Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Should MLS Stop the Clock on Out of Bounds Plays Like the NFL?

With a newer, more transparent FIFA leadership, MLS should be allowed to make subtle rules changes to its game, like the NBA does for basketball. The NBA puts its own twist on how rules are applied, deviating from FIBA, the international arm of basketball. For example, FIBA rules allow players to knock the ball off the rim after it touches the cylinder. The NBA considers this to be a goal-tending violation.

Under the old FIFA guard, any changes without permission came with threats of 'rogue league' status and consequences to players (see 'History of Rules Changes...). Now, MLS is a willing guinea pig for FIFA, ensuring that VARs (video assistant referees) get the calls right during a game. So, with a more modern, contemporary relationship with FIFA, MLS should have the leeway to do other rules changes to ensure its game gives audiences the best suspense possible.

One change that would be beneficial to soccer would be a direct steal from the NFL. During the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half in the NFL, the clock stops any time a player goes out of bounds with the ball. Part of the results from this rule is that teams are able to get more strategy involved in the waning moments to make scoring more proficient.

If soccer adapts this NFL rule, electronic scoreboard keepers up in the far reaches of stadiums should have to stop the clocks (I also say take the timekeeping away from the referee) on soccer balls going out of bounds. And, if stopping the clock on out of bounds plays are initiated, it would just behoove MLS to take another step forward with regard to the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half. Why not just stop the clock on all dead-ball scenarios, such as direct kicks, fouls, etc... (Essentially, the NFL does this too already.)

I'm looking at how this past Sunday went for the NFL. There were several close games with multiple lead changes in the last five minutes of games. Dallas versus Pittsburgh (video above) had more than seven lead changes total in its game alone. New England versus Seattle (video below) had its own see-saw battle. Both games were monumental in terms of excitement. They had national Tv viewers on the edge of their seats, and in both games, it could be argued, that the rules for the end of the game set up their wild finishes.

Lead changes are such a rare occurrence in soccer (there were none for all of America's Cup and Euro Cup), what could it hurt for MLS to try and get more of them? People become fans and watch sports because of the thrilling nature of 'lead changes.' In practical terms, it has to be one of the biggest reasons for why sports fans love American football, basketball, baseball and hockey (the big four). The drama from watching the 'big four' keeps the audiences guessing.

For fans of soccer, when there's a lead, there's less guesswork involved.


  1. There is only one rule change needed to increase scoring and create drama in pro soccer. Its quite simple. The 24' x 8' dimension of the goal which was set I believe over a century ago must be enlarged. All other sports make material adjustments to their game when needed, except soccer. The average of 2 goals total per MLS game (equivalent to a 7-7 score in the NFL) is getting old. A lot has happened in a century!

    1. Completely agree about the size of the goals and that is one thing I change in RULES in above heading.

  2. I think I good compromise would be to keep the timing the way it is, but once stoppage time is added on, the stoppage time appears as a "countdown clock" that stops anytime the ball is out of play. Once the stoppage time countdown clock hits 0, the game is over. You could even keep the 90-minute clock counting up continuously like it normally does, but the countdown clock would signal the official end of the game.