What Does a Yellow Card Mean in Soccer?

What Does a Yellow Card Mean in Soccer?

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Have you ever watched a soccer match and witnessed a player get a yellow card? You may have wondered what does a yellow card mean in soccer. A yellow card is given to a player as a warning by the referee.

If the player receives another yellow card, they will be given a red card and will be ejected from the match.

Here is some additional information to clear up some confusion about yellow cards in soccer.

What a Yellow Card Means in Soccer

FIFA Referee Yellow CardA yellow card is pulled out by the referee indicating that a player has earned a caution or warning for their behavior on the field.

This indicates that they are one warning away from being ejected from the match.

Holding up the yellow card in the presence of the player makes the situation and the player’s punishment clear to everyone watching.

A Brief Background on the Yellow Card System

Until the 1970 Mexico World Cup, yellow and red cards were not used in soccer.

Due to a language barrier with a player who was unaware he was receiving a warning, referee Ken Aston thought of a solution.

According to the legend, Ken Aston was driving one day when he came to a set of traffic lights and recognized that even if two people did not speak the same language, they would both understand what yellow and red represented. Red signals an immediate end to driving, while yellow advises caution and slowing down.

Therefore, the most straightforward approach to clarifying a match violation was to use transparent colors that made everything clear.

Ken presented the idea to the league and was included in the 1970 World Cup match.

How Does a Soccer Player Get a Yellow Card?

Not all fouls result in a yellow card; in fact, most do not.

However, in essence, a yellow card will be shown for the following six offenses:

  • A lack of sportsmanship – Might mean anything from celebrating a goal by taking off your shirt to deliberately diving to earn a penalty shot.
  • Dissent in action or speech – When players (or coaches) speak to the referees in an excessively critical manner.
  • Multiple violations of the regulations – A player may get a yellow card as a form of warning to tone down the aggressiveness if they commit foul after foul.
  • Delaying the start of the play – When a player waits too long to take a goal kick, a free kick, or a throw-in. A yellow card in this situation might be preceded with a verbal warning.
  • Keeping the wrong distance from a free kick or a corner – Some defenders will attempt to get an edge by getting closer to the action. Multiple offenses may result in a yellow card.
  • Leaving or coming back on the field without permission from the referee – A player must get permission before leaving or entering the field


What Effect Does Receiving a Yellow Card Have on Your Team?
It’s possible that the other side will have a greater chance to score if you play less aggressively on defense than they will. Also, two yellow cards results in playing with one less player.

How About a Yellow Card for the Coach?
During a game, a coach and other team managers are susceptible to receiving a yellow card. Delaying the start of play, clashing with the referees or excessive disrespect for the game are a few of the causes.

What is the Card Size?
The dimensions of a yellow card in soccer are three inches wide and four inches in length. Did you really want to know that? Now you do!

What Does the Referee Write on the Back of the Card?
Once the player has been warned, the referee will note the time the penalty took place, the offense and the player on the backside of the card.

The referees record the incident because they turn these cards in to the scorekeepers after the game.

What Distinguishes a Red Card From a Yellow Card?
A yellow card in a soccer game primarily serves to slow down play. A red card indicates that you engaged in aggressive behavior, used harsh language while playing, or put another player in physical danger.


We hope you have a better understanding of what a yellow card in soccer means.

At the youth soccer level, a yellow card is rare but it does happen. If you find your player in this situation, the best thing you can do is not scold them but calm them down. At the younger ages, they are more embarrassed than anything.

If you’re looking to understand more soccer terms, visit this page to learn about them!

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      Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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