Like many of you, I only watch soccer every four years. It’s hard to avoid the World Cup these days, between social media, the Internet, and television.
All the World Cup saturation really does in America is remind us why so few people here like the sport. It’s too slow and too unfair, a game with a paucity of scoring regulated at the whims of one man with dictatorial power.
If the “world’s game” is really so desperate to add America to its billions of fans, it’s going to need to make some serious changes. Here are some suggestions.
1. Unlimited Substitutions and Shorter Periods
No other team sport makes so many players stay on the field or court so long. Players get tired and an already boring game slows down even more. If teams could sub in players whenever they wanted, the game would stay fresh and exciting.
In addition, soccer should be broken down into quarters, like every other sport. No one wants to see players run around for 45 minutes straight. This would also give players a rest and allow coaches to adjust how the team plays to keep the game exciting.
2. Add More Refs
The NFL has seven officials to cover 22 players. Professional baseball has four umps for 10-14 guys on the field. Basketball has three refs for just ten guys!
Soccer has taken a step into the twenty-first century by adding video review, but it really needs three, maybe even four officials on the field. It’s ridiculous that one man holds so much power. It’s hard for soccer to shake the label as “a communist sport” when one man decides so much.
3. Eliminate Offsides
No other sport has rules that hinder offenses from scoring. All this rule does is punish teams for being fast and smart. Imagine games where one or two players sit near the goal. That means one or two defenders will have to stay near them. That will spread the teams out and allow for more shots at goal, making the game more exciting.
4. Make Some Goals Count More
Scoring is the biggest complaint about the sport here in America. It’s outrageous that a goal from way outside the penalty box counts the same as a score inside the penalty box. No other sport counts a score the same no matter the difficulty.
Shots from farther away should count for two or even three goals. FIFA could easily add a “two-goal line” to each side of the field without disrupting the game much (NFL players function fine with many more lines). Combine this with a lack of goaltenders, and you’ll have a sport Americans can truly fall in love with.
5. No Goaltenders
The best way to increase scoring? Get rid of the goaltender. It’s ludicrous that 10 men can’t use their hands, but one gets a waiver to catch or pick up the soccer ball. Try to imagine any other sport where specific players have specialized rules applied just to them. If we closed that loophole and just had 11 guys kicking the ball, there would be so much more incentive to kick the ball into the goal.
Imagine games that end 9-7, 20-12, even 11-13. I bet Americans across the country, from Atlanta to Seattle, from Orlando to New York, would turn out in the tens of thousands to watch that.
6. Allow Everyone to Use Hands in the Penalty Box
I admit, this is a bit out there. Bear with me. Two players can already touch the ball with their hands inside the penalty box. In addition, any player can pick up the ball for a sideline throw-in. Why not combine the two and just give everyone a better chance to score by allowing the use of hands inside the penalty box?
Thirty-two years later, everyone still talks about Argentina’s Diego Maradona scoring with his hand, showing just how great that type of goal is. Imagine a few of those being scored every game.