There is a difference (Part 1)

By: Don Dennison NISOA  National Clinician and Assessor

Major differences exist between the FIFA Laws of the Game and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) soccer rules and your understanding and application regarding these differences is critical.  Any misapplication due to misunderstanding or disregard of the differences can lead to the match ending in the wrong result, major dissent by coaches and players and possible protests.

For those readers who are moving up to school ball (High School varsity, Jr. Varsity and Middle School) officiating played under NFHS Rules from club matches under FIFA Laws, a careful and thorough reading the NFHS Rules Book is essential.  For those of you who have several years of school soccer in your portfolio, a re-reading of the NFHS Rules and especially the Rules changes and Points of Emphasis is a must.

Confusion between the Rules is common and occurs annually and I would recommend you to read the Rules Differences Chart that I author every year.  A copy can be found near the end of your NFHS Rules Book

Lets take a look at a few of the major differences between the FIFA laws and the NFHS Rules.  Other more minor technical differences exist, however for this article only the major ones will be addressed.

FIELD :  Bench placement in NFHS should be on the same side of the field, but if not feasible, on opposite sides diagonally across from each other.  Padded goalposts are permitted in NFHS but not in FIFA.  Penalty kick mark in NFHS can be a spot (as in FIFA) or a 2 foot line.

Determination of playable field conditions in the school game is determined prior to the match by a representative of the home school, thereafter by the head official.

BALL:  NFHS requires 3 or more with the NFHS logo and at least 2 ball holders.

PLAYERS and SUBSTITUTES:  FIFA allows subs at any stoppage with no reentry although many club youth leagues have special sub rules. In NFHS unlimited subs are permitted by either team after a goal, on a goal kick, caution (carded player MUST go out), injury if treated on field or referee has concussion concern, and when a red card disqualification is issued. The team in possession only may sub on a corner kick or throw in.  If they elect to do so, the other team may also substitute.

It is important to note that subs must have reported to scorer’s table or nearest official on throw-ins, goal kicks or corner kicks, prior to the ball going out of play.

In FIFA, a sub becomes a player when he/she actually enters the field of play; in NFHS, the sub becomes a player of record when beckoned on by the referee.  Once beckoned, the sub must enter and cannot be withdrawn.

PLAYER’S EQUIPMENT AND UNIFORMS:  The home school must wear solid white jerseys and socks, visitors wear dark jerseys and socks, with jerseys tucked in.  Any visible apparel under the uniform must be alike for all players and of the same color.  FIFA requires such apparel to be same color as shirt or shorts.  NFHS requires numbers on the back including the goalkeeper. Numbers are required on front of either the jersey or shorts.  If a Medic Alert bracelet is worn it must be visible and taped to the body.

If a player is found with illegal equipment, the head coach is issued a caution and the player must leave the field when the ball next ceases to be in play and can only return at the next substitution opportunity. Thereafter the illegally equipped player is cautioned not the coach in NFHS.

REFEREE:  In FIFA only the diagonal system of control (DSC 3 officials) is permitted.  NFHS allows the DSC, dual or double dual system. Referee’s authority begins 15 mins prior to match and ends when officials leave the field and immediate surroundings. Usually in FIFA authority commences when officials enter field area and ends when they leave.

FIFA dos not recognize forfeits, but referee may suspend or terminate a match. Forfeits under NFHS Rules are authorized if a team has less than 7 players.

Referee keep official time in FIFA, but in NFHS home school clock is official unless agreed otherwise. Head referee must verify score after the match.

DURATION OF GAME AND CLOCK:   FIFA for senior games requires 2 X 45 min. halves  plus allowance for time lost at referee’s discretion. If overtime is sanctioned, 2 full overtime periods not to exceed 15 mins. each are played and kicks from the penalty spot may be used.  If less than full time is played, entire match must be replayed unless local rules provide otherwise.

Under NFHS Rules, the match is 2 X 40 mins (varsity) or 4 X 20 min. quarters.  Overtime is set by state association up to 20 mins. maximum and sudden victory is permitted.  A match is considered official if one half has been played.  If suspended during the first half, state association decides to reschedule from beginning or from point of suspension.

This article will continue next month and will complete the differences between the FIFA Laws and the NFHS Rules.