June 16, 2010


Soccer Done Right (Richard A. Epstein, 06.14.10, Forbes)

Soccer officials took one step in the right direction by making a win worth three points and a draw only one in a conscious effort to open up the game. That sensible change, however, did not go far enough. Soccer should borrow from basketball and ice hockey to fix the glitches in its own rules. Two areas need special attention: scoring and penalties. These two rule changes are not unrelated. Rather, they would work in tandem to improve the game. [...]

Soccer instantly becomes a much better game when it awards two points for a goal and one point for a penalty shot. It should take its cue from basketball, which awards one point for a free throw awarded after a foul. But it also awards two points for any field goal from inside the arc: In an inspired refinement, teams earn three points for field goals beyond the arc. [...]

[S]occer should follow the ice hockey approach to penalties, after correcting for the difference in team size (six players for hockey vs. 11 for soccer) and game length (60 minutes for ice hockey vs. 90 minutes for soccer).

Here is how it works. In hockey a minor infraction sidelines the player for two minutes for an instant short-term advantage that doesn't come with a yellow card. If there is a second infraction by a team, part of it is served concurrently with the previous penalty until the first player returns to the ice. If the other team commits a minor penalty when it is ahead, its player goes off the ice as well. In hockey there can be periods of play where the teams are six to five, six to four, five to five, five to four, even four to four. Obviously the first situation is the most common, and that advantage ends once a goal is scored. But the reduction in play opens up the rink and increases the likelihood for score for a goal that is now, remember, worth two points.

The biggest problem is actually the offsides rule, which should be modeled after hockey's. Give the goalie a real crease, one which the opposing side is not allowed to enter, and install "blue lines" around the 30 yard mark that the ball must cross prior to any of the offensive players, but that once it does the entire offensive side remains onsides until the defense clears the ball. This gets rid of the stoppages of play at the precise moment that the attack is building and removes the temptation for teams to try to exploit the offsides rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2010 5:38 AM
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