This study describes a general liquefaction flow instability criterion for elastoplastic soils based on the concept of loss of uniqueness. We apply the criterion to the general case of axisymmetric loading and invoke the concepts of effective stresses and loss of controllability to arrive at a general criterion for the onset of liquefaction flow. The criterion is used in conjunction with an elastoplastic model for sands to generate numerical simulations. The numerical results are compared with experimental evidence to give the following insights into predicting liquefaction. (1) The onset of liquefaction flow is a state of instability occurring under both monotonic and cyclic tests, and coincides with loss of controllability. (2) The criterion proposed herein clearly and naturally differentiates between liquefaction flow (instability) and cyclic mobility. (3) Flow liquefaction not only depends on the potential of the material to generate positive excess pore pressures, but more importantly, it also depends on the current state of the material, which is rarely predicted by phenomenology.