Understanding Soccer Offside Rule
By all accounts, the offside rule in soccer is one of the sport’s most misunderstood concepts. The rule originated in the 19th century to keep players from sneaking behind the opposing defense and waiting for a long pass. The rule has evolved a bit since then, but the primary purpose is the same.
Spotting This Common Infraction
Offside is a common infraction, in part because offensive players are always looking to gain any slight advantage over the defense. Sneaking behind the defense is a great way to get shots on goal but avoiding an offside call can be difficult.
In order to remain onside, a player cannot be closer to his opponent’s goal line than the last two defenders. The defender closest to the goal line is almost always the goalkeeper.
An offside violation occurs when an attacking player is in an offside position simultaneous to the ball being passed forward by another teammate. An offside call is determined when the ball is passed, not when the ball is received.
The attacking player cannot receive the ball from a teammate unless at least two players – the goalkeeper and another defender – are either level with the player, between the player and the goal line, or unless a teammate passes the ball backwards to the attacking player. The player cannot be offside if he or she:
- Is on his or her own team’s half of the field.
- Is receiving the ball on a throw-in.
- Is not joining the attacking play, even if they are in what would normally be an offside position.
Interference Is Key to Call
Getting behind the last two defenders doesn’t necessarily create an offside violation. Gaining advantage by interfering while in an offside position is what triggers the violation. If a player is behind the last two defenders, but does not attempt to join the attacking play, the ref can use his discretion and allow the play to continue.
Offside is one of the most nuanced rules in the sport and therefore, it’s something that gets enforced more as players get older and more experienced.
If you’re still thoroughly confused about the offside rule, you may want to play indoor soccer, because international-style indoor soccer does not have an offside rule.
Apex Indoor Sports is an official part of the U.S. Indoor Soccer Association, and we have plenty of recreational indoor soccer leagues. With adult, coed, and youth play available, there’s something for everyone. If you’re not quite ready to commit to a team, come out for one of our lunchtime pick-up games.