Utah high school soccer teams with too many red cards could be banned from playoffs

The UHSAA will discuss the matter again in October.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Olympus's Ian Jones (1) fouls Brighton's Braxton Jones (5), setting up a penalty kick and score as Brighton defeats Olympus High School 3-2 in overtime in the 5A boys state championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on May 23, 2019.

Midvale • The Utah Boys Soccer Coaches Association is recommending that any team accumulating more than a certain number of red cards in a season be barred from competing in the state championship tournament.

Alta High coach MacKenzie Hyer spoke during a meeting last Wednesday of the Utah High School Activities Association’s executive committee. She was accompanied by Skyridge coach Jerry Preisendorf.

“We … agree that the amount of red cards for violent conduct and foul and abusive language is just completely out of control,” Hyer said.

The coaches association tentatively set the number of red cards that would trigger a playoff ban at four. But Hyer said that number is not set in stone. It could be anywhere between three and seven, she said.

Ten varsity boys’ soccer programs — players and coaches included — tallied at least four red cards in the spring of 2023, per ejection data provided to The Salt Lake Tribune. The reasons were denying a goal-scoring opportunity, language or gesture, a second yellow card, entering the field during a fight, serious foul play, and violent conduct.

Those schools are:

• Wasatch Academy (six)

• Merit Prep (five)

• Telos (five)

• Wasatch (five)

• Cedar Valley (four)

• Copper Hills (four)

• Corner Canyon (four)

• East (four)

• Judge Memorial (four)

• Westlake (four)

The playoff ban would only be for schools that received four or more red cards specifically for violent conduct or foul and abusive language, according to the recommendations.

Another recommendation was any coach or player who gets three or more red cards for violent conduct or foul and abusive language would be out of the season.

The National Federation of High Schools recently clarified its rules in soccer regarding fouls and misconduct, giving referees more options from which to choose when giving out cards. Hyer said those changes could make reporting red cards more accurate.

Across boys’ soccer from freshman to varsity, 180 red cards were given in 2023, according to the data. The most cards were given for a second yellow (65), and the second was violent conduct/spitting/taunting/unsportsmanlike behavior (44).

The UHSAA put boys’ soccer across the state under probation last year due to the abundance of red cards. The suspension called for a reduction of two games — from 16 to 14 — for three years.

When the suspension was handed down by the UHSAA last June, it said boys’ soccer account for 164 total ejections. That number was actually lower than 2023, the first year of the probation.

That’s why the coaches association is trying to find another solution. Hyer said instituting a playoff ban for the most carded schools would reward those that are following the rules. The current probation affected every school in hopes that the issue righted itself, but that did not work.

“The amount of teams that should get kicked out of the playoffs should be zero,” Hyer said. “This policy is set up so everybody gets to play.”

Northridge HS principal Jason Smith did not agree with removing a team from the playoffs.

“That’s going to be a battle you can’t win,” Smith said. “I couldn’t comfortably remove a team from the playoffs because maybe three or four players or one coach. To me, that’s punishing a whole program. And then you’re gonna be dealing with a community on fire.”

The executive committee decided that each individual region review the recommendations and discuss the issue again in October.