Yellow Cards And Red Cards: An American’s Guide To Soccer

Yellow and red cards are a key component of soccer rules, and they can come with some harsh penalties for the players who receive them.

These cards are disciplinary tools used to indicate and punish a player’s offenses, which can include anything from a dangerous tackle to aggressive behavior towards the referee.

Yellow Cards And Red Cards: An American’s Guide To Soccer

But while yellow and red cards play a large role in upholding the rules of soccer, it can be hard to understand exactly what these cards are and what they are used for.

That’s where we come in – we’ve created a quick and simple guide to yellow and red cards in soccer!

In this article, we’ll break down what yellow cards and red cards are, some of the reasons they might be used, and the punishments that can come along with them.

What Are Yellow And Red Cards In Soccer?

First of all, what exactly are yellow cards and red cards?

Well, as we’ve already mentioned, they are disciplinary tools that soccer referees use to punish bad behavior on the pitch.

Yellow and red cards are given out when a player commits an offense (which we’ll get to later), and are used to signal and penalize the players involved.

The main difference between yellow and red cards is their severity. Yellow cards are used for medium-level offenses that warrant more than a regular free kick or penalty.

The first yellow card a player receives acts as a warning; there are no direct consequences for receiving a yellow card, but it means that you won’t be given any more chances.

Red cards, meanwhile, are used for more severe offenses.

Unlike yellow cards, a red card means that the offending player is immediately sent off the pitch and can’t play for the rest of the match.

Red cards are less common than yellow cards, but some situations merit an immediate dismissal from a match.

If a player receives a second yellow card during a match, then this combines with the first yellow card and is equal to a red.

This means that the player will then immediately be sent off the pitch.

While the offending player may not have committed an offense that is red card-worthy, this two-strike system means that players can’t continue their poor behavior.

Why Are Yellow And Red Cards Given Out?

So now that we’ve covered what yellow cards and red cards actually are, let’s take a look at how players can receive them!

Here’s a quick breakdown of some reasons why yellow or red cards might be given out.

Yellow Card Offenses

Yellow cards are given out for misconduct that doesn’t quite justify a red card but is still too severe for a regular free kick.

Some of the reasons why a referee might give a player a yellow card include:

  • Aggressive tackles where the player doesn’t make contact with the ball
  • Unsporting behavior (for example, diving to try to trick the referee into awarding a free kick)
  • Dissenting behavior and speech, including acting aggressively towards or crowding around the referee
  • Repeated infringement of the rules
  • Entering/leaving the field without the referee’s permission
  • Delaying the restart of the game (also known as time-wasting)
  • Not staying the proper distance from corner-kicks, free-kicks, and throw-ins

A yellow card may also be given to a player for a less-serious infraction of the rules if they have already received one during the match.

Red Card Offenses

Red Card Offenses

Red cards are reserved for more serious misconduct and come with a far harsher penalty. Here are some of the reasons why a player might receive a red card:

Red cards are also awarded if a player receives two yellow cards as we covered earlier.

In this case, the referee will present the player with their second yellow card before presenting the red card.

How Yellow And Red Cards Impact A Player

Yellow and red cards can come with some pretty serious consequences for the players that receive them.

This doesn’t just include the punishment given during the match, however, and these cards can lead to some major repercussions later on.

Red cards are far more severe than yellows, and this is reflected in their punishments.

When a player is sent off after a red card, they aren’t allowed to participate for the rest of the match; that’s not all, though, as the offending player’s team can’t substitute in a replacement player and must continue the match one player short.

A red card also typically comes with match suspensions for the offending player, which can be extended based on the severity of their misconduct.

Two yellow cards or a red card following a serious foul usually results in a one-match suspension, dissent typically results in a two-match suspension, and violent or abusive behavior can lead to a three-match ban!

This varies from league to league, and some leagues will have different suspension rules or will assess them on a case-by-case basis.

While yellow cards don’t normally come with harsh consequences on their own, getting too many yellow cards in a season can also lead to suspensions from one to three matches.

Final Thoughts

Red and yellow cards play a key role in soccer’s disciplinary rules, and are used to punish player misconduct.

The differences between these two cards can be confusing at first, but by using this helpful guide, you’ll be able to know exactly what’s going on when a soccer referee brings out these cards!

So now you know what yellow and red cards are in soccer, what they are used for, and some of the reasons they can be given out, you can keep track of a soccer game’s ups and downs!

Steven Anderson