August 27, 2014

What's new in 2014? - Part 2: Rules Changes

By Christan Shirk

This is Part 2 of a two part article about the various changes occurring for the new 2014 season. This part covers rules changes while Part 1 covered things like conference changes and changes in schools' membership, provisional status, and conference affiliation.

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Being an evened-numbered year, the new season brings with it an updated rules book. The 2014 and 2015 NCAA Soccer Rules and Interpretations is in effect for the next two seasons. This new edition is full of changes, but a great many can be considered to be either editorial in nature, clarifications or the formal adoption of what’s done in practice (termed “common practice updates”). For example, removing all metric measurements and changing all mentions of “match” to “game” are among the most benign revisions, followed closely by re-wording the descriptive definitions of a goal and an own-goal.

On the other hand we have some significant changes such as making a non-compliant field size grounds for cancellation of the game and allowing the order of kickers in a penalty shootout to be changed if still tied after each player has shot once. The penalties for successive red cards and for certain types of offenses have been enhanced resulting in longer suspensions than in previously. And two new rule changes recognize and accept technological advances into the game. Below we summarize many, though certainly not all, of the new rule changes in effect starting this season.


CLARIFICATION ► Upon an offensive team infringement during a penalty kick, a goal kick is awarded if the shot goes directly out of play and over the endline without being touched and an indirect free kick for the defensive team is awarded if the shot rebounds into or out of play (new language added for clarity is shown underscored). [A.R. 14.3.2]

CHANGE ► During a penalty kick shootout that remains tie after each team's designated kickers have taken their turn (ten each, if no one is ejected during the shootout prior to their turn), the order of the kickers may be changed. [Rules and]

COMMON PRACTICE UPDATEPep bands and amplified music are not part of the ban on artificial noisemakers, air horns, electronic amplifiers, etc. if limited to pregame, period intervals, and anytime the clock is stopped and the ball is not in play. [A.R. 5.6.9]


CHANGECommunication via electronic devices is now permitted among members of the coaching staff who are listed on the game roster and are on-site. [Rule 12.14.2] “On-site” includes the press box and other suitable areas (see Rule 12.4.1, exception 3), thus the benefit of being allowed to use electronic communication devices.

CHANGE ► Data gathered from monitoring devices worn by players can now be looked at, analyzed, and otherwise used during the game, instead of only afterwards. This refers to devices which monitor physiological data and performance. [Rule 4.5.6]


CHANGE ► The start of the referee's jurisdiction has been changed from 30 minutes before the game to when he/she arrives at the site of competition. [Rule 5.4.1] In order to retain, and in fact strengthen, the previously inferred expectation that officials arrive at least 30 minutes before kickoff, this requirement has been added. [Rule]

DEFINITION / CLARIFICATION ► Distinguished between "serious foul play" and "violent behavior" as follows:

• “Serious foul play must be against an opponent, between players competing for the ball, committed on the field of play, and a direct free kick foul." [Rule 12.3.1]

• “Violent behavior may be against anyone (for instance, opponent, teammate, official or spectator) not competing for the ball and may be on or off the field of play. The ball may be in or out of play.[Rule 12.3.2]

Also clarified that a bleeding player spitting, flicking, or otherwise using blood to assault another person is guilty of "violent behavior". [A.R. 12.2.5]

CLARIFICATION ► An "illegal charge" (as opposed to either a "fair charge" or a "violent charge") is “one that involves a nudge or contact with the near shoulder against an opponent while the ball is in play that is made when both players are not in an upright position, and/or not within playing distance of the ball, and/or does not have at least one foot on the ground and/or do not have their arms held close to the body." [A.R. 12.6.4]

COMMON PRACTICE UPDATE ► As opposed to players or other bench personnel serving suspensions, suspended coaches may now participate in pregame activities up until kickoff before being restricted to the spectator areas and prohibited from communication or contact in any form with the team, coaches, and bench personnel until the completion of the contest, including overtime and penalty kick shutouts. [Rule 12.11.1]

CHANGE / ADDITIONAL SPECIFICITY ► Each successive red card during a season results in an additional game suspension (i.e. a second red card results in a two-game suspension; a third red card, a three-game suspension, etc.). [Rule 12.12.1] Previously, the rules directly addressed the suspension for a second red card, but not additional red cards.

CHANGE / ADDITIONAL SPECIFICITY ► Revised the language regarding suspensions for fighting to indicate that, for the first fighting offense of the season, one additional game is to be added to the suspension that the red card itself warrants, which depends on how many red cards the player has received previously in the season. [Rule 12.12.1] Under the rule’s previously wording, the suspension for fighting was two games independent of prior red cards (i.e. the rule was written for the case when the fighting offense was also the first red card received during the season). A second fighting offense still results in a season-ending suspension as before.

CLARIFICATION ► The suspension for assaulting the referee, previously specified as three games, has been revised to two games for the referee assault offense in addition to the one-game suspension for the red card. [Rule 12.13]. Having specified a one-game suspension for the red card, it’s unclear if the intent is the same as for suspensions for fighting (see above) where the length of the suspension for the red card is not specified because it depends on red card accumulation as per revised Rule 12.12.1 (see above). In any case, a second assault on a referee still results in a season-ending suspension as before.

CHANGE ► The referee can now issue a caution or ejection to a coach, as he deems appropriate, starting with the first instance of his leaving the coaching and team areas during the game or approaching or speaking to the center referee between periods without being summoned. [Rules 12.4.6, 12.14.3 and 12.14.4] Previously, the referee had no discretion as the rules specified a verbal warning for the first instance, a caution for the second occurrence, and an ejection only upon the third infraction.


CHANGE ► Added a penalty for non-compliant field size; that is, a team is not required to play on a field that is in non-compliance with the rules and the referee shall file a report with the governing sports authority. Previously, there was no specified consequence for non-compliance. Teams can, however, agree to play a game on a non-compliant field by mutual consent. Agreeing to play waives the right to protest afterwards. [Rule 1.1.1, Note 3] It is unclear if the option to agree to play on a non-compliant field refers only to non-compliant field dimensions or also to other non-conformities that are grounds for cancellation of a game.

CHANGE ► Non-compliance with any of the following “minor” field components or markings, unlike previously, is no longer grounds for cancellation of the game:

• corner area and hash mark [Rule 1.7]

• corner flags [Rule 1.8]

• width of goal posts/crossbar, goal line matching width of goal posts, and back edge of the goal post aligned with outermost edge of end line [Rule 1.9.2]

The host is required to attempt to correct non-conformities, but if they cannot be corrected before the start of competition, the game shall begin and the referee shall file a report with the governing sports authority.

CHANGE ► The lack of a visibly marked halfway line stretching across the entire field, though considered a “major” field marking because it is needed to determine offside violations, is no longer grounds for cancellation of the game. [Rule 1.4]

CLARIFICATION ► The host has up until the start of competition (game time) to correct any non-compliance of the following “major” field components or markings which would be grounds for cancellation of the game:

• penalty area (i.e. 18-yard box), including penalty-kick line/spot and arc [Rule 1.6]

• size of goal, position of goal, and anchorage/securing/counter-weighting of goal [Rule 1.9.1]

If the host is unable to correct the non-conformities before the start of competition, the game shall not begin and the referee shall file a report with the governing sports authority.

COMMON PRACTICE UPDATE ► There are no restrictions on the color of the ball. [Rule 2.2]


COMMON PRACTICE UPDATE ► Uniforms may have the institution’s name, nickname, or mascot on the front and/or back. Players’ names are allowed on the back of jerseys. [Rule 4.1.1]

CLARIFICATION ► Both teams may wear shorts of a similar color. [Rule 4.2.3] This clarifies what previously could only be inferred from Rule 4.2.1.

CLARIFICATION ► Numbers are required on both front and back of jerseys. [Rule 4.3] Previously, the rule’s language only implied this requirement.


COMMON PRACTICE UPDATE ► The referee on the field becomes the timekeeper in the event that the official timing device malfunctions or there is no electronically controlled scoreboard clock visible to both benches and spectators. [Rule]

COMMON PRACTICE UPDATE ► When the schedule for both regular season games and NCAA Tournament games allows teams to begin warm-up 60 minutes prior to kick-off, this refers to on-field warm-ups in front of the teams' respective benches. [Rule 6.3.4]

COMMON PRACTICE UPDATE ► To provide additional time for the media, the recommended duration of half-time during the NCAA Tournament has been changed from an exact 15 minutes to a range from 15 to 17 minutes [Rule 6.3.4] and the halftime interval may be extended in postseason competition by the games committee [Rule 7.2].

CLARIFICATIONAnytime the leading team makes a substitution during the final five minutes of the second period, the clock shall be stopped. [Rule 3.6.2] The rules previously could have been understood to mean that the stipulation to stop the clock is negated if the losing team also makes a substitution at the same time as the leading team.

CHANGE ► If the timekeeper's horn fails to sound, the expiration of time is the when the clock reaches zero, not the referee’s whistle as before. The exception is when time is being kept by the referee, in which case the referee's whistle does signal the end of the period. [Rule 6.3.9]

COMMON PRACTICE UPDATEStoppages due to extreme heat and humidity are permitted reasons for a referee to use his discretionary power to suspend a game. [A.R. 5.6.1.e]


Comments or feedback for the author?  Email Christan Shirk.


Christan Shirk


Christan Shirk is a Messiah College graduate (1993, Civil Engineering) and has been a keen and passionate observer of D-III soccer for over a decade and a half. Never more than a rec-league player himself, Chris brings an analytical approach and nationwide perspective to He loves D-III soccer history, statistical number-crunching, and off-the-radar action, all of which he gladly shares with his readers when he's able to find time to write. [see full bio]

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