Complete Guide to Soccer Offsides Rules and Strategies


Soccer is a beloved sport all over the world. And while there are many rules to the game, one of the most confusing for new fans is offsides. What is offsides? In this complete guide, we will answer all your questions about the offsides rule in soccer.

What is Offsides in Soccer?

Per the FIFA rules website, an offsides violation occurs when a player is in an offsides position and one of the following conditions occur:

  • the player is the offsides position somehow interferes with gameplay by either playing or touching a ball played into them by a teammate
  • interfering with one of the opponent team’s players by doing one of the following:
    1. Obstructing the view of the opposing player to see the ball (think obstructing the goalie for example)
    2. Preventing or obstructing an opposing player from being able to play the ball

It is important to understand from the above that being in an offsides position is, in and of itself, not an offsides violation. Offensive players will frequently weave in and out of offsides position, which is perfectly within the rules. It is only when the offensive player is in an offsides position and tries to play the ball, interferes with an opposing player, or obstructs the view of the ball that an offsides violation occurs.

When is a Player Considered in an Offsides Position in Soccer?

Attacking player in soccer
Attacking player in soccer

A player is in an offsides position if, they do not have the ball and any part of their body is nearer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.

There are a few things to consider when determining if a player is in an offsides position. First, the player must be part of the attacking team. Second, the player cannot be nearer to their own goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.

  1. The player must be part of the attacking (i.e. team with possession of the ball) team
  2. Player cannot be nearer to their own goal line than both:
    • The ball
    • The second last opponent

Typically, a player is in an offsides position if only the opposing goalie is between them and the opposing team’s goal line but technically there needs to be two opposing players between you and the opposing goal.

What is the Penalty for Being Called Offsides in Soccer?

soccer player kicking the ball
soccer player kicking the ball

If the referee decides that you’re offsides, then the other team gets a free-kick from the spot of the offsides violation.

In professional leagues, the referee may let the offside play finish before calling offsides. This is done so that if a goal is scored and a video review of the play determines that offsides did not occur then the goal would be allowed.

How Do You Teach Offsides in Soccer?

Offsides is one of the most misunderstood rules in soccer, but it’s actually pretty simple once you know what to look for.

Soccer Referee with Offsides Flag

Explain that offsides is all about positioning. Set up a drill where you have a goalie and one defender on one team and two attacking players on the other. Have the attacking players practice timing their scoring runs such that they are onside when playing the ball and making runs toward the goal.

Additionally, you can show your players videos of both offside and onside offensive plays so that they can get a feel for how to play effectively on the attack while ensuring they are not offsides.

How Do You Teach a Child the Offsides Rule

Teaching offsides to youth soccer players will require more patience the younger and less experienced they are. The easiest way to get them started learning the offside rule is to use a whiteboard and draw or use magnets to position the players and ball. Explain the concept of offsides and then move the players/ball around and quiz the players on whether the play is offsides or not.

Young soccer player dribbling soccer ball
Young soccer player dribbling soccer ball

Next, move to the field and set up offensive attacking plays and reinforce when your players are offside and why. Be patient with the players as they are young and will be easily frustrated at first. But if you consistently correct them and explain why they are offsides and what they could have done instead, they will learn and adjust the play accordingly.

Can a Player Be Offsides on Their Own Half of the Field in Soccer?

No, if you are on your side of the field (i.e. the side of the field that has your defensive goal net), you cannot be offsides. This applies even if there is one or no opposing players between you and the opposing goal line.

Can A Player Be Offside from a Free Kick in Soccer?

Yes. While a player can line up offside prior to the free-kick being taken, if the ball is played toward the offside player while they are in an offside position, then an offsides violation would occur.

Can a Player Be Offside from a Goal Kick?

No. You cannot be offsides on a goal kick. However, normal in-play rules apply once the goal kick is taken and play resumes.

Can a Player Be Offside on a Corner Kick in Soccer?

No. You cannot be offsides on a corner kick. However, once the corner kick is taken and play resumes, normal in-play rules apply.

Can a Player Be Offside on a Throw In in Soccer?

No. You cannot be offsides on a throw-in. However, once the throw-in is taken and play resumes, normal in-play rules apply.

Soccer Play SituationOffsides
on your team’s side of soccer fieldno
free kickyes
corner kickno
goal kickno
throw inno
Offsides condition table

Does the Offside Rule Vary by Age Group

In the US, it can. In the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model document, there is less of an emphasis on enforcing all of the rules of the game and more on getting young players interested in the game itself. On page 74 of the guide, it states the following: “Several new phases of development appear in the U-12 match such as developing a basic understanding of the offside rule.The inference is that prior to U12 soccer, the offside rule should not be enforced.

Sources

https://olympics.com/en/featured-news/offside-rule-football-history-referee-var

https://digitalhub.fifa.com/m/5371a6dcc42fbb44/original/d6g1medsi8jrrd3e4imp-pdf.pdf

http://morrisunited.bonzidev.com/doclib/US_Youth_Soccer_Player_Development_Model.pdf

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