Reffing Futsal (Part 4): How to handle the tricky situations and modifications for youth games

By Randy Vogt

My last articles were an introduction to refereeing futsal and the taking of kicks from the second penalty mark, all other restarts and referee positioning. Today, let’s conclude with challenges facing refs and which futsal rules youth soccer should modify for player development and keeping games on schedule.

Futsal does not have an offside rule, so attackers can be anywhere on the field, including on restarts. Unfortunately, some coaches put an attacker by the keeper to screen him. Invariably, then a defender gets involved to try and push the attacker from the keeper and the ref needs to see this and sort it out quickly before it becomes an issue.

Because a futsal goal is small, three meters by two meters, this tactic of trying to bother the keeper generally does not work as the extra players tend to clog up the area in front of the goal and shots are blocked by those players, whether intentionally or not. It’s much better for coaches to design plays with quick one-twos and square passes on restarts as that’s the way to score in futsal.

The ref cannot allow the pushing and shoving by the goal that is often incorrectly allowed in outdoor soccer. Maybe those reffing futsal will become more courageous by being aware that whistling a penalty kick or disallowing a goal is not as critical a decision in futsal as in outdoor soccer because of many more goals scored in a futsal game.

Substitution can be an issue in futsal as it’s done on the fly. If a player enters the field before the player being replaced has left, futsal’s rules call for an indirect kick where the ball was (when play was stopped) to the opposing team plus the sub to be cautioned. With kids, I would refrain from cautioning -- unless the team is truly a repeat offender -- because in this regard the indirect kick should be punishment enough.

The team benches are on the side of their defensive half as it’s easier to substitute this way. Futsal rules allow teams to switch the side of the field and their benches at halftime. For youth and amateur games, this is unnecessary as it takes up valuable time and the players should stay on the same bench and side of field the entire game.

Sent-off players cannot return to the game, obviously, and their team plays down a player for two minutes. The penalty is similar to hockey so if a goal is scored in what essentially is a power play, the shorthanded (really “short-footed” team) is back to even strength.

Teams are allowed one timeout per half in futsal for the coach to strategize. Many futsal leagues, to keep the games on time, do not allow timeouts. To prevent overcoaching as well, this is a good move.

The keeper can throw the ball over the halfway line in futsal. I have refereed competitions that follow this rule and others that modify the rule so with those leagues, it’s an indirect kick to the opposing team at the halfway line when the keeper throws the ball over the halfway line.

I prefer preventing keepers from throwing the ball over the halfway line. When you allow it, keepers throw the ball the length of the field. This defeats the purpose of playing futsal as the teams do not take the time to move the ball upfield through passing and dribbling.

Finally, futsal now allows slide tackles, which is a huge mistake for leagues played on hard surfaces for the obvious reason. Make slide tackles as well as keepers coming out to attackers feet first a foul punishable by a direct kick or penalty kick as it’s very dangerous.

I hope my ideas in these past four articles will be helpful both to referees and to futsal leagues.

Reffing Futsal (Part 1): Calling and counting fouls

Reffing Futsal (Part 2): Getting restarts right and goalkeeper limitations

Reffing Futsal (Part 3): How and why the two-referee system works for futsal

Downloadable Futsal Rulebook

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at

8 comments about "Reffing Futsal (Part 4): How to handle the tricky situations and modifications for youth games".
  1. Ed M, December 16, 2015 at 11:28 a.m.

    Randy, I'm glad you wrote about Futsal. However, some inaccuracies abound in your articles and continue the Futsal "rules" myths that US Soccer and FIFA are fighting against. A better understanding of the Futsal Laws of the Game would help you write correctly on such things as slide tackling and throwing the ball over the halfway line. Too bad many will read this and continue the problems we Futsal officials have because of this.

  2. Randy Vogt replied, December 16, 2015 at 12:29 p.m.

    Ed, although I have been officiating futsal for two decades, we all have a lot to learn. But before these articles were submitted to Soccer America, a US Soccer-certified futsal instructor reviewed them and I made any requested changes. Happy Holidays!!

  3. Ed M, December 17, 2015 at 4:29 p.m.

    We don't have any US Soccer certified Futsal Instructors Randy. As the FIFA Futsal Referee Instructor for the US I can tell you that you have written some inaccuracies. They mislead anyone who is reading and cause some problems. You mix your personal feelings with those that are factual with the Laws of the Game. Keeping things simple and to the pint is a must.
    The battle goes on.

  4. Randy Vogt replied, December 17, 2015 at 8:59 p.m.

    Ed, you have the platform so please write what these inaccuracies are so we can all learn. Happy Holidays, Randy

  5. Vishwa Reddy, December 18, 2015 at 2:53 p.m.

    Ed' right. Really perpetuating errors. FIFA Laws of the game does allow for the keeper to throw the ball over the half way line. Also wrong on the slide tackle. This may be a US individual competition nuances.

    Proper line changes should matter, unless you are officiating 5 year olds. In which case hand balls a no biggie either.

    How do you disallow a goal because of someone in front of the goal again? Not clear how a player cannot stand in a vacant spot in front of the goal. You may have a point here. But not clear how.

  6. Randy Vogt, December 18, 2015 at 8:37 p.m.

    Yes, the GK can throw the ball over the halfway line in futsal, as it says at the start of the ninth paragraph above. The futsal rulebook is also linked above. Having refereed youth and adult futsal games for two decades plus having refereed futsal teams from nine different countries, I believe that I could finally offer some ideas. The ideas expressed were for refs, for coaches regarding a couple of tactics and for leagues looking at player development and also keeping games on time. And I would not want to see a kid cautioned for, in his enthusiasm, coming on to the field too quickly when his team changes on the fly. My soccer Christmas wish is for every ref and team in the United States to try futsal for one season. Happy Holidays!! Randy

  7. Harris R, December 19, 2015 at 12:28 a.m.

    Hi Randy,

    Although an over-excited kid means well, he/she has to learn patience. I do agree that I don't always show a caution. I gauge how new a team is to the game and may only award an IFK on the first offence but there are no second chances once it has been communicated.

    It's considered the norm and I've seen players sent off for doing it twice.

    The reason why the ball being thrown over the halfway line should always be acceptable in Futsal is because the act of having to control it is not as easy as it is in arena soccer where it can simply bounce off a board and stay in play. Instead of relying on the ball ricocheting, players now need to turn to a different skill and interceptions are perfectly possible with the weightier ball.

    I've seen bench changing down at every age group in every league even at the recreational level. It's an important part of the game and hardly takes a minute to do.

    Happy Holidays and glad Futsal is gaining more traction with the articles!

  8. Darrell Schmidt, December 19, 2015 at 11:03 a.m.

    Randy, I have been reffing futsal by the FIFA LOTG for eight years and appreciate your articles, which reinforced a number of things I have learned over time. The statement about allowing slide tackles is a scary thing to see in writing, but I understand why you wrote it. The re-write of the futsal LOTG in 2010, while done with good intentions, made it harder to understand some aspects of futsal, in my humble opinion. Slide tackling was one of them. Another change I really, really, really wish would be removed from the LOTG is the 25 cm allowance from the touchline on kick-ins. That introduction of allowing kick-ins with the ball NOT on the touchline has caused, in my humble opinion, much difficulties for referees in judging what's good and what's bad kick-ins. I believe an entire article could be written on this subject. Perhaps you will write such an article in the near future.

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