Soccer Without Offsides: Here’s What Would Happen

Soccer is a free-flowing but heavily regulated game. While rules are typically left to the interpretation of the referee on the field, there are some crucial laws that can’t be ignored, such as offside. 

Have you ever imagined professional soccer without offsides? What would happen if Kylian Mbappe didn’t have to hold his position in front of the defensive line before racing through on goal? 

Today’s piece covers the following important topics:

  • Soccer without offsides
  • Reason for offsides
  • How to play soccer without offsides
  • Other sports without offsides

This article takes a trip back in time and looks at the origin of the offside rule, how it developed, and the importance of offside in today’s game.

Soccer Without Offsides

Soccer Without Offsides

Since the first official rules of “association football” (soccer) were introduced in 1863, offside has been part of the game in some capacity.

The first offside rules were a far cry from those adhered to today because of how the game was originally played. When the first set of rules was created, players had to be behind the ball when their teammate made a pass.


Later, “association football” branched into different sports, where rugby retained this type of offside rule.

As soccer developed, so too did the offside rule. Different variations existed until 1925 when the first version of modern offsides came about. At the time it was referred to as the “two-player offside rule”. 

According to the two-player rule, when the ball was kicked, any player on the kicker’s team who was ahead of the ball was regarded as offside, unless there were two opposing players between them and the goal line.

Before this, there was a “three-player offside rule”, which was essentially the same but with three players between the ball receiver and the goal line instead of two.

The introduction of the two-player offside rule led to a dramatic increase in goals scored, climbing from 4,700 to 6,373 in a single season in the English Football League. However, this would eventually cause teams to adopt more defensive strategies.

So, while offsides have always existed in soccer, the rules have developed significantly over the years. 

What’s The Point Of Offsides In Soccer?

The main reason for the offside rule is to prevent soccer from being a game where teams punt the ball from one end to the other for their goal-hanging players to latch onto. 

Offside is a fundamental rule in soccer and has an enormous impact on how the game flows and plays.

The rule compels players and teams to rely on the core skills and tactics of soccer to be successful. Teams need to be organized and tactically aware. Individually, players must be able to pass, run, tackle, dribble, and shoot. 

Soccer without offsides 3
Could we eventually see major soccer tournaments played with no offsides?

What If There Were No Offsides?

The game of soccer would be very different without offsides.

Such a drastic rule change would enable teams to be more expansive, stretching the play over the full length of the field.

This would likely increase the number of goals per game significantly, which could make matches even more exciting. 

Although higher scoring games are fun and entertaining, no offsides could remove the tactical art from the game completely. Teams would look for the most direct route to goal, resulting in long ball strategies.

The game could easily descend into chaos with multiple players competing for crosses, long passes, and even goal kicks at every opportunity. 

Should They Get Rid Of Offsides In Soccer?

With no offsides, the Messi’s of this world may never have existed.

Offsides force teams to play more skillfully, with tactics and organization. True fans who enjoy the art of possession-based soccer, accurate passing, expert dribbling, and tactical play, are unlikely to petition for getting rid of offsides. 

Soccer without offsides would essentially mean trading tactics for size and speed for strength.

Players like Kylian Mbappe and Gareth Bale have always used blistering speed to break defensive lines, taking advantage of offsides. Quick feet and speed would be less relevant without offsides. 

However, for those who don’t fully understand the game, strategy, and skillset, perhaps getting rid of offsides would make soccer more appealing.

More goals, a higher pace, and a simpler way of playing may make soccer more accessible to new fans.

Is Offside Necessary?

Although official games at amateur and professional levels generally incorporate standard offside rules, it’s possible to play soccer without offsides. 

Outside of the professional sphere, games are usually officiated by one referee. It is logistically and financially very difficult to have two linesmen or lineswomen and a referee available for every game.

To combat this, some local leagues or smaller soccer organizations play without offsides. The games are usually kept under control with a smaller field or some different rules.

Let’s take a look at how you can play soccer without offsides. 

Soccer Without Offsides 2
It’s not always possible to source qualified linesmen or women for amateur games. 

How Can I Play Soccer Without Offsides?

Offsides can be difficult to officiate with a single referee and are impossible to monitor without one.

Therefore, some recreational leagues and underage soccer games are played without offsides.

In fact, most games played on smaller soccer fields or with fewer players on each team will forego offside rules entirely.

On a small field, such as an indoor court or astroturf pitch, offsides have less of an impact and can be mitigated more easily.

For such games, it’s common to incorporate different rules instead of offsides. If you’re looking for ways to play without the offside rule, think about incorporating some fun alternatives:

Outside The Box 

Instead of offside, consider playing a game with an “outside the box” rule for scoring.

This means that you’re not allowed to score unless you shoot from outside the box.

The “outside the box” rule discourages players from hovering next to the goal, looking for easy chances. 

Even if some players are consistently playing in advanced positions, having to shoot from outside the box makes it much harder to score. 

Pass Before You Score 

Another rule that can be used instead of offside is “pass before you score”.

Under this rule, teams must string together consecutive passes before they are allowed to score.

Depending on how many players you have, as well as their skill level, the number of required passes should vary. 

While skilled teams may be capable of putting together 15 or more passes, this isn’t a realistic target for most casual players. Consider starting at 5 consecutive passes and go from there.

This might not seem like a lot on paper, but completing 5 passes on every possession becomes very challenging, especially when teams implement a high-intensity press.

soccer without offsides 4
Alternative rules to offside are particularly useful for indoor or 5-a-side soccer.

One Defender Back

The “one defender back” rule is most commonly played in 5-a-side soccer or astroturf games.

With this rule, each team must have at least one defender in their half of the field at all times, ensuring teams keep their structure and stopping play from being too open, loose, and disorganized. 

Kicking Height Limit

Setting a height limit for kicking the ball stops teams from playing the long ball strategy, and encourages more skillful play.

Each time a player kicks the ball at a certain height, a free kick is awarded to the opposing team. 

These types of rules are easier to follow, particularly among friends where there is no referee.

However, when it comes to 11 vs 11 on a full-size soccer field, offside once again becomes one of the most important rules. 

If you’re interested in refereeing your local leagues, get all the equipment you need with this referee starter kit.

What Sport Does Not Have Offside?

Offside is a common rule in many sports. Although, it is generally applied in a unique way, depending on the sport. The term offside comes from a military term describing soldiers who are stuck behind enemy lines. 

Whatever the sport, the offside rule typically revolves around illegal positions and movements. 

Popular sports that don’t have offsides include: 

  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Tennis
  • Squash
  • Australian rule football

Variations of soccer that don’t use the offside rule include indoor soccer, futsal, beach soccer, and 5-a-side soccer. 

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