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LAW 1 – THE FIELD OF PLAY

LAW 2 – THE BALL

LAW 3 – THE NUMBER OF PLAYERS

LAW 4 – THE PLAYER’S EQUIPMENT

LAW 5 – THE REFEREE

LAW 6 – THE ASSISTANT REFEREES

LAW 7 – THE DURATION OF THE MATCH

LAW 8 – THE START & RESTART OF PLAY

LAW 9 – THE BALL IN & OUT OF PLAY

LAW 10 – THE METHOD OF SCORING

LAW 11 - OFFSIDE

LAW 12 – FOULS AND MISCONDUCT

LAW 13 – FREE KICKS

LAW 14 – THE PENALTY KICK

LAW 15 – THE THROW-IN

LAW 16 – THE GOAL KICK

LAW 17 – THE CORNER KICK
Official Publications Related to Law 17

ADMINISTRATIVE GUIDANCE

PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE THE WINNER OF A MATCH

THE FOURTH OFFICIAL

THE TECHNICAL AREA

Law 11 - Offside

Official Publications Related to Law 11

Offside: Gaining an Advantage

A player who is in an offside position may only be declared offside if he is involved in “active play” which means one of three factors is present:

  1. The offside player has “interfered with play” by playing or touching a ball that has been passed or last touched by a teammate. 
  2. The offside player has “interfered with an opponent” by preventing the opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or the offside player makes a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.
  3. The offside player has “gained and advantage” from being in his offside position by playing a ball (that has last been played or touched by a teammate) that has either: (a) rebounded/deflected to him off a goalpost or the crossbar; or (b) that rebounds/deflects to him off an opponent.

Remember, in each of the three cases above, the assumption is that the player was in an offside position at the time the ball was last played/touched by a teammate.

Law 11 uses the term “active play” to assist in the definition of determining an offside infringement. “Active play” is a term that varies depending upon the skill and age level of the players.

2010 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: San Jose at Chivas U.S.A. (90:00 + 2:18)
    This clip requires the officials to understand the interfering with an opponent definition. From a corner kick, the defense clears a ball that is then immediately shot into the goal from just outside the penalty area. As the ball is cleared, the defense moves out with the exception of a defending player who is covering the goal for the goalkeeper who is at the top of the goal area. Just behind the keeper is an offside-positioned attacker who is moving forward after the ball is shot by his teammate.

    As the shot moves through the penalty area and toward the goal, the goalkeeper attempts to stop the ball but is impeded through contact with the offside positioned attacker. Diagram 2 shows a still picture of the offside positioned player and the goalkeeper. This is a similar picture that must be taken by the AR and the referee (both from different angles). It is important for the AR and referee (when possible) to take a picture at the time of the shot and then carefully observe the impact of the offside player’s actions and position on the goalkeeper.

    Diagram 2 shows the attacker is interfering with an opponent (the goalkeeper) by “preventing the goalkeeper from playing the ball or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s movements.” As a result, the goal should be disallowed and the game restarted with an indirect free kick for offside.

    Note: If there is any doubt in the ARs mind relative to whether “interference with an opponent” exists, the AR should stand at attention as the ball goes into goal (do not run up the field as the AR would to signal a good goal). Prior to signaling a goal, the referee should make eye contact with the AR and, at this point, would notice that the AR is at attention indicating an issue associated with the goal. After a quick conference with the AR, the referee can make the correct offside or goal decision.

    The referee does a very good job reading the warning sign associated with the attacker going into the goal to retrieve the ball after the goal. Through urgent movement to the goalmouth, the referee prevents potential conflict (and possible misconduct) between the goalkeeper and the attacker who has gained possession of the ball.

  • Video Clip: Los Angeles at Real Salt Lake (79:20)
    This clip provides a good example of an attacker gaining an advantage from being in an offside position. There are two offside positioned attackers at the time the ball is played by a teammate. The ball is first played by an attacker. Immediately after the attacker plays the ball, the ball rebounds or deflects off the defender to an offside positioned teammate of the attacker. The offside positioned player should be declared offside as he gained an advantage from being in an offside position.

    Why is this a rebound and, therefore, offside? Although the ball comes off the defender, he does not have a “controlled” play of the ball. In addition, the defender is only a foot or so away from the attacker at the time the attacker plays the ball. As a consequence, the defender cannot play the ball. This play is not a misplay or a result of poor execution by the defender.

    The AR should raise the flag for offside as the offside positioned player gained an advantage from his offside position. An indirect free kick should be awarded for offside.

    Although the situation would not have developed if there was a correct interpretation and application of the offside law, the referee is required to caution the goal scorer for unsporting behavior as the result of his removing his shirt to celebrate a goal being scored.

    Note: In cases where the offside player is so clearly in an offside position (approximately five yards behind the second-to-last defender), the referee is encouraged to take ownership of the infringement. The referee, clearly seeing that the attacker has “gained an advantage from being in an offside position,” should make the offside call. Or, minimally, consult with the AR immediately following the scoring of the goal.

  • Video Clip: San Jose at Los Angeles (71:01)
    It is standard practice, at all levels, for attacking teams to place a player in front of or near the defending goalkeeper at the taking of a corner kick. This player is hoping to distract the keeper and make his play on the ball more difficult as well as hoping to use his position to play a ball in his vicinity. The positioning of the attacker near the goalkeeper should be a warning sign for referees and ARs as the position can lead to pushing and shoving as the goalkeeper, other defenders and the attacker jockey for the most advantageous position.

    This clip illustrates the effect of an attacker positioning himself in the line of vision of the goalkeeper during the taking of a corner kick. The effect, in this case, is realized as an attacker redirects the ball toward the goal and a teammate is situated directly in the goalkeeper’s line of vision to the ball. For the purposes of this clip, assume that the attacking team plays or directs the ball toward the goal.

    As soon as the AR determines that the ball is played, touched or shot to goal by an attacker, the AR must then assess the position of the furthermost attacker and determine if he is in an offside position. In this case, the attacker situated in front of the goalkeeper is in an offside position as there is only one player (the goalkeeper) between him and the goal line.

    Lastly, the AR must decide if the offside positioned play “interfered with an opponent” by negatively impacting his ability to play the ball. This can be assessed using the two questions provided:

    1. If the potential offside player was removed from the picture/play, would the goal still have been scored?
      In this case, a goal is not scored directly from the first attacker’s touch of the ball.
    2. If the potential offside player was removed from the picture/play, would the opponent (frequently the goalkeeper) have been able to make a reasonable play for the ball (prevent the goal or be able to play the ball)?
      The offside positioned player is standing directly in the goalkeeper’s line of vision to the ball and prevents the keeper from having a clear view of the ball as it moves toward goal. If the attacker, in the offside position, were removed from the picture/play, the goalkeeper would have had a better opportunity to play or save the ball. Therefore, this player should be judged to have “interfered with an opponent” and offside as he clearly obstructs the goalkeeper’s line of vision.

    In summary, the AR must determine:

    1. Who last played/touched the ball: An attacker or defender.
    2. If any attacker is in an offside position at the time the ball is played/touched by an attacking teammate.
    3. Does the offside positioned attacker “interfere with the opponent” (goalkeeper) by restricting his movement or play on the ball or by negatively impacting his line of vision to the ball and, thereby, affect his ability to make a play on the ball.

    Note: In cases where an AR is unclear as to whether an offside positioned player either “interfered with an opponent” or “interfered with play” (played/touched the ball) and a goal is scored, the AR should stand at attention at the corner flag and refrain from running up the touchline which would normally signal a goal. By standing at attention and keeping the flag down, the AR is letting the referee know that there is a potential issue with the goal that has been scored and that the referee’s perspective is needed to assist with the decision. Often times, the referee is better positioned to make the determination as to whether an offside positioned player has “interfered with an opponent” as the referee’s angle of view is best suited for determining the impact the offside player had on the opponent. Additionally, the referee can often help with the “interfering with play” decision as the referee may be closer to the attacker who may have played or touched a ball.

  • Video Clip: San Jose at Los Angeles (58:42)
    The offside decision in clip 2 requires the AR to rapidly evaluate two offside criteria: Interfering with play and interfering with an opponent. This decision requires acute concentration on the part of the AR as there is a player in an offside position who attempts to play the ball on the backside of the goalkeeper as well as an onrushing attacker on the far side of the goal who is onside.

    The AR must make two determinations:

    1. Did the offside positioned player “interfere with play” by playing or touching the ball passed by his teammate?
      In this case, the offside positioned player does not play or touch the ball. As a consequence, he cannot be declared offside for “interfering with play.” In making the “interfering with play” determination, match officials should not consider an attempt to play the ball as is the case in this clip because to have “interfered with play,” the player in the offside position must play or touch the ball.
    2. Did the offside positioned player “interfere with an opponent” by preventing the opponent (goalkeeper, in this case) from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s (goalkeeper’s) line of vision or by obstructing his movements?
      Watch the offside positioned attacker’s run. It is made outside the goalkeeper’s direct line of vision of the ball. Since the run is made from the backside of the goalkeeper, this player does not prevent the keeper from playing the ball or from being able to play the ball. In addition, because the offside positioned player is approaching from behind the goalkeeper, he is not making a movement or gesture that can deceive or distract the goalkeeper and, therefore, prevent him from playing the ball.

    The referee team is correct in awarding the goal as the offside positioned player has not interfered with play or with an opponent. Watch the video, as the play is briefly frozen (just before the pass), notice the goalkeeper’s focus: It is fully on the ball and not on the offside positioned player.

  • Video Clip: Motagua (Honduras) at Toronto – CONCACAF Champions League (9:58)
    The concept of differentiating between playing and rebound examined as it relates to offside decisions. Remember, playing the ball by the defender should not be confused with a rebound or deflection in which the defender does not have the opportunity to play the ball.

    This clip is an example of the ball rebounding off the defender. The defender does not have a “controlled” play of the ball, which is evidenced by the fact that he has to lunge to make contact with the ball and the ball deflects off his foot. The defender does not have a clear opportunity to control or play the ball due to its distance from him, and is merely attempting to reach out and block the pass from reaching its intended target. As a result, the decision to penalize for offside is correct.

  • Clip: Chivas USA at Seattle (58:52)
    A free kick is awarded in the wide channel of the field near the AR. Twelve players are positioned inside the penalty area in the drop zone looking for an advantage. The referee shows initiative by recognizing a potential problem that could result from pushing, shoving and holding in the penalty area as players jostle for position on the free kick. By holding play up and stepping toward the players, the referee sends a broadcast message or warning to prevent a foul from being committed.

    After sending his message, the referee whistles for the free kick to be taken. From the restart, an apparent goal is scored. However, the goal scorer (the player who plays the ball directly from the free kick) is correctly judged to be offside due to his offside position at the time the ball is played by his teammate (from the free kick) and the fact that he “interferes with play” by playing/touching the ball. Err on the side of the attacker cannot apply in such obvious situations.

    This correct decision is aided by proper AR positioning and the AR’s ability to copy or imitate the movement of the second-to-last defender by sidestepping. As a consequence, the AR is positioned to make the best possible decision. Finally, the AR uses the “wait and see” approach to offside decisions by holding the flag until he is certain that the offside positioned player “interferes with play or an opponent.”

  • Clip: Los Angeles at Seattle (25 seconds)
    A mere 25 seconds into the game, the AR is faced with a potential game-changing offside decision. An offside decision that tests the AR’s ability to be focused immediately from the referee’s first whistle. The AR cannot be caught up in the atmosphere or environment of the match and must be prepared to make the tough decision for the entire 90 minutes of the game.

    Aside from the pressure on the officials due to the atmosphere of the stadium and the fact the game is only seconds old, this correct offside decision is complicated due to the time between the original shot and the moment that the offside positioned player gains an advantage from being in an offside position. Approximately two seconds elapse between the shot and the offside player touching/shooting the ball.

    These two seconds are vital. The AR must have taken a picture or snapshot of player positions at the time of the shot as this is a phase of play. This picture, detailing all player positions, cannot be discarded until the second phase of play occurs (the ball being touched by another attacker for instance). Despite the two seconds, the AR must freeze player positions in his mind and not lose track of these positions even though there is a shot on goal.

    Simply, ARs cannot assume the goalkeeper will gain clear possession of the ball or deflect the ball over the goal line for a corner kick. Prepare for the worst possible scenario. Cement pictures of player positions in your mind until the next phase of play occurs.

    The AR makes the correct offside decision that disallows the goal as two attackers are in an offside position at the time the ball is played/shot by their teammate. This decision provides an excellent example of how focus and concentration play a key role in offside decisions. The AR must refrain from flagging offside until such time as one of the offside positioned players gains an advantage from their position. This is the case as soon as the attacker touches the ball.
2009 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: Galaxy at New York (34:48)
    This clip involves the concept of “active play.” This is a professional game. Hence, the skill level of the players is very high. As a consequence, the area of “active play” is small. To “interfere with an opponent,” the offside player must be much closer than at the non-professional or youth levels where the skill level of the participants may not be as high.

    This clip provides an example of a situation where “interfering with an opponent” is not a factor and play should be allowed to continue. Despite the closeness of the offside positioned attacker (white jersey), the attacker has not entered the area of “active play” and therefore does not “interfere with the opponent’s” ability to play the ball. A player at this level should be able to cleanly play or head the ball despite the location of the offside attacker.

    The following items are key visual indicators that should assist in making a no-offside decision:
    • The defender has plenty of space to cleanly head the ball. The offside positioned attacker is not the cause of his misplay.
    • The offside positioned attacker declares himself not involved in “active play” by freezing and not making a move to play the ball or interfere with the defender’s ability to play the ball.
    • The offside positioned player does not “interfere with play” as he does not play or touch the ball that has been passed by his teammate.
    • In general, this is not offside at most levels but certainly not at the professional level. Assistant referees (ARs) must refrain from indicating offside until one of the three factors are present. Use of the “wait and see” principle will aid in correct decision making and ensuring the area of “active play” is appropriately defined relative to “interfering with an opponent.” ARs should take their time, evaluate all the visual signs and then make a definite decision regarding offside.

  • Video Clip: Galaxy at New York (41:14)
    Clip 2 involves all three offside concepts: “gaining an advantage” by being in an offside position, “interfering with play” and “interfering with an opponent.” In this situation, the referee team uses sound judgment to decide that the offside position player should not be sanctioned for being in an offside position at the time the ball was played by a teammate.

    From approximately 30 yards from goal, an attacker takes a shot. At this time, there is a teammate of the attacker (white jersey) in an offside position in the penalty area. The goalkeeper makes a diving save but is unable to maintain control of the ball and it deflects/rebounds off his hands. The rebound goes to another attacker who was in an onside position and outside the penalty area at the time of the shot. This onside positioned attacker shoots the ball which again deflects/rebounds off the goalkeeper.

    Let’s evaluate each of the three offside concepts and see how they apply to this no offside call:
    • Interfering with play
      The offside positioned player does not touch or play the ball after it deflects directly off the kicker. He moves toward the ball but he does not touch it and he stops his run when he realizes his teammate will play the ball. Consequently, this player has not interfered with play.
    • Interfering with an opponent
      There are two instances where the offside positioned player has the opportunity to “interfere with an opponent.” The first instance occurs on the initial 30-yard shot on goal. Although the player is in an offside position, he is not obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision as he is not in the direct path of the ball and the goalkeeper is not prevented/distracted from clearly seeing the ball as it approaches him. The second opportunity to “interfere with an opponent” comes after the keeper makes the save and while the ball is rolling free. At this time, the offside positioned attacker makes a move toward the ball as if to play it, while at the same time, a defender is making a run to get to the deflected ball. Although both the defender and the offside position player cross paths, the offside positioned attacker does not obstruct the defender’s movement or ability to get to and eventually play the ball.
    • Gaining an advantage
      Remember, “gaining an advantage” can only occur when an offside positioned player plays/touches a ball that deflects/rebounds off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent after the ball has last been played/touched by a teammate. In this case, although the ball deflects off the goalkeeper, there cannot be an offside infraction for this component of the Law due to the fact that the offside positioned player does not touch the ball.

      Match officials and particularly ARs need to remember the following statement. It is the first sentence of Law 11 – Offside:
    • It is not an offense in itself to be in an offside position.
    • Once offside position is determined, the offside player must be involved in “active play” by:
    • Interfering with play; or
    • Interfering with an opponent; or
    • Gaining an advantage from being in an offside position.

      Once one of these three components is present, the AR should raise the flag to indicate offside.

      The “wait and see” principle must be applied in this offside/no offside decision. When two attackers (one offside positioned player and on onside positioned player) go for the ball, apply the “wait and see” principle to see who touches the ball and, therefore, “interferes with play.”
2008 (Click to view/hide)
No material on this topic for this year. Click prior years' tabs below to view information for those years.

Does the Player Have to Touch the Ball? – When it Becomes Interference with Play

On August 24, 2006, USSF issued a memorandum based on the developing interpretation and application of Law 11 which specifically laid out the proposition that “interfering with play” requires either touching the ball or making a credible move to play the ball.  Acting to avoid contact (if successful) does not meet either of these criteria.  An attacker in an offside position must act (touch the ball, move to the ball, interfere with an opponent, block an opponent, distract or deceive an opponent) to be declared offside.  Action to avoid involvement (if successful) must be excluded. 

2010 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: Chivas USA at Galaxy (78:09)

    This clip provides two opportunities for the AR to show his understanding of “interfering with play.” In a span of 13 seconds, the AR must make two offside decisions, neither of which are easy. In order to correctly judge both decisions, the AR must be focused and not affected by the speed of play or the nearness of players to the passed/touched ball.

    The first AR decision involves an onside positioned player streaking for a lobbed pass and a player in an offside position. The nature of the pass (lobbed over the top of the defense by an attacker) presents a challenge for the AR as its speed, trajectory and angle provide the opportunity for multiple attacking players to play/touch the ball.

    By using “wait and see,” the AR is able to determine which player “interferes with play.” The additional time provided by using this technique ensures the AR correctly applies the “interfering with play” definition. Although the offside positioned player takes a few steps toward the passed ball, this player does not play or touch the ball and, hence, should not be declared offside. The ball is played by the onside positioned player who gathers the ball behind the defense. The “wait and see” technique gives the AR a few split seconds to interpret the actions of each attacking player and, then, make the correct decision to keep the flag down.

    Note: As you view the video clip, focus on the ARs position just prior to the ball being passed. The AR is moving laterally (sidestepping) while keeping his shoulders square to the field and play.

    Once this initial offside decision is made, the AR continues his run this time staying aligned/even with the ball which is nearer the goal line than the second-to-last defender. After the ball rebounds off the goalkeeper, the AR must now be properly positioned to make a second offside decision. At this moment, an attacker is in an offside position behind the goalkeeper with only one opponent between him and the goal line.

    The AR decides that this offside positioned player “interferes with play” by touching the ball last played by his teammate after it rebounds from the goalkeeper. The well-positioned referee, seeing the ARs offside flag, agrees that the ball was last played by an attacking teammate and signals for offside. If the referee felt that the ball was last played by a defender prior to the offside positioned player touching the ball, the referee may allow play to continue and overrule the AR by a quick wave of the hand.

    Note: At times, referees may be better positioned to see which player (attacker or defender) last touched/played a ball prior to an offside positioned player touching the ball. In addition, there may be times in which the referee has more time to determine factors like “interfering with play,” “interfering with an opponent” and “gaining an advantage by being in an offside position.” In such cases, the referee may overrule the AR with a quick acknowledgement that the flag has been seen but play will be continued. This acknowledgement or signal should be discussed in the pregame meeting by the referee crew.

2009 (Click to view/hide)
No material on this topic for this year. Click prior years' tabs below to view information for those years.
2008 (Click to view/hide)
Consider the following video clip for an example:

  • Video Clip: New York at FC Dallas - In a match on April 15, 2007, between the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas (clip attached), Red Bulls player #19 (Richards) shoots on goal.  The ball is stopped and deflected by Dallas goalkeeper #1 (Hislop) but it goes to Red Bulls player #11 (van den Bergh) who takes another shot on goal

When van den Bergh strikes the ball, his teammate, Mathis (#13) is in an offside position – indeed, Mathis is just barely above the goal line on the right hand side of the goal – and the ball is moving directly toward him.  Mathis jumps up and the ball passes under him into the net for a score.

The following issues and concerns are raised by this scenario:

    • The only action Mathis took was to avoid contact with the ball.
    • In so doing, he did not block an opponent’s movement or vision or deceive or distract an opponent.
    • Mathis did not commit an offside violation because he was not actively involved in play by interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage.

Referees should remember that a scenario such as this one, which might have been called differently in years past, must now meet more stringent standards for an offside violation.  Although the basic requirements for an offside violation under Law 11 remain the same, our understanding of how to implement these requirements has been evolving to match the modern game. 

In the following example, we see a classic example why it is important for ARs to “hold the flag” on offside decisions to determine if a player in an offside position is actually the one to become involved in play and thus be officially declared “offside:”

  • Video Clip: LA Galaxy at Chivas USA - In a match played in Los Angeles on April 28, 2007, an incident took place which is a classic example of one of the most contentious issues in the offside decision – two attackers pursuing the ball, one coming from an offside position and one coming from an onside position.  The incident also emphasizes the vital need for officials to avoid hasty decisions and to wait to see how the play develops.

    In the 86th minute, Galaxy #24 (Sturgis) played the ball forward into space.  At the time, Galaxy #11 (Jaqua) was in an offside position near the center of the field and his teammate, Galaxy #10 (Donovan), was onside well behind the second to last defender to Jaqua’s right.  Both attackers reacted almost immediately and began sprinting hard to the ball.  Although Donovan started about three yards behind his teammate, he had pulled level with him within the next few strides.  There is no indication that Jaqua interfered with any opponent.

In situations where an attacker is coming from an onside position and another attacker coming from an offside position, each with an equally credible chance of getting to the ball, it is imperative that officials withhold a decision until either it becomes clear which attacker will get to the ball first (even if this means having to wait until one or the other player actually touches the ball) or the action of the attacker coming from the offside position causes one or more opponents to be deceived or distracted.

AR Offside Decisions

ARs are not to raise the flag unless 100% sure that the player in an offside position is the one involved in the play. 

2010 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: Philadelphia at Seattle (80:41)

    In this clip, the AR disallows a valid goal for a nonexistent offside. At the time the ball is passed by the wide attacker, both attacking players are in an onside position. Hence, either attacking player could have played the ball and not be considered offside. A goal should have been given in this case. Given the close nature of the play, the AR should also consider U.S. Soccer’s advice to ARs: give the benefit of doubt to the attack and if in doubt, keep the flag down.

    The ARs decision is complicated by the fact the player who passes the ball is very wide, up the touchline from the AR. This makes the ARs view of the ball difficult as he must be able to see the touch of the ball as well as the offside line. In order to assist the AR with making the correct decisions, ARs are encouraged to consider stepping back from the touchline a yard or more. By taking a step or two back, the AR widens his peripheral vision and increases the likelihood that he has a better view of the wide attacker’s pass of the ball.

  • Video Clip 1: New York at San Jose (76:10)
    In clip 1, the AR makes a great “no-offside call” despite the fact that the goal scorer receives the ball several yards behind the second-to-last defender and looks to be offside. This decision is complicated by the fact that the second-to-last defender is running in an opposite direction compared to the attacker and the fact that there is a long distance between this defender and the attacker. This ARs decision leads to attacking soccer and a goal. Image 1 helps to depict many of the positive factors involved and shows the position of the attacker at the moment the ball is played or touched by his teammate.

    What did the AR do to ensure he made the correct decision?

    1. Utilizes sidestepping
      Play and players are moving at a pace that allows the AR to sidestep and keep his shoulders square to the field resulting in a more acute view of the position of all players and the ball. The AR’s lateral movement allows him to react more quickly to the attempt by the second-to-last defender to step-up and place the goal scorer in an offside position. Watch the replay closely and see how the AR is able to react, at the last second, to the quick step of the second-to-last defender.
    2. Uses field markings
      The AR utilizes the field markings (the top of the penalty area) to assist in the decision. The penalty area line can provide excellent demarcation and a firm reference point for the AR to determine player position at the time the ball is played by the attacking team.
    3. Gives the benefit of doubt to the attacker
      This is a close decision, a matter of a few feet that are made even more difficult due to the movement of the second-to-last defender that attempts to place the attacker in an offside position. This is a perfect candidate for the AR to keep the flag down.

  • Video Clip 2: Los Angeles at Colorado (54:04)
    Clip 2 is an excellent clip to compare with clip 1 since both involve many of the same factors: The second-to-last defender running up field to attempt to place the opponent in an offside position, the distance between this defender and the streaking attacker and the availability of field markings to assist in the decision. Unfortunately, in this clip, the AR makes an incorrect offside decision (by raising the flag) and therefore denies a valid attack on goal.

    Evaluate Images 2 and 3. Together, with video clip 2, they draw a good picture of the offside scenario. A factor leading to the AR missing this decision is his position which is not evident on the clip or in the images, he is several yards behind the second-to-last defender. By lagging behind, he skews his view and perspective resulting in the attacker looking further advanced (in an offside position) than he actually is.

    Image 2 shows the availability of the grass cutting to assist the AR in making a correct offside decision. The attacker who is called offside is three or more yards behind the grass cutting. The second-to-last defender, on the other hand, is on the other side of this reference point at the time the ball is played by the attacker’s teammate. At the youth and adult levels, this type of marking may not be available but the concept of finding other reference points is a good tool to improve decision making.

    Image 3 more clearly shows the position of the second-to-last defender, at the time the ball is passed, as it relates to the grass cutting.

    When two players, separated by a great distance, are running in opposite directions, it increases the difficulty of the ARs decision. Hence, proper alignment/positioning with the second-to-last defender is critical in ensuring a good decision as is the use of field markings.

    Note: ARs should incorporate the use of reference points to assist in making offside decisions. Reference points can be grass cuttings/lines, stadium signage, field markings (like the top of the penalty area or American football lines) or other points like sideline marks or points.

  • Video Clip 3: Los Angeles at Seattle (13:46)
    Although not evident, prior to the offside decision presented in this clip, the AR correctly makes four other correct offside decisions

    (in the first 14 minutes of the game). As a result, the AR may have a mental mindset regarding offside. Although difficult, ARs must refrain from establishing preconceived notions about offside and handle each situation individually. Each offside decision must be made on a case-by-case basis.

    In this clip, the AR incorrectly calls an attacker offside from a long, diagonal pass into the penalty area. This decision, takes away an attacking opportunity. Image 4 shows the relative closeness of the positions of the attacker and the second-to-last defender. This is a perfect candidate for giving the benefit of doubt to the attacker.

    The AR is well positioned to make the call (as Image 4 illustrates) but must show restraint in raising the flag. Total concentration on the offside line and the ball (at the time it is passed by the attacker’s teammate) must be practiced.

    According to the AR, the following are the factors that led to the incorrect decision and the adjustments he needed to make to get it right:

    Negative Factors Influencing the Decision

    • Player movement in opposite directions: The defender is moving out while the attacker is moving in.
    • Could not pick up the movement of the ball. Due to the distance of the long pass to the player declared offside and the number of bodies (players and referee) between him and the ball, the AR could not pick up the flight of the ball until it was approximately ten yards or more off the attacker’s foot. By this time, the attacker was in an offside position.

    Getting it Right

    • Rely on your instincts: In situations like this (distance is involved and a blocked view of the ball), ARs must “feel” when the ball is played and based the decision on this. Experience should tell you when the ball was played once you have it in sight. Once the AR sees the ball in flight, the AR must correlate the ball’s distance and moment it was played (10 yards previous) with the movement and position of the attacker running to play the ball.
    • Go with “sufficient doubt:” Due to the “negative factors” described above and your instincts, there should be sufficient doubt in the ARs mind and, as a result, the AR should keep the flag down.

    Even a properly positioned AR’s decision can be influenced by other factors. This is why the task of running line is not an easy one and requires full concentration and the ability to assimilate multiple inputs of information quickly. ARs must be able to “feel” offside situations by assembling the pieces of the puzzle together to make the most educated decision using the mindset of giving the benefit of doubt to the attacker by keeping the flag down when there is reasonable uncertainty.

    Note: Offside decisions involving attackers and defenders running in opposite directions are, for the most part, the most difficult and problematic for ARs. All three clips involve opposite runs (defender running up-filed to attempt to put the attacker in an offside position and an attacker running toward goal). ARs must be focused and have the ability to anticipate the move of the defender(s) to ensure that they are positioned appropriately. ARs must possess the ability to change direction and transition from running to sidestepping or from sidestepping to running in order to maintain strict alignment with the offside line.

  • Video Clip: New England at Real Salt Lake (44:34)
    The attacker who scores the goal is correctly declared offside as he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent at the time the ball is passed to him by his teammate.

    The AR is able to make this decision as he is correctly aligned with the second-to-last defender and is able to maintain the speed necessary to remain in the correct position. In this case, play (player movement and speed) does not lend itself to sidestepping and having shoulders square to the field. Due to the fast movement of the offside line, the AR must run forward to maintain the appropriate alignment. Sidestepping would place the AR several steps behind the second-to-last defender and potentially negatively affect the offside decision.

    The AR also has the aid of field markings to ensure the correct offside decision is made. In this case, the line marking the top of the penalty area and the grass cutting can help the AR decide defender and attacker position at the time the ball is passed forward.

  • Video Clip: Chivas U.S.A. at Toronto (31:06)
    In this clip, the AR correctly gives the benefit of doubt to the attack. The AR demonstrates an understanding of the attacking philosophy as it relates to offside decisions and keeps the flag down thus rewarding the spectators with a goal.

    This is a difficult decision requiring focus and concentration on the part of the AR as the ball is quickly touched by an attacker without a “real” play. The AR is able to quickly process the last “touch” by the attacker and visually identify that the goal scorer is even with the second-to-last defender. In order to correctly apply the attacking philosophy and make the correct no-offside decision, the AR must also be perfectly positioned (directly aligned with the second-to-last defender), with his shoulders square to the field, as he is when making this decision. Image 2 shows the position of the goal scorer and the AR at the time the ball is “touched” by an attacker.

  • Clip: New England at Dallas (92:37+)
    With the game in additional time and the losing team attacking, the referee crew must be prepared for quick counter attacks and/or long passes directed toward the penalty area or streaking forwards. The losing team will be looking to generate an attacking opportunity to tie the game. Often times, the quickest, most direct route is a long ball over the top of the defense, into the attacking third or directly into the penalty area.

    In this clip, there are three quick, one-touch passes or plays of the ball. Combine these immediate touches of the ball with the quick movement of players and the result is a difficult offside picture for an AR to assess and evaluate. To assist in making the correct decision, the AR must be able to take a snapshot (picture) of player positions each time the ball is played/touched by an attacker. An example of the type of snapshot ARs must make is shown in Image 1. By taking a picture at each phase of play and freezing player positions in their mind, ARs can now utilize the wait and see approach to make a determination as to whether an offside positioned player has:
    • Interfered with an opponent
    • Interfered with play
    • Gained an advantage by being in an offside position

    Once an offside positioned player has engaged in any of these three actions, the AR can then raise the flag to indicate offside has occurred.

    Although the AR’s position can be improved in this clip, the decision is correct and leads to the game’s tying goal. The AR uses his experience and is able to utilize the field markings (top of the goal area) to aid his decision. The AR’s snapshot gives him the information he needs to evaluate the potential offside scenario:

    • Location of furthermost attacker
    • Location of the ball
    • Location of the second-to-last defender
    • Which player/team last plays/touches the ball

    As Image 1 illustrates, the player who scores the goal is onside at the time the ball is played to him by his teammate. The line indicating the top of the goal area provides a visual clue to the AR as to the relative position of the goal scorer (furthermost attacker) and the ball at the time it is played by a teammate. The goal scorer is behind the ball and, thus, cannot be in an offside position regardless of the position of the defenders. Notice that the location of the ball is on the goal area line while the goal scorer’s entire body is behind the ball and the goal area line. Hence, there is no offside position.

    It is important for ARs to continue their runs as the ball advances and to follow the ball as close to the end line (goal line) as possible. It is important that ARs not slow down because they believe the play may be over or because a shot may occur instead of a pass. Keep running (stay with the second-to-last defender or the ball whichever is furthermost advanced) until the ball is out of play.

  • Clip 2: New England at Dallas (4:08)
    This is the same game as clip 1. However, this is in the first five minutes of the match, while the first offside scenario was in additional time. These two clips illustrate the need for ARs to be focused for the entire game (90 minutes or more). From the first whistle to the last whistle, it is imperative that ARs keep their mind on the game and remain fully alert.

    In clip 2, the first goal of the game is approximately five minutes old and a goal scored. It is a difficult decision for an AR as the play involves a one-touch pass and there are multiple players (including defenders) moving forward with three attackers in position to play the pass. In addition, the second-to-last defender (who is also pushing out) is furthest away which creates a depth perception problem for the AR as there is a lot a space between him and the “pack” of players.

    Through concentration and being able to take a snapshot (similar to Image 2 – although it is slightly after the ball has been passed and not at the exact moment), the AR can make an educated offside decision. Since there are multiple attackers who have the ability to play the passed ball, the AR must wait to see who actually “interferes with play” by playing or touching the ball that has just been passed/touched by a teammate.

    The AR’s positioning and movement allow him to have the best sightlines to make the decision. The AR is able to maintain strict alignment with the next-to-last opponent by mimicking the movements of the field players by sidestepping. Additionally, an optimal view of the ball is maintained because sidestepping allows him to keep his shoulders square to the field and thereby monitor the ball as well as the offside line and the attackers.
  • Clip: Houston at D.C. United (58:57)
    In this clip, a goal is disallowed for an errant offside flag. Once again, the use of the snapshot or picture would aid the AR in evaluating the position of every player. This is especially critical when an offside decision involving “gaining an advantage from being in an offside position” is involved. Why? Because of the time between the last play/touch of the ball by the attacker (including the rebound off the goalpost, crossbar, goalkeeper or opponent) and the time the ball is actually played/touched by a potentially offside positioned teammate of the attacker.

    Note: ARs must keep the picture embedded in their mind until the next phase of play despite the decision making time lapse. Concentration and focus are critical as the AR must not allow other distractions to erase the picture from their memory.


  • Clip: Chivas USA at Los Angeles (57:00)
    This clip concerns another situation involving a long ball or long pass. In this scenario, it is clear that the AR is well positioned and moving appropriately with the second-to-last defender (the offside line). This decision may be complicated due to the fact that the AR is running forward to maintain alignment with the speed of the offside line and, therefore, his peripheral vision (view of the ball as it is passed) is impacted. Concurrently, the quick forward movement of the defender to attempt to place the opposing attacker in an offside position complicates the AR’s decision.

    The AR does have the ability to use the field markings (grass cutting) to assist with deciding player positions. As Image 1 depicts, the furthermost attacker is in an onside position at the moment the ball is played/touched by his teammate.

    There is another factor for the AR to consider when preparing for a potential offside decision. An AR who has done their homework will be cognizant of the fact that the player who will make the long pass has a history of playing these type of balls.

    Note: At all levels, an understanding of the players and their abilities or skill set can help match officials anticipate decisions and the next phase of play.

    Once again, if the play/touch of the ball is on the fringe of the AR’s peripheral vision, the AR will need to incorporate the philosophy of relying on your instincts to aid in making a correct decision. Using this skill along with utilization of the field markings, should provide the AR with sufficient information to decide that the streaking forward is in an onside position at the time the ball is played by his teammate and should, therefore, keep the flag down and allow attacking play to continue.

    Because this occurs early in the second half, it is vital that the AR start the half focused and not allow the halftime break to negatively affect concentration levels.

  • Clip: New England at New York (90:59)
    With the game in the first minute of second half “additional time” and one goal the difference on the scoreboard, the AR is faced with a difficult offside decision caused by four factors:
    1. The last attacker to play/touch the ball one touches it forward even though he has time and space to maintain possession.
    2. Attackers and defenders are running in opposite directions. Some defenders are pushing up to attempt to put the forward running attacker in an offside position. 
    3. There is a lot of distance or space between the attacker that receives the ball and the second-to-last defender. 
    4. It is late in the game and the AR must resist fatigue and ensure that they are focused and are concentrating. Minds must be ready to make decisions for the entire 90 plus minutes of the match and cannot lapse or rest.

    Watching the play live, the attacker who scores the goal appears offside. Why? Because the picture is not complete. The replay shows the second-to-last defender is near the AR placing the furthest most attacker a yard or so onside. Consequently, a fully focused AR is able, through focus and concentration, to ensure that none of the aforementioned four factors negatively impact the correct decision to give the benefit of doubt to the attack and allow play to continue. The use of the grass cutting can also help the AR with making an accurate decision.

  • Clip: Dallas at Los Angeles (21:10)
    Clip 3 represents another exceptional decision by the AR to keep the flag down and award a goal when faced with a close offside decision. This clip presents two decision-making points for the AR as there are two attackers with the opportunity to play the ball:
    1. Are either of the furthest most attackers in an offside position?
      By using the grass cuttings on the field and optimal positioning, the AR can determine that neither of the attackers are in an offside position at the time the ball is played by their teammate. Relative position is measured by the attacking player’s torso, head and legs. No part of the attacking player other than the arms may be nearer the opponents’ goal line than the torso, head or legs of the second-to-last defender. If there is any doubt in making this decision, the flag should be kept down thereby giving the benefit to the attack.
    2. Who plays the ball?
      If the AR had decided that the furthest attacker was in an offside position, the AR must use the “wait and see technique” to determine which attacker actually plays the ball passed to them by their teammate in the wide channel. In this case, by holding the flag and refraining from making an immediate decision, the AR would be able to determine that the player who “interferes with play” and scores the goal is in an onside position.

    Note: “Interfering with play” means that the offside positioned player actually plays or touches the ball last passed or touched by a teammate.

    In this clip, the AR makes a good no-offside decision due to optimal positioning (directly in-line with the second-to-last defender and shoulder square to the field) and by giving any benefit of doubt to the attack.

2009 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: D.C. United at Chivas USA (24:30)
    Prior to the decision shown in this clip, the AR has been required to make two other close offside decisions that were questioned. As a consequence, the AR may still be questioning himself and thus may have lost focus and concentration.

    At the moment the ball is passed by his teammate, virtually the entire body of the attacker is in front of the second-to-last defender. Hence, there is no benefit of doubt to the attack in this situation. The attacker should be declared offside once the AR has determined that he is “interfering with play.” According to the Laws of the Game, the player should be declared offside because, at the time the ball is passed by his teammate, he has “interfered with play” while being “nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.”

    Notice how the AR is running forward when the offside pass is made. While the AR is running forward, the defender is moving in the opposite direction. The AR has not given himself the best opportunity to get this decision correct because he is running forward and not sidestepping. Sidestepping would enable him to move with more precision and match the precise movements of the defender and, therefore, be more accurately positioned to make a split second decision.
  • Video Clip: Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles Galaxy (50:54)
    A corner kick is taken which then results in a pass or service from the other side of the field into the penalty area. At the time of the service (51:00), four attackers in the penalty area are in onside positions because they are NOT “nearer to the opponents’ goal line.”

    However, as the ball reaches its intended target, it is deflected off the head of a defender to one of the onside attackers (even though the attackers are in an offside position at the time of the deflection, they cannot be declared offside because they were onside when the ball was last played/touched by a teammate).

    One of the attackers then shoots the deflected ball at goal. At this point, a new phase of play begins and a new judgment point for offside is initiated. At the time of the attacker’s shot, a teammate has slipped to the ground directly in front of the shooter. Despite the fact the player is laying on the ground, his feet and his body are closer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender. As a result, he is in an offside position and if he plays or touches the ball, he should be declared offside.

    Although it is not evident in the clip, the offside positioned player on the ground is hit by the ball when it is shot by his teammate. This means that he has “interfered with play” and must be sanctioned for being offside and the goal disallowed. It does not matter where the ball contacted with player or the fact that he did not intentionally/deliberately play/touch the ball. The mere fact that the ball touches an offside positioned player requires that he be called offside.

    This is a difficult decision for the AR because the AR does not have a clear view of the ball contacting the offside positioned player on the ground. The AR does, however, have the best view to judge that the player is in an offside position.

    The referee on the other hand, is best positioned to recognize the fact that the ball makes contact or is touched by the offside positioned player. As a consequence, it is important that the referee team bring these separate pieces of information together to make the correct decision. The following are some recommendations:

    1. The referee has to sense that the player on the ground may be in an offside position given his location and the location of the defenders. Because he senses a potential issue, once the ball is in the goal, the referee should have an extended look at the AR. This may require the referee going to the AR to confer even if the AR has run up the field to indicate a goal. If the AR has started his run up the touchline to indicate a goal and the referee starts to approach him, the AR should discontinue his run and await the referee.
    2. The AR can see, by the sudden bounce and elevation of the ball after the shot, that its trajectory or direction may have changed. The combination of the change in trajectory and the offside player being in line with the direction of the ball, should add to the “warning signs” that something may be wrong.
    3. Both the referee and the AR can read the defending player reactions. Although not always the best indicator, in this case, the defender closest to the player on the ground raises his arm to indicate offside. Using this “sign” for assistance, the referee has additional reason to consult with the AR. The AR also has additional reason to consider connecting with the referee.
    4. If the AR is unsure whether the player either interfered or participated in the play, he should stand at attention and not run up the touchline (running toward the halfway line indicates a good goal). The referee should then see that that AR has not run up the touchline and approach him to confer.
    5. At the professional level, this is a perfect situation for use of the RefTalk communication devices. Both the referee and AR can “compare notes” prior to making a final decision.

    All in all, teamwork and taking the time to ensure a correct decision is made should prevail. Experienced match officials need to “sense” an issue based upon the warning signs (player positions, ball trajectory, player reactions) explored above.

  • Video Clip: Dallas at Colorado (78:41)
    A quick “give and go” pass is executed by the attacking team. It occurs to the side of the penalty area of the AR. The decision regarding offside position is complicated due to the distance between the attacker making the through run and the three defenders spaced across the middle of the penalty area some 10 yards from the runner. The distance and the space between the three defenders can cause depth perception issues. Therefore, the AR must be totally focused on the ball, the attacker making the run and the three defenders positioned 10 yards further into the field.

    The AR must be positioned optimally. In this case, being in line with the second-to-last defender is not sufficient. The AR must also attempt to have his shoulders square to the field. By having his body square to the field, the AR has the best view of all the factors needed to make a clear decision: the ball, the runner and the three defenders. An AR who runs forward and looks over his shoulders, as in this case, limits the ARs angle of vision.

    Play is moving sufficiently slow that the AR can be sidestepping and, thus, be square to the field and not have to look over his shoulder to make a decision. Closely examine the last replay to see if you have the capability to sidestep in this situation given the speed of play and the fact that the second-to-last defender is also sidestepping.

    The running attacker is in an offside position at the time the ball is passed/played to him by his teammate. This attacker is clearly “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” than the second-to-last opponent at the time the ball is played. Furthermore, this offside positioned attacker “interferes with play” because he plays/touches the ball passed to him by a teammate. At the time the ball is passed, a sufficient amount of the offside positioned player’s body is past the second-to-last defender to indicate there is no benefit of doubt for the attack. As a result, the goal should be disallowed and an indirect free kick awarded to the defending team for an offside infraction.

  • Video Clip: Seattle at Houston (46:25)
    AR awareness, focus and concentration are vital skills for making correct offside decisions. In this clip, the AR demonstrates the need to maintain focus and concentration while mentally processing offside decision points during a sequence of three separate attacking team “touches” of the ball which occur in a short time span.

    Notice the time of the match: 46:25. The second half is just over a minute old. The referee team must be ready and alert at all times. It is easy to return to the field after the halftime break relaxed and inattentive. Concentration is mandatory at all times.

    1. The first decision point
      The give-and-go through ball played to the attacking team’s (blue jersey) forward penetrating behind the defense down the left flank.
    2. The second decision point
      When the ball is played back across the top of the goal area to the trailing teammate (No. 6).
    3. The third decision point
      Occurs at the moment the trailing attacker (No. 6) touches the ball forward past the on-rushing goalkeeper who is unable to play the ball. The touch by the trailing attacker goes directly toward his teammate who, at the time of this touch, is in an offside position.

    The offside position can be confirmed due to the fact that, at the moment No. 6 (trailing attacker) touches the ball past the opposing goalkeeper, his teammate is ahead of the ball with only one defender (the orange jersey player who is running to cover the goalmouth for the keeper) between his position and the goal line. Just before No. 6 can get a second touch on the ball to shoot at goal, his offside positioned teammate plays (touches) the ball into the goal.

    As a result of his “touch” of the ball, the offside positioned player interferes with play and should be penalized for an offside infraction. The AR makes a correct decision to disallow the goal for offside.

    AR focus and awareness is needed to recognize the goalkeeper moving forward from his goal line position past the attacker as, now, the ARs normal second-to-last defender view is changed. Having the visual and mental acuity to make this change/adjustment is critical to making the correct offside decision.

  • Video Clip: Dallas at San Jose (81:00)
    This video clip illustrates two critical and correct decisions made by an AR using the “wait and see” principle. In this clip, find the attacking player moving in an offside position and within yards of a passed ball that cuts through the defensive line. ARs must be able to identify this offside positioned player. Next, look for the run made by another attacker from an onside position at the moment the ball is played/touched by a teammate. The AR must recognize that there are two players who are able to become involved in “active play.”

    Once both players are noted, the AR MUST “wait and see” to determine which of the two attackers (offside or onside positioned) are involved in “active play” by interfering (touching the ball). In this situation, the player in the offside position should not be declared offside because he has not:

    1. Interfered with play
      He has not touched or played the ball that has been passed by a teammate.
    2. Interfered with an opponent
      He has not prevented an opponent from being able to play the ball.
    3. Gained an advantage from his position
      The ball does not rebound off the goalpost/crossbar or off an opponent.

    The second critical and correct decision involves the pass leading to the shot and goal. In this case, the attacker (the same player who was in an offside position on the prior phase of play) is behind the ball at the time it is passed to him. In other words, he is not in an offside position due to the fact he is not nearer his opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent.

    This second decision could easily have been missed if it were not for full concentration and proper positioning. Seconds before this second decision, the AR had to make another critical decision which could have left him questioning his call and, thus, unfocused and doubting himself. The AR successfully puts the first assessment (prior phase of play) aside and does not allow it to cloud any decisions that follow. When vital decisions are made, officials must be able to immediately put them aside and continue. Time spent questioning or over-assessing a call can lead to memory lapses, poor positioning and/or lack of proper attention being given to subsequent decisions.

  • Video Clip: Dallas at San Jose (77:22)
    This example comes from the same game as video clip 1. With the score tied and more than 12 minutes remaining, teams are pushing for the potential winning goal. As the attacker penetrates into the attacking third with a piercing run with the ball, a teammate runs into a supporting position in the wide channel. While this player runs with speed into his supporting flank position, the defense moves up (in a direction against the run and the movement of the ball) in an attempt to place the wide channel attacker in an offside position (the “offside trap”). Each of the following components make this a difficult decision but one that ARs must be able to make and must be correctly positioned to make:
    • Speed of play
    • The long distance between the AR and the wide channel attacking player
    • The long distance between the wide channel attacker and the second-to-last defender who is attempting to put the attacker in an offside position
    • The opposite direction of the runs of the second-to-last defender and the wide attacker

    Image 1 illustrates the competing forces (players running different directions) and the distances involved. Decisions like this highlight the need for ARs to be able to quickly change direction with the second-to-last defender. Training methods for ARs must incorporate transitional running and change of direction mobility exercises geared at enhancing the ability to transition from sidestepping to sprinting and from sprinting to sidestepping while preparing the AR to change directions without losing a step on the offside line. As shown in Image 1, the AR is not properly in line with the second-to-last defender and, thus, has a skewed and incorrect view of the positions of the player (note the location of the AR relative to the white offside line – there is a difference of several yards – at the time the ball is passed by an attacker). The result, an incorrect offside decision that takes away a reasonable opportunity to attack to goal.

  • Video Clip: Real Salt Lake vs. Galaxy (11:50)
    It is not often that ARs are required to make offside decisions from the taking of a corner kick. As a consequence, it is easy for the AR to lose focus and lose track of the landscape surrounding the taking of the corner kick. In the modern game, more often than not, defending player(s) are guarding one or both of the goal posts and the goalkeeper is a yard or so off the goal line. The result is that the two defenders stationed on the goalposts often determine the offside line and not the goalkeeper and a defending player (ARs are used to the goalkeeper being one of the “last two opponents” for determining offside position). Remember, it is the last two opponents (regardless of who those two defenders may be) that play a factor in determining an attacker’s offside position. ARs must be cognizant of the mix of players as a corner kick is developing and be able to identify the last two defenders.

    In this clip, a short corner is played and an alert AR realizes that there are no players on the goalposts and, in fact, the second-to-last defender is approximately three yards from the goal line. The player taking the corner kick therefore is in an offside position once he puts the ball into play because he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent.

    Once the ball is touched or played by a teammate, the player taking the corner kick can be penalized for being in the offside position and involved in active play once the kicker:
    • Interferes with play, or 
    • Interferes with an opponent, or 
    • Gains an advantage by being in that position.

    The attacking teammate touches the ball for the kicker to then service the ball. Although this is not a pass, per se, it is a touch of the ball which leads to the original kicker “interfering with play” by way of his touch of the ball. Remember, the AR makes the offside position decision at the time of the freeze frame shot in the video clip (when his teammate touches the ball). Confusion can arise because the kicker may seem to be in an onside position when he crosses the ball but this is not the moment of decision making.

    So, the AR does a good job recognizing that the player was in an offside position and must be penalized for this offside position once he “interferes with play” by touching the ball.

    Finally, the referee does a nice job to ensure the approximate restart position of the ball once he has awarded the indirect free kick for offside. As is common practice, teams attempt to advance the location of the restart several yards forward to gain an advantage. The referee, in this case, decides that the team has attempted to advance the ball too far and requires them to move it back. Offside restarts are taken from the position of the offending player when the ball was last played to him by his teammates. When managing restarts, referees need to pay closer attention to the location of the restart the closer the ball is to the attacking goal.

    Video Clip: Real Salt Lake vs. Galaxy (85:47)
    The AR is challenged by an offside decision in the far channel, across the field. Concurrently, the AR has two retreating defenders who are attempting to maintain their shape but also slow down in order to place the running attacker in an offside position. In order to correctly judge offside position, the AR must be directly aligned with the second-to-last defender. In this clip, through proper positioning and concentration, the AR is able to correctly determine that the attacker was in an offside position at the time the ball was passed to him by his teammate and he “interfered with play” by playing the ball once it was passed to him. Overall, a tight but good offside decision.

    Video Clip: Real Salt Lake vs. Galaxy (81:36)
    Clip 4 illustrates how proper AR positioning and sidestepping can aid in ensuring a critical decision is made correctly. As the clip is viewed, focus on the AR and not on the decision. The AR is directly aligned with the second-to-last defender. Additionally, the AR is using sidestepping to keep his shoulders square to the field and to improve his line of vision as it relates to offside positions. By sidestepping, the AR is able to clearly see the ball, the defenders and the attackers. More importantly, sidestepping gives the AR the opportunity to instantaneously adjust to the quick and compact movements of the defenders which is often prevalent when play is around the penalty area. In other words, by keeping shoulders square to the field, not only is the vision of the AR extended but the AR is able to better “shadow” the movements of the second-to-last defender. The ARs correct offside decision is aided by this intelligent AR-ship.
2008 (Click to view/hide)
The following video clips provide emphasis to points that can be considered in aiding ARs in making the correct decision on difficult calls during games:

  • Video Clip: DC United vs Kansas City.  One of the most difficult decisions for ARs is the situation in which a defender moves forward, and an attacker simultaneously moves towards goal.  Making this decision even more difficult is that the ball is generally played from a distance away from the receiving attacker.
  • Video Clip: Columbus vs. NY (31:12) a close decision is made even more difficult since the movement is directly in front of the AR.  AR makes right decision to keep flag down.  Note the AR position with body square to the field as the ball is played ensuring a view of the full field of play.

Several factors can contribute to an ARs ability to make a correct, split-second decision under difficult circumstances:

  • Incorrect Timing – Judgment by the AR was made a split second late likely because the AR did not identify the precise moment that the pass was made (see item 2).  In these situations, a fraction of a second makes a significant difference.
  • Concentration on Entire Field of Vision – In order to identify precisely when the ball was played, the AR must be concentrating on two things simultaneously:
    • o    Release of the Ball
    • o    Position of the Attacker relative to Second to Last Defender

In clip #1, the ARs concentration on the entire field was compromised by the act of actively looking at one, and then the other as he walked up field(the 0.2 second delay as the head moves contributes to the error).  In this situation, the AR needs to “see” both without sacrificing one for the other.  Peripheral vision is the critical component to making a correct decision in this case.  The AR must be square to the field, side-stepping to maintain the position, and must see the release point, the attacker, and the second to last defender simultaneously without need to move eyes or head.

  • Score Line / Time of Event –several situations may occur to impact an ARs decision making:
    • o    Fatigue on the part of the AR may have come into play as halftime nears.
    • o    A 1-0 score line in one team’s favor might contribute as well (Thinking: “Don’t want to give that team an undeserved 2nd goal).  This type of thinking needs to be removed from an ARs mind and the situation judged objectively. 
  • Comfort Zone – With only a few minutes remaining in the half, ARs can easily slip into a “comfort zone” and as they look to halftime, causing focus to fade momentarily.  Body language of the AR in clip #1 indicates that he was caught “watching play” as it came towards his half, and then was caught off guard for the last touch forward by the attacking teammate.  ARs must remember their primary responsibility to focus on the offside decision and not get wrapped up in watching play develop.

On close decisions, ARs must hesitate in raising the flag until they are certain that the player in the offside position is indeed the one who plays the ball.  In the words of MLS, this promotes “Free-Flowing, Attacking Soccer.”  As part of this referees, take note:   there may be the need to have a quick second look at the AR as some flags are coming a bit delayed as total concentration is on showing restraint raising the flag until they are 100% certain the player has played the ball (interfered with play) or gained an advantage.  Referee teams should discuss this in their pregame to determine how the delayed flag should be handled.

  • Video Clip: Chicago at San Jose (86:25).  AR2 holds the flag on a situation in-close to goal.  Two attackers (one onside position and one offside) have the opportunity to play the ball.  You can see in the video that the AR exhibits patience and HOLDS the flag until the offside positioned player actually plays the ball.  Great job showing RESTRAINT.
  • Video Clip: Colorado at New England (26:40).  Two attacking players are moving for the ball.  However, the onside player actually plays the ball while the player positioned offside pulls away and, therefore, does NOT gain an advantage by being in the offside position.  A quick flag is NOT needed.  When more than one player has the opportunity to play a ball and that player is onside at the time his teammate plays the ball, the AR must show patience and await the outcome – unless a potential collision may occur.  The following is from the AR’s self-evaluation which was very well written:

“Mansally is in the offside position and I am even with the 2nd last defender when the ball is played and start shuffling down the field to be even with the ball. I see Cristman heading towards the ball as well.  As the ball lands I saw it touch Mansally.  After reviewing the situation from the angle of the TV it does not touch him and I should have left the flag down and let it go. I have to have better concentration on this situation and closely look at where the ball lands and the position of the player it is landing near as well as the distance to his teammate. The defender hesitates as he sees it landing as well.  But that should not matter. I should have left it down.”

  • Video Clip: NY at Dallas (65:40).  Dallas gets a breakaway on a close offside.  Keeping the flag down results in a GOAL.  This was not an easy call as the attacker is running diagonally and there are several defenders spread-out across the field.  Patience pays dividends and AR2 should be applauded for allowing play to continue.
  • Video Clip: Chivas at Columbus (56:25).  The attacker is flagged for being offside but the replay shows that the situation is close enough to warrant keeping the flag down.  If it is not CLEARLY OFFSIDE, give the benefit to attacking soccer.
  • Video Clip: Toronto at Galaxy (36:30).  There are 2 players who have the potential to play the ball.  This is an important indication for the AR – restraint is needed when more than 1 player can get the ball.  Look at the actions of the offside attacker.  Knowing he is offside, he stops his run and the onside attacker runs through.  ARs must have a wide peripheral perspective and know that there is the possibility of another player becoming involved.  In this case, the AR is square to the field so he should have the wider view.  Patience.  Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.
  • Video Clip: DC at Colorado (32:40). This is the classic “wait and see” example.  Excellent work by the AR to hold the flag until he is certain who will play the ball.  As the kick is taken, notice that there are two players potentially in offside positions.  One of the players actually moves toward the serviced ball.  However, the player shows that he is not participating by stopping his run.  A player who starts his run 8 yards onside, receives the ball.  It is very tempting to put the flag up as soon as the offside player moves to the ball but a strong AR will show restraint and wait to see who participates.  Key is the ability of the AR to assess the situation and wait to see who touches the ball – the onside player or the offside player.
  • Video Clip: Galaxy at RSL (42:15). This decision is very unfortunate as it takes away a potential game winning goal as the score is tied 2-2.  At the professional level, this type of decision cannot be made as the attacker is at least 1 yard onside when the ball is passed by his teammate and there is plenty of time and space for the AR to make a proper decision.  Notice the ARs position, 2 or more yards behind the second-to-last defender.  Therefore, the ARs view of the goal scorer is skewed.  With the ARs position, the goal scorer will seem to be in a more advanced position than he is in actuality.  We must get this right!
  • Video Clip: Dallas at San Jose (64:47). This is a difficult offside decision for the AR to make because the defender and the attacker are running/moving in opposite directions (often considered an offside trap).  However, the defender moves up too late thereby putting the attacker 1 yard or so onside.  The AR must be positioned correctly (shoulders square to the field) and must give the benefit of the doubt to the attack.  This clip provides a good example for giving attacking soccer the benefit.  In slow motion, you can see the attacker is onside.  Do not be anxious with the flag, show restraint. 
  • Video Clip: Dallas at RSL (24:22). The focus of this clip is the assistant referee’s positioning.  Keep your focus on the assistant and where he is stationed as the flag is raised.  You will need to pay close attention as the replay is shown.  Ask yourself:  “where are the defenders when the assistant referee raises his flag?”  There are two defenders on the goal-line.  The question then becomes:  “where should the assistant be situated?”  According to U.S. Soccer‘s standard procedures, the assistant should be on the goal-line positioned with the second-to-last defender. Instead, he is approximately two yards off the line.  Concentration and focus on the defenders is critical.  You must know where they are and where the ball is.  You cannot ball watch.  It is not easy but it is a requirement of a top-class assistant referee.
  • Video Clip: New England at Chivas (2:17). Again, a similar scenario as the prior clip.  A goal line situation in which the ball is close to the goalmouth.  Once more, focus on the assistant’s position.  Then look for the position of the second-to-last defender – on the goal line.  The assistant referee must be positioned on the goal line with the second-to-last defender.  This decision is even more difficult as there is an attacker on the goal-line also – just outside the goalpost.  A seemingly easier decision just got more difficult with the addition of the attacker.  Assistant referees must not get caught ball watching and must remain in the correct position to make a split second offside decision.
  • Video Clip: Chicago at Dallas (20:33 – second half) This clip provides an excellent example of an AR who follows the guidelines set forth by U.S. Soccer relative to offside.  The AR applies the “WAIT and SEE” principle and exhibits patience in determining “involvement in active play.”  As the pass is made up the right flank, freeze the picture and take a mental snapshot of the position of the furthest attacking players – the players who have an opportunity to play the ball.  This is the same snapshot the AR must take as the ball is played by an attacker some 30 yards away.  Taking this picture is not easy as the AR must use his peripheral vision due to the distance from which the pass is made and the varying location of the two attackers who have the opportunity to play the ball.  Due to the counter attack style of many MLS teams, ARs must always be prepared for the long ball out of the defensive half of the field.  Notice how the wing attacker, as the ball is struck by his teammate, starts his run in his own half of the field (therefore he is not in an offside position).  However, ARs must also read that the center attacker making his diagonal run from an offside position and, if he becomes involved in active play, must be declared offside.  From the time the pass is made to the time the AR raises his flag for offside is approximately four seconds, a long time but an appropriate amount of time given this is the time needed for the AR to determine that the center attacker will:
    • Interfere with play - In other words, play or touch the ball passed by a teammate.  Remember, the pass does not have to be intended for the offside player who eventually plays/touches the ball.
    • Become the only player who has the opportunity to play the ball - Once it becomes clear that the only player who can play the ball is the player in the offside position, the AR will flag for offside even if he has not touched the ball.

Despite the fact that the ARs run and late flag look awkward, as he does in this case, the AR should continue sprinting with play until he is certain the offside player interferes with play.  Then, as soon as the AR determines the offside conditions exist, he should stop his run and raise the flag.  Remember, if there is any potential for a collision with the goalkeeper or other opponent, the AR needs to indicate the offside sooner thereby preventing a dangerous situation from arising.  If the ball were to go directly to the goalkeeper and there was no challenge by an attacker, the AR can keep the flag down and allow play to continue.

  • Video Clip: Kansas City at Toronto (90:56 – additional time) - From a free kick, approximately 30 yards from goal, the attacking team places five players in the penalty area.  Just prior to the ball being serviced, they make a break toward goal to get a step on the defense.  Through good peripheral vision, the AR must be able to clearly identify their position as well as visually see the touch of the ball by the player taking the free kick.  As the ball is being played, the AR must then take a snapshot of the positions of the defenders and attackers in the target zone (center of the penalty area).  In this case, there are three attackers who have the ability to play the ball.  However, only one of the three attackers is in an offside position at the time the ball is played by his teammate.  The AR shows patience by keeping the flag down so that he can observe which of these three players actually play/touch the ball.  By utilizing the “wait and see” principle, the AR can correctly identify the offside player as participating or interfering in play and, therefore, raise the flag to indicate offside.  If the ball would have been played by any other attacking player, there would have been no offside (at the moment the free kick was taken, they were in an onside position).  The AR correctly disallows the goal for offside.
  • Video Clip: FC Dallas at Colorado (86:25) – This video clip is a classic example of a player who is in an offside position being declared offside for “gaining an advantage by being in that position.”  A player who is in an offside position at the time the ball is played by a teammate is considered to be gaining an advantage by being in that position when he “plays a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.”  In other words, an attacker (in an offside position at the moment the ball is played by a teammate) must be declared offside if they play a ball that has rebounded off any part of the goal or the goalkeeper (in this case).

    Off a long throw in, the ball lands around the penalty mark and is poorly cleared to the top of the penalty box by the defending team.  At this point, an attacker drives a shot that the goalkeeper is unable to hold.  The ball rebounds from the goalkeeper and it is then kicked into the goal by a teammate of the attacker.   The referee, based upon appropriate advice from the AR, correctly disallows the goal for offside.

    ARs must be alert and be able to quickly identify attacking player positions when play is around the penalty area.  This is especially true as there is very little reaction time for ARs as the penalty area is normally very congested with bodies moving in a multitude of directions.  Additionally, the speed at which the shot takes place provides additional complications as it gives very little time for the AR to make a mental note of player positions.  An experienced AR is able to take a snapshot of defending and attacking player positions at the moment the ball is shot.  This snapshot gives the AR a frozen image of player positions until the next phase of play.

    Given the requirements of the Law 11 – Offside, the ball rebounding off the goalkeeper or goal does NOT constitute a new phase of play.  Consequently, the AR must keep the same snapshot that he took at the initial shot on goal as the rebounding of the ball does not nullify an offside position that existed at that time.

    Of special interest is the position of a second offside attacker at the time of the shot.  This player, to the goalkeeper’s left, may also be declared offside if the AR and referee believe that this player’s offside position “interfered with an opponent” by preventing the opponent from playing of being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements.   The opponent that would be “interfered with” in this clip is the goalkeeper.  Look at the attacker’s position at the time of the shot.  The attacker is not only in an offside position but he may be judged to be in direct line of the goalkeeper’s vision of the ball as it is shot.  If this is the case, this player can also be considered to be offside and may be punished for being offside.

  • Video Clip: Galaxy at FC Dallas (35:41) - This clip not only displays an exceptional decision by the AR to keep the flag down but it also shows the speed at which the game is played.  As you view the clip, take note of the following items as they play significant roles in the ARs ability to make the correct decision:
    • Notice that the time from when the attacking team wins the ball in the defensive third (35:41) to the time the offside decision is required to be made (35:47) is only six seconds.  This points to the fact that ARs must not let their guard down and must be concentrating at all times regardless of where the ball is on the field.
    • Notice the distance that the ball travels in this six second period – approximately 30 – 40 yards and from the defensive third to the halfway line.
    • The attack involves only three or four quick touches of the ball initiated in the defensive third of the field.  The ball never stops moving.
    • Watch the runner who receives the ball and scores the goal.  He begins his run on his own half of the field and is sprinting at a high speed.  His speed increases the difficulty level for the AR.  It requires total concentration and pinpoint positioning to be able to judge the position of the sprinting forward at the time the ball is played to him some 25 yards away.
    • The location of the second-to-last defender also complicates the matter. His distance from the speedy attacker makes the ARs judgment significantly harder.  Improper position of the AR (one step ahead or behind the second-to-last defender) will cause the true offside line to be lost and may lead to an incorrect flag.  The further the distance between a defender and the attacker lends itself to the opportunity for misjudgments due to poor angles.
  • Video Clip: Galaxy at FC Dallas (18:45) - Wait and see:  often the most critical factor in an ARs success when multiple players (one of whom is onside) have the opportunity to play a ball passed to space by a teammate.  This play is no different.  As the ball is dropped behind the defense by an attacker, there is a teammate clearly in an offside position.  This player makes a run at the ball but he NEVER touches it.  At the same time, another attacker makes a run from an onside position some 10 yards behind the second-to-last defender.  This onside attacker has the possibility to play the ball. 

    ARs must recognize that there are two players who have the opportunity to play the ball and, consequently, show restraint in making a decision until the offside positioned player actually “interferes with play” or “interferes with an opponent.”  In this case, the offside player does neither.  He does not “interfere with play” because he does not play or touch the ball that has been played/touched to him by a teammate.  In addition, he does not “interfere with an opponent” because he does not prevent the opponent from playing or being able to play the ball.  The opponent is poorly positioned and no contact is made with the offside player which may obstruct the defender’s movements to the ball.  The quick and ill-advised flag denies the attacking team the chance to go to goal.

    ARs are required to “wait and see” the outcome of the pass and the actions of the attacking players before deciding whether offside exists or not.  The fact that two players (one onside and one offside) are moving toward the passed ball is a clear signal to the AR to have patience and apply the “wait and see” principle.  ARs must be able to be focused on the offside line but must also have a keen sense of the position of onside players and their potential for participating in the play.  A broader yet focused view of the field will aid in applying the “wait and see” principle.
  • Video Clip: Real Salt Lake at Houston (15:42) - This correct decision on the part of the AR requires total concentration, excellent positioning, and the patience to see the play develop.  This is a complicated decision due to many factors:
    • The flat defense - The fact that four defenders are flat (in a virtual single line) and are spread out across the field creates depth perception issues.  This is complicated by their attempt to stop their runs to “place” the attackers in an offside position just as the attacker makes the through pass (offside trap).
    • The three attackers running forward - The attacking team has three simultaneous players running to goal.  The players are separated by distance thereby creating gaps between themselves and the defenders.  These gaps make it more difficult for the AR to assess the positions of the players at the time the ball is played by a teammate.
    • The distance the ball and the passer are from the AR - The attacker who makes the through pass is close to the far touchline (approximately 60 yards from the AR) and 20 yards behind the last line of defense.  The AR must be able to concurrently see the touch of the ball and immediately judge the position of the defenders and attackers.

In order to successfully make the correct call, the AR must be able to assess these three factors as well as take a snapshot of the position of the attackers and defenders at the moment the ball is played/passed by the attacker.  The AR must then store that snapshot by utilizing the “wait and see” principle and then assess which attacker actually interferes with play.  Finally, once the AR observes who interferes with play, he must immediately refer to his snapshot to decide if the player who interferes was in an offside position at the time the ball was played by his teammate.


As this clip plays out, the difficulty of the decision can be appreciated.  Look at the clip in full speed and try to make the decision.  Then, utilize the freeze frame perspective to make the final decision.  The player who scores the tying goal is in an onside position at the time his teammate passes the ball.  A second attacker, closest to the passer, is an in offside position; however, he does not interfere with play or with an opponent.  The third attacker also runs through but he too does not interfere with play or an opponent even though he starts his run toward the ball.  Remember, “interfering with play” is defined as:  “playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate.” 

  • Video Clip: Galaxy at Chivas USA (61:56) - With the score tied 1-1, a goal by either team can be a significant advantage going into the last 18 minutes of the match.  An attack is initiated from approximately 90 yards from goal.  The attack consists of only three players touching the ball over the 90 yards.  This style is indicative of play in MLS and requires ARs to be focused at all times and ready for quick transitions over long distances.

The ability to simultaneously view the offside line and the passed ball when there is considerable distance separating the two is vital for AR success.

Despite appeals by the defense, the goal is correctly awarded as the benefit of doubt is given to the attacking team.  The AR starts slightly behind the fast moving second to last defender as evidenced by the “offside line” graphic.  However, he quickly closes the gap and is closer to the offside line as the final pass is made. 

As the final pass is executed in the penalty area, the ball is delivered to an attacker who is even with the second to last defender.  According to the Laws of the Game, “A player is not in an offside position if he is level with the second to last opponent.”  In this clip, a well timed run and pass ensure that the attacker is in an onside position.  In close offside situations like this, ARs are instructed to give the benefit of doubt to the attacking team.  In other words, should the AR have any doubt or question regarding the onside or offside position of the goal scorer, the AR should keep the flag down.

  • Video Clip: New England at Toronto (22:21) - The AR makes a good offside decision because he is able to exercise patience until the play fully unfolds and it becomes clear which player is involved in “active play.”  Despite the ball seemingly being directed to the player in the offside position awaiting the service at the penalty spot, this player should not be declared offside because he has NOT:
    • Interfered with play:  he has not touched or played the ball.  The ball goes over his head and he makes no contact with it.
    • Interfered with an opponent:  he does not prevent an opponent (by obstructing their path) from getting to the ball or from playing the ball nor does he prevent the goalkeeper’s line of vision.
    • Gained an advantage from being in an offside position:  the ball does not rebound off the post, crossbar or opponent.

Since none of the three elements have occurred, the AR is correct in allowing play to continue.  It is not offside.  Notice how a second runner comes through and plays the ball.  This is permitted as this runner was in an onside position at the time the ball was played/serviced by his teammate.  It is easy for an AR to be tempted to raise the flag as the ball looks like it is headed to the player in the offside position.  Restraint and patience are required to get this call correct.

  • Video Clip: New England at Toronto (52:59) - The team with possession of the ball leads the match 1-0.  They win possession of the ball on their attacking half and start to goal.  Now, put your AR hat on.  Before the clip commences, think “wait and see” and think “interfering with play.”  Play the clip.  When it is seen in full motion, what was your impression:  offside or not?  Goal or no goal? 

This is a difficult decision that requires the AR to possess attributes of patience and assessment.  Patience to see the end result of all of the attacking players’ actions before making a decision.  Assessment in order to observe the potential options (whether they play out or not) of the looping touch behind the defense by the rushing attacker.

    • Interfered with play:  the player in the offside position does NOT interfere with play as he NEVER touches or plays the ball.  An offside player may make a run/movement toward a passed/touched ball but until he touches/plays the ball, he cannot be declared offside unless the referee/AR determines that there is a potential collision or injury situation that may result from allowing play to continue too long.
    • Interfered with an opponent:  an opponent is not hampered or prevented from playing the ball by the offside positioned player.  There is no contact or obstructing of the path of the defenders.  The fact that the defenders stop their run to the ball, awaiting the offside decision, should not be a consideration as they have not been “interfered with” by an opponent.
    • Gained an advantage from being in an offside position:  the ball does not rebound off the post, crossbar or opponent.

Ultimately, the original attacker should be considered to have played the ball to himself.  It was a long touch followed by a long run, resulting in a shot and a goal.  Therefore, given the analysis above, offside did NOT exist and play should have been allowed to go uninterrupted.

This decision is complicated by the movement of the offside player toward the ball, the time it takes for the original attacker to regain possession of the ball, and the fact that the defenders stop their runs and raise their hands begging for offside.  ARs are not permitted to consider these actions in their decision as they are not factors in the three elements of “involvement in active play.”

Lastly, the referee and AR can consider the possibility of a collision with the goalkeeper but it is clear, in this case, that the distance between the ball/play and the keeper are great enough to eliminate such a possibility and the need for a quick flag.

This example is the embodiment of the “wait and see” principle.  With so many factors transpiring at once, the successful AR will show restraint and will wait to observe the results of the players’ actions prior to making a decision.

  • Video Clip: Colorado at Real Salt Lake (51:55) - The AR makes a courageous and correct decision to disallow the goal as the goal scorer “gained an advantage from being in an offside position.”  At the time of the original shot, the AR decided that the goal scorer was in an offside position.  At this time, the AR should take a snapshot of player positions and store that picture for future reference if needed – which occurred in this case.  As soon as the first shot is taken, the AR must change his focus to following the ball to the goal line but must not lose the snapshot taken at the time of the shot.  Once the ball rebounds off the goalkeeper, the AR must then recall the snapshot and “wait and see” which attacker now plays the ball:  the more central onside attacker or the wide attacker in the offside position?

Once the wide attacker, in the offside position, plays the ball after it rebounds off the goalkeeper (the opponent), he should be judged to have “gained an advantage.”  The last freeze frame view of the clip is needed to fully appreciate the accuracy of the AR’s decision as it shows (with the aid of the football lines) that the supposed goal scorer was in an offside position at the time of the original shot.  A world-class decision by the AR.

Remember, ARs must take a snap shot/picture each time an attacker plays the ball.  The picture must be stored in the AR’s databank until that phase of play is over (for example, until another attacker touches or plays the ball).  It is often difficult to maintain that databank given the time it takes for the next phase of play to be realized.  Hence, successful ARs must fully concentrate and must possess the ability to stay focused and possess the ability to keep clear pictures over extended periods of time while under pressure.

  • Video Clip: New England at Columbus (66:30) - This is a very close offside decision.  At question in this video clip is the position of the attacker who eventually scores the goal:  was this player even with or ahead of the second to last defender at the time the ball was played by his teammate?  Remember, the Laws of the Game state:
    • “A player is in an offside position if:  he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent;” and
    • “A player is not in an offside position if:  he is level with the second last opponent.”

In addition, the Laws define “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” as meaning:

  • “Any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.  The arms are not included in this definition.”  

The reason the “arms are not included” in the definition is because a player cannot score a goal with the arms and, therefore, if the arms are nearer the goal line, there is no advantage gained by the attacker.

Considering the aforementioned statements in the Laws of the Game, the AR must make a split second decision to determine if the furthermost attacker is “nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.”  In evaluating the video clip, it is not clear that the attacker is “nearer” at the moment the ball is played by his teammate.  Consequently, the fact that it is not clear means that “doubt” exists and the AR – as he has done in the clip – must then give the benefit of the play to the attacking team.

Officials, particularly ARs, cannot be influenced by the defender’s actions:  hands up appealing for offside, stopping their chase of the ball, and verbal appeals for offside.  The offside decision must be made based upon the facts at hand.  Notice the position of the AR and the referee.  First, the AR is directly in line with the second to last defender and therefore is able to make the best possible decision regarding offside/onside position.  Second, the referee has done a good job of staying close to play on the counter attack and positioning himself wide enough to have a good view of the attacking player positions and actions in the event he was required to make a decision on “interfering with play or with an opponent.”

  • Video Clip (Added 9/25/2008): DC at Galaxy (45:04+) - Just before halftime, a surprising one touch through pass is made to an attacker who has attempted to time his run in conjunction with the pass.  The one touch pass can catch an unaware or unprepared AR off guard.  In this clip, however, the AR is focused on the task at hand:  the ball, the line of defenders and the attacker’s run.  Timing is critical in making the correct decision as is the ARs ability to instantaneously filter the decision making factors and make an accurate onside or offside call.

At first glance, it looks as though the AR has made a poor decision.  The speed of play and the fact that the defenders are flat footed (stationary) while the attacker is running diagonal/forward add to the difficulties facing the AR.  Even the first replay from the side angle does not support the decision on the part of the AR.  It is only at the last freeze frame picture that the ARs decision can be appreciated.

This freeze frame picture is the same picture the AR must take during dynamic play and the picture must be broad enough to catch and consider all the factors raised above.  From this picture, the AR must make a split second decision to keep the flag down or to raise it and deny the attack.  The defender in the middle of the field puts the attacker in an onside position at the time the ball is played by the attacker’s teammate.  Therefore, the AR makes a correct decision that provides a scoring opportunity for a team and increases the entertainment value for the spectators.

Offside:  Defender Off the Field

If a defending player deliberately steps behind his own goal line in order to place an opponent in an offside position, the referee shall allow play to continue and caution the defender for deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission when the ball is next out of play.  That did not happen in this situation.

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2008 (Click to view/hide)
By now, many of you have seen and/or heard about the controversial goal in the Holland vs. Italy match in Euro 2008.  Despite its controversy, the referee team was correct in allowing the goal and in their interpretation of Law 11, Offside.  Below, we will review the decision and explain why many announcers were doing the game a disservice by providing incorrect information to the fans.

Video Clip: Holland vs. Italy (25:17) - Review the video clip and ensure you clearly see the situation as it develops.  At the end of the clip, there is a better graphical display of the position of the players.  Then, consider the following analysis:

  • The Situation - During a free kick by the Dutch team, the Italian goalkeeper pushes his own defender out of the way and off the field, where the defender and a Dutch attacker are both down.  The Dutch attacker rises quickly and returns to the field.  The Italian defender remains off the field.  The ball is played away from the goal and is kicked back to a Dutch player who has the Italian goalkeeper between himself and the goal line and the Italian defender lying on the ground outside the field.   The ball is crossed and redirected into the goal by the attacker.
  • The Question - Should the Dutch attacker who scored the goal have been called offside?  He had only one opponent between himself and the goal line.  There was an opponent lying on the ground just across the goal line.
  • Clarification - If a defending player deliberately steps behind his own goal line in order to place an opponent in an offside position, the referee shall allow play to continue and caution the defender for deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission when the ball is next out of play.  That did not happen in this situation.

    However, in this case the defender left the field of play as a result of being pushed aside by his goalkeeper.  Players in either of these situations – whether they left the field during the course of play or stepped off to place an opponent in an offside position – are considered to be part of the game and thus accountable when determining offside position by their opponents.  The only difference is how these players would be treated from a disciplinary point of view (no yellow card was warranted in this case).
  • Summary - There were two Italian defenders to be calculated into the equation, the goalkeeper and the player on the ground just outside the goal line.  The referee's interpretation that the player off the field of play was still involved in the game was correct.

If this interpretation did not exist, then defending players would use the tactic of deliberately stepping off the field of play to put their opponents in an offside position and that is both unacceptable and counter to the Spirit of the Laws of the Game.  Unless a player has the permission of the referee to be off the field (in the case of an injury), they are considered to be on it, involved in active play, and deemed to be part of the game.

The Law was applied correctly and the Dutch attacker was not in an offside position when his teammate passed the ball.  Hence, the referee was correct in allowing the goal to be scored.

Video Clip: Colorado at Kansas City (August 19, 2001) – There are three specific points of time that must be considered in understanding the situation.  They are described in sequence as follows:

  • KC attacker (Lowe) centers the ball from the left toward the Colorado goal area where it is punched away by the Colorado goalkeeper (Garlick) toward the right side of the penalty area.  KC’s Lassiter is seeking to head this pass into the net and his momentum carries him over the goal line to the left of the left goalpost.  Likewise, Colorado’s Balboa continues his defensive run into the right side of the area enclosed by the net.
  • The ball goes to KC’s Burns on the right side of the Colorado penalty area who controls and prepares to place the ball back into the goal area.  As he does so, both Lassiter and Balboa return to the field.
  • At the moment Burns plays the ball, Lassiter is about three meters up from the goal line to the left, Garlick is two meters inside the field to the right, and Balboa is on the field slightly to the right of the goal post.  After the ball passes Garlick toward Lassiter, Lassiter deflects the ball into the Colorado net.  Balboa steps off the field, where he stands with a rigid appearance as though to emphasize his position. 

At the time Burris played the ball forward, Lassiter had two defenders (Garlick and Balboa) between himself and his opponent’s goal line and was therefore not in a offside position.  The referee (Kenny) and lead assistant referee (Huber) were in good positions to observe these events and neither official hesitated in recognizing that a valid goal had been scored.

A question has been raised regarding Balboa’s action in leaving the field a second time, as Lassiter is making his goal attempt.  Although Balboa was still on the field at the time Burns struck the ball in the direction of the goal, the goal would have been just as valid if this defender had left the field before the ball was played by Burns.  It is a well-established principle in applying Law 11 (Offside) that a defender cannot place an attacker in an offside position merely by leaving the field.  Defenders off the field (unless ordered off to correct equipment or bleeding) are still taken into account in determining an attackers’ offside position.

Furthermore, however, if the referee believes that the defender’s departure from the field was not in the normal course of play and was undertaken for the purpose of attempting to put an attacker in an offside position, this defender may be considered to have committed misconduct and could be cautioned.  While it is clear that Balboa’s first departure from the field was in the course of play, the second departure could have been cautioned and a yellow card shown (see Law 12 and the “7 + 7 Memorandum” – deliberately leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission).  In this case, whatever Balboa’s intent, his stepping off the field occurred after the play which resulted in a goal and the referee was justified in not issuing a caution.

No Offside On Throw-Ins, Goal Kicks, Corner Kicks

Law 11 – Offside, states: There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from:

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This can lead to infrequent, yet critical decisions that must be made quickly by officiating crews to make a proper decision.

  • Video Clip: Columbus at Chicago (12:08 – second half) - The first infrequent offside decision to be reviewed is one that comes off a goal kick.  In this game, the goalkeeper takes a long goal kick in which a defender jumps up to head but does not connect.  The ball then bounces to an attacker who was in an offside position at the time the goal kick was taken.  However, pursuant to the Law, this offside positioned player cannot be declared offside because he received the ball directly from the goal kick.  Even if the ball had last been played or headed by the defender who misses the ball, the offside player could not be declared offside as this would be considered the same phase of play and another attacker has not played or touched the ball after the goal kick.

    In other words, the attacking team gets a “free pass” off a goal kick until the ball is played or touched by another attacker.  At this time, the next phase of play begins and players in offside positions can now be judged to be offside if they are involved in active play by:
    • Interfering with play; or
    • Interfering with an opponent; or
    • Gaining an advantage by being in that position.

Long goal kick situations are becoming a common occurrence in the game as players (especially goalkeepers) become more skilled at taking long goal kicks.  Goal kicks no longer reach just the halfway line.  Players are now skilled and strong enough to send goal kicks well into the attacking half of the field thereby creating additional offside judgments for ARs.

Offside: Application of "Wait and See"

In multiple versions of last year’s “Week In Review,” the principle/concept of “wait and see” was introduced as a mechanism to help assistant referees (AR) get offside decisions correct. When there are close offside decisions, ARs can wait to see if there is participation, interference or if a player has gained an advantage from being in the offside position. The terms “interference” and “gaining an advantage” are both from the Laws of the Game and often require time to decide.

By utilizing the “wait and see” technique, an AR can gain valuable time (split seconds) to decide if an attacker who was in an offside position, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, is involved in “active play.” The additional “wait and see” time gives the AR the ability to decide if the offside player has:

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Video Clip: Los Angeles at D.C. United (88:39)
Focus, concentration and awareness are illustrated by the exceptional work of an AR in this clip. A fully focused AR must be able to identify the following when evaluating the potential for offside:
  1. Offside positioned attackers: Three attackers are inside the penalty area and in an offside position at the time the ball is passed by their teammate.
  2. Onside positioned attackers: Three attackers are outside the penalty area but in an onside position at the time the ball is passed by their teammate.
  3. Offside positioned changes direction: Offside player runs away from the goal but then turns as though he may play the ball.

With such a dynamic situation, the AR must not only be well-positioned but must have the visual concentration and awareness of players and their actions and movements. Finally, the AR must also be aware if any offside positioned player actually “interferes with play” by playing/touching the passed ball.

In this case, through the use of the wait and see technique, the AR correctly identifies that the ball is touched/played by an onside player (No. 2) and, thus, keeps the flag down. This initial decision is immediately followed up by another offside/onside decision as the ball, after it is touched by the onside player (No. 2), goes to another attacker who is behind the ball at the time it is touched by his teammate. As a result of this player being behind the ball, the AR makes another correct onside decision.

2009 (Click to view/hide)
  • Video Clip: New Jersey at Chicago (62:44) – WPS
    This clip provides a great example of the “wait and see” concept in practice. A focused and alert AR holds the offside flag until it is clear that the offside player “interferes with play” by playing or touching the ball that has been passed/touched by a teammate. When two players have the opportunity to play the ball and one of the two players was in an offside position at the time the ball was played/touched by a teammate, the AR must delay calling offside (raising the flag) until such time as:

    • The offside player plays/touches the ball; or
    • It is clear that the only player who will play the ball is the offside player; or
    • The AR believes there is a chance of a collision or injury to a goalkeeper or other player if the decision were delayed.

    The AR appropriately waits to see which player (the offside positioned player or the player coming from an onside position behind the second-to-last defender) “interferes with play” by touching the ball. Once the offside player touches the ball, the AR should stop his run and raise the flag to indicate “interference” by the offside player.

    The AR can use the field markings to assist with making the initial onside or offside position decision. Often times, grass cuttings or other markings can assist with determining the position of players when the pass is made. The freeze frame shot provided in the clip shows three attacking players with opportunity to advance and play the through pass. However, only one of the three players (the one in the middle) is in an offside position (“nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent”).

    In situations like this, the AR must “wait and see” which of the three players plays/touches the ball and then make the offside decision. The AR must continue his run with the play until it is time to make the decision.

    Remember, it is NOT an offense to be in an offside position. The offside offense occurs once there is “interference with play,” “interference with an opponent” or an “advantage has been gained from being in an offside position.”
  • Video Clip: Dallas at Seattle (21:16)
    This clip provides a good example of how the “wait and see” approach can ensure the AR makes a correct offside decision that benefits attacking soccer and that fits within the framework of Law 11 – Offside. In this clip, there is an attacking player in a clear offside position in the passing lane of the ball who has the opportunity to “interfere with play.” Concurrently, there is another attacker, in an onside position, who has the opportunity to play/touch the passed ball.

    With more than one player possessing the opportunity to play/touch the ball, the AR can use the “wait and see” approach to determine which of the two players (the onside or offside positioned player) actually plays or touches the passes ball. ARs cannot be confused by the proximity of attackers to the passed ball as that is not a criteria in determining offside. The decision must be made based upon who plays or touches the ball. There is an exception, however. If the AR judges that a collision may result between an offside player and an opponent, the AR should make a quicker judgment in order to prevent any possible injury or unnecessary contact.

    Image 1 provides a picture of the “snapshot” the AR should take as the ball is passed. At this moment, the AR can create a mental picture of one attacker in an offside position and another nearby attacker in an onside position. Now, ARs should “wait and see.” Where do the players run? Which player actually touches or plays the ball?

    Despite the offside positioned attacker nearer the passing lane of the ball, his movement (indicated by the blue line) shows that he is not participating in the play nor “interfering with play.” On the other hand, the onside positioned attacker makes a run (indicated by the red line) toward the ball. At this point, until one of the two players actually plays/touches the ball, no decision relative to offside should be made. The actual “no offside” decision is made once the onside player (red line) plays the ball. This is the only situation the AR must “wait and see” which player touches the ball first before rendering a decision.

    By taking a snapshot of the play and by utilizing the “wait and see” approach, the AR is able to make a quality decision that correctly determines that there is no offside offense.

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