Soccer Red Card Rules (Official With Examples)

Red cards in soccer change the way a game goes. That extra player makes a big difference. This can make an interesting game, while one team tries to break down the opponent as they defend and try to counter-attack.

It can seem like the game is over for some teams, so it’s important to know the red card rules. Here are a few things we will cover in this article;

  • What a Red Card Is
  • When Red Cards Are Given
  • Red Cards Examples
  • The First Red Card

The red card rule is one of the most important for you and your team, so let’s examine what they mean.

23 May 2012. The Galaxy Go Down To 10 Men After A Red Card Was Given During The Major League Soccer Game Between The San Jose Earthquakes And The Los Angeles Galaxy At The Home Depot Center
23 May 2012. The Galaxy Go Down To 10 Men After A Red Card Was Given During The Major League Soccer Game Between The San Jose Earthquakes And The Los Angeles Galaxy At The Home Depot Center

When Do You Get a Red Card in Soccer?

A red card is given when a player uses “excessive force”. This can be an aggressive tackle that endangers an opponent or misconduct, as outlined in the rules below.

In this article, I will take you through the areas where a player can receive a red so that we can avoid it as players and instruct other players to do the same. Knowing the official rules will help us play a better game – we’ll know how we can tackle the safe side of the law.

Being strong in the game is a major factor in competing. It’s a physical game, so it’s best to know right from wrong.

Red Card Soccer FAQ

New Rules For Red Cards 2022

Previously if a player fouled an opponent in the penalty box and stopped a goal-scoring chance, the attacking team would be awarded a penalty, and the player would be shown a red card.

Now, this has changed – only if a foul in the penalty box is considered a red card on the rest of the field will the player be sent off. So there is no ‘double punishment’ for fouling in the box. A penalty is enough.

London England January 21 2020 David Luiz Of Arsenal Sees The Red Card During The 201920 Premier League Game Between Chelsea Fc And Arsenal Fc At Stamford Bridge. ○ Soccer Blade
London England January 21 2020 David Luiz Of Arsenal Sees The Red Card During The 201920 Premier League Game Between Chelsea Fc And Arsenal Fc At Stamford Bridge. ○ Soccer Blade

Red Card Rules For MLS + EPL

Soccer rules are international, so the same reasons that a red card is given in the MLS are the same in the English Premier League. The only difference to the rules is the punishment for the red card.

All soccer leagues worldwide need to follow the official rules from IFAB/FIFA – a World Cup would be crazy if we didn’t! The leagues can give their rules on disciplinary actions – suspensions and fines.

The rules for suspension of a player after receiving a red card are;

  • 1 Game Ban – Two yellow cards
  • 1 Game Ban – Minimal red card offense
  • 2+ Game Ban – Serious foul play

The number of games a player is banned for depends on the offense’s seriousness. The player will automatically receive a one-game ban, and the committee will decide if the player deserves further game suspensions in the following days.

There is also a consideration for how many other suspensions a player has had in the season. Multiple red and yellow cards could lead to further suspensions.

23 May 2012. the Galaxy Go Down to 10 Men After a Red Card Was Given During the Major League Soccer Game Between the San Jose Earthquakes and The Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center

Referee Alan Wiley Shows Nemanja Vidic Of Man Utd A Red Card. Premier League Match At Old Trafford Between Manchester United Fc And Liverpool Fc On 14 March 2009. Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4
Referee Alan Wiley Shows Nemanja Vidic Of Man Utd A Red Card. Premier League Match At Old Trafford Between Manchester United Fc And Liverpool Fc On 14 March 2009. Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4

Official Red Card Soccer Rules

There are many opinions about when a red card should be shown in soccer, but the best place to get the rules is from the rule-makers: Football Federation International Football or FIFA as they commonly know.

These three stages are outlines of what a player should receive for their offense;

1. Careless Soccer Play

Carless – means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making his challenge or that they acted without precaution: no further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless.

FIFA Law 12

2. Reckless Soccer Play

Reckless – means that the player has acted with complete disregard of the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent: a player who plays in a reckless manner shall be cautioned.

FIFA Law 12

3. Using Excessive Force Soccer Play

Using excessive force – means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring an on opponent: a player who uses excessive force shall be sent off

FIFA Law 12

Later, we’ll look at the seven reasons for a red card. First off, let’s look at these laws in detail.

Leo Messi Of Fc Barcelona - Injured On The Turf
Leo Messi Of Fc Barcelona Injured On The Turf E1629553732463 ○ Soccer Blade

7 Rules For Red Cards In Soccer

So above are the official rules for red cards, but what does that mean in real games? Let’s break it down to make it more

1. Using Excessive Force – Serious Foul Play

A player will receive a red car for using more than necessary force. For example, tackling a player whom the player intends to injure.

If a player commits a violent foul with ‘intent to harm’ it’s a red card.

For example, A player goes in to tackle someone, but the ball is far from the tackle – this can be seen as intentional because there was no chance that the player would win the ball.

The referee needs to call whether the player meant to injure or if they just mistimed the tackle (it could be that the player is a bad tackler, although being clumsy cannot be an excuse if someone is hurt).

This is just one example where a player can be sent off, but there are many more.

Soccer Foul ○ Soccer Blade
Excessive Force Foul

2. Lunging

If a player lunges or slides towards a player with their leg raised aggressively, the studs toward the opponent. It can be one leg or two, coming from the front, back, or sides. This is classified as ‘serious foul play.

Suppose a player commits an offense while the ball is still in play. The referee can let the play continue to allow an advantage and give a red when the ball is out of play.

If a player is out of control of where their leg is going because they can’t stop themselves, it’s a lunge.

London, England February 26, 2020 Thiago Alcantara Of Bayern And Ross Barkley Of Chelsea Pictured During The 2019.20 Uefa Champions League Round Of 16 Game Chelsea Fc Vs. Bayern Munich At Stamford Bridge
London, England February 26, 2020 Thiago Alcantara Of Bayern And Ross Barkley Of Chelsea Pictured During The 2019.20 Uefa Champions League Round Of 16 Game Chelsea Fc Vs. Bayern Munich At Stamford Bridge

3. Violent Conduct

Excessive and brutal force when challenging a player, spectator, or another person. This can be when a player punches or kicks someone.

It can be on the field of play or outside of it. It applies to players on the pitch and those on the bench. The referee will only allow play to continue if there is a goal-scoring opportunity.

4. Object or Ball Thrown

If a player aggressively throws an object on the pitch or bench, the player will be shown a red card.

Handball In Soccer - Area Of The Arm
Handball In Soccer – Area Of The Arm

5. Denying a Goal or Scoring Opportunity

If a goal-scoring opportunity is denied, this can be inside the penalty box or outside. The referee allows play to continue as an advantage, and if a goal is scored, only a yellow card is given.

The two offenses for this to happen are;

  1. Deliberate handball
  2. Any offense that would cause a freekick

The closer to the goal the offense occurs, the more likely a red card is given. Including if the ball would have gone into the goal if it were not for the handball.

Along with other factors, such as the defenders’ positions and the direction of play.

6. Offensive, Insulting or Abusive Language

Any player who’s guilty of the above must be sent off. This can be towards any person, player, official, or spectator.

7. Two Yellow Cards

If a player is shown two yellow cards in a game, the referee will show the second yellow to the player and then the red card. The player must leave the field then and can no longer participate.

Soccer Referee Showing A Red Card ○ Soccer Blade

7 Reasons for A Red Card + Examples

  1. Serious foul play
  2. Violent conduct
  3. Spitting at a person
  4. Deliberate handball – denying a goal-scoring opportunity
  5. Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity
  6. Offensive, aggressive, abusive language or gesture
  7. Receiving a second caution

Here’s a detailed look at the seven reasons for a red card in soccer with examples;

1. Serious Fouls

A serious foul can badly hurt a player. These fouls are usually committed with excessive force. They’re considered ‘dangerous play’ in soccer.

For example, if you tackle with your cleats up and connect with a player’s leg. This type of tackle can break someone’s leg. Check out this video to get an idea of serious fouls:

2. Violence

Violent conduct will get you a red card in soccer. The referee will send you off if you hit or attack anyone on the soccer field.

There’s no room for violent conduct in soccer. It’s very dangerous, especially if a group of players gets involved. But any type of violence will get you sent off, even against your team.

And, of course, against the other team. Zinedine Zidane had an infamous incident of violent conduct in the 2006 World Cup final. And he got sent off. See it below:

3. Deliberate handball to stop a goal

If you deliberately handle the ball to stop a goal, you’ll get a red card in soccer. There are usually two scenarios when this can happen. The first is when a player crosses the ball to a teammate for an easy goal.

Imagine the ball in the air coming towards the attacking player for an easy tap-in. But then the defending player stops the ball with her hand. This will be a red card because it stopped a goal (or a clear goal-scoring opportunity).

The second happens when the ball is going for the goal. And it’s going to be a goal. But a player deliberately handles the ball to stop the goal.

Luis Suarez’s deliberate handball in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final is a high-profile example. Check it out:

4. Deliberate Foul to Stop a Goal-Scoring Opportunity

You’ll get a red card in soccer if you deliberately commit a foul when someone has a good opportunity to score a goal. A player might be running toward the goalie with a good goal-scoring opportunity. You’ll get a red card if you foul that player deliberately, like a push or trip.

Before, any foul that stopped a goal-scoring opportunity could be a red card. But now, it’s only a red card if the referee judges the foul to be deliberate.

So, any deliberate foul to stop a goal-scoring opportunity will be an automatic red card.

5. Offensive and Abusive Behavior

It’s a red card in soccer for offensive and abusive behavior. This can be offensive and abusive language toward other players, officials, or fans.

And it can be for offensive and abusive gestures. If you do this, you’ll get a red card in soccer.

6. Spitting at Someone

Spitting at someone is a red card in soccer. It should go without saying that there’s no place in soccer for spitting.

If you spit at someone, the referee won’t hesitate to give you a red card.

7. Getting a Second Yellow Card

In soccer, getting 2 yellow cards equals a red card. So, if you get two yellow cards, you’ll be sent off the field.

History of Red Cards in Soccer

Red and yellow cards came into the game of soccer after the violence at the world cup in 1962. The first foul in the match was after 12 seconds, and Kaplan International reports that the referee had returned to England and was driving home  

“While I was driving the light turned red and I thought, ‘Yellow, calm down and red, stop, go out.’”

Referee Ken Aston

After this incident at the world cup, it was another 8 years before red, and yellow cards were introduced. In the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, cards were first used.

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Soccer Rules FAQ

How long is a soccer game?

Soccer games include two 45 minute halves, which is 90 minutes of play. Those who have ever watched a game know that, like many sports, real-time is longer than the match time.
In real-time, the length of a soccer game varies immensely. At the bare minimum, it will be 90 minutes of play + 15 minutes of halftime for a total of 105 minutes.

What is offside in soccer?

The offside rule in soccer is to stop player ‘goal hanging’ – standing near the opposition goal. This also stops soccer from being a long ball game, balls hit from one goal to another.

What are yellow card offenses?

+ Charging an opponent – caution if reckless.
+ Holding an opponent – When the ball is in play and the holding continues.
+ Handling the Ball – When a player handles the ball to break up attacking play. If an attacker + uses their hand to attempt to score a goal.
+ Dangerous play – If a player makes an action that can risk an injury to another player.
+ Impeding the progress of an opponent – If a player holds another player back or blocks a player on purpose, that prevents an attack.
+ Breaking up an attack - where there is the possibility of creating a scoring chance.
+ Simulation - where a player tries to con a referee into thinking that they are injured in order to punish the opponent. If a player tries to make out that they have been fouled.

What are the red card offenses?

+ Serious foul play
+ Violent conduct
+ Spitting at a person
+ Deliberate handball – denying a goal-scoring opportunity
+ Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity
+ Offensive, aggressive, abusive language or gesture
+ Receiving a second caution

Soccer field size, size of goal, number of players and minutes played per age;

+ u17-u19 - Halves 2 x 45 minutes - Number of players 11 vs 11 - Goal Size 8 x 24 - Field size 50-100 by 100-130 yards
+ u15-u16 - Halves 2 x 40 minutes - Number of players 11 vs 11 - Goal Size 8 x 24 - Field size 50- 100 by 100-130 yards
+ u13-u14 - Halves 2 x 35 minutes - Number of players 11 vs 11 - Goal Size 8 x 24 - Field size 50-10 by 100-130 yards
+ u11-u12 - Halves 2 x 30 minutes - Number of players 9 vs 9 - Goal Size 7 x 21 - Field size 45-70 by 70-80 yards
+ u9-u10 - Halves 2 x 25 minutes - Number of players 7 vs 7 - Goal Size 6 x 18.5 - Field size 35-45 by 55-65 yards
+ u6-u8 - Quarters 4 x 10 minutes - Number of players 4 vs 4 - 4 x 6 Goal Size - Field size 15-25 by 25-35 yards

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