I have read the laws, and am a big fan of your site and clarifications. I think I understand offside, and the critical aspect of “involved in the play” that takes being in an offside position to that of being a penalty. But I am unclear on two things:

First, am I correct that the AR or CR should only signal for a stoppage due to offside when that attacking player becomes involved?

Second, if so, why does it seem (at least to me, after watching hundreds of premier games at the u14 and higher level) that refs don’t seem to understand that critical aspect? By that I mean that the second they see any player past the second to last defender when a ball is played, UP GOES THE FLAG!!! Play stops, and a free kick is given to the defending team. No attempt is ever made to see if the player in the offsides position stays out of the play!

No one at this level seems to recognize that a player can be offsides and not result in a foul. Certainly not parents screaming “offsides” on the sidelines.

Am I alone is seeing this glaring misunderstanding by officials (and fans) at this age/play level?

USSF answer (November 9, 2009):
Offside should be called only when the player in the offside position becomes involved in play through interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage by being in the offside position.

The reason why some ARs flag early and some referees call for offside early is because they pay no attention to the Laws of the Game or to the instructional materials distributed by the U. S. Soccer Federation and so carefully and fully enunciated and disseminated by their state directors of referee instruction.

No, you are not alone. We, too, despair in company with you.

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