I’ve been watching some soccer and enjoy the game overall, but I?just don’t understand the offsides rule. What is offsides in soccer?
First, I’m glad you’re giving soccer a chance and enjoying the athleticism required and the sheer beauty of the game. There’s got to be a reason it’s the world’s most popular sport!
Now about this crazy and often misunderstood offside rule, and yes, in soccer it’s actually offside, not offsides.
The offside rule essentially is meant to prevent the basketball equivalent of cherry-picking, or positioning offensive players far down the field past the opponent’s defenders.
To set up an offensive situation, let’s suppose that our Player A has possession of the ball and is looking to pass to one of our forwards, Player B, who is up the field. At the moment Player A passes the ball, Player B must be even with or behind (closer to our goal) the other team’s second defender (the first defender almost always being the goalkeeper).
It all comes down to the snapshot moment as the ball is played from one teammate to the other: if Player B is in their offensive end of the field, they must not be beyond that second defender as the pass is made, or they are offside.
There are some technical qualifiers though, of course:
- If Player B is on our defensive half of the field as the ball is passed, they cannot be called offside.
- If Player B, anywhere on the field, is even with or behind the ball as it is passed, they are not offside.
- If Player B is in an offside position as the ball is passed, but does not get actively involved in the play, they should not be called for offside.
Good soccer players know that timing and positoning are critical to avoid being called for offside, and will make diagonal or flat runs to stay onside.
Many teams will try to trap opponents into going offside by having all defenders “step up” or move forward to put offensive players into an offside position.
Good referees position themselves straight across, or even with that second defender, so at the moment the ball is passed, they can immediately determine if a receiving player is in an onside or offside position.
What this means to you
As a soccer fan, player and coach, I?find the offfside rule a critical part of the game. Personally I?would love to see the rule abolished so as to open up the game even more, but until that time, it’s a fundamental factor in soccer matches. I hope this helps you understand and enjoy, as Pele calls it, “The Beautiful Game” even more.
Page 2 of 2 - —By Rick Cline, Orion-Sherrard head soccer coach
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