Trying to learn the Offside rule. From what I gather Offside is when an offensive player gets behind the defense and takes a pass from another player. So, why doesn't the defense just stop around midfield so the offense can't take a pass past that point. Just Curious!

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    Welcome to Sports SE. For reference, here is How offside is determined in soccer.
    – user527
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:55
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    I'm a bit unsure about the close vote here. This is a good question about why the defence doesn't just keep a high line at all times. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:35
  • As a comment on the question, you'll find that at lower levels of the game, the defence does try to push up and keep a very high line. The skill to play a ball past the defence that isn't collected by the goalkeeper can be very hard to master. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:36

4 Answers 4


Some parts of the rule that might contribute towards an answer for your question are:

An attacking player can't be offside in his own half, so a defence won't ever push up beyond the halfway line for the purpose of playing an offside trap.

Also the offside is determined when a pass is first played, so the higher a defence pushes up - the more space in behind them there is to drop a pass. Defences are particularly vulnerable to this against quick attackers.

A player is only offside if a pass is played towards the opposition goal(/forwards), so if a defence is pushed up high and an attacker dribbles past them he can pass backwards/sideways to a fellow attacker.

Thats just the basics. There's a lot more to the rule including some subjectivity. Link for more information: The FA's Law 11: Offside


While holding a high defensive line can be an effective tactic, it can also be exploited.

A high defensive line leaves a lot of open space behind the defense for an attacking team to exploit. In order to take advantage of this space, the attacking team might use any number of tactics to bypass the defense without being ruled offside.

  • Perhaps the most obvious method is for a fast attacking player to dribble past the defense and out-run them, potentially creating a one-on-one opportunity against the goalkeeper.
  • Another method is for one player to pass/kick the ball beyond the defense, and for another player to run in behind the defense immediately after the ball is kicked.
  • A third method is to take advantage of the fact that the offside rule doesn't apply when the ball is received directly from a throw-in or goal kick.

NOTE: These methods can be optimized by finding open channels of space between defenders, giving the attacking player an advantage due to the angle, starting position and timing of their run.

These and other tactics can force defenders out of position, opening up new options for the attacking team. As a side-effect, defenders could become fatigued from covering a larger area of the field. If individual defenders don't respond as quickly as others, the defensive line could be compromised, exposing more space behind the defense.

Once the attacking team gets behind the defense, they can legally pass the ball horizontally or backward. As they approach the goal, any remaining defenders or the goalkeeper will have to choose a defensive position, potentially leaving other attacking players open to receive a pass and/or creating a goal-scoring opportunity.

In summary, a high defensive line can leave a team vulnerable. While it might be effective under certain circumstances, it is certainly not a tactical silver bullet.


In short, the only time a player is offside is when the player is in front of everyone on the other team excluding the goalie, and then is attempted a pass to the offside player. This would result in a free kick for the defense. If a player just carries the ball past the defense, there is no offsides. What cancels an offsides is when the ball is also past the last defender. Therefore, if there are two offense in front of the whole other team, they can pass to each other and not be offsides.

  • Firstly, what is "offsides" (hint: it's not plural), secondly "the only time a player is offside is when the player is in front of everyone on the other team excluding the goalie" is definitely not true. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 20:51
  • How is it untrue? And offsides is just the terminology that I was raised on while playing multiple levels of club, varsity, travel and indoor soccer. I have enough experience through refereeing and playing to know when a player is "offside". And I said when there is an attempt to pass the ball to a player that is ahead of the entire team with respect to the reference frame excluding the goalie. This reference frame where the goal the player who is offside is trying to score a goal in being the destination and the offside player is ahead of the other team. Which I know for a fact is true. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 20:56
  • And the reason defenders don't stay on the high side is because the offense is usually capable of just dribbling past the defense, which leaves the goalie extremely vulnerable to being scored on. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 20:58
  • Offside has nothing to do with the goalkeeper. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 21:20
  • If the goalkeeper is out of his box, and is acting as another player on the field than yes, it does. I was simply just using his position as a marker for the other team'a relative position to the player who is offsides and the goalie. I feel as though you are over analyzing my comments and answer. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 21:23

When someone is passing the ball to the forward and in that same moment he is the closest player to the goalkeeper. (He is behind the defenders). THat is offside in football. I don't want to complicate so this is my short answer. Hope you'll understand :)

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    That is not entirely correct. You can be onside even behind the goalkeeper if there are two defending players between you and the goal.
    – Ste
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 9:08
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    If the ball is passed to someone behind you, you are not off side either.. this is not a good answer...
    – gbianchi
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 13:50
  • Or from a throw-in. Or from a goal kick... etc.
    – Ste
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 16:08
  • I said behind the defending players, not behind the goalkeeper!
    – Diglle
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 21:51
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    This is not how offside is judged, but that isn't the question anyway. The question is "why doesn't the defence just keep a high line?" Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:34

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