Offside


Identify Offside In 3 Easy Steps

a diagram of a soccer player who is offsides

  1. Are you on your opponents half of the field?   (You can only be ruled offsides on their half of the field, not the side you're defending)
  2. At the moment the ball was passed, was if any of their body part except the hands and arms beyond the last defender?
  3. If you answered yes to both questions, your player is offside.  If you answered no to either question, your player is NOT offside.

An Explanation of the Offside Rule

In order to understand the offside rule in soccer, you need to first understand how to identify a player on an offside position.  A player is in an offside position if any part of his if any of their body part except the hands and arms is beyond last defender.   

a player who is in an offside position on a soccer field

Above:  The player with the red arrow pointed on him is in an offside position. 

So looking at the image, we can clearly identify that the player with the red arrow pointed to him is in an offside position.  But in real life, it’s not always this clear.  For example, if the player is “barely” offside, like maybe the foot is beyond the last defender, it’s still offside.  There is no such thing as “barely offside” or “way offside” - the rule is black and white - you are either offside or not.


Now, it’s NOT against the rules to merely be in an offside position.  It only becomes illegal once the ball is played to the person who is in an offside position.  Take a look at a video clip from the FIFA video game at the top of this page, which demonstrates a real life situation of offside.  The blue team loses possession of the ball and the white team gains possession.   Now take a look at the white teams player on the bottom of the screen.  He calls for a pass and half of his body is in the offside position.  Once the player makes a pass to him, the referee blows the whistle and he is ruled offside which means the blue team gets to take a free kick from the offside spot.

barely offsides.jpg

Above:  The player with the red arrow pointed on him is in an offside position, but barely. 

Let’s take a look at the replay one more time.  Notice how the video game illustrates the offside position by a white line that spans across the entire field.  Also notice how the player on the white team at bottom of the screen is offside - his right leg and arm are beyond the defender at the moment the pass is made.  It’s that moment that determines offside. The moment when his teammates makes the pass and the position of his body in relation to the very last defender - this is what the referees are looking at.   

a player who is offsides and a player who is not offsides comparison

Above:  A comparison of a player who is offside and a player who is not offside

So, in review - it’s okay to be in an offside position but the referee will call you offside if you are in an offside position the moment a teammate passes the ball to you.