Jeff, a HS and College Referee, asks:
An attacker is NOT in an offside position when the ball is touched/kicked towards the goal by his teammate. He runs to an offside position before the ball arrives. Is it an offside foul?
We recommend that you use the search feature on the website and look for recent Q&As under the search category “Law 11” – what you find there (this answer will also show up) can provide considerably more detail than what follows.
OK, maybe a little more detail. Your terminology is incorrect – and incorrect in a way that makes explaining the answer a bit more difficult. So, let’s start simply with the incorrect terminology. You say that this attacker was not in an offside position when a teammate last touched/played the ball. Fine so far. Then you say that “He runs to an offside position before the ball arrives.” That is your downfall because, wherever that attacker was when he and the ball finally “connect,” he was not in an offside position.
“Offside” position is not a place on the field, it is a condition an attacker acquires by being in a certain place (ahead of the second-to-last defender, ahead of the ball, and ahead of the midfield line) at a certain time (the moment a teammate touches/plays the ball). This “offside/onside” condition remains unchanged during whatever happens afterward until that “play” is over. In short, if the attacker was not in an offside position when his teammate kicked the ball, then he can never thereafter be in an offside position no matter where the ball moves, no matter where he moves, no matter where his teammates move, and no matter where any of the defenders move … as long as it is the same play.
How do you know when it stops being the “same play”? When (a) the ball leaves the field, (b) the referee stops play for any reason, (c) there is a new touch/play of the ball by a teammate, or (d) a defender clearly gains possession and control of the ball (except for a “deliberate save”). In the case of (c), a new determination for all attackers must be made as to their individual offside/onside positions. In (d), determinations must also be made as to offside/onside positions but, this time, it’s the opposing team players who have to be evaluated because, guess what, they are now the attackers!
Since, according to the scenario you provided, the attacker wasn’t in an offside position when he made contact with the ball (because he wasn’t in an offside position when the play began), then by definition he did not commit any offside offense when he himself touched/played the ball. We call this “coming from an onside position” and it is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Law 11 because everyone else (excepting the officiating team, of course) thinks in terms of where everyone is when the play ends, whereas we as officials have to pay attention to where everyone was when the play began. The evil twin to “coming from an onside position” is “coming from an offside position” — it is equally misunderstood but we’ll leave that for some other Q&A.
Oh, and by the way, one other item of incorrect terminology … offside is not a foul. It is an “offense” — only an offense covered in the first part of Law 12 can be termed a “foul.”