why does soccer have offsides

Soccer has quite a few unique rules that either don’t apply to other sports or are similar to other sports’ rules but with more exceptions. Some rules may cause confusion to those who are new to everything that goes into playing a game of soccer, and that includes the offside rule. That’s what we’re here to help you understand.

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The offside rule was made to prevent players from always lingering by the opposition goal as a way to wait for opportunities to score. It keeps players moving throughout the game, instead of staying on the opposing team’s side of the field, posing an unfair advantage against the opposing team.

Continue reading to learn more about where the offsides are, as well as how and when the rule is implemented and penalized.

Where is the offside position on the field?

Offside is a position on the field that is usually nearest to the penalty box of the opposing team. What more specifically defines the offside position, however, is a player on the opposing team’s side of the field that is standing between the opposing team’s goal line and the second-to-last opponent on that side. (Reference)

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The last opponent is generally the goalkeeper, as they tend to be the furthest back and furthest away from the centerline, so they are in the last position from the middle. If the goalkeeper leaves his position from the penalty box, then another player could become the second-to-last player. For this position to be called the offside, the player must be ahead of the ball, and in front of the second-to-last player on the opposing team.

For a better understanding of this position, think of it this way: the opposing team’s goalie is in their goal line, just in front of the goal. There are no opposing players in front of you, but the closest player behind you is an opposing player.

This is an offside position because you are between both the goal line and the second-to-last player. A player considered to be in the offside position doesn’t have to be near the goal, however, they just have to be nearer to the goal than both the second-to-last opponent and the ball. If they are between the second-to-last opponent and the ball, then they are not in the offside position.

Why does soccer have offsides?

Soccer considers offside a position that is separate from the starting position because there are some instances in which players use it to their advantage while putting the opposing team at a disadvantage. If players didn’t use it unfairly to try to score goals, then it would be considered just any other spot on the field.

Instead, offsides were named to better describe and name a rule in which a player in this position uses it to deliberately wait for the ball for easier and quicker access to scoring a goal. While being in offsides doesn’t automatically constitute a foul, it does when the player abuses the position.

The offside rule

The offside rule prevents players who are in this position from lingering in this area for too long as a way to deliberately wait for the ball to be passed to him/her and immediately score a goal.

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This puts the other team at an unfair advantage while they are focused on scoring and passing the ball to one another, that they don’t have time to defend the goal because an opposing player is already near the goal, in front of all other players when the ball is passed to them.

Before the position was even given a name and widely known, the problem of people lingering in this position to easily score goals without giving the opposing players a chance to defend became so prevalent that the rule had to be implemented.

What is considered an offside offense?

Remember that a player that is in the offside position doesn’t automatically constitute an offense unless commits one of a list of offenses listed below. Generally, this is when they become involved in the play in a variety of ways while in the offside position in a variety of ways (Reference):

  • Interfering with the play by playing or touching the ball after it has been passed to them by a team-mate
  • Interfering with an opponent by preventing an opponent from playing the ball, such as obstructing the opponent’s line of sight, blocking the player, attempting to steal the ball from the player, or some other movement that prevents the player from scoring a goal
  • Playing the ball themselves or interfering with an opponent when the ball has rebounded or deflected off the goal or an opponent, as well as after the ball has been saved by an opponent

How are offside offenses penalized?

Because the referee is not always able to tell exactly where each player is positioned at all times, they often need the help of an assistant referee to keep track of when a player uses the offside position to their advantage and issue a penalty.

Whenever the assistant referee notices that an offense has taken place while the offender is in the offside position, they will signal the referee by raising their flag vertically until the referee stops the play to issue a penalty. Once the referee blows their whistle or calls for the game to stop, the assistant referee will lower their flag to indicate where the offense was located, depending on the angle at which the flag is pointed.

If the flag is angled at 45 degrees and pointing downwards, then the offense happened while the player was in the third of the field closest to the assistant referee. If the assistant referee points the flag so that it is parallel with the ground, then the offside offense happened in the middle third of the field. Then, if the offense occurred in the third of the field that is farthest away from the assistant referee, then the flag will be held at a 45-degree angle that is pointing up.

Because offside offenses can be difficult to make calls for as they can look different depending on the angle at which you are viewing the offense, the assistant referee and the referee (as well as the match official or any other witness as necessary) must agree on whether or not the action constitutes an offense.

If deemed to be so, then the referee will typically penalize the offending team by issuing a free kick to the opposing team. (Reference)

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