff.  


What we are talking about here is Mr. Alan Kelly's performance during a historic game between two new MLS expansion teams Orlando City SC and NY City FC in front of 62,000 fans at Orlando Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando, Florida.  


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Cautions: When you “Give” a Yellow Card, What do you “Get” in Return?

b2ap3_thumbnail_In-Your-face.jpgOur 140,000+ registered soccer referees here in the United States are extremely fortunate to have professional peers from which to learn.  While cheering on their favorite or hometown teams, aspiring referees can tune into Major League Soccer games for nine months out of the year and study how referees recognize foul play, take risks to maximize game flow, manage player behaviors, and apply the Laws of the Game.  Television coverage of pro soccer has grown by leaps and bounds over MLS’ first two decades.


Just one request:  Please don’t emulate the pro referees’ mechanics when they issue yellow cards.  What works for them might not work as well for you…


When it comes to issuing cautions, our aspiring officials – especially Grade 7 referees working adult games at the amateur level (AGAL) and in particular those who fly solo (without assistant referees) – must consistently get it right, as their success in managing the game absolutely depends on it.


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EPL referees are “the worst that we have seen.”

b2ap3_thumbnail_PGMOL.jpgThere is a strong perception out there that the EPL referees and their assistants are among the best in the world.


However, in a recent scathing attack on his former colleagues, Keith Hackett, the former head of the USA equivalent of PRO, called for four current Premier League referees to be dropped at the end of the season.


He went on to label the current crop of match officials operating in the top tier of English football as “the worst that we have seen.”


Mr. Hackett, who was succeeded as head of the Professional Games Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) by ex Premier referee Mike Riley, has called for Mr. Riley to be sacked and for one particular referee Lee Probert to be removed from his position should he fail a fitness test.


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UPDATED: In-depth analysis of DOGSO-H.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DOGSO-blog.jpgWe wanted to provide an important update to our recent blog on this subject matter because of the additional information that has been brought to our attention after our blog was published (If you have not read the blog, we strongly encourage you to read it first before continuing further).  Namely, one of our regular readers and forum contributor, Alex Fletcher, pointed us to a quiz posted on this website containing one question that is directly relevant to the type of hypothetical situation that we analyzed in our blog.  The questions is as follows:


A defender on his own goal line, between the goal posts, deliberately handles the ball which rebounds to an opponent who scores a goal directly. What decision should the referee make?

A. The referee sends off the defender for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball to prevent a goal and awards a penalty kick.
B. The referee applies advantage, allows the goal and cautions the defender for unsporting behaviour.
C. The referee applies advantage, awards the goal and sends off the defender for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball to prevent a goal.
D. The referee applies advantage and awards the goal without taking any disciplinary action.   


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Wannabe Refs!

b2ap3_thumbnail_lawsofthegame_20141223-034133_1.jpgSome time ago I wrote a blog stating that refereeing was not for the faint hearted. I stick by that conclusion.  I would even go on to say that while some might perceive themselves as being match officials, they would never make a referee in their lifetime. Why?


Let me start from the beginning and as you read on you’ll get to grip with what I mean.


Refereeing is a special kind of “work.” It requires nerves of steel, the fitness of an Olympic athlete, skin as thick as an elephant (no disrespect to the elephant), the wisdom of Albert Einstein, and the testicular fortitude of a struggling politician telling us that everything is “hunky dorey” when constantly getting doors slammed in his/her face.


Not many have those qualities. Fewer still will ever develop them so my advice is take some other activity where there is no stress and even less hassle.


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DOGSO-H & application of Advantage: in-depth analysis.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DOGSO-blog.jpgWe recently had an interesting discussion on our forum about one particular incident that occurred in a match between Real Madrid v. Ludogorets Razgrad.  As can be viewed in the video below, in the 19th minute of the game, Ludogorets’ player, who was standing on the goal line between the posts, illegally prevented the ball from going into the goal by intentionally deflecting it with his arm.  The deflected ball, however, bounced and luckily landed right in front of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale who volleyed into the goal.  Bale’s celebration was cut short, however, when he realized that the referee blew the whistle and signaled for the penalty kick instead. Following his decision to award the penalty kick, the referee dismissed the offending player for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.  The resulting penalty kick was – fortunately for the referee – converted into Real Madrid’s goal.


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College Soccer and other Autumn Traditions: 5 Questions for Brian Hall.

b2ap3_thumbnail_brianhall.jpgI love autumn.  The leaves are turning color.  The air has become crisp (last night’s temp dropped to 52F).   My Clippers and Kings are off to a solid (if not entirely promising) start.  And so many Facebook friends are posting photos of their NCAA, NJCAA and NAIA playoff matches… some in short sleeves, others in long sleeves… and then there’s the occasional parka!


On December 14, all eyes will turn to Cary, North Carolina and WakeMed Soccer Park in anticipation of the 2014 NCAA Men’s College Cup.  A crowd expected to exceed 7,000 will witness the pinnacle of collegiate soccer, contested on a pristine grass pitch inside an impressive complex specifically built to showcase soccer.  WakeMed stands as proof (and one of nearly 20 modern examples) of just how far the World’s Game has progressed here in the United States.


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