Law 11 - Offsides (originally appeared 7-03)

You make the call:Attacking player is standing next to the left of the goal with only the keeper close to the goal line. Teammate carries ball down the right side and from further out takes a successful shot on goal. What's the call? Does your call change if instead of shooting, the player on the right passes to the player to the left of the goal, who then puts it in the net?Background:Offside is the most widely misunderstood law in soccer. And its not just the fans. The law book uses only 200 words to describe the foul, but then requires 13 pages of diagrams to clarify the message.Most of us understand that an attacking player is in an "Offside Position" if he goes past the 2nd to last defender (one defender usually being the keeper) to wait for the ball.What is confusing is that there is nothing wrong with being in that offside position! It only becomes an "Offside Foul" when: 1) the player gains an advantage or 2) interferes with play or an opponent. If play is to the right side and the offside-position player is to the left, there is no whistle. The call is only made if the offside player tries to accept a pass or alternatively blocks a defender or keeper from the ball. Does the presence of the player standing in an offside position distract the defense? Maybe so, but the law book is very explicit that the referee must let things continue until the player actively impacts play. The other element to watch is that offside position is only judged at the moment an attacking teammate last touched the ball, not what happens after the touch.So What's the Call:In the first case of a player putting the ball in the net from the right side while a player is in an offside position on the left, the correct call is "Goal". If the player on the right passes to the one on the left, then blow the whistle and give the defending team a direct kick coming out.