Easy one page handout – Explaining the Offside Rule to Players

The “Offside Rule” in soccer is perhaps the most confusing of the “17 Rules of Soccer” to understand, both for  players and  fans.  Continual review is necessary, and a clear understanding is often elusive.

An attacking player is offside if there are less than two defenders between him/her and the goal at the time the ball is played in.  They must be involved in the play.

If a player is in an offside position, but not involved in the play, it is not an offside.

A player must be offside the moment the ball is played by a teammate. And to be called offside, the player must also be involved in an “active play” by gaining an advantage by being offside, or interfere with a play, or an opponent.To be offside, the player must also be on the opponent’s half of the soccer field, being closer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the next-to-last defender (the goalkeeper is usually the last defender). Offside will not be called if an offside player is not active in the play.

A player is not offside if he is on his own half of the field, or “even” with the next-to-last defender or the last two defenders. (The goal keeper is usually the last defender, or one of the last two, but not always; rules usually refer to the last two defenders and make no mention of the goal keeper). Offside in soccer can be difficult to call.  A player can be “even” with the next-to-last defender (not offside), and run past the next-to-last defender immediately after his teammate makes a pass past the next-to-last defender. This is not offside, because the soccer player was not offside the moment the ball was passed.

To put it simply, try to picture an imaginary line on Team A’s last defender, a line parallel to the goal line. If Team B’s striker is over this line when his teammate passes the ball, then he is offside. If Team B’s striker is on the same line as Team A’s last defender (or under the line) then he is in a correct position.

One more thing to look for in an offside: it doesn’t matter if Team B’s striker is over this line when he receives the ball. The moment to look for is the moment the midfielder passes the ball, which will trigger an offside if the striker is over the last defender line.

Offside: Yes or No??

It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position.

A player is in an offside position if:

  • She is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent
  • A player is not in an offside position if:
  • She is in his own half of the field of play
  • She is level with the second last opponent
  • She is level with the last two opponents

Committing an Offside Offense

A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball is touched or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, is actively involved in the play by:

  • Interfering with play
  • Interfering with an opponent
  • Gaining an advantage by being in that position

No Offense

There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from:

  • A goal kick
  • A throw-in
  • A corner kick

Why Offside Rule??

The offside rule exists to stop “goal hanging”, where a player near the opposing teams goalie in the hope that someone can get the ball to him (probably a long ball), so he can get it past the goalie.


Red 9 is not offside as he is even with blue 3 and the ball is up field near 11.

This may have been an “offside trap” that failed as blue 3 did not move up field with the other defenders.

Offside Trap


Red 10 is offside as he is in front of all of the defenders, leaving only the goalkeeper back.  Two players between red 10 and the goal are required to be onside.

This position may have been forced by the defenders moving forward in what is called an “offside trap”.  This can backfire if the defenders moved too up quickly and the referee did not see the offside.