While refereeing a girls' U14 match last weekend, I called a penalty under the following circumstances. An attacking player takes a pass just outside the penalty area. As she enters the penalty area, a defender intercepts her. The attacking player shields that ball with her body and turns her back to the goal. The defender applies a charge (shoulder to back of shoulder area) that causes the attacker to temporarily lose control of the ball. Attacker recovers the ball, still in the penalty area and defender commits the same charge. Again, the attacker loses the ball temporarily but the defender makes no effort to win the ball. The defender now commits the same charge for the third time and I blow the whistle and point to the spot. I was originally trained that the standard for an fair charge was "equal strength on the ball". If a player "knocked an opponent off the ball" without directly taking control of the ball they had not succeeded in making the charge "within playing distance." A charge that put an opponent on the ground was a foul charge. I was certain of what I saw and felt confident that I had made the right call but really didn't want to blow for the penalty. One of my ARs was a fellow referee who I respect very much. I asked his opinion and he said he considered it a soft penalty. I spoke with a friend who played lower level professional ball in Ireland about it. He said he was always told shoulder to shoulder contact was legal regardless of an attempt to play the ball so long as the ball was in playing distance and even if the contact resulted in the opponent going to ground there was no foul committed. I was now feeling much less confident about my understanding of what constitutes a legal and an illegal charge. The wording of Law 12 regarding an illegal charge is rather vague to I went to USSF Advice to Referees (my bold). 12.5 Charging The act of charging an opponent can be performed without it being called as a foul. Although the fair charge is commonly defined as "shoulder to shoulder," this is not a requirement and, at certain age levels where heights may vary greatly, may not even be possible. Futhermore, under many circumstances, a charge may result in the player against whom it is placed falling to the ground (as consequence, as before, of players differing in weight or strength). The Law does require that the charge be directed toward the area of the shoulder and not toward the center of the opponent's back (the spinal area): in such a case, the refereee should recognize that such a charge is at minimum reckless and potentially even violent (See also Advice 12.14.) It is not a violation of Law 12 for two players to charge the same opponent simultaneously, provided that each charge considered individually is conducted fairly and legally. After reading the prior portion of the ATR, I'm questioning my line of thinking. How do the referees on this board determine a charge is illegal? Only if it is directed to an area outside the shoulder area? Is there such a thing as careless, reckless or violent shoulder to shoulder area contact if it is legal to knock a player to the ground with a charge?