During a recent U18 girls’ match, I was an AR. Blue’s attacker was in an offside position about 5 yards past mid field. The ball is played in her direction as she is breaking toward the ball which is played past her by about 10-15 yards. Seeing no other blue players moving toward the ball, I raised the flag for offside. Just as I raised the flag, the attacker stopped going toward the ball, and another blue attacker, clearly not in an offside position breaks toward the ball. The center had not seen my flag yet, so I contemplated dropping the flag, but he noticed it and blew the whistle. I took a lot of grief from the blue team’s coach. In the split second it happened, I believed that the attacker had made a play for the ball and that defenders were also making a play toward the ball, so I had made the right decision. Also in that decision is that the second attacker (in the onside position) did not make a play for the ball until after the ball was played. Later, I was thinking that the player in the offside position did not prevent defenders from playing the ball, so I should have held the flag and use the “wait and see” principle”. Your input is appreciated.
USSF answer (October 29, 2009):
The USSF memorandum of March 25, 2009, “confirms that ‘interfering with play’ cannot be decided unless the attacker in an offside position makes contact with the ball.” We would recommend that the assistant referee wait before signaling for offside in such cases. If a player in an offside position is going to be charged with being involved in active play by interfering with play, he has to touch the ball. If during the time he is NOT interfering with play he manages to interfere with an opponent by ACTING (not simply standing) in such a way as to block the path or line of sight of, deceive, or distract an opponent, then he is just as guilty of offside as if he had touched the ball — but not until that time.