This is another in a series of occasional posts about rules of the game that may be a little confusing to newer soccer fans like myself. As we go through the season and I learn about such things, I will post them here in case anyone else was wondering about them.
So this weekend as I've been watching more and more MLS matches, I've heard the announcers make reference to times when "the referee calls advantage." It always looked to be times when a foul might have been called, but I wasn't certain why it was called or the exact meaning of the call, so on Sunday evening I decided to look it up.
The call comes from "The Laws of the Game" and essentially it allows the referee some discretion in whether or not to blow the whistle for a foul if the team that was fouled somehow gains an advantage from it. I was trying to wrap my head around that one, when I read a longer and more comprehensive discussion of the rule on the Coaching American Soccer web site. This page gives the extreme example of an attacking player who suffers a hard foul from a goalkeeper inside the area, but where the ball the attacker has played continues rolling into the net to score a goal. If the referee stopped play at the moment of the collision to call a foul, then the ball would be dead on the pitch and the attacking team would have to attempt a free kick or penalty kick to try to score the goal instead of just letting the ball roll into the net to score.
Now the rule goes on to state that once there is a stop in play (ball goes out of bounds or into the net as above) the referee can then decide if a call or a caution or an ejection is warranted for the foul he chose to call advantage on earlier. Of course the trick with that is the call would have to come relatively quickly if the team that was fouled suddenly lost advantage or some other intervening circumstance occurred.
And that's the advantage rule. You can find other posts in this series in the blog archives.