Dare County Soccer Guidelines

September 10, 2020


Soccer programs across the nation and in North Carolina are returning to competitive play under specific guidelines and recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Since July 2020, soccer programs across North Carolina returned to team practices, however games were not permitted under North Carolina Youth Soccer Association (NCYSA) guidelines. Last week, NCYSA approved returning to competitive play effective 9/12/2020. According to NCYSA’s Return to Activity notice, released 9/9/2020, “since June 2nd, more is known about soccer safety. Studies and observations, and the experiences from other states and organizations, has led NCYSA to offer our associations the choice to play competitive games, as long as guidelines are followed for all roles – players, coaches, clubs, spectators, and referees. The other aspects of healthy youth (exercise, competition, social contact) are important factors in decisions to return to play.


The NCYSA provides detailed guidance and recommendations for organizations returning to play. NCYSA’s Return to Activity Guidelines are fashioned using U.S. Soccer Play ON Recommendations, US Youth Soccer Guidelines, and North Carolina State Guidelines focused on both COVID-19 considerations and overall health of staff, players, and families.

Soccer programs participating in Dare County must follow the guidelines below. Failure of a league or program to adhere to these guidelines in full may result in loss of access to the soccer fields.


All players and coaches participating in a Dare County based league, program, or club must have a signed Dare County COVID-19 activities waiver completed prior to play.

Outdoor Crowd Gathering

Per North Carolina Executive Order 163, outdoor crowd gatherings are limited to 50 people in a given space.


General Guidelines

• Participants should have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and have no known exposure to someone that has been ill in 14 days.

• Players should sanitize their hands before and after

• Social distancing should be observed and masks on while on the sidelines.

• No unnecessary contact: no high-fives, chest bumps, elbow bumps, huddles, etc.

• All athletes have their own individual equipment (ball, water, bag etc.)

• Always wear a face mask to and from the fields.

• Coaches should maintain social distance requirements from players and parents based on state and local health requirements. Avoid huddles, parent conferences, etc. if social distancing is difficult.

• The use and sharing of scrimmage vests, or pennies, is not permissible at this time.

Parent Responsibilities:

• Parents have the final decision on their child’s participation.

• Ensure your child is healthy and symptom-free and check your child’s temperature before activities with others.

• Ensure child’s clothing is washed after every training.

• Ensure all equipment (cleats, ball, shin guards etc.) are sanitized before and after every training.

• Notify your child’s coach immediately if your child becomes ill for any reason.

Player Responsibilities:

• With parent direction, take your temperature daily and before activities with others.

• Wash hands thoroughly before and after training. Avoid touching your face and avoid spitting.

• Bring, and use, hand sanitizer with you at every training. Bring a labeled baggie for your mask and a plastic bag for practice clothing items you remove after practice.

• Wear mask before and immediately after all training and when on sidelines at games and scrimmages.

• Do not touch or share anyone else’s equipment (ex. gloves, shoes, uniforms, water, food)

• Practice social distancing, including placing bags and equipment at least 6 feet apart.

• Wash and sanitize all equipment before and after every training.

• No group celebrations, high-5s, hugs, handshakes, fist-bumps, etc.

• Follow all CDC guidelines as well those of your local health authorities

Field Considerations:

1. Field markings should consider wider sidelines for spectator and participant spacing for the next field, even if slightly narrower fields result.

2. Field markings should include social distancing spacing reminders for both sides of the field and allow additional spacing between opposing team spectators at midfield and between opposing teams on the player side. Fields without adequate spacing may require shifting start timing to prevent crowded bench or spectator areas. Benches should be removed or not used.

3. Signage may be used to remind spectators and participants of key protocols, entry and exit paths, and limitations on spectator numbers.

Game Considerations:

1. Warm-ups should not begin until previous teams have left the field and equipment has been cleaned and sanitized. Spectators and players should remain in their vehicle until the teams from the prior game have left the field area. Allow for extra time between games to accommodate as necessary.

2. Competition warm-up recommendations should follow training recommendations, such as: a) Coaches should not be within six feet of any player b) Progressions between warm-up drills should be set up prior to players arriving to field. The players should not touch any equipment. c) In general, maintain as much social distance as possible during warm-up activities.

3. Participants should avoid intentionally touching each other before or after competitions. This includes celebrations such as hugs, high-fives, or huddles.

4. If game balls are used during warm-up, they should be re-sanitized before the game.

Referee Considerations:

1. Fields should still be walked pre-game.

2. Physical items (nets, goals, corner flags etc.) should be inspected visually.

3. If issues are identified – for example a goal net needs to be repaired or an object needs to be removed from the field of play – the referees should sanitize his or her hands after managing. Referees should maintain at least six feet distance when communicating with their referee crew, players and coaches. If a fourth official is present, they should maintain six feet distance when communicating with coaches, players or their fellow referees. If a fourth official’s table is provided, the referee should check that it is six feet away from either bench or coaching area. The fourth official should wear a mask for the duration of the game.

Pre-Game Activities:

1. The coin toss should be socially distanced. Only one referee and one representative per team should take part in the coin toss. Only the owner of the coin should touch the coin. Referees can choose to skip the meeting and use other methods.

2. All participants involved in the coin toss should wear a mask, following recommendations that masks should be worn at all times excepting moments of physical exertion.

3. No pre-game handshakes shall take place.

4. Uniform/jewelry checks should be visible checks only, maintaining 6-ft between the referee and player.

5. Team pre-game meetings should be kept brief. a) All participants should wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and endeavor to maintain space between themselves and others. Prolonged proximity, even with masks should be avoided. b) Huddles should be avoided. Benches should not be present, and if they are, not used.

Game Time:

1. Players and coaches on the sidelines, as well as referees, are reminded to wear PPE for the duration of the game.

2. No handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, chest bumps, huddles, group celebrations, etc., should take place, including when goals are scored, or when substitutions are leaving or entering the field.

3. The following modifications to substitutions protocols are suggested: a) When subbing into the game, players should maintain distance from the referees and other players who are also subbing into the game. b) If a player is subbed out of the game, the player should stand at least six feet away from other individuals while recovering before putting on facemask.

4. For throw-ins, active players should collect the ball.

5. Masks may be worn during play, but medical advice should be considered by parents and players, as many cautions have been discussed. Masks should pose no danger to the wearer or other players.

6. Clean and sanitized balls may be readily available for use, in the case of the ball not being easily retrievable. It is the responsibility of the home team or competition organizer to supply sanitized balls.

7. When possible during breaks in play, consider making sanitized balls available to replace used game balls.

8. Avoid delays in start of play, so that players do not have pro-longed periods of standing in close proximity. For example, encourage all participants to conduct free kicks and set plays with efficiency so players do not have prolonged periods in shoulder-to-shoulder defense walls.



Spectator Responsibilities:

1. The state mandate of a maximum of 50 spectators per field must be followed. Phasing in of spectators (ex. no spectators or 1 per player) is at the discretion of the host club.

2. The spectator areas should be marked at social distancing intervals. Additional spacing from the sideline is recommended.

3. Masks should be worn to, from, and before games. Stationary spectators may remove masks only if alone or in the presence of their family unit. Masks should be worn if spectators leave the area. Hydration / Cool-Down / Sanitation Breaks:

4. Players should sanitize their hands.

5. The hosting competition can sanitize game balls for use during the game.


1. During halftime, referees, players and coaches should maintain at least six feet distance.

2. All players and coaches should be wearing proper PPE. If a player needs to recover before participating in halftime activities, player should stand 12 ft away from other individuals while recovering before putting on their face covering or mask.

3. Players should sanitize their hands.

4. Coaches should limit the amount of time the entire team is near one another at one time.

5. Referees should sanitize their own equipment (whistle, flags, etc.).

Considerations In The Case Of Injuries:

1.     As able, the Referee should keep a six-foot distance from the injured player while determining if medical attention is necessary


2.     If needed, allow a coach or medical professional from the injured player’s team to enter the field and attend to the player. The coach/medical professional should wear PPE and gloves. The Referee should remind other players to keep their distance from each other, and the injured player, during the break in play. Players should not congregate.



1. No post-game handshakes should take place. Consider other forms of sportsmanship or instituting new acknowledgement traditions, such as clapping, etc.

2. If a referee needs the coach’s signature for a roster, place the paper down on the end of the bench and step away to have them sign it.

3. Teams should pack-up and immediately leave the field following the game, exiting at the designated exit point. Post-game meetings should be kept brief, if any meeting is held at all. All participants should wear proper PPE and endeavor to maintain space between themselves and others. Prolonged proximity, even with masks, should be avoided. Huddles should be avoided.

4. Do not have a team snack that is shared among the team members.

5. Players should not take off any equipment until they have left the facility.

 6. Teams should clean up their sideline area so that it is clean of ALL trash.

7. Competition hosts should ensure all equipment, including benches, balls, flags, etc. are sanitized.

8. Spectators are encouraged to maintain social distancing following the game while waiting for their child. Dependent on field layout, spectators may need to wait further away from the field.

9. Referees should leave field immediately following the game and referee duties have been completed assuming they have no other games to officiate. Referee debrief sessions should be a conducted in a space where the referees can socially distance but still in view of the game field. If referees are working later in the day, the referee should stay away from other individuals, may consider departing the facility or using their personal vehicle as a place to take a break in between games.

Other Considerations:

The information in this document is NOT intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, are provided for general informational purposes only.

Further, you should seek advice from medical professionals and/or public health officials in your area if you have specific questions. These guidelines address only early phases of return to-play, and additional guidelines may, or may not, follow as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.

Our state has a phased approach to masks, reopening of fields, and easing of social distancing requirements. This may vary town to town, county to county. Soccer organizations need to be aware of and adhere to all Federal, State and Local guidelines and requirements.

Finally, although the young and healthy may be subject to less severe cases of COVID-19, every case of this disease is potentially life-altering or deadly, particularly in those with risk factors that may occur within our communities. Health consequences may be long-standing and only apparent weeks after initial infection and recovery. Until COVID-19 is eradicated, a vaccine is developed, or a cure is found, there is no way of eliminating the risk of infection. This view should always be at the forefront when designing and considering return-to activity programming. NC soccer organizations should be in contact with their respective insurance carriers to determine that all coverages are appropriate for the organization and its needs. The risks of participation should be clearly communicated to parents and participants in your respective programs.



Elite Clubs National League – Return to Competition (https://www.eliteclubsnationalleague.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Return-to-Comp.-Doc.-Master.pdf)

North Carolina Youth Soccer Association – Return to Play Guidelines (https://www.ncsoccer.org/assets/112/6/rta-9-9-2020-version-4.pdf)

US Soccer – Play On Recommendations (https://www.ussoccer.com/playon/guides/phase-3-grassroots)