Back to Soccer Rules Home Page

Soccer Rules - Soccer Cards

The way soccer "Fouls" are defined in the official soccer rules is confusing. Basically, "Fouls" are not only defined in the rules about "Fouls" but also in the rules regarding "Cards". Therefore, to understand soccer rules about "Fouls" you must also read soccer "Cards".

In every soccer match that involves a referee, there are 2 colors of "cards" which the referee will hold up to indicate serious fouls or behavior which won't be tolerated. The referee carries these cards in his shirt pocket, so if he reaches for his pocket it's a bad sign for the soccer player who committed the foul. These cards are about the size of a playing card and one is yellow and the other is red. When a card is to be given (it isn't actually given to the offending player, it is actually just shown to him and to everyone else) the referee will stop the game, call the player over, hold up the card and write the player's name in his notebook. This is called "booking" the player and when it happens the player has been "booked", (e.g., "she was booked"). Any time a Yellow or Red Card is shown, a "direct" or "indirect kick" will also be awarded.

For detailed soccer rules visit Youth Soccer Rules and visit Youth Soccer Drills for the best soccer drills and games.

Soccer Yellow Card - A Yellow Card indicates a formal "caution" for any of the following 7 offenses:

  1. "unsporting behavior" - this includes hard fouls; holding an opponent or deliberately handling the ball for the purpose of preventing an opponent from gaining possession of the ball; faking an injury; saying things that are designed to confuse or distract an opponent; harassment (such as jumping around, shouting or making gestures to intentionally distract an opponent; jumping in front of a corner kick, free kick or throw-in; worrying the goalkeeper or trying to prevent him from putting the ball into play; & adopting a threatening posture), gaining an unfair advantage by leaning on, climbing on the back of, or holding a teammate or the goal; blatant cases of holding and pulling an opposing player or his uniform; any action designed to deceive the Referee; and behavior which in the Referee's judgment is unsporting or causes an unfair advantage,

  2. dissent by word or actions,

  3. persistently breaking the rules,

  4. delaying the restart of play,

  5. defenders failing to stay the proper distance away from the kicker on a corner kick, free kick or throw-in,

  6. entering or re-entering the field without the referee's permission

  7. deliberately leaving the field without the referees permission.

A player who receives 2 Yellow Cards is given a Red Card & ejected. FIFA rules do not require a player to leave the field for the first yellow card. However, some leagues' rules do. You must go by your league's rules.

Soccer Red Card - A player must be shown a Red Card and "sent off" (i.e., made to leave the field) for the 7 offenses listed below. A player shown a "Red Card" & sent off may not be replaced during that game (i.e., his team must play a player "short" for the rest of the game; however, in some leagues a player may be replaced if he is ejected for receiving a second Yellow Card). The 7 offenses for which a player must be shown a Red Card and sent off are:

  1. serious foul play (includes any use of excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball. Examples include a dangerous slide tackle from behind, or an "over the top tackle" in which a player raises his foot so the cleats could hit a player, or a two footed tackle that takes down the opponent. FIFA has broadened this definition by saying that "Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play. For current rules visit, Laws of the Game. The above quote is from Questions and Answers, Additional Instructions for Referees). The rules now include "Decision 4", which says: "A tackle, which endangers the safety of an opponent, must be sanctioned as serious foul play".

  2. violent conduct,

  3. spitting at anyone,

  4. deliberately touching the ball with a hand in order to prevent a goal or to deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity (such as to prevent a "Breakaway".... this does not apply to the goalkeeper within his own Penalty Box)

  5. fouling an opponent to prevent an obvious goal scoring opportunity (e.g., holding to stop a breakaway),

  6. using offensive, insulting or threatening language and/or gestures,

  7. or receiving a second yellow card in one game.

Soccer Rules Logo

Copyright David Huddleston, All Rights Reserved and Enforced

Want to Re-Print this article or part of it? You are allowed to link back to this article or to It is illegal to post any information from on the internet without written permission from David or Kay Huddleston, except we will allow up to one page to be posted provided you add a working link at the TOP of the same page that goes to and says "Copyright".