Offside in soccer

Offsides In Soccer – Clear Explanation and Rules

As Americans, most of us have a pretty good understanding of the tactical rules of football, basketball, or other popular sports with a long history in our country. But when it comes to soccer, we might not be very knowledgeable about the sport and its rules. There are a few things in soccer that are different from other sports and might be pretty hard to understand by a newbie. For example, What is an offside in soccer?

This article will help you better understand the concept of offsides in soccer and some other interesting facts about this sport.

So What Exactly are Offsides in Soccer?

A short explanation of offside in soccer is the position in which an attacking player is closer to the opponent’s goal line than the last defender when receiving the ball.

Soccer Offside Explained

A player will be penalized for offside position when the ball is either touched or played by one of his teammates, according to FIFA regulations.

For a player to be safe from an offside penalization, any part of their body, including the feet, body, or head, should be in front of the last defender when they receive the ball from a teammate. Otherwise, the game will be stopped and the ball will be handed to the defending team.

The opposing team will also receive an indirect free kick if the referee concludes that a player’s position was offside. The difference between an indirect free kick and a normal one is that a player won’t be able to score a ball through an indirect kick before passing it to a teammate.

FIFA regulations also tell us that a player can’t be penalized with an offside if they get the ball from either a corner kick, a kick-in, or a throw-in.

Spotting the right offside positions can be hard, as we’re sometimes talking of just a few inches. This is why it will happen from time to time that a referee will disallow a deserved goal claiming an offside position or will miss a real offside play of a goal scorer. These calls can lead to a lot of anger from either side’s fans regardless of whether they were the right decisions or not.

Rules Around Offside in Soccer

1. The Offside position

The actual offside position isn’t really an offense.

The player will be considered in an offside position when he is closer to the opposing team’s goal line than the second-last opponent and the ball.

A violation will only be considered when the player is in the offside position and at the same time receives the ball that is being passed forward to him.

A player will NOT be considered in an offside position when:

  • The ball is received from a throw-in
  • The whole body of the attacking player, including the feet, body, or head, is farther from the defending team’s goal line than the last defender, goalkeeper not included.
  • The attacker is in his own team’s half of the field.

2. The Offside violation

The offside position can easily turn into an offside violation if the player will be actively participating in the game at the time the ball is touched or played. Here’s what active participation will actually mean:

  • The attacking player will be interfering with the actual play. This would mean that he will be an active part of the attacking move.
  • The attacking player, although not going for the ball, will be interfering with an opponent to prevent them from defending against this attacking move.
  • The attacking player will help their team gain an important advantage from being in that particular position.

Remember: This can only happen inside the opponent’s half of the field.

It won’t be considered an offside violation if the attacking player that is in the offside position will receive the ball from an opponent that was intentionally playing the ball, even while intentionally using his hand unless the opponent will block it intentionally.

A ‘Save’ will be when one of the players blocks the ball or stops it from entering the goal with any part of the body except for arms and hands, as long as no rules are breached while doing so and unless the goalkeeper is in the box.

Visual Explanation of Offside

So, What is The Definition of Active Play?

FIFA, the governing body of soccer worldwide, calls active play any interference of a player with the play when they touch the ball after it was passed in their direction by a teammate. Aside from this, a player will also be affecting the play without touching the ball if while in an offside position, they will interfere with an opponent. An example will be a player preventing their opponent from playing the ball or obstructing the line of sight of the goalkeeper when they receive a pass. All of these actions will usually lead to an offside penalization.

Edge Cases and Exceptions of The Offside Rule

Situations where offside cannot be ruled

As stated before, the player won’t be penalized for an offside position if they will receive the ball directly from a kick-in, corner kick, or throw-in. These situations will be considered normal play.

The resetting of the offside position

As soon as the defending team will gain possession of the ball, the offside status is reset for the offensive team. This means that all attackers that were in an offside position in the play that led to this penalization will now be free to interfere in the game without the risk of an additional penalty, as long as they follow the game rules.

What about defenders that ran off the field?

If their own momentum caused a defender to run off the edge of the field, they will still be counted as a defender in a playing position.

Offside players that are intervening from a distance

An offside player might still be penalized even if not approaching the ball if they will block the line of sight of the opposing player in such a way that it will affect their gameplay. This rule was revised in 2013 and is not the only way in which an offside player will receive a penalty when they are not making direct contact with the ball or the defender. This means that any shouting or gestures will not be considered violations of the offside rule, although a penalty for bad behavior can still be applied.


This article should give you a better understanding of what is offside in soccer and different situations when a player might risk or be safe from an offside penalty. If you have anything else to add, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *