Over the last few years years the offside call has changed, but confusion over it still reigned. This year, youth and NFHS games will use the same offside call as college. Here are the particulars:
- Offside must disadvantage one team or advantage another
- Offside can only be called when:
- The offense has more than 6 players while on offense
- The defense has more than 7 players (six field players + 1 goalie) while on defense
- Offside is no longer a free clear
Sometimes a player blatantly offside will not get called because no advantage or disadvantage has been made. Is there any advantage to the offensive team if youth player forgets where he is and steps a few steps over the midline while the ball is near the end line? No. The ball is 40+ yards away from that player. Now if the ball is thrown up near the midline and the player is still offside, then that call should be made, but if there is no bearing on the play then offside probably will not be called.
The rule requiring teams to have 4 players back on defense and 3 players back on offense was removed in 2012. This year the wording of the rule was changed further to encourage officials to count forward while in transition because it does not matter how few players are behind the midline when there is a settled situation on the other side.
The diagram above shows the blue team on offense. The blue team has six offensive players, and the red team has seven defensive players. It does not matter that blue has only three players on their defensive end or that red has only one attackman in their offensive end. It only matters if you have too many players on the side of the field that you are playing on either offense or defense.
The above diagram shows almost the exact same situation as the earlier image, but look closely. Red has seven players on defense but only one on their offensive end (perfectly good). Blue has three players on their defensive end (good so far), but they have seven players on offense – Immediate whistle, Offside, Red ball at the spot the ball was when the whistle was blown.
The above diagram switches the situation. This time blue has six players on offense, and four players on defense (good to go). Red has only two players in their offensive end (perfectly fine), but eight players on defense – Flag down, slow whistle, 30-second technical foul against red.
I’ve shown you not offside, blue offside, and red offside. Now look below.
This is not offside, but it is too many men for the red team. They have eight players on defense and three players in their offensive end. The foul for too many men is still a 30-second technical, and if the on field officials call this offside don’t worry about it as the penalty is exactly the same.
I mentioned it early on, but I’ll reiterate it here: Loose ball offside, or offside while in possession is no longer an automatic free clear! Offside is now a spot foul like warding, loose ball pushing, moving picks, and interference. The ball should be restarted at or near the spot the play was whistled dead.
Study the diagrams in this post as the visuals help out much more than the written explanations, and in the interest of quick restarts coach your players to place the ball on the ground if they are whistled for a violation instead of rolling it off somewhere.