23 JunFive Ways to Improve International Soccer

Watching some World Cup games recently and hearing how Americans largely find soccer boring, noisy, full of sissies taking dives, and controversial officiating, the following suggestions occur to me:

  1. Allow each team captain three opportunities over the course of the entire match to request an instant replay where any of the following are at issue:
    •  A goal was denied due to a penalty of any sort. (Think U.S. v. Slovenia.)
    •  The captain believes that a call or failure to call a handball, diving, or offsides was improper.
    •  A corner kick is denied where the captain believes the defender last touched the ball.
    •  A player is given a red card and the captain believes it was unfounded.
    •  The captain believes the ball did or did not cross the plane of the goal line and was improperly called.
    • The replay officials would require clear and convincing evidence of an error to reverse a call.

  2.  Have the clock kept by official timekeepers on the sideline with control of any scoreboard clocks. They stop the clock every time the ball crosses the plane of the sidelines and any time the official’s whistle blows and start the clock when the ball is back in play. This eliminates unpredictable stoppage time at the end of matches and also would probably allow the halfs to be shortened to 35 or 40 minutes while yielding the same amount of actual play.
  3. Allow unlimited substitutions.
  4. Give an automatic red card to players penalized for diving. They are removed from the match immediately and the side must complete the match without a substitution.
  5. Make the goal 22 cm higher and 44 cm wider. (This adds one diameter of the ball on every side, which ought to lead to more scoring.)

Bonus idea: Forbid artificial noisemakers of any sort in the stadiums.

There you have it. Five simple suggestions that would, I think, greatly improve international soccer and which would resolve many of the greatest complaints among those who are interested in soccer, but not yet committed fans.

3 Responses to “Five Ways to Improve International Soccer”

  1. Mike L. says:

    I think Ed Felton had a post on his blog about how soccer is meant to not ever require anything more than a field and a ref, and that that is why some of these stranger rules crop up (such as stoppage time). It’s an interesting premise which I didn’t realize existed for soccer, though I really do appreciate how instant replays aren’t in soccer at all. Occasionally, it’s a real problem, but for the most part, I have to say that I appreciate the lack of pausing during a game.

    As for making the goal bigger, I don’t know – it’s nice that when a goal is scored it’s a big ordeal…though I think it does result in more games being decided on luck than should be, so maybe there’s a trade off there.

  2. Ed Felten says:

    How would you implement #1? If play is continuing, and the captain is not already near the referee, it’s not clear how the captain could exercise their challenge power. Does play stop immediately when a challenge is made? And if so, how can you stop captains from using this power to stop play strategically?

    Unlimited substitutions are also problematic, given that substituting allows a team to prevent the opponent from restarting quickly when play stops. Also, substituting lets a team give its players a short rest (even the players who stay on the field) at will. Some coaches would use substitutions to artificially slow the pace of play, making the game much less engaging for fans.

  3. phil says:

    I’m not a great fan of football (that’s what it’s called where I live), however I value simplicity in life so Mike L.’s post which quotes
    “soccer is meant to not ever require anything more than a field and a ref” struck a chord with me. My vote is no rule changes.

    Regards larger goalposts. Once i read some pschotherababble on the effects of the great difficulties to score in football and the effect on the whole game, players and spectators. In short it said it buit unprecedented levels of anticipation which is essential to any good game. So again my vote is no on that one too.

    Now where’s that article on rsync google lead me here to find…