Official Soccer Rules for Yellow Cards: You Must Know

The rules for a yellow card in soccer are very much debated and can be a matter of opinion. Let’s look at the rules, to see what they actually say.

Before we look at the official FIFA rules about yellow cards in soccer. Let’s have a look at some common questions people have.

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What is a yellow card in soccer?

A yellow card is given as a caution when a player is reckless, careless, misconduct, or uses excessive force.

This applies to players, substitutes, or substituted players.

What Do You Get For A Yellow Card?

A yellow card can result in a suspension, sending off, a fine, and disciplinary action.

The number of yellow cards and the offense will determine the action and it’s different for each competition.

How many yellow cards can you get in soccer?

In soccer, you can only get two yellow cards in one game. If you get two yellow cards for reckless or unsporting behavior, it results in a red card, and the player is sent off the field.

Normally, when a player gets the first yellow card, they will not slide into tackles and be more cautious to prevent being sent off.

Some officials will give you the warning to tell you, that you’re one bad tackle away from another yellow card.

How long does a yellow card last in soccer?

A yellow card remains with the player for the rest of the game. The caution will also be added the player’s record, which can amount to a suspension.

Different competitions have different policies for suspensions. They also include a set time when the yellow cards are wiped off of the players record.

The record of yellow cards per season is removed from a player halfway through the season in the EPL. Yellow cards are also reset in the European Champions League in the knockout stages.

In the EPL, if a player gets 5 yellow cards in 19 games, the player will be suspended for one game.

What Happens if you get Two Yellow Cards?

If two cards are given to a player during a match, it will result in a red card. Whilst the game is stopped, the player will be told to leave the field.

The game cannot continue until the player is away from the sight of the referee. In a professional game, the player will go back to the dressing room.

In a non-professional league that doesn’t have a stadium, the player needs to a respectful distance away from the action, so they are not a distraction to the officials or players.

What are the offenses for a yellow card in the MLS?

If an MLS player gets 5 yellow cards or more, they are suspended and fined.

The MLS has its own rules for players who are given yellow cards. The official fines and suspensions for players as below;

Fines and suspensions for MLS players for yellow cards

  • 5 yellow cards suspension for 1 MLS game and fined $250.
  • 8 yellow cards suspension for 1 MLS game and fined $500.
  • 11 yellow cards suspension for 1 MLS game and fined $750.
  • 13 yellow cards suspension for 1 MLS game and fined $1000.
  • Additional to the above, plus 2 more yellow cards the player will be suspended and the fine will be doubled – eg. $2000, $4000, and $8000.

English FA yellow card rules

The English FA has a list of rules for yellow cards and fines for grassroots players in the game of soccer to promote discipline.

There are similar rules around the world for players below the professional leagues. It’s a great way to keep soccer from being a bad example.

Charge Code Offense Fine Automatic  
C1 Unsporting Behaviour – further defined as: AA Adopting an aggressive attitude DI Simulation DP Dangerous Play FT Foul Tackle GC Goal Celebration HB Handball RP Reckless Play SP Pushing or Pulling an opponent TR Tripping UB Unspecified Behaviour£10 N/A 1
C2 Dissent £10 N/A 2
C2 (sin bin) Dissent (sin bin) N/A N/A 2
C3 Persistently infringing the Laws of the Game £10 N/A 1
C4 Delays the restart of play £10 N/A 1
C5 Fails to respect the required distance at a restart £10 N/A 1
C6 Enters or re-enters the field of play without the referee’s permission £10 N/A 1
C7 Deliberately leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission £10 N/A 1
S1 Serious Foul Play £55 3 matches 5
S2 Violent Conduct – further defined as: Head to Head Elbowing Kicking Stamping Striking Biting Other Unspecified Behaviour£55 3 matches 6
S3 Spitting £55 6 matches 7
S4 Denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball £35 1 match 3
S5 Denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence  punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick£35 1 match 3
S6 Use of offensive, insulting or abusive language £45 2 matches 4
S7 Receives a second yellow card in the same match £35 1 match 3
English FA Yellow Cards – Offense, Fine, Suspension and Penalty Points

What do refs write on yellow cards?

The ref writes the player’s number and team on the back of the card. This is a record of the offense so that the ref knows later on in the game in case the player gets another yellow.

The offense is also written on the card so the official can write the match report at the end of the game.

The match report is sent to the league regulators so that the offenses can be registered.

There have been occasions in the past where the ref has forgotten who was booked – the opposition is quick to remind the ref of this.

Yellow Cards in Soccer: The Official FIFA Rules

In this article, I have researched the rules from the officials at FIFA, so that there is no debate, although some rules are at the discretion of the referee.

To keep it simple, all of the examples here are about yellow cards. There are a number of other rules regarding non-caution offenses and more for red cards.

type of fouls for a yellow card

The definition from FIFA about the types of fouls;

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

FIFA Law 12

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

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

For the following examples, we will need to use these three definitions – ‘carless’ ‘reckless’ and ‘using excessive force’. A yellow card is for;

List of Offenses/fouls a player can make for a yellow card

  • 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. #
Handball in Soccer - Area of the arm
Handball in Soccer – Area of the arm

Misconduct: Seven Yellow Card Offenses for a Player

  1. Unsporting behavior
  2. Dissent by word of action
  3. Persistent misconduct/fouls
  4. Delaying play
  5. Not moving away from a ‘dead-ball’ (eg. free kick)
  6. Comes in to play without the referee’s permission
  7. Leaves play without the referee’s permission

Yellow Offenses for a substitute or Substituted Player

  1. Unsporting behavior
  2. Dissent by word or action
  3. Delaying play

Unsporting Behaviour for a yellow card

Removing or partial adaption of Jersey;

  • A player removing a jersey when celebrating a goal
  • The jersey is pulled over the player’s head
  • A plyer covers their head with a jersey or mask

For clarification it is not a yellow card when a player lifts up their jersey just on their front – this could be done in a celebration of for wiping their face.

Other Offences for a Yellow Card

  • If a player changes positions with a goalkeeper during the game without notifying the referee.
  • A player kicks the ball when leaving the field, as an example a substitute or medication.
  • Verbally distracting a player during play or a set-piece.
  • Showing a lack of respect for the game, opponent and referee.
  • Marking the field of play, where there should be none officially.

Dissent – Action or Word

Protesting verbally or physically against the decision of a referee.

Delaying Restart in Play

  • Deliberately taking a free-kick from the wrong position
  • Pretending to take a throw-in, only to leave it for another player
  • Kicking or carrying the ball away when the referee has signaled to stop
  • Excessively delaying taking a throw-in or set -piece
  • Provoking an opponent by touching the ball to distract them
  • Obstructing a set piece from being taken by standing in the way of the ball and not retreating

Persistent Fouls

If a player commits a number of fouls throughout the game, regardless if they are the same.

A player will be warned by the referee when they have committed a number of foul before being given a yellow card.

The discretion for this is for the referee to decide. If a player commits a number of fouls within a 15 minute period.

Denying a Goal Scoring Chance

If a player tries to stop a goal from being scored – this can also result in a yellow card if the play is allowed to be continued by the referee and a goal is scored.

The referee can caution the player when the game is next stopped.

blocking a Goalkeeper

If a player tries to block the keeper when they are kicking it out of their hands they receive a yellow card.

How long is a player suspended for after two yellow cards?

A player who is shown two yellow cards during a match will be sent off during that game. The player will not be able to play the next match. Further suspensions can be given if the player has accumulated a number of cards.

Does a yellow card expire?

For league matches, yellow cards will be reset halfway through the season. Cup competitions each have different rules.

What happens if a soccer player gets two yellow cards?

A player who is shown two yellow cards during a match will be sent off during that game. The player will not be able to play the next match. Further suspensions can be given if the player has accumulated a number of cards.

For more information regarding the rules for the MLS, you can click here.

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