When watching soccer, it’s not uncommon for a referee to pull out a yellow card.
Usually, when this happens you hear a great deal of commotion from the crowds.
Even the player might seem distraught or frustrated over its appearance.
The effect a simple card has on the players and fans may make you wonder what it even means.
What Is A Yellow Card In Soccer?
A yellow card acts as a warning.
When a referee uses a yellow card, it means that they’re warning the player that they’re breaking the rules of the game.
If the player continues to do what they’re doing, they might receive a red card instead.
In most cases, a red card means that the player has to leave the game immediately.
Because the player cannot continue to play the game, it can greatly impact a team’s performance.
As such, most referees tend to give yellow cards to make the player aware that they’re walking on thin ice.
As a fan, any time you see a referee pull out a yellow card, it means a player is doing something wrong and they’re receiving a warning to stop.
How Does A Player Earn A Yellow Card?
Earning a yellow card may seem like it’s hard to achieve.
After all, as long as you follow the rules, you should be fine.
However, a yellow card can also come out when a player is doing something that doesn’t quite meet the standards of the organization.
Here are a few ways that a player can earn a yellow card.
1. Unsportsmanlike Behavior
One of the most common ways that a player can receive a yellow card in soccer is through unsportsmanlike behavior.
In professional sports, showing sportsmanlike behavior is essential.
It isn’t a place to show off your ego or cause a fight.
As such, unsportsmanlike behavior can cause a player to receive a yellow card.
There are several instances of unsportsmanlike behavior.
The problem with this particular call is that it’s a bit subjective.
If a referee is in a bad mood, for example, they might choose to be a bit harsh on what they consider unsportsmanlike behavior.
That said, there are a few common ways to express unsportsmanlike behavior.
One of those ways is by taunting another player or even a referee.
If a player gets in another player’s face and starts taunting or threatening them, that’s unsportsmanlike behavior.
The player might receive a yellow card as a warning.
If the verbal abuse is particularly bad, they might even go straight to a red card.
Another example is excessive celebration.
After scoring a goal, it isn’t uncommon for players to perform some sort of dance or celebration to celebrate the victory.
Recently, however, officials have indicated that too much celebration can be offensive.
They prefer players to celebrate a goal quickly without too much fanfare.
If a player celebrates excessively, however, they might receive a yellow card.
The card essentially tells them to tone it down.
A final example is when a soccer player feigns an injury.
This used to be a common practice in soccer.
Even the slightest hit would send some players sprawling to the ground and pretending that they received an injury or were more injured than they actually were.
The goal was to get a free kick out of it.
It’d give them a chance to score some points and put their team ahead.
To cut down on this abuse, officials started giving out yellow cards when they determined the player to be feigning an injury.
Clearly, there are a few ways that players can receive a yellow card through unsportsmanlike behavior.
2. Dissent By Word Or Deed
Another common way for a player to earn a yellow card is when they very obviously disagree with a ruling made by a referee.
If the referee calls something and the player doesn’t agree with it, the player has a choice.
They can accept the ruling and adapt to it, or they can dissent.
If they choose to dissent, they’ll receive a yellow card.
Dissenting disrespects the referee.
It could also technically fall under unsportsmanlike behavior.
Referees are carefully chosen for each match.
Their word is the law on the field.
Players agree to those laws when they agree to play in the match.
Players can dissent by word by clearly arguing with the referee.
They can dissent by deed by actually becoming physical with the referee.
If they start a fight, they’ll usually end up with a red card.
Referees tend to give a player a yellow card if they simply argue about a call that they made.
If a player physically disagrees with a referee’s call, then they might receive a yellow card for dissent.
3. Repeated Rule Breaking
Another common way that players receive a yellow card is when they continue to break the rules.
You might see this when a player continues to commit an offside offense.
Whether they’re knowingly doing it or not, if the referee keeps finding them committing the foul, the referee might choose to give them a yellow card.
This is the same situation for any other rule, too.
If a player keeps breaking the rules, they’re going to receive a yellow card on top of whatever the penalty is for committing that foul.
If a referee thinks a player is deliberately breaking the rules over and over, they might choose to give them a red card instead.
Otherwise, a referee will give a player a yellow card to warn them against breaking the rules.
4. Delaying The Restart Of The Game
Another instance where a player might receive a yellow card is in delaying the game.
There are many ways that a player might delay the restart of the game.
One example is when a substituted player is making their way onto the field.
They have to go at a moderate pace to prevent delaying the game too quickly.
The same goes for players who are leaving the field so that the substitute can play instead.
They need to hurry off the field so that the game can resume.
If either team member delays, other than because of an injury, they might receive a yellow card.
A yellow card might also appear if a player takes a throw-in ball but then decides to give it to another player.
It looks like a deliberate action to delay the game.
Finally, a delay can occur when a player kicks the ball far away despite the referee calling the end of the play.
In any of these instances or any other instance that delays the restart of the game, the player might receive a yellow card.
5. Not Having Enough Distance From A Corner Kick
A corner kick is often the result of a foul or when the ball moves out of bounds in a certain area.
It can be a very useful way for a team to maneuver the ball close enough to the goal to try to score.
However, to ensure the kicking team doesn’t have too much advantage, the players have to be a certain distance from the kicker.
If a player is too close to the kicker, they might receive a yellow card.
It can appear as though they’re cheating.
By being closest to the kicker, they have a better chance of taking the ball and doing what they want to do with it.
Since the players are usually grouped together during a corner kick, it also means that if anyone was closer to the kicker, they’d be out of that group.
They wouldn’t have any competition for getting access to the ball.
They’d have a better chance of receiving the ball and taking advantage of the situation.
Since it’s a form of cheating and breaking the rules, the player would receive a yellow card to warn them and put them at the appropriate distance from the corner kick.
6. Not Having Enough Distance From A Free Kick
Similarly, if a player doesn’t have enough distance from a free kick, they might also receive a yellow card.
Standing too close to a free kicker can appear threatening.
It’s a bit unsportsmanlike, so a referee might give the player a yellow card to warn them away.
Being close to the free kicker also means the player would be in an advantageous position.
They might be able to rush ahead to block the ball or help the player score.
Since it gives them an advantage, it can appear like cheating.
To keep players from being too close to free kicks, referees will give a yellow card to them
7. Leaving Or Re-Entering The Field Without Permission From The Referee
Finally, a player might also earn a yellow card if they leave the field without receiving permission from the referee.
Substitutions are common in soccer.
As players become tired, coaches will pull them out and let another player in to let the former player rest.
However, a player can’t just leave the field whenever they want.
Either the coach or the player has to signal to the referee first.
In most cases, the coach will make the referee aware of the situation.
This allows the referee to stop the play and safely allow one player to leave the field and one player to enter the field.
If a player were to leave the field on their own, it might create an advantage.
For example, the substituting player might start playing before the original player even leaves.
The team might have an extra player on the field for a moment.
No one is aware of it amid the chaos of the game, so they might take advantage of it.
This makes the game unfair to the other team.
To prevent that from happening, if a player enters or leaves the field without informing the referee, they’ll receive a yellow card.
What Penalties Does The Yellow Card Give?
Each yellow card a player receives comes with its own set of penalties.
Players can also accumulate yellow cards in games and even seasons.
Here’s what having a certain number of yellow cards means for the players.
1. Five Yellow Cards
If a player receives five yellow cards, it means they receive a one-match ban.
This can only occur if they receive the five yellow cards before match week 19.
A ban means they’re unable to play the game.
Once that one-game ban is over, they can play in the next game.
2. 10 Yellow Cards
If a player manages to accumulate 10 yellow cards, they’ll receive a two-match ban.
This can only occur if they receive those 10 yellow cards before match week 32.
They cannot play in the next two matches.
Once those matches are over, they can resume playing.
3. 15 Yellow Cards
If a player manages to receive 15 yellow cards, they’ll receive a three-match ban.
This can only occur if they receive those 15 yellow cards before match week 38.
They cannot play in the next three matches.
Once those matches are over, they can resume playing.
4. 20 Yellow Cards
Finally, if a player receives 20 yellow cards in a single season, the matter goes to Regulatory Commission.
They’ll determine the player’s case and come up with a fitting punishment.
It might be a ban for the next entire season.
It might even be an expulsion from the league.
Yellow flags are useful in that they indicate to players that they’re walking on thin ice.
A player can receive yellow flags for several different types of infractions.
If a player receives too many yellow flags in a single season, it could result in match bans.