Friday, 19 Jul 2024

Soccer Foul Severity: A Definitive Guide

Soccer, the beautiful game, is not without its controversies, especially when it comes to fouls and disciplinary actions. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of how the severity of a foul is determined in soccer matches.

Understanding Foul Levels

When a player commits a foul, they can receive one of three levels of discipline: a basic foul, a yellow card, or a red card. The severity of the foul is the primary factor in determining the level of punishment handed out. It is crucial to note that the referee’s interpretation of the rule and their perspective on the event can impact the decision-making process.

Basic Foul

A basic foul is the most common disciplinary action awarded in soccer. It occurs when a player commits any of the following acts that the referee deems careless:

  • Kicking or attempting to kick an opponent
  • Tripping or attempting to trip an opponent
  • Jumping at an opponent
  • Charging an opponent
  • Striking or attempting to strike an opponent
  • Pushing an opponent
  • Tackling an opponent

When a basic foul is committed, the team that was fouled is awarded a direct free kick from the spot where the foul occurred. The opposing team must maintain a distance of ten yards from the ball during the free kick.

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Let’s take a look at an example of a basic foul:

Basic Foul Example

In this video, Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino is fouled by NYCFC defender Ned Grabavoy. Grabavoy attempts to knock the ball away but ends up tripping Molino. Since the foul was not committed with excessive force, only a basic foul is given, with no yellow or red card. It is important to note that if Grabavoy had touched the ball before tripping Molino, no foul would have been called.

Determining a Yellow Card

A yellow card is shown when a player’s play is deemed reckless. The example below illustrates this type of foul:

In this video, Vancouver Whitecaps forward Kekuta Manneh attempts to tackle the ball away from Orlando City defender Aurelien Collin. However, Manneh’s tackle is reckless as both of his studs make contact with Collin’s shin. Fortunately for Manneh, he only receives a yellow card for his careless play. Keep in mind that the referee’s interpretation of the rules can vary, so a yellow card in one game might be a red card in another.

Determining a Red Card

A red card is the most severe disciplinary action in soccer. It is given when a player’s action involves excessive force or denies a clear goal-scoring opportunity. The following video demonstrates a red card offense:

In this video, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois receives a red card for his foul on Swansea City forward Bafetimbi Gomis. Courtois kicks Gomis in the abdomen area without making any contact with the ball. This reckless and dangerous play results in a red card.

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Q: Can a player receive two yellow cards in a match?

Yes, if a player receives two yellow cards in a match, they will be shown a red card and be sent off.

Q: Are yellow and red cards consistent across all matches?

No, the interpretation of fouls and disciplinary actions can vary from one referee to another.

Q: Can a yellow card offense be reviewed and result in additional suspensions?

Yes, after a match, the MLS Disciplinary Committee or other relevant bodies can review yellow card offenses and impose additional suspensions.


Understanding the severity of a foul in soccer is essential for players, coaches, and fans alike. The determination of whether a foul is basic, deserving a yellow card, or warranting a red card relies on the referee’s interpretation and assessment of the play. By knowing the rules and guidelines surrounding fouls, spectators can better appreciate the game and players can avoid unnecessary disciplinary actions.

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