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Prepare for your first match

preparing for my first match

Congratulations on successfully completing the requirements to become a grassroots referee.  My name is Alec Clark and I'm your State Director of Instruction (SDI).  You can contact me any time with questions, via email. 

  • Having completed course requirements, you are registered with U.S. Soccer as a referee through 2021 and all of 2022.
  • Registration is required every year.  With your current status
    • Your next registration cycle, for 2023 eligibility, is between July 1-December 31, 2022. You must register during this period if you intend to continue doing matches.



Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game Made Easy is a simplified version of the LOTG (at only 55 pages) and includes the small-sided rules modifications:

The full 246 page International Football Association Board (IFAB) Laws of the Game (LOTG) and related laws updates are available here:

Running your first line as an "Assistant Referee" (AR) or doing your first whistle as a "Referee" (R)


Assistant Referee Preparations

  • Make sure you understand what the referee wants you to do in managing substitutions, how long to hold the offside signal, etc.
  • Hold the flag in the proper hand. Referees usually run a left diagonal, which means the flag will be in your left hand most of the time.
  • If you turn sideways to walk up or down the field, switch hands with the flag as necessary so the flag is field side and the referee can see the flag clearly. The flag should always be switched hand to hand in front of you, below your waist, and not above your head.
  • Make eye contact with the referee as often as possible throughout the game when you are not watching for offside or attending to other AR duties.
  • Stay even with the second-to-last defender. (The goalkeeper is usually the last defender, but not always.) This positions you to make accurate offside decisions.
  • Follow the ball all the way to the goal line so you'll be in position to see if the ball completely crosses the goal line. Following the ball to the goal line each time is an excellent habit to get into.
  • When you're running a line, side-step so you stay square to the field as much as possible. This position allows you to continue to see the field and players. When you need to sprint to the goal line to follow play or the ball, then run in a normal sprint, while watching the field.
  • Run to the corner flag, or close to it, when signaling for a goal kick or corner kick. Raising your flag yards away from the corner flag or goal line not only calls attention to the fact that you not in the correct position to make that decision, but also carries with it the idea that you are either lazy, or you don't care enough about the game to be in the proper position to make the call.
  • When signaling for a ball that is clearly off the field across the touchline, point your flag in the direction the throw-in will be taken (not straight up). This is very helpful for the referee in making a decision on which team last touched the ball and which team should be awarded the throw-in.
  • Assist the referee in making sure the throw-in is being taken from the correct spot by pointing with your free hand to where the player should be standing when taking the throw-in. Be proactive, don't wait for the player to make a mistake, help them get it right.

Referee Preparations

  • You will probably do more games as an AR at first, but when you are assigned as a referee, remember to conduct a pre-game with your ARs. Tell them what you would like them to do in various situations, such as throw-ins, free kicks, goal kicks, etc. and make sure they understand what you are asking from them.
  • Review offside and make sure the ARs have a clear understanding of the Rules of Competition for the league in which you are working.
  • Be aware of your position on the field. It's tough enough to properly call a soccer match when you are on top of the play. It's impossible to make correct decisions when you stay close to or within the center circle. Even when officiating at the small-sided game level, get in the habit of being in the proper position and working hard. Always think about your positioning - you should know why you are where you are. What do you gain by being in this position?
  • Maintain good eye contact with your ARs throughout the game. A good habit to get into is to make eye contact with your ARs on every dead ball situation.
  • If you are working a game alone, remember to appoint club linesmen to help you out with balls in and out of bounds. Club linesmen cannot call offside or fouls, so this means you have to work extra hard in the middle and concentrate to make sure you are covering offside on both sides of the field. Ask for a club linesman from each of the teams, rather than two from the same team. Tell them to only indicate when the ball has completely crossed over the touchline or goal line, and not the direction the throw or whether it is a goal kick or corner kick. That is your decision. Remember that ball in and out of play is the only thing they can call as club linesmen.
  • Make your hand signals clear; point the direction with a straight arm.
  • Blow clear and sharp whistles. Learn how to make your whistle "talk" for you. Use the whistle to communicate control. Too many newly certified referees make a call with barely an audible "tweet" which tells everyone on the field that you are unsure of yourself. On your first call, give the whistle a firm blast and confidently point in the direction of the play. A firm whistle will eliminate 50 percent of the arguments. Vary the strength of your whistle depending on the infraction. For a serious foul, blow the whistle very loudly.
  • Be decisive in your calls. Players and coaches may try to take advantage of the situation if you seem unsure.
  • Run the diagonal system of control when you have ARs assigned with you. The most accepted diagonal system is from the right corner to the left corner – referees refer to this as a "left diagonal".
  • At half time and after the game, review all the results (number of cards, scores for each team and any incident that occurred, as well as the information required to be reported by that particular league) so your game report is accurate.
Strong Safety - Be Prepared

With all the emotions surrounding youth sports today, it’s impossible to prevent every bad action from happening. But, efforts should be made by all stakeholders in the game to keep referee crews as safe and secure as possible. Soccer officials have a tough job on the field. They deserve to arrive at the game, work it, and then leave the venue feeling confident that their well-being is important to game administrators, players, coaches, and spectators.

In order to achieve a safe officiating environment, referee crews need to work together. A strong safety plan is important.