Offside Rule in Soccer: Everything You Need to Know

The offside rule in soccer is one of the sport’s shortest rules, and yet it is one that appears to be the most misunderstood by beginners trying to learn the sport. But whether you are a trainee learning the fundamentals of soccer or a soccer enthusiast brushing up on your game knowledge, you must know about the offside rule in soccer.


The offside rule in soccer continues to confuse fans, managers, and sportspersons on a daily basis, and modifications in how the regulation is interpreted have made this even more puzzling. The rules for offsides in soccer have undergone numerous changes since it was first adopted, which has led to a significant increase in complexity of offside rule in soccer.


What exactly is soccer’s offside rule?


According to FIFA rules, If a player is farther up the field than the ball and the opponent is in the last position when a teammate plays the ball, they are said to be offside. This means that when the ball is handed to a player, every inch of their head, body, and feet must be in front of the final defender. The goalkeeper will typically be the last opponent, and a defender will typically be the next-to-last. They will be excluded if not.


An indirect free kick is given to another team if the referee finds a player to be offside. The awarded free kick will be equivalent to the standard free kick. But the soccer ball must be passed to another soccer player before a goal can be recorded.


The offside rule in soccer does have certain exceptions. It cannot be called if the offensive players are on their own side of the soccer field. Additionally, the offside rule in soccer does not apply to throws, goal kicks, or corner kicks.


When a soccer player is not offside:


There are several instances, though, where the offside rule in soccer is not applicable, and you are not penalised for being offside.


The offside rule in soccer is not applicable in instances where a player:


  • Immediately receives the ball after a throw, corner, or goal kick.
  • Is positioned in their own zone of the field.
  • Is on equal footing with the next-to-last opponent (typically a defender).
  • Is in front of or behind a teammate who passes the ball to them.
  • Seen as “not active in play.”


When is a soccer player deemed to be active in a game?


FIFA, the world’s official football governing organisation, states that touching the ball after a teammate has transferred it to you is active play interference. A player should be given offside if the referee believes that their offside position has been obstructed by a challenger, such as by stopping the opponent from playing the ball or by hindering a goalkeeper’s line of sight. A player can also affect a game without touching the ball.


Players can also be given offside if the referee feels they have gained an advantage from being in an offside position such as when the ball has fallen to them after striking a post or rebounding off another soccer player.


These modifications were made to encourage offensive play and prevent penalties for soccer players who are not even near the soccer ball.


Unfortunately, the modifications have simply served to increase the strain on sports officials, who now have the challenging task of deciding in a split second whether a player is in an offside position as well as if they are “actively interfering” in the game.


Since it will always be up to the referee’s judgement as to whether a player is “actively interfering” in the game, the offsides rule in soccer is fundamentally problematic since it depends too heavily on interpretation.