A lot of people new to football (soccer), or just those who have never played, have a big problem with offsides. For those who are unfamiliar with offsides. In order to be offsides a player “must be on their attacking half of the field, be involved in the play, and be closer to the goal line than the ball and any of the opposing team’s players.” It keeps people from camping out.

I played soccer for many years. I understand the need for offsides. I also understand what it is and how it works. You get used to it when you play soccer. You know what to look for and how to avoid it.

Over the past week, I have had several conversations with people who are irked by the concept entirely. Either they don’t know what it is or they’re totally confused as to why it’s called when it’s called. Tobyjoe didn’t quite understand what was happening at first. I explained it. He watched. Now, I think it makes more sense. Some people have compared soccer to basketball, which, I am told, doesn’t have such a rule.

I understand what it is and simply defining it is easy. But I am finding that I can’t articulate offsides to newbies or people who simply haven’t played the sport before. I guess I’m having trouble “selling it”. Some people think it takes the fun out of the game and destroys major breaks. So, I’m asking you, Internet. Help me do this. Help me make sense of offsides.


  1. you had a good description there

    it keeps people from camping out – you can’t put someone on the goalie and just toss them the ball whenever you want.

    it doesn’t prevent major breaks – you’re fully allowed to push ahead of the other team IF you have the ball.


  2. ever heard of “cherry-picking”…….essencially it eliminates that type of play?


  3. it’s sorta like what jonathan is saying………

    cherry picking is a term from basket ball where an offensive player such as a forward stands near the opposite teams hoop and just wats as the other team takes the ball down and scores. when they do, the cherry-picker is thrown the ball and just lays the ball right in the goal without any defensive player fast enough to protect his goal.


  4. And is that seen as annoying in basketball? Why do they allow for it? And why aren’t players totally teased for doing such a pussyish thing?

    Does it take away from the game? this technique? Why not just have two guys camp out at each one then? DOesn’t that seem silly?


  5. without offsides, you’d have people sticking by the goals and kicking the ball from endzone to endzone

    It also takes the importance off the ball and puts it on the goal.


  6. without it, it would take the importance off the ball, that is.


  7. cherry-picking is lame and you can get punched in the face at a municipal park pick-up game.

    as soccer goes, a player can be in the other end as long as a defensive player is with them. it doesn’t make sense to cover that person because the cherry-picker is taking themself out of the defensive play at the other end therefore allowing the opposing team’s offense what is called a power-play (outnumbering the defense)…..offsides localises the action and prevents trick plays that run the other team into exhaustion while the cherry-picker relaxes in the scoring zone.


  8. cherry-picking is lame and you can get punched in the face at a municipal park pick-up game.

    That’s what I would guess. Rightly so, imo. How lame is that? Fatty sitting at the goal.


  9. “as soccer goes, a player can be in the other end as long as a defensive player is with them”

    depends on the ref

    i’ve seen offsides called on a 6” lead, and i’ve seen refs let a 2” gap go

    last world cup some team’s strategy was just tricking opponents into an offsides—as soon as the ball was launched, the defense rushed midfield to trap the player offsides.


  10. Couple of important points to make – first of all, you can never be offsides in your own end (matters at end of game when one team is pouring on the pressure, and other is just trying to hold out and maybe counter).

    Second – offides is only when the ball is played forward. Backwards is just dandy. However, even if the passer is beyond the last defender, you can’t kick it forward (happened to Ghana in a WC game – 3 on goalie, and the player passed forward! NUUU!!! Offsides!! Bad form!)


  11. More relevant to last post, but since it’s old I’m posting here. First, small correction to scenarios (I think, admittedly I only skimmed the post)… first tiebreaker is goal differential, not heads up play. If I remember correctly, goals scored is also before heads up result. So, if Italy and CR tie, we need to overcome the gd with the cr – which is four goals. And then we’ll probably have the goals for tie-breaker. If Italy loses, we need to make up their goal differential – currently five.

    Here’s some fun for you:
    We beat Ghana 4-0.
    Czecks beat the Azurri 3-2
    Who goes through? Italy and US draw lots! Yup – six football matches, and it’d come down to pure luck.

    I’ll now assume it’s all crystal clear.

    Also – I have pre-approval to leave for a couple of hours on Thursday!!!! Come watch the game at the Punt with me! I have to remain on call and possibly check in at halftime, but this is so freaking cool! I’m so glad my boss is off that day. I totally owe 2nd in charge a favor.

    … now time to start thinking about how to get out for the Brazil mathcup.


  12. mathcup or matchup

    both sound cool


  13. I was a mathlete in high school, so sometimes I get confused.

    (sadly, the first part of that sentence is true)


  14. Seeing the US play Brazil would be super duper cool. That’s why we simply must win and Italy must win. Yes.


  15. Actually, the offside (not offsides) rule is as follows:

    “A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last oppenent.

    “There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from 1.) a goal kick, 2.) a throw-in, 3.) a corner kick.”

    (Above taken from Paul Gardner’s book, The Simplest Game.)

    The big change in the offside rule happened for (I think) the ‘94 World Cup when a player was allowed to be even with the second last opponent instead of in front of. Unfortunately, this rule change didn’t really clarify what exactly “even” means. As Jonathan stated above, “even” means different things to different refs in different situations. However, all of this is much better than the original rule which stated that there must be at least three opponents between a player and the goalkeeper!

    The offside trap was always been a strategy for certain teams. The Germans (fking Nazis) were notorious for this. Just as an opposing team played the ball forward, the entire German back line would step forward and – BINGO! – offsides. However, they lost the ‘86 World Cup to Argentina when Maradona (fat little b*d!) played a perfect ball to Burrechaga five minutes from time. A German defender stayed put while the rest of his teammates steeped forward. Brilliant!

    Personally, I don’t care what the US does. Win, lose, draw, stay at home, sleep in…whatever. I only have eyes for the Azzurri. Forza Italia!


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