What Does A Yellow Card Mean In Soccer?

Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, and while it lacks some of the physicality of mainstream sports such as American football or Hockey, it is nonetheless a contact sport and fouls happen quite regularly in the game and for a variety of reasons.

Unlike hockey and American football, there are no timed penalties in soccer, and referees use a different system to warn players about their conduct on the field and ensure that the rules are being followed.

The main system referees have at their disposal for serious offenses is soccer revolves around the use of the card system, which features both yellow and red cards.

What Does a Yellow Card Mean in Soccer?

Both of these cards are used in different situations and relate to the severity of a player’s particular infraction, and unlike a lot of professional sports, referees have a lot of control and room to interpret the proper time to award cards to players.

In this guide we’re going to look at what yellow cards are used for in soccer, as well as when and how they are used and how often they are awarded, to help new soccer fans to better understand the subtleties of the penalty card system and how it’s implemented in the beautiful game.

The first and most important thing to understand about yellow cards is what they actually mean.

In the penalty card system for soccer, yellow cards mean that a player is being formally cautioned for a particular foul or some other infraction severe enough to warrant being shown a yellow card.

This is sometimes informally referred to as being ‘booked’ as the referee will write down the player’s name and number in their little black notepad to keep track of who has been shown a yellow card over the course of the game.

This is important because soccer is a very long game at over an hour and a half of play including injury time and the halftime break, and referees need to keep track of a lot of information during the course of a game.

Referees will often be ‘reading’ the game and keeping a mental note of how players are conducting themselves, and recording the players who have been shown a card free up some mental space for other important parts of refereeing the game.

Generally, yellow cards are shown for a range of offenses from deliberate professional fouls which disrupt the flow of the game, to dangerous behaviour (e.g high kicks that endanger other players) and even repeated smaller offenses or time wasting.

Referees will often preface a yellow card by giving a player a strong and final verbal warning, before resorting to an official caution or yellow card if a player continues to show signs of poor behaviour.

A player shown a yellow card can still participate in the game and doesn’t need to leave the field of play, however if a player is shown two yellow cards in a game they are then shown a red card and are dismissed from the game, meaning the team that has the offending player must complete the game a player down.

There are no limits to how many players a team can lose in a game, but it’s rare for more than 1 or 2 yellow cards or red cards to be shown in a standard professional game, although there have been some incredible circumstances where many more players have been cautioned and sent off leading to extraordinary circumstances for the rest of the match.

What Are Yellow Cards Awarded For?

Yellow cards are awarded for a range of offenses, and these can be anything from serious fouls that are considered dangerous or purposeful, as well as time wasting, diving (pretending to have been fouled), or other serious gamesmanship.

Referees do have some leeway when they show a yellow card and the ultimate decision on whether to caution or expel a player is down to the referee who makes the final decision for all on field disciplinary matters.

Appeals can be made after a game is completed, but these seldom result in a change except in the most extreme cases.

Can Yellow Cards Lead To Suspensions In Certain Competitions?

In certain competitions, particularly cup competitions, being shown a yellow card or red card can result in a player being suspended from participating in the following game or next round of the tournament.

This makes cautions in these competitions even more punishing and forces players to play to a very high standard in order to avoid missing out on a game and putting their team at a disadvantage.

How Many Yellow Cards Can A Player Get?

A player can be shown 2 yellow cards in a game.

If they receive two cards they are then immediately shown a red card and dismissed from the remainder of the game, putting their team at a huge disadvantage as they must continue the rest of the match with a player missing.

Multiple dismissals are possible from one or both teams.

How Many Yellow Cards Can Be Given In A Match?

There’s no limit on the number of yellow cards that can be shown in a game of football, and a referee can use them as often as is required according to the infractions of the players and the circumstances of the game.

There have been incredible circumstances where multiple yellow cards have been handed out for particularly poor or unprofessional behaviour where players lose their cool on the field and physically confront each other.

Can Coaches Be Shown A Yellow Card Or Only Players?

Interestingly, in soccer, coaches as well as players are subject to penalty cards and can be cautioned or even dismissed from the coaches dugout entirely if a coach breaks rules or doesn’t behave in a professional manner.

There have been many high profile cases of the best managers in the world losing their cool and being shown out of the dugout and into the spectator stands!