Recreational Soccer

Points of Emphasis

Southwestern Youth Association (SYA) SOCCER


From:       Referee Commissioner – (571) 926-4448 (cell/text) –

To:            All SYA Soccer Officials

Date:         March 23, 2018

Fellow Referees:

Welcome to the Spring 2018 recreational season, which begins on Saturday, April 7. The end of season tournament is planned for the first two weekends in June, followed by the All-Stars tournament on Father’s Day weekend.

This season’s points of emphasis, rule changes, and friendly reminders are listed below.

Contact/Field Information:

Alan Liotta (Referee Assignor):                                       Dave Kwieraga (Referee Commissioner):

Referee Hotline: (703) 789-6457                                    Cell/Text: (571) 926-4448

Cell/Text: (703) 582-0789                                                Email:

Email:                                                 Email:

SYA Field/Weather Hotline: (703) 644-8046             Field Status:

Points of Emphasis:

  • Player Safety—Injuries and Concussions
    • Remember that player safety is of utmost importance—we want a safe, fair, and enjoyable game for everyone.
    • Continue to be mindful of players who may be injured or show signs of concussion.
    • The referee has full authority to stop the game immediately if you think a player is injured.
    • Do not allow a player to reenter a game if you suspect they have a head or other serious injury—regardless of whether a coach, parent, or spectator thinks the player is “ok.”
  • Professionalism
    • Know the rules. The IFAB 2017/18 Laws of the Game are in effect, as well as the respective age group rule modifications. If you’re unsure about something, ask me, a fellow official, or a coach for clarification. All rules can be found on the SYA Soccer website:
    • Honor your assignments. We understand that unforeseen circumstances may cause you to turn back games. The sooner you contact Alan Liotta, the more time he’ll have to find other referees. The morning of your games is NOT the time to turn back assignments. ALWAYS contact Alan on the Referee Hotline if you’re running late or having an emergency or injury/sickness that prevents you from being at your games.
    • Arrive on time and in proper uniform. On time is 30 minutes before kickoff. Please wear the new USSF referee shirts and 2018 USSF referee badge. Yellow is the primary color. Shirt tucked in, socks pulled up, black shorts and shoes.
  • Communication and Teamwork
    • Positive communication begins when you arrive at the field. Be friendly, courteous, and approachable.
    • Always introduce yourselves to the coaches. Use this opportunity to address any game-related issues—rules, field conditions, weather, spectators, hydration breaks, or any other items.
    • Conduct a pre-game conference with your officiating team. Talk about any issues or concerns with the game.
    • Open and honest communication will improve your effectiveness as a team, as well as your individual refereeing skills. Discuss how you’ll communicate with each other during the game—for example, using verbal/non-verbal cues, unique hand signals, and for game-critical situations like penalties, goal/no goal, etc.
    • Use the halftime interval to talk about what’s going well and what might need improvement. Revisit these items in your post-game conference.


  • “Handball” or Not?
    • Handling is the deliberate act of a player intentionally making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.
    • The ball may hit players in the hands or arms several times during a game. This fact is not, in and of itself, sufficient for handling to be called.
    • Developing players, like those in our recreational league, can be given more leeway when it comes to handling.
    • The referee should consider the following before making a handball decision:
    • the movement of the hand or arm towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand or arm)
    • the position of the hand or arm (closeness to the body)
    • the distance between the player, the opponent, and the ball (reaction time, the “unexpected ball”)
    • The referee can apply two general criteria to determine whether contact with the ball was intentional:
    • did the player move the hand or arm toward the ball?
    • did the player have sufficient time to move the hand or arm out of the way but failed to do so?
    • If either of these criteria are met, handling should be called (or advantage given to the opponents). If not, play should be allowed to continue.


  • Fair Play
    • We’re doing a good job managing unacceptable behavior in our recreational leagues, particularly with respect to coaches and spectators. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen less than exemplary behavior at all levels.
    • In June 2017, the IFAB and FIFA launched a new “play fair!” initiative as part of a strategy focused on improving fairness and the image of the game:
    • Although this initiative is aimed at international football and higher levels of competition, there are areas that apply to all levels of the game. Please take the time to acquaint yourselves with this initiative.
    • As always, I want to hear about unacceptable behavior by anyone at your games—even if it doesn’t result in a yellow card, red card, or dismissal from the field. SYA has a strict Code of Conduct and referees can help make our league better.
    • You can call, email, or text me for any reason—even if it’s just to talk about how you felt after a game.


Key Rule Changes:

  • Number of Players
    • U9-U10
      • U9 Girls, U9 Boys and U10 Boys will continue to play 7 v 7
      • Spring 2018 only – U10 Girls will be combined with U11 Girls and play 9 v 9 in the U11 Girls age group
    • U11-U12
      • Will now play 9 v 9
    • U14
      • Spring 2018 only – U14 Girls will play 9 v 9 on small-sided fields (e.g. Arrowhead)
      • U14 Boys will still play 11 v 11 on full-size fields
  • Heading the Ball
    • U12 recreational players can now head the ball. U11 and below players cannot head the ball.


  • Build Out Lines (U9-U10 only)
    • Build out lines designate areas where opponents cannot enter during certain phases of the game.
    • Build out lines will be located equidistant from the halfway line and the top of each penalty area (see figure).
    • Build out lines do not have to be marked on the field.
    • Opposing team players must move behind the build out line when the goalkeeper has possession of the ball.
    • Opposing team players must move behind the build out line on a goal kick and may not cross the build out line until the ball is put into play (i.e., leaves the penalty area)
    • Players cannot be penalized for offside between the halfway line and the build out line.

U.S. Soccer Field Standards and Markings for 7v7 Play (U9 and U10) Showing Build Out Lines

Friendly Reminders:


  • Field inspection. Ensure the field is safe and all lines are properly marked. Address any issues with both home and away team coaches. Improper markings? Play the game and note them in your game report. However, do not start the game if the field is not safe.
  • Goals. Ensure goals and nets are properly secured and safe for play. Check them before every game. Portable/movable goals must be staked to the ground and/or weighted down with sand bags. Do not let anyone play or hang on goal frames.
  • Player equipment. Ensure the players are properly and safely equipped. Check their shin guards and shoes. No jewelry—this includes fitness trackers (e.g. Fitbits). Reacquaint yourself with rules regarding headgear, eyewear, medical bracelets, religious items, special-needs players, etc. HOME team wears RED, AWAY team wears BLACK.
  • Showing cards to younger players. Use all your tools, personality, and experience to manage the game but do not ignore misconduct. This does not always mean showing a card. Sometimes all you need to do is talk to the player, or ask for help from the coach, to manage unacceptable behavior.
  • Mentoring. If you’re interested in improving your skills or moving up to more challenging assignments and higher referee grades, don’t hesitate to contact me and we can develop a mentoring program for you. We also have many senior referees in our program who are available to watch your games and provide feedback.


  • Have fun and a great season!


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SYA Office Location: 5950 Centreville Crest Lane, Centreville, VA 20121 | SYA Mailing Address: Southwestern Youth Association, P.O. Box 471, Centreville, VA 20122 Phone: (703) 815-3362 | Fax: (703) 815-2180 | E-mail: | Designed by GroupNet Solutions

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