Skip to Content
The Pitch is Ours is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read more

When Do You Give A Yellow Card in Soccer?

When Do You Give A Yellow Card in Soccer?

When the referee shows a yellow card to a player in soccer, that moment is usually significant in the soccer game.

It usually affects how the player will continue to play the soccer game and if they are allowed to even continue to play the game.

In soccer, a player can be given a yellow card by the referee when deemed as having constantly or deliberately infringed on the rules of the game for unsporting behavior, causing dissent, or delaying the start of the game. 

When the referee in a soccer game decides to show two yellow cards to a player, that player will be sent out of the pitch after being given a red card.

As a soccer fan, when you understand the significance of yellow cards in a soccer game, you will come to appreciate the game of soccer.

In this article, you will find various information on when a yellow card is given out to soccer players to understand the game as you continue to watch, play, and enjoy the game.

A player in red is getting a yellow card

When do you give a yellow card in soccer?

Firstly, let us begin by answering the question of what a yellow card means in soccer?  In the game of soccer, when a player is shown a yellow card, it means that the referee has cautioned the player based on the offense committed by the player in the course of the game. 

The yellow card signifies to the fans and spectators that the player has been disciplined for his offense and just has a single chance left from being sent out of the pitch.

The act of the yellow card being held up to a soccer player signifies to everyone watching the game that it transpired and that the player has been disciplined for his action.

The yellow card measures 4cm in length and 3cm in width. Though its size is small, it carries a lot of significance in a soccer game.

In some cases, it carries huge consequences far beyond a single match.

Soccer players are given a yellow card when they commit an offense deemed worthy by the referee as deserving of receiving a caution. 

When a soccer player is judged to have committed an offense, the referee blows his whistle to stop the game.

He cautions the player, shows them the yellow card, and finally awards a free-kick to the opposing soccer team.

An obvious exception to this is a situation where the referee would be preventing an obvious goal opportunity to score a goal by stopping the game.

In such situations, rather than stopping play, the game is allowed to continue, and then the player is given a yellow card after the ball goes out of play.

When a soccer player is given the yellow card, it remains until the game ends. After the match ends, that caution is also added to the player’s record, and it usually accumulates to a suspension.

Various competitions have their own policies for suspension. It also includes the time when the yellow card would be wiped off the record of the player.

Major League Soccer And the English FA have their own rules for giving players yellow cards. And players can be fined when getting the yellow card.

These rules are a great way to keep soccer from some misconduct.

Various reasons pertain to giving a yellow card to a soccer player. Below you will be shown some of these reasons to better help your understanding of the soccer game as you play or watch.

The referee gives the player a yellow card

Yellow cards are sometimes given for fouls

In every soccer game, the most common type of yellow card given is usually for fouls which are often a result of a heavy tackle from a player. 

In such situations, the referee has no other option than to first decide if the action is careless or simply reckless.

In reckless situations as judged by the referee, the referee then gives the player a yellow card.

A reckless tackle is decided as one that can cause injuries, depriving the opponent of a goal-scoring chance through breaking up the attack.

Others include when a player is prevented from getting the ball by tugging the shirt or holding the player, when attacks are prevented by holding the ball, and When players try to score by holding the ball.

An example of this scenario is Cristiano Ronaldo’s foul on Curtis Jones in Manchester United’s five nil loss to Liverpool on October 24.

Yellow cards are given as a result of Misconduct

The rules of giving yellow cards do not only apply to fouls. There are also various actions that players perform, resulting in them being given a yellow card.

Such actions are often regarded as arguing with a referee’s decision, misconduct, or even disrespecting a soccer official. 

Such misconduct actions include; when a player shows dissent by actions or comments or when a player repeatedly commits misconducts or fouls.

Other forms of misconduct are: when a player delays the playtime or wastes time when a player obstructs a “dead ball situation,” like a free-kick when a player gets into the field without the approval of the referee.

Also, when a player gets off the pitch without the obvious approval from the referee, he is given a yellow card.

Also, if a soccer player removes his shirt or pulls his shirt over his head to celebrate a goal, he is given a yellow card.

A prime example of a player getting the yellow card for misconduct is Sergio Aguero getting booked for taking off his shirt after scoring a last-minute winner against QPR that won Manchester City the Premier League title on the last day of the 2011/2012 season.

Yellow cards are given for unsporting behavior

Another reason why players are given yellow cards is a result of unsporting behaviors.

Unfortunately, there are various unsporting behaviors in soccer.

An example is when a player carries the ball with his hands or kicks the ball away, or aggressively squares up to his opponent, tries to deceive the referee or provoke his opponent.

Another reason is when soccer players over exaggerate a tackle effect, maybe by pretending to be injured or rolling the ground in agony.

Another example would be when players do some unsavory acts like the case of Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt or Luis Suarez Teeth Bite.

Buffon explains why he denounced Zidane after his headbutt - Oh My Goal

A different reason would be when soccer players try to get penalty kicks that are unfair by ‘diving’ to the ground when tackled fairly within the penalty box.

On the other hand, defenders have no qualms with tripping a striker or player with a clear goal-scoring opportunity when they know it’s just outside the 18-yard box.

Other behaviors by soccer players, such as generally delaying the playtime by deliberately not moving away when a free kick is about to be played, results in the same yellow card treatment.

The more a player defaults with misconduct, the more likely the player is to get a yellow card.

Other misconducts include when a player tries to fool the referee to get a foul by pretending to be injured or when a player without the express permission of the referee takes a ball from a goalkeeper.

Also, when players act recklessly for free-kick offenses —  stopping a ball by using the hands.

When a foul is committed with the objective to stop a potential goal, counterattack, or a promising situation.

Lastly, when a player handles the ball in an attempt to prevent a goal or when a player disrespects the game, or when a soccer player tries to distract his opponent in a bid to make him lose focus.

These are all examples of soccer misconduct that can result in a yellow card.

Who was the first player to ever receive a yellow card? | Oh My Goal

Can a soccer coach get a yellow card?

A simple answer to this question would be yes. A soccer coach can be given a yellow card. Some years back, this was impossible because the referee did not have the authority to give a yellow card or a red card to a coach.

However, when the soccer rules were changed, it included ‘team officials’ among the list of eligible persons to be carded by the referee. 

The coach and his assistant are considered to be part of the team officials.

Therefore, the referee has the authority to show a yellow card to a soccer coach or soccer manager when a rule is violated.

This does not mean that initially, a referee could not do anything to a coach before the rule was introduced.

Before the rule that allowed a referee to award a yellow card to a coach was introduced, the referee had the right to send the coach away from the pitch if he violated the game’s rules.

However, the new rules for coaches clearly stated the rules and made them more formal and consistent.

Therefore, as against sending the coach off the sideline, the referee can now show coaches the yellow card, and they then know that they are required to leave the sideline immediately.

Most people think that a coach cannot affect the flow of a game; therefore, it is unnecessary for a coach to be given a yellow card.

Though this is usually the case, there are some instances where coaches had crossed the line as a result of anger.

Therefore if there is no rule punishing them for their actions, the game flow will continue to be affected.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel shown yellow card for arguing Rudiger tackle in Super Cup

For example, coaches throw things inside the pitch, stop their opponents, or go inside the pitch.

Some coaches had even at some point said disrespectful and offensive language to other persons on the pitch.

Therefore, such behavior should be punished by the rules so that such actions will be toned down, and the general welfare of the soccer game would be protected.


At this point, you should hopefully know when soccer players are given yellow cards. Yellow cards are given to soccer players when they violate several rules of the soccer game.

Such rules are put in place by the governing body of soccer to better control the game’s fairness. It is also worthy of note that these rules also apply to female soccer players.

Even coaches under the new Law 12 are not exempted from being given a yellow card if they violate the game’s rules.