What does a yellow card mean in soccer ? When a referee shows a yellow card to a player, it’s a significant moment in any soccer game. It can affect how a player continues to play or even if they are permitted to carry on playing at all.
A yellow card in soccer is used by the referee to caution a player for unsporting behavior, consistently infringing the rules of the game, dissenting, or delaying the restart of the game. If the referee has to show one player two yellow cards in a game, that player must leave the field of play.
Understanding the significance of the yellow card is important to really understand and appreciate the game of soccer.
This guide will give you all the information you need to feel much more informed and confident as you continue to play, watch, and enjoy the game.
The Meaning of a Yellow Card
So firstly, let’s start with answering the question: what does a yellow card mean in soccer?
A yellow card in soccer means a player has received a warning about their conduct on the field. When a soccer player is shown a yellow card, it signifies that they have been cautioned by the referee in relation to an offense they have committed during the game.
A yellow card is used to signal to the player and the fans that a player has been disciplined for an offense and is now one warning away from being sent off of the field.
Holding up the yellow card clearly communicates to everyone watching what has happened and how the player has been disciplined for their actions.
The yellow card, which measures only 3″ wide and 4″ in length, may only be small in size but is of huge importance and has consequences that can go far beyond a single game of soccer.
How a Player Gets a Yellow Card
To get, or be shown, a yellow card during a soccer game, a player has to commit an offense that is deemed deserving of receiving a caution.
When the referee judges that a player has committed an offense, they will blow their whistle to stop the game, caution the player, show them a yellow card, and then award a free kick to the opposing team.
The only exception to this is when the referee would be preventing an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by stopping the game.
In this situation, rather than immediately stopping the game, the play will continue, and the player will get a yellow card once the ball is next out of play.
Yellow Card Offenses
During a game, no player wants to be shown a yellow card. So knowing what offenses would lead to being shown a yellow card is necessary if a player is to avoid them.
So, let’s have a look at the list.
There are 6 yellow card offenses that a player, a substitute, or a substituted player can commit. They are:
- Delaying the restart of play
- Dissent by word or action
- Entering, re-entering, or deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission
- Failing to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick, or throw-in
- Persistent offenses (Consistently infringing the Laws of the Game, especially after previously being warned about behavior.)
What is interpreted as “unsporting behavior” is ultimately down to the referee’s judgment.
They will assess what they have seen, make a decision, and have the final say on any decision they make.
However, to help the referee decide, the official Laws of the Game of soccer provide a list of what is considered unsporting behavior.
Unsporting behavior in soccer includes:
- Attempts to deceive the referee, e.g., by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (simulation)
- Changes place with the goalkeeper during play or without the referee’s permission
- Commits in a reckless manner a direct free kick offense
- Handles the ball to interfere with or stop a promising attack
- Commits a foul that interferes with or stops a promising attack, except where the referee awards a penalty kick for an offense that was an attempt to play the ball
- Denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by an offense which was an attempt to play the ball, and the referee awards a penalty kick
- Handles the ball in an attempt to score a goal (whether or not the attempt is successful) or in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a goal
Makes unauthorized marks on the field of play
- Plays the ball when leaving the field of play after being given permission to leave
- Shows a lack of respect for the game
- Uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free-kick) to the goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee, etc., to circumvent the Law, whether or not the goalkeeper touches the ball with the hands
- Verbally distracts an opponent during play or at a restart
How Long a Yellow Card Lasts
So, you may be a player in a game who has just received a yellow card, or maybe you’ve just seen a player shown a yellow card by the referee.
When this happens, you may wonder how long the yellow card lasts.
Once a soccer player has been cautioned and shown a yellow card by the referee, the yellow card remains in effect for the rest of the game.
Whether the player gets a yellow card in the first or last minute of the game, the player remains under caution until the game is over.
And because being shown two yellow cards means a player will be shown a red card, this means that once a player has been shown a yellow card, they are only one caution away from receiving a red card and having to leave the field of play.
This can often have a negative effect on a player as they will potentially be more cautious in their play and not be as effective a player as they could have been otherwise.
Once the game is over, the caution is removed from the player, and they start the next game with no yellow card to their name.
The Consequence of Getting a Yellow Card Can Carry Over
Although a player will never be shown a red card for receiving a yellow card in two different games, in all major soccer competitions, yellow cards are carried over from one game to the next until a previously decided number of yellow cards has been accumulated by a player who will then receive a suspension.
In the FIFA World Cup, for example, if a player receives two yellow cards in separate games during the group stages or the early knock-out phases of the competition, that player will be suspended for the next game.
But once the tournament reaches the semi-final round, any previous yellow cards are no longer counted.
This is to avoid a player being suspended for the final simply because they received a yellow card in the semifinal after receiving one in a previous round.
However, in competitions that run over the course of a season, yellow cards are usually accrued up to a certain previously decided number. Then that player will be suspended for the following game.
An example of this is the Major League Soccer(MLS) season.
In the MLS, yellow cards are accumulated across the games until a player has received five yellow cards.
Once the player has received 5 yellow cards, they receive an automatic one-game suspension.
What Referee’s Write on Yellow Cards
When you’re watching a soccer game and see a player get a yellow card, you will usually see the referee writing something on the back of the card. But what is the referee writing?
There are three items a referee writes on a yellow card:
- The time in the game that the offense occurred
- What the offense was
- The identity of the player who committed the offense
- Writing this information down is primarily done to help the referee keep a record of what has happened.
The referee uses this record so they don’t lose track of what has happened so far during the game and forget who they have already shown a yellow card.
This is especially important during games where multiple players receive yellow cards.
They also keep a record of yellow cards because they are expected to submit a report of the game once the game is over. Having this written list available helps them to remember each offense, who committed it, and what time in the game it took place.
Managers and Coaches Can Get Yellow Cards Too
Although you will most commonly see players on the field shown a yellow card, the referee isn’t restricted to only showing the card to them.
Hopefully, at this point, you feel you have a much greater understanding of the meaning of a yellow card.
But now, you may also be thinking about what the red card means in a soccer game and how there’s much more to it than just telling a player to leave the soccer field.
If so, click here to go to the article I wrote all about the red card. It will tell you everything you need to know about the use of red cards in soccer, what they mean, how a play gets one, and what the consequences of getting one are.
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