Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

What Is Offsides in Soccer? Simple Explanation

What Is Offsides in Soccer?

By basic definition, an offside in soccer is when a player on offense (an attacking player) gets closer to the opposition’s goal than the ball and the second to the last defender, excluding the goalkeeper.  

According to FIFA rules, a player is penalized for being offside “when the ball is touched or played by one of his teammates.” In simpler terms, this means that every part of a player’s body must be in front of the last defender other than the goalkeeper,

If the referee concludes that a player is offside, the opposing team gets rewarded with an indirect free kick. This is, in essence, the same as a free kick, but the ball cannot be kicked directly toward the goal as a shot. It must be first passed to a teammate. So let’s dive deeper into the rule and what exactly is offsides in soccer.

Examining the Rules of Offsides

A player is considered in an offside position in any of the following scenarios:

  1. Any part of the body, head, or foot that is within the opposition’s side of the field.
  2. Any part of the body, head, or foot closer to the opposition’s touchline than the ball and the second-to-last defender.
  3. The hands and arms of every player, including the goalie, are not considered. To determine offsides, the upper part of the arm is aligned with the armpit.

If a player is at a level with the second to last opponent or the last two opponents, he is not considered offside. A player that is in a position deemed offside when a teammate touches the ball is penalized only if any of the following occur:

1) Interferes with play by touching a ball passed by a teammate.

2) Obstructs the line of sight of an opposing player to keep him from making a play on the ball.

3) Challenges an opposing player to gain possession of the ball.

4) Takes an action that hinders the opposition’s chance to play the ball.

5) Gains an edge by playing the ball or interfering with the opposition.

6) When the ball caromed off the goal post, crossbar, or opponent.

Active Play Definition

According to FIFA, a player is considered to actively interfere with play if he touches that ball after a teammate passes it. But that is not the only way a player can affect the course of play. Even if he does not touch the ball, a referee can call an offside penalty if he deems the position interferes with a player on the opposing team.

Examples of this are keeping a player from playing a ball or blocking the goalie’s line of vision when attempting to make a pass. A referee can also penalize a player for being offside if he feels the player has an advantage. Examples of this will be if a player bounces back from another player and lands on that player.

Where Offside Cannot Be Ruled

If a player is the first to touch the ball after a corner kick or throw-in, he cannot be penalized. No infraction can be called. In these scenarios, all offsides would be reset. What does it mean to reset offside? When the defending team gets control of the ball, the offensive team’s offside status is “reset,” meaning that any offside attacker cannot roam freely and participate in the match without the risk of an infraction. 

What happens in cases that are not clear-cut? The general rules are as follows:

1. If a ball is accidentally deflected off a defender or bounces back to the defender, there will be no reset for offside.

2. If a player is waiting at the goal for the sole purpose of preventing the goal, there will be no reset for offside because the player will be deemed to have an advantage by waiting at the goal.

3. A defender must get possession of the ball before the offensive player becomes active in the play. This can be subjective, and as such, players from a long distance that have been offside are generally safe.

If a player offside but not approaching the ball blocks the line of sight of a defender, he can be penalized. This scenario is the only way an offside player can be penalized without making contact with the ball or a defender. 

Note that if a defender goes out of the field without being forced out, he is still deemed a defender.


While soccer is one of the most popular sports globally, the offside rule can be confusing, particularly to the novice viewer. Even though there are regulations and guidelines for offsides, referees are human and will botch a call from time to time.

Sure, they can nullify a goal for an offsides player that wasn’t. On the flip side, a goal could be scored when a player was offside, and the referee missed it. But now you know situations where players on the field may be offside or not offside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *