National Rules & Regulations Modifications

During the pre-game inspection of the players, the referee notices that one of the players has beads braided into their hair.

The referee should:

  1.  Have the player remove all the beads before being allowed to play.
  2. Allow the player to play so long as the beads are securely fastened to the head and do not present an increased risk to anyone.
  3. Have the player put on a beanie or head covering and tuck all of the beads into it.
  4. Allow the player to play so long as they promise to remove all of the beads before the next game.

There has been a modification to the National Rules and Regulations (2.VI.F) of the AYSO Reference Book. The modification addresses the motion approved by the NBOD on hair beads and medical devices, so numbers two and three are both correct answers. If the beaded hair is too short to tie up or back, a beanie or head covering may be used to secure the beads to the head.
(see picture below of beads in short hair)

Not Allowed – Hair Charms

Laws of the Game Updates 2023-2024

Every year the International Football Association Board (IFAB) reviews possible changes to the Laws of the Game (LOTG). Their decisions are responses to trends or unique events in professional matches, and often do not directly apply to AYSO matches. The goal of the IFAB is to keep the game equitable, safe, and enjoyable. The AYSO National Referee Council believes one of the ways we continue to deliver a quality referee program is to emphasize continuing education for our referees, instructors, and assessors. Each year when the IFAB modifies the LOTG, the National Referee Council oversees the review and updates all training materials and supporting documentation to ensure that we are aligned with the new Laws and any updates from the AYSO National Rules and Regulations. Below are the seven changes which apply to our games.

As with all LOTG changes, these will be in effect on July 1, 2023.

Law 3 – Extra Person on the Field
“Clarification that the referee should take action against an extra person on the field of play when a goal is scored only if the person affected the play, e.g. the Law does not expect the referee to penalize encroachment onto the field of play if it does not impact the play.”

Law 7 – Time Lost
Goal celebrations in professional matches have increased in time so it is now separately listed as a reason to add time to the half.  Delay to a restart due to “interference by an outside agent” has been added as a reason to add time as well.  Most Regions and tournaments do not allow for time to be added to a game due to the close kick offs of the matches.

Law 10 – KFTPM
The phrase “kicks from the penalty mark” has been changed to “penalties or (penalty shoot-out).”  The IFAB felt the term was outdated and rarely used. Also, warnings and cautions issued to “players and team officials (coaches)” during the match are not carried forward into penalties. The Laws did not explicitly state “players and team officials (coaches)” in the language.

Law 11 – Deliberately Played
New guidelines have been added to clarify “deliberately played” by a defensive player versus a deflection in offside situations. This Law change is the most detailed for the year and should be read over carefully. No change has been made to offside and now we have specific language for judging deliberate play. In the youth game, most play should not be judged closely to the Laws as the kids are developing skills and playing under nervous pressure at times.

Law 12 – SPA and DOGSO cautions
The Laws have added that a “challenge for the ball” is the same as an attempt to play the ball. So, for DOGSO and SPA situations where a penalty kick is awarded the same principle applies. Again, in the youth game, we do not always need to follow the letter of the Law and awarding a penalty kick would be enough.

Law 12 – Coach caution
Clarification that the senior team official can be sanctioned only for an offence committed by an ‘unidentified offender’ who is in/from the technical area, i.e. this does not apply to an offence committed by an ‘unidentified player’.

Law 14 – GK behavior
The Laws have added “the goalkeeper must not behave in a way that unfairly distracts the kicker, e.g. delay the taking of the kick or touch the goalposts, crossbar or goal net.” The language has been added to make sure the goalkeeper show respect for the game and the opponent during a penalty kick.

The remaining two changes involve the additional duties of the reserve additional referee and VAR protocol. Those interested can read about them in the IFAB documents available online at

Please be sure to review and apply the new rules prior to your first match this fall. Your Region should offer an Annual Review for returning referees prior to the start of the fall season. This is a good time to review the Laws and reconnect with your referee community, so please consider attending. At any time, you can also go to to download official documents as well as, adding the IFAB app to your phone.

Referee Interference

Scenario 1
In a 12U match, Red #9 attempts to pass the ball to a teammate. The ball hits the referee and goes directly out of play over the touchline. The referee should:

  1. Award a throw in to the opposing team
  2. Drop the ball to one player on the Red team where the ball hit the referee
  3. Drop the ball to one player on the Red team where Red #9 last touched it
  4. Award an indirect free kick to Red

#1 Neither team were on a promising attack when the ball hit the referee, nor did the ball did go directly into a goal, and the team in possession did not change. The Laws do not call for a dropped ball when it goes directly out of play after hitting the referee. Law 9 states, “The ball is in play at all other times when it touches a match official and when it rebounds off a goalpost, crossbar, or corner flag post and remains on the field of play.” This is similar to the ball hitting the crossbar before going directly over the goal line.

Scenario 2
In a 12U match, Red #5 attempts to pass the ball to Red #7. The ball hits the referee and changes direction, going towards Red #3 who controls it. Red #3 then passes it back to a defending teammate, who then resets play for Red. The referee should:

  1. Award an indirect free kick to Red
  2. Drop the ball to one player on the Red team where the ball hit the referee
  3. Drop the ball to one player on the Red team where Red #9 last touched it
  4. Allow play to continue

 The referee allows play to continue for the same reasons as in scenario #1. Possession did not change and a promising attack did not begin. Many of you will remember when the referee was a part of the field like “a blade of grass”, this is still true in some circumstances. Law 9 was changed out of fairness for when a team is negatively effected by the ball hitting the referee.

Goalkeepers feet during PK

A penalty kick has been awarded, the blue goalkeeper and identified red player are in position, and ready for the kick. All of the other players are outside of the penalty area and penalty arc. The referee blows the whistle, at the moment the red player kicks the ball forward, the blue goalkeeper has both feet behind the goal line. The ball does not enter the goal. The referee must…..

  1. Restart play with a goal kick.
  2. Retake the kick.
  3. Warn the goalkeeper and retake the kick.
  4. Caution the goalkeeper and retake the kick.

The referee signals for a goal kick to be taken. The goalkeeper did not commit an offense at the taking of the penalty kick, and the ball did not enter the goal from the penalty kick. One of the Law changes for 2022-2023 allows the defending goalkeeper to have “part of one foot touching, in line with, or behind, the goal line”, when the ball is kicked. We are only judging where one foot is at the taking of the kick, so it is acceptable to have both feet behind the goal line. The IFAB has decided there is no benefit to the defending goalkeeper to be in this position.

We also need to remember that at the younger ages, most of the goalkeepers have limited or no experience in the position, so it is important we apply the Laws age appropriately. When the goalkeeper does commit an offense on a penalty kick, a friendly word is preferred to a formal warning or a caution. Gamesmanship is rarely a factor with the younger players and any offense is usually a result of nerves and uncertainty.

Laws of the Game Updates 2022-2023

Every year, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) reviews possible changes to the Laws of the Game (LOTG). Their decisions are often in response to trends or unique events in professional matches, and often do not apply to AYSO matches. The goal of the IFAB is to keep the game equitable, safe, and enjoyable.

The AYSO National Referee Council believes one of the ways we continue to deliver a quality referee program, is to emphasize continuing education for our referees, instructors, and assessors. Each year, when the IFAB modifies the LOTG, the National Referee Council engages to review and update all of our training materials and supporting documentation, ensuring that we are aligned with the new laws and any changes to our AYSO National Rules and Regulations.

This year, the six changes are minor, and only two have any impact on AYSO games.

Law 8 now states, “the referee tosses a coin”, a coin toss is conducted at the start of a match, and for extra time (if needed). The referee has always been responsible for the coin toss and now it explicitly states this.

Law 14 now requires the defending goalkeeper, to have at least part of one foot touching in line with, or, behind the goal line at the taking of a penalty kick, or when the ball is kicked from the penalty mark. The IFAB believes there is no unfair benefit gained, with a foot positioned behind the goal line so it should not be punished.

The next three could apply to our program, but the events will be rare.

Law 10 added that a player, substitute, substituted player or team official (coach) may be cautioned or sent off during kicks from the penalty mark.

Law 12 added, “If the referee stops play for an offense committed by a player, inside or outside the field of play, against an outside agent, play is restarted with a dropped ball unless an indirect free kick is awarded for leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission; the indirect free kick is taken from the point on the boundary line where the player left the field of play.” This is a finer point of the laws that we at the youth recreation level may never see.

Law 12 also added, “where a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by a handball offense, the player is sent off wherever the offense occurs except a goalkeeper within their penalty area.” Goalkeepers are allowed to use their hands to play the ball within their own penalty area, and this was added to avoid misinterpretation of the laws.

The sixth change does not apply to AYSO.

Law 3 now allows up to a maximum of five substitutions with a maximum of three substitution opportunities. At the professional level there has been an increase in muscular injuries from a lack of recovery time between matches. In AYSO, we will continue to use our four substitution opportunities with returning substitutes.

These law changes went into effect on July 1, so please be sure to review and apply them prior to your first match this fall. Your region should offer an Annual Review for returning referees prior to the start of the fall season. This is a good event for reviewing the laws, and reconnecting with your referee community, so please consider attending.

Please also make sure to bookmark our Referee Page on AYSO Volunteers for all updated information: and for a copy of the Summary of Changes, click here for a downloadable PDF.

To purchase your own copy of the LOTG 2022-23, please click here for more information.

Law 8.2 Clarity – When the Ball Hits the Ref

Question (from Paul Steele):

Law 8.2 says in part:  “In all other cases, the referee drops the ball for one player of the team that last touched the ball at the position where it last touched a player, an outside agent or, as outlined in Law 9.1, a match official”

In the spirit of the law, if a passed ball deflects off a defender (who didn’t play the ball, but only had it deflect off some part of their body) and strikes the referee, shouldn’t the dropped ball be awarded to the offensive side that last had possession and attempted the pass?  Again, in the spirit of the law.

And is there any official commentary on this portion of Law 8.2?


Paul, thank you for your question.

Unfortunately, IFAB made it very clear on this one. IFAB uses the specific word touched.  As referees we have a lot of flexibility in our judgement, many aspects of what we call (or don’t call) are ‘in the opinion of the referee (ITOOTR)’, but not when its this clearly specified in the Laws of the Game (LOTG).

To further add confusion, if the ball hits the referee and goes out of play, the restart (throw in, corner or goal kick) goes to the opponent.  I.e., Blue kicks the ball, it hits the referee and goes over the touchline, the restart is a throw in for Red.

I think many of us were looking for an update from IFAB on this one, but it looks like we’ll need to wait until next year to see if they update it.

Intentional Heading v. Non-Intentional Heading

We know that heading at the 10U is discouraged, and is a indirect free kick (IDK) for the other team. One referee that I know will only give the IDK if he thinks the heading of the ball was intentional. From my understanding, we are to create an atmosphere of avoiding the heading as much as possible, and the referee should call it regardless of intentional or not.

If it’s deliberate, do you always enforce the requirement?

We first must acknowledge that the prohibition on heading the ball in AYSO is at the 11U and below levels (12U and below for programs without single age divisions) in both practices and matches (AYSO Referee Guidelines). The Guidelines also state that the prohibition is on deliberate heading, not unintentional heading.

So, a player whose head is hit by the ball, but did not clearly intend for it to do so, is not guilty of an offense. In addition, should a player get hit in the head with the ball with significant force to cause concern, stop play and restart as you would for an injury.

“If it’s deliberate, do you always enforce the requirement?” The short answer is yes, if the heading is deliberate, it must be called; even advantage cannot be applied (as in the case where a defender deliberately heads the ball and inadvertently scores an own goal).

The restart for deliberate heading is an indirect free kick, at the point of the infraction; unless it happens in the attacking goal area, in which case, as with any other indirect free kick offense, the restart is on the goal line, nearest to where the offense happened, parallel to the goal line.

When is the right time to call Handball?

When to call handball? Did I make the right call?

Blue is attacking, White is defending. We are in open play but Blue has had the ball in the defenders penalty area for about 30 seconds, so the defense is packed deep, including players within a yard of the goal line.

Blue kicks the ball, it glances off of a White defender’s arm and goes in the goal. Blue was awarded the goal. The White team wanted the goal to be reversed and a handball called instead, as it happened first. (The defender’s arms were tucked in alongside his body and were not out in a body expanding position, nor were they above their shoulders.)

Handling the ball is part of Law 12, Fouls and Misconduct. It is clear that the White team coach wanted the handling called, as it would negate the sure goal and provide for a Penalty Kick where there is a chance of a miss.
The offending White team player would receive a “caution” (if match was 12U or higher) for unsporting behavior.

As Law 12 reviews Handling the Ball, it is important to recognize that “not every touch of a players hand or arm with the ball is an offence”.
The criteria for “Handling” includes:
• “Deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm. For example moving the hand/arm towards the ball”.

• “Touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made the body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the players body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalized”.

• Scores in the opponents goal

  • Directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper
  •  Immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm even if accidental.

Based on the information provided in the scenario experienced, none of the criteria for “Handling the Ball” existed and the, “no call” was correct.

When to Warn and to Issue a Card for Players

Background:  U14 Boys game with CR and 2 ARs. Blue = home & Red = away

1st Quarter:
Blue team has an excellent goalkeeper (very tall girl). During the game, the Blue goalkeeper taunts the red attackers by leaving the ball in play and motioning for red attackers to kick the ball; then picks up the ball at the last minute. The blue keeper also makes gestures to the red attackers (nothing vulgar). Since the blue keeper did not do this every time, I thought maybe it best to let the kids play.  During water break, I recommend/ask the Blue keeper stop messing with the attackers…it can be seen as unsporting behavior.

2nd Quarter:
Blue keeper behavior continues and the red attackers appear to be getting frustrated. I warn the blue keeper. At halftime, I warn the blue keeper again, but I don’t think I every said a card would be coming out.

3rd Quarter:
Nothing memorable happens.

4th Quarter:
I Yellow Card the blue keeper the next time the behavior happens. The Red attackers hi-five each other and laugh out load.

Was I correct in issuing a Yellow Card to Blue keeper? If so, should I have done it sooner? Should I have issued a warning or Yellow Card to Red Attackers?


In any match, the goalkeeper can wait for pressure from an opponent before picking up the ball with the hands.  This alone is a normal part of the game.  In this match, the goalkeeper on the Blue team is not displaying good sportsmanship. “Motioning for the red attackers to kick the ball” is inviting conflict and “gestures” can have a negative impact on a match even if they are not vulgar.  This is taunting, which is a form of unsporting behavior, one of the caution-able offenses. We as AYSO referees have other tools that can be used first. A quick word to the goalkeeper to remind her of good sportsmanship is usually enough to stop the behavior. An early intervention by the referee will keep the match friendly and prevent the other players from responding in their own way. Letting it go is not an option.

In your instance, a direct warning to the goalkeeper to stop the behavior is appropriate. Remember to be professional, keep it short, and do not threaten to caution the next time.  If the goalkeeper continues to make poor choices, and the tone of the match is negatively affected, then it is time to caution the player and show them the yellow card. Remember that it is not personal, and the caution is for the good of the game. The other players deserve to have good experience.

Managing the players early on with our voice is an effective tool to keep the match safe, fair, and fun most of the time. Formal misconduct, showing cards, is an option when a player does not respond. Remember, if you have already asked the goalkeeper to stop the action and the behavior continues, that is the time to issue the caution. Don’t repeatedly “ask” the player to stop.

Reminder on Referee Roles during a Match


My daughter and I both recently had unusual experiences with assistant referees at our games. Each of us has had ARs come out on the field and disrupt play or instructions to players. In one case, I was forced to blow a whistle during an attack in the box when the AR came out onto the field. In my daughter’s case, the AR came all the way from the other end of the field to incorrectly “correct” my daughter on a PK. It may be worth an article to remind about the AR role and how the AR is supposed to signal the Referee and stay off the field during play unless invited on by the Referee.


That is an unusual situation to say the least, but of luckily the Laws of the Game (LOTG) are very clear on the role of the AR.  Law 5 outlines the authority of the referee and states “Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game…”. Law 6 reinforces this with its statement that “The match officials [including the assistant referee] operate under the direction of the referee”. A common phrase to remember is the assistant referee is there to assist not insist.

In terms of signaling, the Laws are less prescriptive. The section in the LOTG called Practical guidelines for match officials states that when direct consultation is required, the AR may advance 2-3 meters (yards) onto the field of play, but does not specify how this is indicated.

How the AR should signal the referee should be reviewed by the referee team in their pre-game. Generally the recommendation is that If the AR needs to speak with the referee during a match they should hold their flag up straight above their head and wait to be recognized. Upon play being stopped and the referee recognizing the AR, the AR should use an agreed upon signal to indicate they wish to talk to the referee.

Unless the AR has a prescribed reason to be on the field of play (e.g. moving into position for a PK, supporting the referee during a mass confrontation etc.) under no circumstances should they enter the field of play without the referee’s permission.