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How Would Removing Offsides Affect Soccer Gambling?

| April 4, 2021 2:43 am PDT

The potential removal of the offside rule seems absurd to most soccer fans.

I’m no exception, and yet we’ve heard suggestions in this direction and the implementation of VAR has brought the question up once again.

People are frustrated by the close calls we’ve been seeing, and some feel that the offside rule needs to go.

I don’t think it will be scrapped completely anytime soon, but I won’t be shocked if we reached that point eventually.

The gambler in me naturally wonders how removing the offside rule would affect soccer betting and if we could use it to make money. Let’s try and figure that out.

What Would Happen in Soccer Without Offsides?

Before we move on to the betting aspect of the potential change, it’s important to understand how the removal of offsides would affect the game as a whole. No one can be 100% sure at this point, but there are some reasonable assumptions.

For a start, defenses will be forced to play much deeper in their own half. They won’t be able to afford a high press when a simple long ball behind their backs will be enough to beat them and create a chance.

Many believe that would disrupt the game’s balance completely and give the offense too big of an advantage, but I’m not 100% sure about that because of a factor that many people underestimate. The team that HAS the ball will also be endangered.

Teams couldn’t keep possession with their defenders around the center of the pitch because that would leave too much space for counters.

Many smaller clubs are already defending with plenty of men close to the goal these days. The removal of the offside rule would effectively make the pitch larger make their task at the back easier because the opposition won’t commit so many men forward.

Naturally, the new situation will lead to various new tactics and systems in soccer. We could easily see the return of a forgotten position like the libero and the birth of completely new roles related to the lack of offsides.

But how would the removal of this rule affect soccer betting? I expect to see changes in at least a few major markets, such as the following.

  • Total goals
  • Yellow and red cards
  • Total corners

Let me explain why in the next sections.

Total Goals Betting Without Offsides

The most obvious soccer betting market that will be affected by the removal of the offside rule would be the totals option and other goal-based soccer bets.

The overall number of goals would certainly rise, so you could expect to see higher lines if that happens. And yet, I believe that a certain type of match won’t be affected as much.

When there’s a clear favorite that likes to keep the ball, such as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, we could actually see fewer goals without offsides.

I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me. Here are the average possession percentages for City over the last three seasons.

Manchester City Average Possession Per Game in the EPL
Season Average Possession
2019-20 62.6%
2018-19 64%
2017-18 66.4%

The numbers above include games against all teams, so just imagine what happens against opponents from the bottom half of the table. Or you could just watch a game that involves Manchester City.

The side has the ball most of the time and the whole team is playing in attack. However, you will notice something else – the last defenders are positioned around the center of the pitch. Have you wondered why?

The answer is simple – because there’s no offsides in the opponent’s half of the pitch and that’s the furthest they could go without getting punished.

If they move up the field, that would leave space that the attacking players of the other team could exploit.

If the offside rule is removed, at least one or two players will be forced to stay closer to their own goal and that could make life easier for the opponents.

That’s why in games with a clear favorite, we might actually see fewer goals without the offside rule. The rest should see more, though, and I expect the top betting sites to adjust their lines and odds accordingly.

Yellow and Red Card Betting

One of the less obvious groups of soccer betting markets that should be affected if we get rid of the offside rule is for yellow and red cards.

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons for bookings in soccer matches right now.

  • Repetitive fouls
  • Dangerous fouls
  • Protests against the referee
  • Tactical fouls

The first three probably won’t change much, but we should see way more tactical fouls if there are no offsides.

The defensive players will be left one on one more often and there will be more runs that are hard to stop cleanly. That would inevitably lead to a rise in the number of tactical fouls and subsequently more yellow and red cards.

Total Corners Betting

Removing the offside rule would affect soccer betting on corners too. Just think about the areas of the pitch that produce the most corners.

There are no advanced stats available on that, but common sense suggests that the closer the ball is to the end of the pitch, the higher the chances of a corner.

If there are no offsides, the teams will be forced to abandon the center of the pitch more often and defend deeper. As a result, the attackers should easily reach the box and one of that natural consequences of that positional shift would be more corners.

That would likely move the betting lines for this market in the long run.

Conclusion

I hope you like my little thought experiment here on how removing the offside rule would affect soccer betting. I’ve tried to explore different angles, but I’m sure that I might have missed a lot of other possible consequences.

If you have your own ideas on the topic and would like to share them, be my guest! Leave a comment below with your thoughts and I would love to take a look.

In the meantime, feel free to check out our soccer betting picks section if you’re looking for predictions in the here and now rather than the future.

Jerry Summer

Jerry Summer has a wide-ranging interest in gambling and the gambling industry. He's made a living out of both playing poker and betting on sports.

The English Premier League and the NBA are among Jerry's primary areas of expertise. He's knowledgeable about many other sports, too, along with poker and several casino games.

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