What Does a Yellow Card and Red Card Mean in Soccer? Cards & Situations Explained


The more rules you understand in soccer, the easier it becomes to understand the sport and enjoy it at its full potential – whether you are in the stadium or watching the game with your friends at home. Cards, for instance, play a significant role in this sport and for some obvious reasons.

Now, you probably ask yourself – what type of cards are there in soccer? What does a yellow card and red card mean in soccer? What is the logic behind giving such cards? Their importance is so obvious that you can even place sports bets on cards. All in all, here is everything you need to know.

What Does A Red Card Mean In Soccer?

Does a Yellow Card and Red Card Mean

This is the card players hope to never see in a game. So, what does a red card mean in soccer? To keep the story simple, the red card means the player has been eliminated. It is not a substitution – the respective team will simply have one player less for the remaining of the game.

The red card can be direct or indirect. When given directly, it means the player has committed a serious offense. When given indirectly, it means the player has committed two less serious offenses within the same game.

A red card usually comes with a suspension as well. For example, players can be suspended in the league for a few games. They are normally suspended in the competition where the red card was given and not in all competitions.

What Does A Yellow Card Mean In Soccer?

The red card is the last thing you want to see in soccer, but how about the yellow one? What does a yellow card mean in soccer? How can you avoid getting one and what are the most common situations out there?

Simply put, a yellow card is basically a warning. Players will most commonly get yellow cards for fouling other players. At that point, the player must chill down a bit and be more careful. Another serious mistake could lead to a second yellow card, which means the player faces the red card and gets eliminated.

How Do You Get A Red Card In Soccer?

Most referees try to avoid giving out red cards because an elimination can make the difference in the game. Unless the offense is too serious, they will usually give out a few warnings before giving cards. If the player keeps making mistakes, the warning or elimination will inevitably kick in.

Now, how do you get a red card in soccer? Here are the most common situations.

Serious foul

Serious fouls are often subjective, but there are some general rules that may trigger a red card. For example, a player tackling the ball with both legs commits a dangerous act that could break the opponent player’s leg. This action is usually intentional and ends up with a yellow or red card.

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On the same note, a serious foul that will injure a player can also be sanctioned with a red card. There are cases in history when serious fouls have led to lifetime injuries – even deaths on the soccer field, so these acts are punished accordingly. They often come with long term suspensions as well.

Over the past few decades, last defender fouls have been constantly awarded red cards. Again, it is a subjective manner, but most referees will show at least a yellow card if the last defender commits a foul to stop a dangerous attack.


Abuse is also awarded red cards, regardless of the type. An insult may often lead to a red card, as well as other types of abusive language – including racial offenses. There is zero tolerance in soccer for such abuse. Spitting players and other forms of abuse will face red cards too,


Violent conduct will face a similar fate. Automatic red cards are given whenever violence occurs. Kneeling or elbowing opponents can end up with a red card – sure, it can be forgiven when it happens involuntarily. Punching and kicking will have the same fate.

Intentional mistakes

In theory, fouls can often be associated with intentional mistakes, but sometimes, they are pure mistakes. A defender might be attacking a ball, but a skilled attacker can keep it away from the defender. If the foul occurs, that is a pure mistake.

But then, there are cases when the last defenders pull attackers’ shirts to prevent a potential goal. There are also times when field players use their hands to prevent a dangerous attack or even a goal. Such actions will lead to red cards.

Two yellow cards

This is the most common way to get a red card in soccer. Players who get a second yellow card will inevitably see the red card as well and they will be eliminated. A player with a single yellow card must be more careful about fouling or making other mistakes.

So, how do you get a red card in soccer? Based on the situations exposed above, the red card is usually a serious offense. It is a serious breach of the game rules, yet it may also be the consequence of two yellow cards.

How Do You Get A Yellow Card In Soccer?

Does a Yellow Card and Red Card Mean

The yellow card is not the end of the world, but it must be seen as a warning. So, how do you get a yellow card in soccer? Here are the most popular mistakes.

Unsporting actions

Unsporting actions will almost always lead to a yellow card, especially if such actions involve dishonesty and the attempt to trick the referee. Committing a serious foul and pretending to be innocent could lead to a yellow card.

Unsporting behavior may also imply the extravagant celebration of a goal. The gestures could be deemed offensive. At the same time, players who remove their T-shirts while celebrating goals will be awarded yellow cards.

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Dragging the game

When a team leads and tries to preserve the score, players will try all kinds of tricks to buy a bit of time. Some of them will get the ball once it goes out and throw it away. Some others will take ages to take a free kick or a throw-in.

At some point, such actions become obvious and players dragging the game will be given yellow cards. Goalkeepers often take ages to kick the ball once they get it. However, there are legal ways to do it as well.

Serious disagreement

It is perfectly normal to disagree with some of the referee’s decisions, especially when they go against you. A chat will not harm you. A civilized disagreement is accepted. But being grumpy, using bad language, overreacting, or causing unnecessary trouble will lead to a yellow card.

Sometimes, such disagreements become physical too and imply pushing or attacking the referee, which is totally unacceptable. If such situations become serious, the referee may skip the yellow card and show the red one instead.

Wrong entry or exit

A substitution implies following some rules. If the game is in progress, players cannot enter the field as they wish. The same rule applies for exiting the field. Even if the player is injured, exiting the field must be done with the referee’s permission.

The same goes for coming back in. Playing without permission will lead to a yellow card.

Consistent offenses

A foul or two will not necessarily give you a yellow card if such offenses are not serious. If they are small mistakes, you are likely to get away with them without too much hassle. But doing it over and over again will lead to some verbal warnings.

Do it one more time and the referee will most likely pull the yellow card out. Keep making such mistakes and you will probably see the red card and leave the field before the game is over.

Failing to stand in the optimal position

This mistake is often made when it comes to corners or other types of free kick. If there is a dangerous free kick and players decide to stay in front of the ball to protect the goal (or at least a part of it), they must be at a certain distance.

The referee will indicate the distance. Trying to come closer to the ball will cause the referee to dictate by repeating the free kick and issuing a yellow card to the offending player.


As a short final conclusion, what do a yellow card and a red card mean in soccer? The colors behind these cards are fairly simple to understand and will not raise too many question marks. They are there with a reason – most commonly, to ensure the game runs according to the rules.

The yellow card is basically a warning for an offense. At that point, the player must be more careful than ever. A second yellow card will inevitably lead to a red card – there are no exceptions whatsoever.

The red card can also be shown directly if the offending player has committed a serious mistake. It means the player will be eliminated and not substituted.

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