Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 27910

Law 3 - Number of Players 10/21/2013

RE: AYSO Under 12

Scott Worthing of Laguna Beach, CA USA asks...

Hi. If a team puts fewer players on the field than the maximum allowed " but still enough to legally play " should the referee say anything to the coach?

I was the referee on a U-12 girls game where we normally play 9 v 9. As we started the fourth quarter (yes, we play quarters), I counted the players and noticed that the red team had only eight on the field.

I didnt feel this required any action by me " you can legally play with eight, and I dont think its my job to correct coaching mistakes. Heck, for all knew at the time, maybe the rest of the teams players had to leave early to go to a Justin Bieber concert.

So I allowed play to start and, sure enough, about halfway through the quarter, the Red team notices theyre one short and they send a player in. They ended up losing by one goal.

I can understand that if this was low-level recreational game, perhaps with inexperienced coaches, it might be nice of the ref to say something. But in this case, the game was tightly competitive and both teams had experienced coaches. Was I right not to say anything?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Scott
While there is nothing in the Laws to say that the referee has to ensure that both teams have the correct number of players on the field of play when short (other than the minimum required), I believe that in same way as an 'extra' player is brought to the attention of the coach so should the 'shortage'. How that is done is a matter for the referee and a quiet word would suffice. It also can prevent other problems arising such as the player rushing on to the field of play during play on say an attack and that can cause much ill feeling.
I have never seen it happen at openage but I have seen it happen at underage. Very young players sometimes don't listen to the coach or mistake what is meant.
So I say that it is 'best' to highlight this and it heads off any ill feeling that might arise or come the way of the referee such as 'Why did you not tell us when you counted the players'. It can be about ensuring fair play and an equal number of players is part of that plus game time for young players is important.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

In recreational play, you should let the team know they are short players. If it's the World Cup, you'd hope the coaches could count. In between depends on the game and league culture, but in youth games I'd lean more toward telling than not - except in games that are leading to some kind of meaningful championship, such as state premier league or state cup.

Be careful though - in some cases a team may elect to be playing down. For example, if the team is ahead 7-1, they may wish to play short to give their team a better challenge, and to not run up the score. If so, they will probably want to do this quietly. They don't want to give the other team the impression, 'You are such a sorry lot, we can beat you even missing one of our players.' So don't

Read other questions answered by Referee Gary Voshol

View Referee Gary Voshol profile

Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Whenever I did lower level games, especially rec, I'd always count players at the beginning of each half and after every goal. A simple 'Coach, you know you're one short' would be the extent of my involvement.

Read other questions answered by Referee Keith Contarino

View Referee Keith Contarino profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 27910
Read other Q & A regarding Law 3 - Number of Players

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.