‌What is a Yellow Card in Soccer?

what is a yellow card in soccer

A yellow card, or booking, is an official warning by a referee to a soccer player for their action during a game. If a player receives two yellow cards during the same game, they receive a red card, which means they are out of the game. Getting one yellow card can impact your playing style, while getting two can dramatically impact a team’s chances to win a game.


So how do you get a yellow card in soccer, how does the ref signal the penalty, and why is it yellow? Here is the full breakdown of what a yellow card is in soccer!


A Brief History of the Yellow Card System

A Brief History of the Yellow Card System

Yellow and red cards did not enter soccer until the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Ken Aston, a referee, came up with the idea due to the language barrier with a player who did not realize he was getting a warning. The story goes that Ken Aston was driving one day, came to a set of traffic lights, and realized that everyone would understand what yellow and red meant even if they did not speak the same language.


Yellow means to slow down and be cautious, while red means to stop driving. Having transparent colors that tell everyone what was going on was the easiest way to explain an infraction during a match. Ken pitched the concept to the league, and it was entered as part of the game in the World Cup.


The yellow and red card system continues to be part of the game.


How Can a Soccer Player get a Yellow Card During a Game?

How Can a Soccer Player get a Yellow Card During a Game

According to the Laws of the Game, there are multiple ways that a yellow card can occur during a soccer game. Here is the list of ways to get a yellow card in a match broken down in the most simplistic form.


  1. A delay in restarting play, like slowly walking to the ball that goes out of bounds. Another example of a delay in-game is if a player doesn’t kick the ball during a corner kick or chooses not to throw the ball in during a throw-in moment.
  2. Unsporting behavior, like faking an injury on the pitch, ruining the field on purpose, trying to score via a handball attempt, and an overall lack of respect for others. Another example of unsporting behavior is an over-the-top celebration after a soccer goal.
  3. Arguing with the referee is an example of unsportsmanlike behavior.
  4. Not staying back the required distance of a corner kick, throw-in, or free-kick.
  5. A player leaving or re-entering the field or taking the goalkeeper’s position without alerting the referee.
  6. Continuing an action after receiving a verbal warning from a referee


Can a Soccer Player get a Second Yellow Card in a Football Game?

Can a Soccer Player get a Second Yellow Card in a Football Game

A soccer player can receive two yellow cards in a game. For example, they can get the first yellow card for a delay in restarting play. The referee gives them a yellow card for that action. With that yellow card, the player starts arguing with the referee via unsporting behavior, and then after a warning, the player gets a second yellow card. A second yellow card is an automatic red card, and the player has to leave the game.


Once a player receives an ejection from a single game, that team now has one less player on the pitch to play. Originally from first receiving two yellow cards, a red card means that the team can’t substitute them for another player. Sometimes a team might pull a player from the game after a yellow card to ensure they don’t lose them via a second yellow card.


How Long Does a Yellow Card Penalty Last?

How Long Does a Yellow Card Penalty Last

Once a player gets a yellow card, that warning stays with them for the rest of the match. Unlike a hockey penalty that has a set number of minutes a player has to sit in the penalty box, the yellow card is your final warning no matter what. Even getting a yellow card in the first ten seconds of the match stays till the completion of the game.


At the start of the next soccer match, that yellow card warning is no longer in play. However, if you have a stack of yellow cards during a season, you might get a penalty via a fine.


How Does Getting a Yellow Card Impact your Team?

how does getting a yellow card impact your team

Getting a yellow card during a game is a big deal. You tend to play more cautiously during the game as a player, so you don’t receive a second yellow card. Playing more cautious on defense against the opposing team could result in them getting a better scoring opportunity than if you were playing more aggressively.


You don’t want to get a second yellow card because that means you receive an ejection, and your team can’t replace you on the pitch, which means you are playing with one less player.


Can a Coach Get a Yellow Card?

A coach and other managers of a team can receive a yellow card during a match. Some reasons include delaying the restart of play, arguing with the referees, and showing a lack of respect for the game.


How Does the Yellow Card Work in the FIFA World Cup?

The soccer rules state that a player who gets two yellow cards in different games during the knock-out stage can’t play the next game. Combining a set number of yellow cards means a player might be banned from the next match via a game suspension. However, the semi-final round removes the carry-over yellow cards for that player.


How Big is a Yellow Card in Soccer?

How Big is a Yellow Card in Soccer

A yellow card in soccer is three inches wide and 4 inches long. A yellow card means that the player is receiving a warning, so while the card itself is small, the impact is massive.


What Does the Referee Do to Signal a Yellow Card?

What Does the Referee Do to Signal a Yellow Card

A referee will blow on their whistle to stop the game’s action. After that, they will take out their yellow card and warn that player of their penalty. While the game clock is still running during a yellow card moment, the time gets added to the extra time if it was an extensive break in the action to warn the player. After the yellow card comes out, the opposite team gets a direct free kick.


However, the referee will let the offense occur during a goal-scoring opportunity or an obvious goal chance. Then after that play, the referee will give out that yellow card after the play.


What is the Referee Writing on the Back of a Yellow Card?

What is the Referee Writing on the Back of a Yellow Card

The referee will write down the penalty on the back of the yellow card after they warn the player. Since referees hand in these cards to the scorekeepers at the end of the game, they note the instance. Writing down the penalty, the player number who did it, and the time it took place helps the scorekeeper record the match details.


What is the Primary Difference Between a Yellow Card and a Red Card in Soccer?

What is the Primary Difference Between a Yellow Card and a Red Card in Soccer

During soccer (football) matches, a yellow card is more about delaying a game’s action. While that behavior is not tolerable, it isn’t severe enough to be immediately ejected.


Meanwhile, getting a red card instantly without any previous yellow cards is a serious issue. Getting a red card means you were guilty of violent conduct, spat on an athlete, had abusive language on the field, or gave a rude gesture to a player or fan. Red cards on their own signify a severe foul play on the pitch.


Getting a red card means you are out of the game and will have a fine by the league. There might also be a suspension for that player depending on their actions.


Conclusion: What is a Yellow Card in Football (Soccer)?

In summary, a yellow card in soccer warns players of their penalty by the referee’s decision. Receiving two yellow cards in the same game results in an automatic red card, which means you are ejected from the competition. Once a team loses a player due to a red card, they can’t replace them on the pitch, which means they play with one less player than the other team.


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