What Is Advantage in Soccer?

The advantage rule in soccer is a very important part of the game. It is used to allow a player who has been fouled to continue playing instead of stopping play for a free-kick or penalty. Although this sounds strange at first, there are actually very good reasons behind it. This article will provide an in-depth understanding of the advantage rule in soccer, including its history, purpose, and how it is applied during a game.

Definition of the Advantage Rule

The advantage rule in soccer allows the referee to not award a foul if stopping play would disadvantage the team that has been fouled. Instead, the referee signals an advantage and allows play to continue. The rule is designed to prevent teams from being penalized for fouls committed against them and to promote fluid play.

As an example, imagine that you are playing a game of soccer, and you are running towards the goal with only the goalkeeper left to beat. An opposition defender commits a foul against you, but you are still in a good position to shoot at goal. In this scenario, you do not want the referee to stop play because you would lose such an excellent opportunity to score. Instead, you would prefer the referee to ignore the foul and let play continue. This is the advantage rule.


The advantage rule is applied completely at the discretion of the referee. They must determine whether stopping play would disadvantage the team that has been fouled. To signal an advantage, the referee typically raises their arms in the air, indicating that play should continue. The referee may also shout "play on" or use a verbal signal to convey the decision.

It is very important to note that if the referee decides to award an advantage, they can also change their mind and go back to award the initial foul if it turns out that no advantage was gained by letting the play continue. If the team that was fouled retains possession of the ball and is able to continue its attack, the referee will allow play to continue. However, if the team that was fouled loses possession of the ball or the attack breaks down, the referee may award a free kick or other appropriate sanction.

How Long Does Advantage Last?

Obviously, the referee cannot allow an advantage to last forever, so there needs to be a time limit where we can say that the advantage is over and the original foul can no longer be given. This time limit is also at the referee's discretion, and usually only lasts a few seconds.

Referee's Considerations

It can be quite difficult for a referee to decide if an advantage should be awarded or if play should be stopped. Soccer can be played at a fast pace and the referee only has seconds to make their decision. However, the referee should consider the following points when deciding if an advantage should be awarded:

  • The severity of the offense - the advantage rule applies to all fouls except for certain serious offenses, such as violent conduct, serious foul play, and deliberate handball. In these cases, the referee is required to stop play and take appropriate disciplinary action, by issuing a red card.
  • The position where the offense was committed - the closer to the opponent's goal, the more effective the advantage can be.
  • The chances of an immediate, promising attack.
  • The atmosphere of the match.

Timing is everything

Some of the best advice given to a referee is to give yourself some time before blowing the whistle for a foul. Wait a few seconds to see how play develops before stopping play. As a fan, there is nothing more frustrating than when a referee stops play immediately for a foul when your team clearly would be in a much better position if no foul was called.

What Is Good About the Advantage Rule?

The advantage rule has several advantages, both for players and spectators.

  1. Promotes fluid play: By allowing play to continue after a foul, the advantage rule promotes a more fluid style of play, with fewer stoppages and interruptions. This makes the game more exciting and enjoyable for both players and spectators.
  2. Rewards attacking play: The advantage rule rewards attacking play, as it allows teams that have been fouled to retain possession of the ball and continue their attack. This can lead to more goals and a more entertaining game.
  3. Reduces tactical fouling: The advantage rule also reduces the incidence of tactical fouling, where players deliberately commit fouls to disrupt their opponents' attacks. With the advantage rule in place, players are less likely to commit fouls, as they know that play may continue even if they do.
  4. Encourages fair play: Finally, the advantage rule encourages fair play, as players are less likely to commit fouls knowing that the referee may allow play to continue. This promotes a more sportsmanlike atmosphere on the field and helps to prevent dangerous play.


Can you get a yellow card after advantage?

Yes, if an offense is committed that is worthy of a yellow card, the referee may play advantage and let the play continue, and then wait until the next stop in play before awarding the yellow card to the offender.

How long does a referee have to reverse an advantage decision?

The referee can reverse an advantage decision as long as play has not stopped and has been restarted. The time limit is at the discretion of the referee and in reality, will only last a few seconds.