The importance to a clear precise pre-game are essential to the beginning of a successful game. The referee needs to “take charge” of the match and the pre-game is the foundation. As the referee, you must dictate the length of the talk, the time limits on which you have to deliver the pre-game and the meeting place where this is to take place. A thorough pre-game should last about 30 minutes. There is a possibility that it could take longer due to the game (extra time, kicks from the mark).

In an ideal situation, once you receive the assignment and the names of your crew, contact them as this is the opportune time to determine where and when to meet. Once you have determined the location, be sure everyone is comfortable and that you have their complete attention.

There are various opinions on where to begin and what to cover. In a word—EVERYTHING. The easiest method to practice is by covering the field itself:

Outside the Field of Play

Bench Area

All personnel, coaches and players must behave in a responsible manner. What is responsible? They cannot:

  • Scream in protest of decisions
  • Move up and down the touch line out of the bench area
  • Complain about every decision
  • Use profanity
  • Confront opposing coach/players
  • Throw, kick or punch anything
  • Trash talk to opposing players

Coach Behavior

If coach act responsible, Assistant Referee should warn the coach, if actions persist, the referee should be called and take action—dismissed. ANY USE OF PROFANITY, THERE IS NO WARNING—DISMISSAL.

Substitute Behavior

  • In pinnies (if available) and seated. If warming up, no soccer balls used.
  • Must be at halfway line to enter.

Spectator Behavior

Make sure, if available, that the field marshal/liaison is ready to remove spectator(s) if necessary. If no field marshall/liason, coach is responsible.

Touchline Decisions

  • AR keeps general overview of foul throw via hands and feet infringements. Referee will be watching where the ball is going.
  • AR ensures point of throw-in in their area.
  • Ball in and out of play – eye contact each time before signal to ensure consistency.
  • On obvious out of play, signal with 45 degree angle indirection of play.
  • On decisions where ball leaves field and returns quickly, flag straight up and then signal.

From the Goal Line, Out Towards the Field

Goal Line Decisions, Goal Kicks, and Corner Kicks

  • Get to goal line for every decision. Calls are sold much better if you are at the goal line as the ball hits the goal line.
  • Eye contact with referee every time before decision.

Balls that cross the goal line between the posts (goals) and quickly return to the field. (Know the proper USSF procedure).

Penalty Decisions

  • What does the referee want in those instances? Things to consider for the AR.
  • Where is the referee? Is he/she close to play?
    • Did referee wave play on or say No Foul? If so, I saw the incident.
  • Is the decision something the referee can see?
    • If the referee has a clear view and is close, this becomes the referees decision UNLESS it is so obvious and a travesty to the game, raise the flag and use the proper USSS mechanics.
  • Balls either in or out of the penalty area. (Know the USSF procedure).
  • When a penalty is given, be specific as to what the AR’s duties are.
    • Report immediately to intersection of 18 and goal line.
    • Referee should give clear instructions what the duties are for the AR.
      • Judge GK infringement by advancing 1-2 yards off line before ball played.
      • Does the ball cross the entire line for a goal?
  • Referee should give clear instructions as to what signal they prefer if a violation.

Infractions Within the Field of Play

The AR should assist on exactly what the referee wants. Usually those decisions are based on the proximity of the referee to the infringement, his angle of view, and the location on the field of play. Rule of thumb is: the closer it is to the AR, is when she should get involved. The further away, then no involvement. UNLESS, A TRAVESTY TO THE GAME.

If referee signals advantage, resume normal position.

What is a TRAVESTY TO THE GAME? Here are a few examples:

  • Handling that results in a goal
  • Handling that prevents a goal by defender
  • An infraction that is a DOGSO when the referee is caught behind play
  • Any infraction that is unfair that results in a goal or penalty


Offside is AR’s primary responsibility

  • Ensure that player to be called offside is active by either interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage by being in that position.
    • Wait and see to judge if defense can play through with gained possession or if non-offside attacker plays ball first.
  • If unsure of whether player committed an offside offense and I have information, stand at attention (i.e. player screening GK).
  • If the decision is so close, keep the flag down.
  • In cases, where the AR is unsure if there was a deflection or a deliberate, the AR should raise the flag and let the referee decide. If the ball ends up in the net, then the referee and the AR must have a conversation. In both cases, the referee and the AR should discuss the situation and then make the decision.

Mass Confrontation

  • Ensure three officials (if 4-man crew) are watching incident quickly after incident.
  • Record numbers, team, and misconduct committed.
  • Make sure complete view of incident is achieved. All officials should not be managing same players when others are ignored.

Murder and Mayhem

  • Closest person comes on to prevent action by players if possible.
  • Referee comes to assist.
  • If in front of AR2, the responsibility of AR1 is to monitor benches.

Administrative Duties

  • Who records and when?
  • If there is a goal scored, trail AR records, referee and other AR observe until all players are in their own half of the field. Then referee and other AR record.
  • If there is a misconduct, the AR’s record AFTER the referee and once there is no danger of retaliation on either part of the teams.

4th Official Duties

  • Part of the team
  • Records ALL goals and misconduct
  • Controls bench area using management skills
    • Do not interfere with coaching duties
    • Firm but approachable
  • Ask, Tell, Dismiss
    • Referee should have a signal from the 4th as to when there is assistance needed. IF THE 4TH OFFICIAL IS STANDING AT ATTENTION AT THE HALFWAY LINE AND THE TOUCHLINE, THIS IS AN INDICATION THAT THE REFEREE IS NEEDED.