Soccer by the Rules – Caution

Soccer by the Rules – Caution

By: Joe Manjone, Ed. D.

Rule 18-1-1c indicates that a Cautioned Player is a “player notified by an official that his/her activities are not in the best interest of the contest. Such player must be shown a yellow card and shall leave the field and may be replaced.”

  • Note that the player does not have to be replaced.  The team can play short but if the team elects to play short, the team cannot substitute until the next legal opportunity to substitute.
  • The player who was cautioned may re-enter at the next legal substitution opportunity
  • Bench personnel (substitutes, coaches, trainers, etc.) can also be cautioned but a caution to bench personnel does not affect the number of players on the field.

Rule 5-3-1c describes the actions that the official must take when giving a caution and that is: “ hold a yellow card with arm fully extended above a referee’s head and indicate the player or coach being carded and notify both coaches, the scorer, and other official(s) of the nature of the misconduct.”


  • The yellow card is to be held over the head of the official not the head of the player. The player just needs to be told that he/she is being given a caution and the reason for the caution. This can be done quickly or slowly depending on the situation and the need for settling down.  Sometimes, taking additional time to give a caution can allow problems to settle down.
  • Also, the official can point to the player who is being carded and tell him/her the reason for the caution, or the official may want to get closer to the player to make certain that the player understand why the caution was given. Again, the official can determine if a longer or more personal player notification is needed.
  • Note that the coaches, soccer and other officials need to be notified. This should be done from a reporting area located on the halfway line approximately 15-20 yards from the touchline. Going to each coach and each scorer is not recommended unless the noise level is so high that the official cannot be heard from the scoring area.

Rule 181-1cc indicates that: “a substitute becomes a player when he/she is beckoned onto the field of play by an official at which point the replaced individual is no longer a player.”

  • When cautioning a player, unlike other substitutions, do not beckon the substitute onto the field until the cautioned player has left the field of play. There have been numerous instances where cautioned players have lost control and committed red card offenses while still on the field. This should have resulted in their team playing short.  However, because the official had already beckoned in the substitute, the cautioned individual was no longer a player, and their team did not have to play short.

Please note the recent change in Rule 4-2-3 where an illegally equipped player is treated the same as a cautioned player even though the first caution is given to the coach.

  • In this situation, the illegally equipped player, although not given a caution, is not allowed to re-enter until the next legal opportunity to substitute, and then only after being inspected by an official who is satisfied that the player’s equipment and uniform are now legal.

Follow the above procedures in every high school game you work, make certain your partners do the same. Remember, if you caution a player, do not beckon in the substitute until the cautioned player has left the field of play. If you would like to suggest a high school soccer rules change or if you have any questions about this rule or any high school rule, please e-mail me at [email protected]