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Offside: "Making the Offside Call"

CHICAGO (Thursday, January 3, 2001) - As part of our continuing effort to service and educate our membership, each Thursday U.S. Soccer will provide an informative article from one of its departments. Once a week, we will bring you an article/paper/essay that will hopefully enhance your enjoyment and knowledge of the game of soccer - on and off the field.

Today, learn more about Law 11 - offside - and two resources that the U.S. Soccer Referee Department has compiled to educate and assist referees with this often confusing law.


The U.S. Soccer Referee Department regularly puts together materials to educate and assists referees. One of the most recent publications is a booklet entitled, "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game." Offside is one of the toughest laws to interpret, and following are three passages from "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" that will hopefully help to clarify Law 11.

Offside Position
An offside position exists when a player is nearer the opponents' goal line than the last two opponents and is ahead of the ball is touched/played by a teammate. Measure relative position by players' torsos, not their arms or legs. The torso of the attacking player must be no nearer the opponents' goal line than that of the second-to-last defender. It is not necessary to "see daylight" between them for one to be considered nearer than the other. A player cannot be considered to be in an offside position under any circumstances when it is the player himself/herself who last played the ball.

Active Involvement
A player becomes "actively involved" in the play only when he is in the "area of active play." This area shifts, widens, narrows, lengthens, or shortens, according to where the ball is going and who is "involved." Involvement includes attempting to play the ball or preventing others from having a fair play at the ball. Active involvement can occur without the ball being directly nearby. There are three elements in "active involvement." They are "interfering with an opponent," "interfering with play," and "gaining an advantage."

Gaining An Advantage
"Gaining an advantage" means being near enough to the play to capitalize immediately on a defender's mistake, having gained the advantage solely by being in the offside position. It is most often seen in situations where the ball rebounds from the crossbar, goalposts or goalkeeper (whose contact with the ball is not controlled).

"Making the Offside Call"

In an effort to further educate the referees of the USA, the Referee Department has put together a video titled, "Making the Offside Call."

Offside. How many times have we heard players, coaches, and spectators arguing about an offside call? Even referees have been known to debate the accuracy of some decisions despite the fact that offside has been an integral part of the game of soccer for more than 150 years.

The problem is that when the action is on the field and the arguments are swirling around a decision just made, no one but the referee and the assistant referee are in a position to accurately apply the requirements of Law 11. Everyone else is looking at the actions on the field from a different point of view, yet - perhaps more than any other officiating decision that has to be made - offside depends on perspective.

Good offside decisions also require the maximum degree of cooperation between the referee and the assistant referee as each brings a unique perspective to the equation.

U.S. Soccer, through its National Program for Referee Development, has produced various training materials to assist officials in developing a common understanding of the Laws of the Game and how they should be applied at all levels of the sport. As part of this effort, the National Program has just released a new videotape titled "Making the Offside Call" using examples drawn from the matches played during the 1999 Women's World Cup Tournament.

Featuring replays, slow motion, stop action, additional camera angles, and innovative graphics, this 22 ½ minute videotape features some of the world's best international referees and assistant referees working together to produce immediate, on the field, accurate offside decisions without the luxury of this technology. Viewers are able to see and understand the critical elements of the offside violation (position and involvement in active play), together with the techniques of positioning, fitness and concentration that are the hallmark of officiating teamwork at this high level of competition. Also shown and explained are such specific situations as the ball rebounding from the goal or deflected by a defender (including the goalkeeper), how referees and assistant referees can communicate important information, and the challenges of understanding offside when play is moving swiftly.

This video as well as other referee materials and resources can be ordered by contacting Sandra Meadors at or at (312) 528-1211. To view other U.S. Soccer Referee Department reference materials, visit the Referee Section of the U.S. Soccer website at: