Ask A Rules Question

Todd Abraham

Todd Abraham

C. Cliff McCrath

C. Cliff McCrath

If you have a question about or need an interpretation of  the NCAA Soccer Rules, you’ve come to the right place. Two NISOA Hall of Famers, long time NCAA Soccer Secretary-Rules Editor, C. Cliff McCrath, Corey Rockwell (current NISOA Senior Director of Education) and NISOA National Rules Interpreter Todd Abraham are active contributors here. Please follow the following guidelines before posting your question:

  • Read the current NCAA Soccer Rules book (available on the Forms page of our site).
  • Do not post questions regarding issues of referee judgement.
  • Do not post specific game details ( i.e. home team, match date, etc.) with your question, if your question happens to be about something you saw during an intercollegiate soccer game.
All questions are subject to editorial review. This is offered as a service to NISOA membership for educational purposes, with the expressed understanding that only the NCAA Soccer Secretary-Rules Editor (Ken Andres) can provide an official rule interpretation.

478 Responses to “Ask A Rules Question”

  1. In NFHS rules if there’s a PK that occurs once time has expired and the kicker, in an attempt to deceive the keeper, plays the ball forward and a teammate runs on to it and scores, the goal would be disallowed because 14.1.6 states that only the kicker may play the ball in such a scenario. However, what would be the correct restart? Would the team be allowed a rekick or would time expire?

    • In the scenario you describe, the kick ends when the teammate plays the ball. The game is extended solely for the taking of the kick and nothing else. Since the kick ends when the teammate plays the ball there is no restart – the game is over. Playing the ball forward to a teammate is allowed (Rule 14.5) so this is not trickery and is not a consideration in this scenario.

  2. When the home team chooses a ball holder, is that person allowed to coach from the side lines or is he/she to remain neutral?

    thank you.

    • No – the ball persons are considered “additional officials” as per Rule 6.5 (Each ball person’s duty is to assist in ball retrieval to avoid delay. All ball persons shall be instructed by and are under the direct supervision of the game officials) and as such are required to remain neutral, provide the ball to either team in the same timely fashion and do no coaching

  3. Based on the play of the 2018 World Cup will there be any advice to NISOA officials relative to the holding, grabbing, pushes in the back on headers, excessive charging, and fouls in the PB on set plays and more. It is understood that these were top professional games with top FIFA officials, but what will flow down from those games to the college
    coaches, and players. Will the college coache, and players expect the same? Thanks for your input and help.

    • Thanks for your question. NISOA has always expected that the illegal holding, grabbing and pushes in the back will be called in the intercollegiate game particularly when these fouls impact the ability of an offensive player to make a play on the ball. There is no change in the advice to our membership in administering the rules regarding foul play in the penalty area. Many of the plays you reference would have been called as fouls in the past and should continue to be called as such. The World Cup has brought heightened awareness to this issue which should only help our officials make the correct decisions on these penalty area incidents.

  4. I noted that among the NCAA rules changes for 2018-19 is the updated provision eliminating the possibility of an “own goal” being scored directly from the kickoff. However, despite several reviews, I could not find a specific decision regarding a ball going into goal directly from a drop ball. Maybe I just didn’t look hard enough, but would appreciate a citation of the NCAA rule regarding this very distinct possibility (if it can happen, it will eventually) or an official interpretation/clarification, as well as a comparison to the USSF Laws and NHFS provisions. Thank you very much.

    • Steve,
      Thanks for your question. It is a point not directly covered currently in the NCAA rules so we have requested a formal ruling from the NCAA rules committee and will post it as soon as we get a reply. Sorry for the delay and thanks again for raising the issue.

    • Steve,
      I have confirmed with the NCAA SRE that an “own goal” cannot be scored from any restart – kickoff, GK, cornerkick, dropped ball, throw-in, PK.

    • Additionally – to answer the question before it is asked – as part of the discussion with the NCAA SRE, a goal cannot be scored directly from a dropped ball – it must touch a second player (note that it may be played a second time by the same player, but that doesn’t allow for a goal to be scored) for a goal to be scored. This fully aligns with the NCAA rules and IFAB Laws regarding scoring from dropped balls

    • Player safety is always paramount. The guidance to referees is that hydration breaks should be allowed whenever the referee believes it is necessary for player safety. In extremely hot and humid situations they should be at a minimum of once per half, but maybe more frequent if needed. Referees should consult with the medical / training staff to get their perspective on the need as well. In any case, err on the side of player safety. Hydration breaks should occur at a natural stoppage of play, when doing so does not give either team an advantage (so typically on a restart in the defensive third of the field).

  5. Two things:
    1. On the 2018 National Referee Exam, there was a question about pregame warmup areas. I could not find a reference to the pregame areas in the Rules Book. Can you help?
    2. The Rules book still uses the words “intent” and “intentional”. I thought we had agreed that “deliberate was a better choice. Right?

    • The warm up area is specified at the end of Rule 6 – Timing Sheets that specifies:
      60:00 Teams may begin warm-up on the field in front of their bench.

  6. A.R. 3.7.1d………..Are we to assume A12 entered the field illegally ? There is no mention of being beckoned on to the field, nor is there a reference that the clock was stopped in the last five minutes of the game. If A12 is a ” legal ” substitute, than A8 would be a bench player, and therefore the team would not play short.

    Please clarify

    • This is an Approved Ruling in the NCAA Rules book and, as such, is not intended to be a “quiz or trick question”, but rather to clarify situations in the NCAA Rules, so the assumption is that the player entered legally.

      The intent of this A.R. is to clarify that during a substitution all the players on the field during the process are considered “players” for the sake of misconduct and whether a team plays short. The rationale for this stems from both the timing rules and substitution protocols unique to the collegiate game. Since the clock is kept on the scoreboard and does not stop for substitutions (except during the last 5 minutes by the team leading at the time), the NCAA wants substitutions to occur as quickly as possible, hence, there is NO requirement for the player to leave the field before the substitute enters (as a matter of referee mechanics, the referee crew should encourage minimizing any time required to execute the substitution and stop the clock if they feel time is being wasted during substitutions. Additionally, there is NO requirement in the NCAA Rules for the substitute to identify who is leaving when he enters. We have all experienced many times a player running onto the field and the coach yells, “Don’t take out Jordan, take out Sam instead” which is perfectly legal. Therefore, all 12 people legally on the field during a substitution are considered “players” when deciding if the team plays short.

      This IS a Rules / Law difference with IFAB.

  7. If a player leaves the field to change his boots, when is that player allowed to re-enter the game – on the fly after the referee gives permission or at the next stoppage?

  8. While challenging for the ball an offensive and defensive player go off the field together. The ball remains in bounds and in the penalty area. While off the field the defensive player punches the offensive player. What is the correct restart and location? What rule addresses this situation? What if the offensive player commits the offense?


    • The fouls are penalized as if there are on the field at that point, therefore, the defensive player who punches an opponent off the field should be ejected for fighting (following up with the proper notifications- player, coaches and scorekeeper and reporting (NCAA or NAIA red card reporting system) ) and the restart is a penalty kick. If the offensive player commits that same infraction, the ejection and reporting are the same. The restart is a direct free kick for the defenders from just inside the end line (unless it is in the goal area in which case the restart would be at the 6 yard mark)

  9. Rule in regards to a bleeding player says (paraphrase) ‘Players with a bleeding injury…must be removed…and may renter … at any stoppage’. The referee will stop play to remove the player from the field. If the bleeding can be administered to e.g. bleeding stopped, wrapped and become legal to renter; can that player reenter the game in the current stoppage without the restart of play?

    • This is an area of referee judgement. If the referee notices blood on the player and sends the player off the field and the fix is as simple as placing a band-aid over a cut, yes the player may reenter immediately, however, the restart should not be delayed at all to allow for the player to be treated. it is therefore, highly unlikely the treatment will occur quickly enough for the player to reenter before the restart.

      If he / she is treated on the field, then that player must leave and reenter after the restart. The reentry is the next stoppage (i.e, the player does NOT have to wait for a substitution opportunity).