How do soccer line judges distinguish a long shot from an offside pass?

Suppose you have a player who is in an offside position, and a teammate far behind him sends a booming kick downfield - but it’s not actually a pass to him, it’s meant to be a long shot on goal from far distance - how do the line judges distinguish between the two things?

Presumably it is not offside if the offside player doesn’t touch the ball.

From the Wikipedia article:

Being in an offside position is not an offence in itself, but a player so positioned when the ball is played by a team-mate can be judged guilty of an offside offence if they become “involved in active play”, “interfere with an opponent”, or “gain an advantage” by being in that position.

So it’s not an offence unless the offside player has an affect on the game, they are free to stand and watch a goal attempt from an offside position.

OK, I had thought the judges raise the flag even if the player isn’t touching the ball.

They do. Re-read the rule.

I was just a low level ref in my younger years, but I would explain it this way. When the ball is kicked, you take a “mental snapshot” of which players are in an offside position. You then let the play proceed until such time as one of the offside players is involved in the subsequent play (not necessarily by directly touching the ball; even attempting to play the ball or blocking the opponent’s vision can constitute being involved in the play). When an offside player becomes involved, then you pop the flag. Sometimes this is immediate, sometimes it’s substantially after the kick.

Was a referee for many years. It’s not that hard when watching a soccer game to distinguish a shot on goal from a pass. Did it go near the net? Did the goaltender have to make a play? Was there a chance of scoring?

In any case, for offside it doesn’t matter much. If a player is in an offside position but gains no further advantage, one probably wouldn’t call offside (though the linesman may flag it) if the goalie or defence plays the ball. If the player was offside enough to, say, interfere or distract the goalie, fullbacks, etc. one would be more inclined to call offside. If it’s a clean shot at goal, and the offside player is far from the ball, one probably would not call it.

It’s irrelevant if it’s a shot or pass. The distinction doesn’t matter for offside.


Minders, keepers.



Ah. He speaks hockey.

Not an unusual phrase here for any sport. In Canadian soccer, the referee might also consider calling icing if the soccer player makes a very long pass and is seeking an advantage (in the opinion of the linesperson).