What Is the Offside Rule in Soccer?

The offside rule is the most debated soccer principle (no matter where the game is played), even though what is known as Law 11 isn’t terribly difficult to grasp. Here’s what offside is all about:

A player is caught offside if he’s nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second-last opponent (including the goalkeeper) when his team-mate plays the ball to him. In other words, a player can’t receive the ball from a team-mate unless there are at least two players either level with him or between him and the goal or unless his team-mate plays the ball backwards to him.

It’s not an offense in itself to be offside. A player is only penalized for being offside if he is deemed to be involved in active play. So a player can only be called offside if he is:

  • In the opposition’s half.
  • Interfering with play (that is, he’s part of the attacking move).
  • Interfering with an opponent (that is, he’s preventing the opponent from defending against the attacking move).
  • Gaining any advantage by being in that position.

A player can’t be offside from a goal kick, throw in, or corner.