Major League Soccer’s plan for video reviews could change the world’s most popular sport

The end of simulation?
The end of simulation?
Image: Reuters/Sergio Perez
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Soccer has been one of the slowest sports to adopt change, only adopting goal-line technology in the World Cup this year, despite some real howlers in tournaments past. Now the US Major League Soccer is proposing to push the envelope significantly by testing video-replay challenges of official’s decisions, commissioner Don Garber told Sports Illustrated.

This has potential to significantly change the world’s most popular sport, and not only in the US. The MLS is a comparatively small league, but would serve as a good testing ground and proof of concept for the bigger European leagues.

Imagine the consequences! Players might be less inclined to dive in the penalty box, for example, if there their play-acting could be repeatedly played on a massive stadium screen and their chance at a penalty reversed. Fouls missed by referees might not go unpunished.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter outlined some details of a system earlier this week and hopes to test it in minor tournaments or domestic leagues next year. He suggests allowing coaches to challenge plays once or twice per half, only during play stoppages. The types of plays coaches could challenge weren’t specified.

One of the things that fans of soccer value is the lack of interruption in matches, and pausing the game for a review could slow things down. But more than just about any other sport, referees determine the outcome of soccer games. A red card or penalty can completely change a game, making getting those decisions right absolutely essential.

Some of soccer’s most notorious moments have been terrible referee decisions. Subjectivity might be part of the beauty of the game, but there’s a case to be made that wrong is wrong.