5U/6U Referee Guide


Pre-Game Stuff:

  • You are their guide. The “referee’s credo,” the Spirit of The Game, is to keep things SAFE, FAIR, and FUN.
  • Field of Play–locations; field markings for “normal field” vs 5U/6U
    • 5/6U–a big rectangle with a goal at either end
    • “Big Box”
  • Duration of the Match
    • 5U–2 x 10’ halves, 5’ halftime interval
    • 6U–2 x 12’ halves, 5’ halftime interval
    • YOU get the second half of the time slot, so be organizing ahead of time at “the bottom of the hour.” (Coach gets the first half for drills, instruction, etc.)
  • Number of Players
    • 5U/6U–3 v 3 or 4 v 4, never unbalanced; no goalkeeper
    • Open Substitutions–On The Fly per Coach’s instruction
  • Pre-Game Duties
    • Check player uniforms; safety
      • Must have shinguards; under/beneath socks
      • Safe footwear (doesn’t have to be fancy cleats/spikes)
      • No jewelry, NO EARRINGS (let coach deal with this per your instructions), no casts; medical bracelets on (info showing); religious items ok
    • NO Coin Toss–just get them going at this age

The Start of Play:

To start the first and second halves and following each goal, play is started or restarted with a “Kick-off” in the middle of the field. One of the teams kicks off to start the game and the other team kicks off to start the second half (???). Following a goal the team that was scored upon kicks off.

The Kick-off:

The kick-off is taken from the center of the field with each team in their own half, and the team not kicking off at least 5 yards from the ball. Do not insist the opponent always be five yards from the ball, as this is just a guide to give the kicker room to kick the ball without it immediately hitting an opponent.  The ball does not need to be kicked forward.

  • Remember, let them play and do not interfere for technicalities.

Ball In and Out of Play:

The ball is out of play when it completely crosses the touch line (side line) or goal line (end line), either on the ground or in the air.

“Kick-in/Pass-in/Dribble-in” :  (no throw-ins at 5U/6U)

When the ball goes out of play over a touch line (sideline), a “Kick-in” is awarded from where it crossed the line… to the team that didn’t touch it last. The ball should be placed on the ground, on or behind the touchline approximately where the ball left the field of play. The player should pass the ball into the field BUT they may also dribble the ball into the field if they wish, but it must touch another player before a goal can be scored.There are no throw-ins for 5U or 6U.

Goal Kicks/Corner Kicks:

If the ball goes over the goal line (but not into the goal), it’s a:

  • “Corner Kick” for the attacking team, if the defending team touched it last.
  • “Goal Kick” for the defending team, if the attacking team touched it last.

Corner Kicks are taken from the “corner arc,” in the corner where the touchline and goal line meet. (There may not be a Corner Arc marked.) 

Goal Kicks are taken at the “big box” line parallel to the goal line (from the penalty area line) so the players can get it out of their area. (If there is no Big Box, have them take it from the Goal Line.) 

 The REFEREE in 5U/6U games will determine when one of these restarts is necessary and should then interfere as little as possible in the restart (though the referee may have to explain to the players what they should be doing). It’s their game, let them play. The coach can work on technique later.

Restarts for Fouls:

Deliberate fouling is rare in 5U & 6U games. Kicking, tripping, handling the ball and dangerous play may occur. The Referee should stop play and correct the situation, then restart with a “Free Kick” for the deserving team. All free kicks in 5U & 6U games are DIRECT free kicks. There are no penalty kicks. There should be few, if any, additional reasons to stop play in 5U & 6U games. 

Restart for Other Stoppages, Neutral Reasons–Dropped Ball Restart:

If a player is “not playing well with others,” or if play must be stopped for any other reason (INJURY, substitution, confusion, or to watch a passing plane or butterfly, etc.), the Referee should refocus the players and begin play again with a “Dropped Ball.” (Note: Referees should not make a dropped ball restart a lengthy ceremony (No players even need to be present in the vicinity of the ball).  Just drop the ball, and when it hits the ground, yell “play”). Exercise common sense. Let ‘em play! Get the game going again!

Distance Away on Restarts:

5U/6U–KO, Free Kicks, Goal Kicks, Corner Kicks–opponents at least 5 yds away; Kick-Ins–at least 2 yards.

Players should be asked to stand back roughly 5 yards from the ball being kicked (for free kicks, goal kicks, corner kicks, kick-offs) to give the kicker room to kick the ball without it immediately hitting an opponent. Note: players do not need to retreat any given distance during a Dropped Ball restart (unique to this age). Just make a little room and get the game restarted again.

Method of Scoring:

A goal, in all age group games, is awarded when the ball completely crosses the goal line into the goal. Goals should be enthusiastically celebrated by everyone in 5U & 6U games; they are not recorded to determine who wins. Everyone wins in 5U & 6U games.


Hand Ball–was it “deliberate”?

Hey, we are talking about 4 and 5 y/o kids here… Don’t be a stickler and stop play for every transgression. Remind them not to use their hands and play on! That said, a handball offence occurs when a player handles the ball deliberately. The “handing the ball” includes the entire arm up to the armpit (deltoid and above is NOT a handball). Instinctive, self-protective reactions are not penalized. Accidental contact (ball striking hand or arm with no intent by the player) is not an offense and should not be penalized.  A referee might well decide that it is in the best interest of the game (at this level) to let play continue, and simply remind players “Remember, no hands.”

Referee’s Role

The Referee plays a key role in 5U & 6U games. You are the guide that introduces them to this sport. As such, you will actively speak to, and interact with, players more than you would in other divisions. You will probably need to explain and guide every restart, and indeed will likely have to actually place the ball in the right spot for every restart. For instance, after a goal, you might need to get the ball out of the net and bring it to the center for a kick-off. Likewise, you will need to physically put the ball on the goal line (or the penalty area line if there is one) for a goal kick or on the corner for a CK. Simply telling the kids what to do just doesn’t do it. The game will run smoothly if you take charge in guiding the players through the match.

Open Substitutions

In 5U/6U there is “open substitution”.  Coaches should be rotating their players frequently so that no player is “out” (a substitute) for more than 2 minutes at a time.  The referee should not stop play for this.  Coaches should simply call their players out and when the player has left the field, the “replacing” player goes in.

Have fun and play on!!