LOTG Law 11–Offside

Laws of The Game: Key Concepts of Law 11

Law 11: Offside  (not “offsides,” please)

 If you have been reading our “essays” on the LOTG this will feel like a “complicated” Law, but it really just boils down to a few key issues. The ‘Offside Line’ and “being in an offside position” is a fairly straightforward concept to understand, but effectively enforcing the Law can be challenging. There are often several moving pieces that need to be evaluated simultaneously before making a decision.

If you ever have questions about any of these concepts do not hesitate to contact the referee committee at Region 20 (email me at:  arra@ayso20.org).

As an AYSO volunteer referee you will have been introduced to this concept at your Regional Referee Course, and it probably felt pretty confusing. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it. Just know that there is nothing more satisfying as an AR than getting the offside call right!  And furthermore, there is nothing more reassuring, as a Referee, than knowing that your AR was doing their #1 job–positioned where they needed to be to make the perfect Offside Offence call. When this piece of teamwork is clicking, managing a game becomes a lot easier.

Conversely, when this responsibility is not being handled well, you are going to hear about it (!) because missed offside calls frequently are the sort of things that lead to a goal being scored. (Good for one side, terrible for the other.) These mistakes can often be “game-changers.”

Region 20 Offside Guidelines

In 7U the concept is too complicated to enforce, although a referee may want to remind a player to “come on back here and get in on the action.”

In 8U a referee may actually want to “disallow a goal” if an attacker was cherry-picking all by him/herself in front of the goal and somehow a teammate passed it all the way down the field to the offender and a goal was scored—in this case a gentle (smiling) reminder that he/she was out of position and restarting with a “goal kick” would be appropriate. (You may need to explain this quickly to the excited/elated coach and parents, so everyone is on the same page.) Downplay this sort of thing and just try to get play going in the right direction as quickly as possible—moving on, folks!

In 10U the concept of offside becomes very real and should be enforced, although the “Build-Out Line” used for these age divisions requires slight modifications to the letter of the Law. These BOL modifications (rules) will be covered in a separate article dedicated to the Build-Out Line. If you want to refer to the new (2018) version of the BOL Video, please go to the following link:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTbEJuiqDgI

In 12U and above Offside is a critical concept to understand, it’s the real deal, so here we go…


If an offside offence occurs, the referee awards an Indirect Free Kick to the defenders from where the offside offence occurred–where the player was when they became involved in active play. (The IFK does not take place from the place where the player was when he was deemed in an offside position when his teammate kicked/touched the ball.)

In order to be found guilty of an “Offside Offence” you need to satisfy three criteria:

Wrong place”  +Wrong time”  +Wrong thing

  • Being in the “wrong place means being in an Offside Position
    • However, it is not an offence, on its own, to be in an offside position… but wait
  • Being in that wrong position at the “wrong time
    • That “time” is often referred to as The Moment of Judgement
      • [‘Moment of Judgement’ is a term often used in your referee courses, not the LOTG]
    • It is the moment at which the teammate (of the offside player) touches/passes/plays the ball
  • Doing “the wrong thingrequires “Becoming Involved in Active Play
    • this is a critical LOTG phrase


The concept of whether or not the attacker is in an Offside Position is the first thing we need to understand—this is the “wrong place” bit.  Just because a player is in an Offside Position does not mean they are committing an “Offside Offence.” This is often the scenario when coaches and spectators along the sideline see a player from the opponent’s team in an OSP (before, or, at the moment of judgement) and start yelling at the referee, “He’s offsides! He’s offsides!”  Well, two things here… First of all, the term is “Offside.”  Second, it is probably very likely that the opponent has not yet “become involved in active play” and therefore has not committed an actual Offside Offence (and, hopefully, the AR has not raised his/her flag) …yet.

There are three things that must be satisfied for a player to be in an “Offside Position”  (need to meet all three)

  • the forward attacker must be in the opponent’s half of the field…
    • this means any part of their head, torso, or leg(s)/foot must be past the halfway line
  • that attacker must be closer to the goal line than the second-to-last opponent
    • this means any part(s) of the head, torso, leg/foot must be beyond that opponent (if even by even the slightest bit!)
  • and that attacker must be closer to the goal line than the ball.

If the attacker satisfies all three of these criteria, he/she is considered to be in an “Offside Position.” (Remember though, just because they are in an “OSP” doesn’t mean they are committing an Offside Offence!!! )            (Wait for it…….)


This is not a phrase used in the Laws of the Game, but you will have probably heard it used at your Regional Referee course. This is the time, the moment,” when the person making the decision (the AR!) about whether or not this attacker is indeed offside must  make the judgement.

Was that forward attacker in an offside position at the moment of judgement?

When/what is that “moment” ?     “…when the ball is touched or played by a teammate.”

Making a correct decision requires that the AR do some multi-tasking:

  • The AR must be watching and/or listening* for when the teammate (of the potentially Offside attacker) touches/plays the ball
  • At the same time, he/she must be watching where the forward (and potentially offside) attacker in question is positioned.
    • Is that forward attacker past the halfway line, closer to the goal line than the second to last defender and the ball… at the “moment of judgement?” If so, then things start to get interesting…

*Assistant Referees: It is usually best to listen for that pass/touch by the attacker’s teammate while watching (and keeping in line with) the forward attacker. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it! Once you master this skill, calling offside becomes downright easy if you are keeping up with play!


OK, now we are going to actually determine if a player should be penalized for an “Offside Offence.”  And, we already know this means satisfying three things:  being in an offside position, at the moment of judgement, and then becomes involved in active play!!!

Now let’s discuss “becoming involved in active play.”


The attacking player needs to become involved in active play if they are to be penalized for an Offside Offence. Or, conversely, if the attacker is in an offside position but does not become involved in active play, he/she should not be penalized for an Offside Offence.

Three possible ways that an attacker can become involved in active play (per the LOTG):

  1. Interfering with Play — when the attacker plays (or touches) the ball last passed or touched by his/her teammate, or…
  2. Interfering with an Opponent by
    • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision, or
    • challenging an opponent for the ball, or
    • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him/her when this action impacts on an opponent, or
    • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball, or…
  3. Gaining an Advantage” by
    • playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:
      • rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or an opponent
      • been deliberately saved by an opponent

Examples of Becoming Involved in Active Play:

  • Interfering with Play—touching/playing the ball
    • The cherry-picking attacker receiving a pass–the most obvious offence
  • Interfering with Opponent—interfering with an opponent, not necessarily touching/playing the ball, but “interfering” by…
    • blocking an opponent’s line of vision—for instance blocking the goalkeeper’s line of vision of a shot taken by that attacker’s teammate
    • physically interfering with an opponent’s attempt to play the ball by challenging/tackling that opponent for the ball, even if it is a legal challenge/tackle
    • clearly attempting to play/receive the ball (which is close to him/her) and this action “has an impact on the opponent” (this is a tricky one to figure out for me—there are probably a lot of subtle ways that the attacker may “impact his/her opponent,” and I’m guessing that the offender does something like ‘Impedes without Contact’ in terms of his opponent’s progress towards the ball??)
    • making some obvious action/move that clearly impacts on the ability of the opponent to play the ball (for this I imagine ‘Impeding with Contact’—a Law 12 offence, a physical interference; a little easier for me to wrap my head around).

These examples of Interfering with an Opponent basically boil down (for me) to:

  • The attacker was in an OSP at the MOJ, and then interfered physically or visually with (got in the way of…) an opponent that was trying to play the ball… this is an Offside Offence (even if that attacker never touched or went for the ball!)
  • “Interfering with an Opponent” and not touching the ball is just as much of an Offside Offence as “Interfering with Play” (actually touching the ball)

Gaining an Advantage—playing the ball after a rebound/deflection/deliberate save

  • Involves being in an OSP at the MOJ and then receiving the ball (or interfering with an opponent)
  • The difference here is that we now need to take into consideration the fact that it involves some kind of rebound, deflection, unintentional contact, or deliberate save of the ball (off of someone or something)—all of these terms need explanations.
    • Rebound—means the ball has bounced off of the goalpost or crossbar after a shot on goal by an attacker
    • Deflection—usually used to describe when the ball (last touched/played by an attacker) bounces/deflects off of an opponent that was unaware that the ball was going to hit him/her; an unintentional contact made by the opponent does not ‘re-set’ the MOJ. The opponent did not intend to play/touch the ball. The ball can also deflect off of a Match Official, and this does not ‘re-set’ the MOJ either, assuming the ball was last played/touched by an attacker
    • Unintentional Contact—see Deflection; defending player does not intentionally play/touch the ball; this does not ‘re-set’ the MOJ
    • Deliberate Save—this can be a save made by any defender (player or goalkeeper), or an attempt to stop a ball ‘which is going into or very close to the goal’ with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the Penalty Area). A deliberate save does not ‘re-set’ the MOJ

So, if an attacker is in an Offside Position at the MOJ, and the ball rebounds or deflects or unintentionally glances off of an opponent (or match official) or after a deliberate save by a defender (or goalkeeper), and the ball ends up in the attacker’s lap (or at his feet)… this is considered “Gaining an Advantage” by being in an Offside Position and that attacker has committed an Offside Offence!


The only time Offside is an issue is during ‘dynamic play’ and at Free Kick restarts (not TIs, GKs, or CKs).

  • Remember to be watching out for offside during the following moments as well:
    • Offside is enforced during Free Kicks (Indirect Free Kick/Direct Free Kicks—Law 13)
      • So be alert, you diligent AR’s, during those Free Kicks for rogue attackers!
    • Offside is also enforced when a goalkeeper is releasing the ball from his/her possession. This may become an issue especially on a big punt (or throw) by a goalkeeper to a teammate that was in an “Offside Position”
      • So be alert, you diligent AR’s, on a keeper release for those rogue attackers!
      • Are they past the Halfway Line?
      • Are they past the second to last defender?
      • (They are definitely past the ball!)


Note:  “A player in an Offside Position ‘receiving’ the ball from an opponent who ‘deliberately plays the ball’ is NOT considered to have gained an advantage.”

In this scenario, “receiving” the ball means, basically, that the attacker plays/touches the ball following a touch by the defender.  This bit of the Law means that even if an attacker is in an OSP, if an opponent (essentially a defender) deliberately plays the ball (or attempts to play and just barely glances/touches the ball—or fails to direct the ball away from the attacker), the attacker would no longer be considered in an OSP (no longer considered to interfere with play, or an opponent, or gain an advantage) because the defenders/opponents last played the ball.  As long as the defenders touch/play was intentional, even if they did a lousy job of doing so–the attacker is off the hook.


Is it a Law 11 Offside Offence or is it a Law 12 Foul ???

There have recently been additions to the body of Law 11 that spell out close call situations where there is a possible Law 11 (Offside) violation and/or a possible Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) violation. The question becomes: “Do I call Offside or do I call a Law 12 offence?”

Basically, it boils down to which occurred first, the Offside Violation or the Foul/Misconduct. This distinction is an important one to make and as you become more comfortable with foul recognition and managing the fast-paced game of soccer, it will become easier to make the right call

We will be getting to Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct, on the next review of the LOTG.



There is no Offside Offence (the player cannot be penalized for being offside) if a player receives a ball directly from:

  • Goal Kick
  • Throw-In
  • Corner Kick

This translates into: You cannot be called for offside (even as a player in an offside position) if you receive the ball directly (even from your teammate) on a goal kick, throw-in, or corner kick. It feels like they are given a free pass, but for this moment only.

Once the ball is touched by another player, the offside clock is reset, and all offside rules and stipulations apply!