Soccer, known as football outside of the United States, is a sport that has been steadily growing in popularity in America. The World Cup is coming to America in 2026, and this means that the fan bases for European and International “soccer” players and clubs will continue to grow. With thrilling gameplay and passionate fan base, understanding its rules is essential for both new fans and seasoned spectators. Among the various rules, the concept of offsides stands out as one of the most important and often misunderstood aspects of soccer. This article aims to demystify the offsides rule and provide a brief overview of some basic soccer regulations.

Soccer, known as football outside of the United States, is a sport that has been steadily growing in popularity in America. The World Cup is coming to America in 2026, and this means that the fan bases for European and International “soccer” players and clubs will continue to grow. With thrilling gameplay and passionate fan base, understanding its rules is essential for both new fans and seasoned spectators. Among the various rules, the concept of offsides stands out as one of the most important and often misunderstood aspects of soccer. This article aims to demystify the offsides rule and provide a brief overview of some basic soccer regulations.

 

The Offside Rule Explained

Defining Offsides

In soccer, a player is in an offside position if they are nearer to the opponent's goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent (usually the last outfield player) at the moment the ball is played to them by a teammate. It's important to note that being in an offside position is not an offense in itself; the player must be actively involved in the play as determined by the referee.

Offside Offense

A player is only penalized for being offside if, at the moment the ball is played to them, they are in the opponent's half of the field and are involved in active play by:

  • Interfering with play: playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate.

  • Interfering with an opponent: preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball.

  • Gaining an advantage: playing a ball that rebounds or is deflected to them from a goalpost, crossbar, or an opponent having been in an offside position.

Exceptions to Offside

A player is not in an offside position if they are level with the second-to-last opponent or level with the last two opponents. Also, there is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in, or a corner kick.

In Simple Terms:

  • Don't run ahead of the second-to-last opponent (including the goalkeeper) before the ball is played to you.

  • If you do, make sure you're not involved in the play unless the ball comes to you from a goal kick, throw-in, or corner kick.

 

Basic Soccer Rules for New fans

Field of Play

The game is played on a rectangular field with a goal at each end. The size of the field varies depending on the level of play but typically ranges from 100 to 130 yards in length and 50 to 100 yards in width.

Match Duration

A standard soccer match consists of two 45-minute halves, with a 15-minute halftime break. The referee can add extra time at the end of each half to account for stoppages in play.

Number of Players

Each team consists of 11 players, including a goalkeeper. Teams may make a limited number of substitutions during a match, usually three, but this can vary depending on the competition.

Starting the Game

The game begins with a kickoff at the center of the field. The team that wins the coin toss decides which goal to attack in the first half or to start the match with the kickoff.

Scoring

A goal is scored when the entire ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts, and under the crossbar, provided that no offense has been committed by the team scoring the goal.

Fouls and Misconduct

Fouls are awarded for specific offenses (like handball or tripping) and can result in free kicks or penalty kicks. Serious offenses may result in yellow or red cards, with red cards meaning the player is expelled from the game.

The Throw-In

When the ball completely crosses the touchline, it is put back into play by a throw-in from the team that did not touch the ball last.

Free Kicks

Free kicks are awarded for certain fouls. They can be direct (from which a goal can be scored directly against the opposing side) or indirect (a goal can be scored only if the ball subsequently touches another player before it enters the goal).

Penalty Kicks

A penalty kick is awarded if a foul punishable by a direct free kick is committed by a player in their own penalty area.

Corner Kicks and Goal Kicks

A corner kick is awarded to the attacking team when the ball goes over the goal line but not into the goal, having last been touched by a defender. A goal kick is awarded when the ball goes over the goal line but not into the goal, having last been touched by an attacker.

 

Wrap-Up

Understanding the offside rule and basic regulations in soccer is essential for appreciating the nuances of the game. As soccer continues to gain traction in America, this knowledge enhances the experience of watching and discussing one of the world's most popular sports. Whether you're a new fan or looking to deepen your understanding, the beauty of soccer lies in its simplicity and the excitement it brings to millions worldwide.