Points of Emphasis


Player Safety

  • Player safety is of utmost importance—we want a safe, fair, and enjoyable game for every player.
  • Be mindful of players who may be injured or show signs of concussion.
  • The referee has full authority to stop the game immediatelyif you think a player is injured.
  • Do not allow a player to reenter a game if you suspect they have a head or other serious injury—regardless of whether a coach, parent, or spectator thinks the player is “ok.”

Goal Safety

  • Referees are responsible for ensuring goals and nets are properly secured and safe for play. Never start or continue a game if a goal is or becomes unsafe.
  • Portable or movable goals must be staked to the ground and/or weighted down with a sufficient number of sand bags or weights to ensure the goal cannot tip over.
  • Referees must check the goals before every game—even if they were checked for the previous game. Referees should get in the habit of checking the goals when they arrive at the field, prior to the first half kickoff, prior to the second half kickoff, and before any overtime period or Kicks From the Penalty Mark.
  • Referees should never let anyone play or hang on the goal frames.


  • SYA Soccer has a strict Code of Conduct that governs coaches, team officials, administrators, parents, and spectators. SYA Soccer wants to hear about unacceptable or irresponsible behavior by anyone—even if it doesn’t result in a yellow card, red card, or dismissal from the field. 
  • All yellow and red cards must be reported to the Referee Commissioner and Referee Assignor. For yellow cards, you have 24 hours to file your report. All red cards, ejections, or dismissals from the field must be reported on the same day as your game.
  • Please call, email, or text the Referee Commissioner or Referee Assignor if you have any sportsmanship issues at your game. You can also reach out to us even if it’s just to talk about how you felt after a game.


  • Honor your assignments. We understand that unforeseen circumstances may cause you to turn back games. The sooner you contact our Referee Assignor, the more time he’ll have to find other referees. The morning of your games is NOT the time to turn back assignments.
  • Arrive on time and in proper uniform. On time is 30 minutes before kickoff. Please wear the new USSF referee uniform and your current year referee badge. Yellow is the primary color, but referees have discretion to wear any color so long as the entire crew wears the same color. Shirt tucked in, black socks (pulled up), black shorts and black shoes.
  • Always contact Alan Liotta on the Referee Hotline if you’re running late or having an emergency or injury/sickness that prevents you from being at your games. Never fail to show up for your assigned games unless you have contacted Alan and he has taken you off the game. Failure to show may result in lost pay and/or sanctions.

Communication and Teamwork

  • Positive communication begins when you arrive at the field. Be friendly, courteous, and approachable.
  • Always introduce yourselves to the coaches. Use this opportunity to address any game-related issues—rule questions, field conditions, weather, spectators, hydration breaks, or any other items.
  • Conduct a pre-game conference with your referee team. Talk about any issues or concerns with the game.
  • Open and honest communication will improve your effectiveness as a referee team, as well as your individual refereeing skills. Discuss how you’ll communicate with each other during the game—for example, using verbal/non-verbal cues or hand signals, and what to do during game-critical situations like penalties, goal/no goal decisions, player and/or bench misconduct, etc.
  • Use the halftime interval to talk about what’s going well and what might need improvement. Revisit these items in your post-game conference.
  • If a Referee Mentor is at your field, introduce yourself and be open to honest and constructive feedback.

Know the Laws of the Game

  • SYA soccer is played in accordance with the most current IFAB (FIFA) Laws of the Game, except as modified by the respective SYA age group rule documents that can be found on the SYA Soccer website.
  • Read the Laws before going to the field. Keep a copy on your mobile phone and/or in your referee bag.
  • If you’re unsure about a Law, rule modification, or SYA policy, ask the Referee Commissioner, Referee Assignor, or a fellow official for clarification.

Players’ Equipment

  • Referees must ensure all players are properly and safely equipped.
  • Referees must be mindful of players that attempt to wear shinguards or shoes that are not safe or do not provide a reasonable degree of protection.
  • Referees must never allow any player to play in a game if they are wearing jewelry—this includes fitness trackers (e.g., Fitbits, Apple watches) and body piercings that a player insists will close if they remove the piece of jewelry.
  • Referees should be familiar with SYA Soccer rule modifications regarding headgear, eyewear, medical bracelets, religious items, and special-needs players.

No Heading the Ball for U12 and Below (Recreational League Only)

  • Although current US Soccer guidelines specify no heading for players U11 and below, SYA Soccer has modified this guidance to apply to U12 and below recreational league gamesbecause U11 and U12 recreational players are often combined into a single age group. In addition, multiple U11 and U12 games are often played on the same field on the same day, so it’s easier for referees to enforce the no heading rule for all of these games.
  • Play must be stopped whenever the ball hits a player in the head. Referees must not apply advantage.
  • The restart depends upon whether the player deliberately played the ball with their head.
  • If the play was deemed intentional by the referee, the restart is an indirect free kick (IFK) to the opposing team. If this occurs within the goal area, the IFK should be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line, at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.
  • If the referee decides the ball was headed inadvertently (or simply hit a player in the head), the restart is a dropped ball.

Build Out Lines for U9 and U10 Small-Sided Games

  • In order to improve focus on younger player development, US Soccer has implemented various Player Development Initiatives, including the concept of a build out line.
  • Build out lines designate areas where opponents cannot enter during certain phases of the game.
  • Build out lines are located equidistant from the halfway line and the top of each penalty area.
  • Build out lines do not have to be marked on the field.
  • Opposing team players must move behind the build out line whenever the goalkeeper has possession of the ball.
  • Opposing team players must move behind the build out line on a goal kick and may not cross the build out line until the ball is put back into play.
  • Players cannot be penalized for offside between the halfway line and the build out line.

U.S. Soccer Field Standards and Markings for 7v7 Play (U9 and U10) Showing Build Out Lines

U9 and U10 Recreational League Players Cannot Slide on the Ground (No Sliding Rule)

  • “Sliding on the ground” means that a player intentionally left his or her feet and propelled themself along the ground—stumbling or falling on the ground is not included.
  • EXCEPTION:A goalkeeper in his or her own penalty area is allowed to slide on the ground, as long as the referee does not consider the action to be a danger to any player (including the goalkeeper). Goalkeepers are permitted to make sliding saves to prevent a goal or a ball from leaving the field.
  • Referees may apply advantage for a sliding infraction, but they should not ignore sliding. Referees can remind players to stay on their feet, or ask a player’s coach to help manage the behavior. If necessary, referees have authority to show a yellow card to a player who persistently slides on the ground.

Foul Recognition and Misconduct

  • Referees must endeavor to be fair and consistent when deciding whether fouls or misconduct have been committed, and if so, whether something should be penalized. Remember to judge the result, not the intent, of an individual’s actions.
  • Referees should apply advantage when and where appropriate—and let everyone know by upswinging one or both arms and loudly saying “Play on!” or “Advantage!”. Do not use these terms or signals to indicate that players should keep playing when there is no foul or infraction. Try using different expressions like “keep going,” “no foul,” “keep playing,” or something similar.
  • Referees must be particularly mindful of players committing unfair or unsafe challenges for the ball, like charging a goalkeeper who has possession of the ball, tackling a player from the side or from behind, elevating or exposing one’s cleats, and committing unsafe aerial challenges for the ball.
  • All female players in our recreational leagues, regardless of age, are allowed to place their arms across their chest for protection. Similarly, referees should give consideration to any player who covers their face, head, or neck with their arms or hands for protection. Remember, the referee has the final decision as to whether any such action is fair and legally executed.


  • Handling fouls must be deliberate. Before you blow your whistle, take a moment to ask yourself whether a player deliberately intended to touch the ball with their hand (arm) because they had no other options. If so, blow your whistle or apply advantage. If not, keep playing!
  • The ball may hit players in the hands or arms several times during a game. This is not, in and of itself, sufficient for handling to be called.
  • Developing players, like those in our recreational leagues, can be given more leeway when it comes to handling.
  • The referee should consider the following before making a handball decision:
  1. the movement of the hand or arm towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand or arm)
  2. the position of the hand or arm (closeness to the body)
  3. the distance between the player, the opponent, and the ball (a player’s reaction time, whether the ball was “unexpected”)
  • The referee can apply two general criteria to determine whether contact with the ball was intentional:
  1. did the player move the hand or arm toward the ball?
  2. did the player have sufficient time to move the hand or arm out of the way but failed to do so?

Positioning, Mechanics and Work Rate

  • Do your best to stay sufficiently close to play. Work hard on your positioning so you can get the angles right, and get wide and deep enough to see what’s going on in the corners of the field. Be in proper position to call offside, goals, and balls in and out of play.
  • Whistle and signal confidently and appropriately. Remember, these tools are an extension of your voice. Make sure players and coaches can hear your whistles and see your signals. Vary the length and tone of your whistle based on your call. Whistle only when necessary.
  • Showing cards to younger players.Use all of your tools, personality, and experience to manage the game but do not ignore misconduct. This does not always mean showing a card. Sometimes all you need to do is talk to the player, or ask for help from the coach or team captain, to manage unacceptable behavior.

Thunder and Lightning Policy (30-Minute Rule)

  • Any time thunder is heard or lightning is observed, the referee shall immediatelysuspend the game and direct all persons to leave the field and proceed with haste to the nearest shelter. There are no exceptions to this policy.
  • All persons should remain in a sheltered location (e.g., cars, buildings, etc.) for thirty (30) minutes before resuming soccer activities.
  • The 30-minute waiting period begins each time thunder is heard or lightning is seen.
  • If field conditions become safe (e.g., thunder and lightning are no longer present), the referee should let coaches know if and when a game may be resumed.
  • Play should not be resumed after a weather-related suspension if doing so would cause the game to be finished after its scheduled time slot, unless resumption does not interfere with any subsequently scheduled game.


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Office Location:
5950 Centreville Crest Lane
Centreville, VA 20121
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 471
Centreville, VA 20122
Phone: (703) 815-3362
Fax: (703) 815-2180
E-mail: admin@syayouthsports.org