Soccer, I love you, but you should be better by now.

July 07, 20142 minutes to read

The World Cup has reminded me how much I love soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it, futbol!!! The athleticism, intelligence, and creativity required to succeed elevate it to an elegance few sports can match. Every four years we Americans wonder if it's about to take off here too. Then we're reminded of some of the ridiculous rules that would be ridiculed mercilessly in other sports.

Here are a few humble suggestions to help improve things:

No More Penalty Kick Shootouts

The penalty shootout is inherently flawed because it makes soccer no longer a team sport. It removes most of what makes the sport beautiful: teamwork, creativity, and strategy (deking the goalie is a tactic, not a strategy).

Can you imagine if a hitter in baseball had the opportunity to hit from a tee? Or if an American football game was decided by field goals? It's a perversion of the rules.

I propose these alternative rule changes that maintain the integrity of the game:

  1. Disallow hand use by goalies after 90 minutes
  2. Create an "orange card." Any player who commits a foul in overtime is immediately removed from the game.
  3. Eliminate throw-ins. They just waste time and encourage tactics that diminish momentum.
  4. Reinstate the "Golden Goal" rule so that the first goal ends the game.

Disallow "Running Out The Clock"

A common tactic in soccer is for the winning team to hold onto the ball and "Park The Bus" as the clock ticks down. This approach kills the momentum of the game, stalls action and effectively shortens the game. Too many sports allow this. Clock-based game rules encourage idling and inaction. IMO Cutting the game short is a cop-out.

I suggest soccer look to other sports that give each time a legitimate shot at winning. Baseball and Tennis are good examples. The rules force you to put the ball in play. The victory in those sports is complete. It's fair.

How might we force action through the entire game in soccer?

Shot clocks are an approach from football and basketball that could help. They work by requiring the team with the ball to take action in a specified time. At most, you have a lame 30 seconds rather than 15 minutes or more.

Post the official time

Only one person on the field, in the stadium, or watching on television knows the actual time of the game: the referee.

I can't fathom the reasoning for this. Surprise? Tradition? Union rights? There's simply no good reason in this day and age that an element so essential to the game theory is kept a secret.

The current solution of "add-on" time is a hack. if the NFL can relay time from the head referee's watch to the clock then so can FIFA.