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Soccer Charging Foul- Definition, Result, Referee Signal, Examples

Soccer Charging Foul

A charging foul in soccer occurs when a player aggressively runs into another player with their shoulder out. For a charge to be seen as unfair, the attacking player either has their elbows out, is trying to gain an unfair advantage, or uses excessive force. The referee decides whether the charge is fair or not.


A fair charge is when a player body checks an opponent shoulder-to-shoulder with their elbows against their body. This action must also be under control and within proximity to the ball. Each player must have at least one foot on the ground. Arms are not allowed to be used at all during a body check. The amount of force that is acceptable during a charge is up to the referee’s discretion and depends on the players’ age and skill level.

An unfair charge, also known as a charging foul, is ruled as one of three categories: careless, reckless, or having used excessive force. A careless charge is when a player is not cautious while making the play. If the player used unnatural movements to distract or intimidate their opponent to have an unfair advantage, it is considered a reckless charge. A charge involving excessive force is when a player endangers their opponent by using more force than necessary to make the play.


A charging foul is typically punished by a direct free kick for the opposing team. This punishment is applicable for all age groups and levels, although this foul is called more frequently on young players because there is less lenience for physicality, and they are more likely to get hurt while being charged. If a change occurs in the penalty area, a penalty shot will be awarded to the fouled team.

Referee Signal

When the referee sees that a player has made a charging foul, they first blow their whistle to stop play and put their arm straight in the air to show the sign for “caution.” The referee may also allow play to continue and hold both arms in the air with palms upwards to signal an advantage. After the play is stopped, they then point their arm in the direction that the free kick will go.


  • A player runs at a player on the opposing team and jumps into her to gain control of the ball. The other player falls to the ground.
  • While a player is dribbling downfield, an opponent charges him from behind and causes him to fall to the ground.
  • A player attempts to make a tackle while elbowing the player in possession of the ball. The player is knocked off their feet and loses the ball.

Similar Fouls to Charging

  • Pushing
  • Tackling from behind
  • Tripping