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Report: MLS preparing to start video referee trial at end of October




Major League Soccer is set to be a testing ground for live video referring.

According to The Times, MLS will make use of a video referee in 10-to-15 non-competitive games at the end of October, with the trial focusing on decisions in three key areas: goals, penalty kicks and red cards. League vice president Jeff Agoos said that the league is a supporter of “using technology to improve the game without disrupting the flow,” and natural stoppages occur during those instances anyway.

“In all those cases, there is a natural stoppage,” Agoos told The Times. “Our findings show there is ample time to give information to the referee. Depending on the incident, there can be from 40 seconds to well over a minute, plenty of time to review a decision.”

“Ultimately, we believe the referee should have as much, if not more, information than the fan who goes to the game,” Agoos added. “At the moment the fan has more on his smartphone. We don’t think that makes sense. The discussion in football, ‘That it’s always been that way,’ doesn’t hold water with us. We are not looking for perfection. It doesn’t exist. There will always be the human element but the game is so fast now that it’s impossible for the officials to keep track.”

FIFA delayed an application by the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) to conduct its own trial of the video referee system, with then-FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke saying: “It’s a question of making the biggest decision ever in the way football is played.”

Agoos confirmed that MLS franchise owners are backing the plan and that implementation into the game could start in 2016 if FIFA allows it.

What do you think of this development? Would you like to see video referring implemented in MLS? Do you think it will help or hurt the game?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I continue to be baffled by the opposition to replay on this board. There are some who don’t want the game to be slowed down a-la football. Ok, I sort of get that. Others don’t want ads (I think that’s a separate complaint – ever watched a game on Univision? They play ads during the games with the game in a tiny picture-in-picture window. Ads will come eventually regardless.)

    But the ones that truly make no sense are the people here that say, in the same breath, that they don’t want replay while also saying that money should be spent improving referees because the quality in MLS stinks. Again, I ask, why should I, sitting at home in my underwear watching the game in HD, have better information to make a call than the ref on the field? This is in fact what happens every single game. Inevitably, a couple of these happen each game, and the commentators are usually quick to point out the correct call 10-20 seconds later after watching replays from a couple angles. This would improve the quality of the refereeing by getting more calls correct, especially when there is a more objective truth. Penalty or no penalty is often subjective, sure, in some cases. But inside the box or outside the box is not. Contact or no contact is also usually not subjective. These things are easy. And there’s an easy solution and it’s in all of our homes. Let’s let the refs do their job easier, and we’ll all be happier.

  2. I have no problem with adding video review as long as it doesn’t slow down the game, but I still think adding a second referee is more important and easily implementable step.

    • In addition to the main referee, there are also two linesmen, a fourth official, and now in some cases two additional referees on the goal line. That’s six referees, and there are still a ton of calls that are clearly wrong to everyone watching at home. How many referees do you think we would need per game that would be as beneficial as a single TV monitor? Ten? Twenty? Fifty?

    March 1, 2015 at 10:04 AM

    everyone has their own opinions, right? look, how many times did you find yourself becoming angry. yes, angry! because you thought that the referee was blind? or possibly, lacking intelligence? or both? this is not 1492 anymore. the land that christopher columbus discovered is now populated by people like us with computers and cell phones and you name it.

    oh, please, god, yes, please! put the camera in the goal. use the technology. i beg you, really!

    emphasis not on challenges – emphasis on improving the official’s calls

    i get what people are saying about challenges (challenging the ref’s decision as in nfl today). i think that shouldn’t be the focus, though. to me, the focus should be on empowering the referees with technology to IMPROVE THEIR OFFICIATING. only god knows. but suppose, now, officials get the calls “right” about 85% of the time. but, with technology assistance, that can be increased to 95%. to me, that’s awesome. do others here not think so? if the refs calls become more accurate (again, only god knows), then the referee starts to disappear and we all start enjoying WATCHING THE GAME which is what we all really want, yes?

    my two cents about it, cheers!

    “What would help would be better and stricter supervision of refs, including strong penalties for imposing idiosyncratic interpretations of the rules.”

    with all due respect, that is never going to happen in mls, imo. although i do agree with what you are saying. what is far more likely, imo, is taking some of that “idiosyncratic interpretations of the rules” away from humans and giving it to a camera, gps chip or motion sensor that isn’t so creative in its interpretation of data as humans sometimes can be.

    unless attitudes about “professional fouls” being okay change, then, i agree, you’re right.

  4. MLS – since 1996 not afraid to try “improving” the game, their way – is the obvious place to start this. American tv viewers – and even live spectators – are immune to the side-effects of time-outs, video replay, etc.

    The world will be watching, because everyone is thinking about it and so, objectively-speaking, we have to collectively get it off our chest.

    But it ain’t gonna improve the game. And MLS has been underestimating the intelligence of the American soccer fan for 20 years now, have and continue to give us puritans and aestheticians scandalous things like field turf and league-wide jersey templates, and I don’t trust anything they suggest doing to the rules of the game. I don’t believe, in all their proposals to ameliorate our viewing experience, they have once succeeding in doing so, except to simply let things grow naturally. I am of the thinking that only fans and players, with their energy and spontaneity and artistry, can “improve” this game. And they have. But MLS just keeps playing their heavy hand.

    • I obviously don’t see this at all the way you do. To me this is not changing any rule of the game, it’s taking additional measures to enforce existing rules of the game. It’s an attempt to do things better.

  5. Next up, 15 sec time out and Budweiser ads. Heck if we can’t be any good at this game might as well try and destroy it for everyone else. Haha.

  6. College basketball has much the same system that MLS is talking about — using TV replays during timeouts to review certain plays. Having observed this system over at least two seasons, I see no indication that it has improved officiating or even avoided errors that might influence the outcome of a game. It just slows the game down.

    You can use replays to review only certain plays. Someone mentioned penalties. To what extent do you imagine you could use replays to overrule the ref? Perhaps whether the foul occurred in the box, but certainly not whether it was a foul.

    Hand ball is, in my opinion, one of the calls that officials get wrong frequently (in my view there are very few hand balls according to the rules of the game). I don’t see how a replay is going to correct any of those bad calls, because so much turns on interpreting the intention of the offending player. And so on.

    Based on extensive observation I would suggest that officiating in college basketball and MLS are petty bad. Certainly veteran basketball officials ignore most of the rule book, regularly favor the favored team or the home team, and are prone to punishing coaches they don’t like. Replays have done nothing to correct any of those problems. The weakness of MLS officials centers on an unwillingness to enforce the rules — tackles from behind, using hands on defense, unsportsmanlike behavior, dissent — all of these are permitted in MLS to a degree unseen in the big time European leagues. Again I don’t see how replays are going to repair the damage.

    If USSF or MLS have money to burn I suggest that they upgrade their efforts to review referees’ work and to provide meaningful feedback to officials and then if that feedback is ignored, find new refs/

    • I can’t speak to the replays in College Basketball since I don’t follow it, but I’m surprised it hasn’t increased the quality of the calls. In the NFL, refs rarely get things wrong with the help of replay. I would argue, though, that it’s a bigger problem in soccer simply because you have one ref that has to cover much much more ground than any of the refs in basketball, hence the ref is less likely to have the information necessary to make a good call in soccer.

      Why do you think replays can’t be used to determine whether or not a penalty was a foul? Seems like that’s exactly what replay would be good for.

      I do take your point that a lot of the ways in which MLS refs aren’t living up to expectations is in how they interpret rules and enforce them on the field. That’s true. What I hope, though (it remains to be seen) and one of the reasons I have been hoping for replay for >10 years, is that players behavior will change with replay. Once they know they can and will be punished for sneakily breaking rules, whether it be taking dives in the box, or restraining forwards on corner kicks, they will be forced to play within the rules. This will make the game cleaner, and will actually also make the refs jobs easier, since there will be less to call.

      We’ll see though. I think it’s an experiment worth conducting.

  7. It’s worth a try. If it slows down the game too much, then it won’t work. But at least even the players can see when someone took a dive or used his hands or Lenhart really deserved a three-game suspension

  8. Dumb. Need to concentrate on improving quality of play not slowing the game down with video replays like the NFL. Maybe use it after the game to discipline bad fouls and hacks. That wouldn’t work cause half the players would never be available due to card accumulation

  9. you can get the call right in a matter of seconds watching a tv replay. this won’t (shouldn’t) be like the NFL were they take a 10 min timeout (commercials!) to watch the play 40x and call a team of lawyers to consult the million page rule book.

    i’m all for it the way outlined in the article – and it would be a great addition to the game world wide.

    as for when? – there are 23 matches remaining in the season, so if I understand this correctly they one’s w/o playoff implications (i think pretty much all will) will have this? I hope its just an automatic review not a coaches challenge.

    • It is incredibly rare that I learn anything from the 10 mins that the NFL spends on repays that I didn’t learn within the first 10 seconds. It’s just a bunch of filler and frankly very questionnable whether it even improves accuracy/ Every week there is a fresh debate over NFL rules– the “Tuck Rule”, the “Fail Mary”, and dozens of others…. all of which have come in the mature stages of the replay era. The rulebook keeps getting thicker but nothing seems to be happening with increased clarity

      I would have a much easier time believing in this if Don Garber had any history of doing things to “enhance competitive fairnesss and accuracy”. But his track record tells an utterly different story. The man cares about revenue. Period. Heck, I’ll even concede that maybe this is not such a bad thing in some ways — grwoing a soccer league when there are already dozens of successful ones worldwide is no easy task and sooner or later MLS has to solve the TV revenue problem or it will always be second rate.

      Perhaps it’s just a matter of opinion and preference, but I’d rather have a poor but simple girlfriend who is as beautiful as the day we met, than a a busted whore who sold her soul for a crooked boob job and a law degree.

  10. Nice to see #bushleaguemls is putting that USNTs money to good use.
    Next thing you know it might actually start developing players. 😮

  11. ‘Reviewed during the natural stoppages of the game’

    Ok, the calls that the referee doesn’t make will get ignored, but any call the ref does make will be scrutinized and potentially reversed.

    The beauty of soccer lies in the uninterrupted flow of the game. Do not destroy that!!

    Why do I get the sense that this is commercially motivated? Is this being backed by the Sponsors?

  12. Serious question: What are these “10-to-15 non-competitive games at the end of October”? Are they MLS games between teams with no chance of getting to the playoffs?

  13. There is no reason MLS should not be at the fore front of video replay assisted decision making.

    There seems to be two main camps of thought. First those who see a need for efficient use of technology to get more game changing calls more often. And those who stand with FIFAs old guard who want keep everything the same.

    MLS has to push for this because the market in the US is still fresh.

      • Next game you watch, time how long it takes between when a ref blows his whistle for a PK, and when it’s actually taken. Plenty of time to review the play.

  14. We all need to get a grip. No matter what you do, refs will make mistakes. It’s part of every game at every level. Instant replay has done nothing to improve NFL or college football or basketball games and served only to slow them down. And so on. And there is something to be said for having the game at all levels played under the same conditions.
    Now, if MLS announced that it was going to put real effort into improving the refereeing I would be wildly enthusiastic

    • So what makes you think that replay has done nothing to improve games in the NFL? I think getting calls right does in fact improve games. And granted – refs will always make mistakes, but why not help them make fewer? The quantity of and impact of referee mistakes in soccer far outweighs anything in football, where a single penalty call has a much bigger outcome on the game than a touchdown.

  15. This is a big step forward for the MLS and World football. I think it is only possible because of the removal of Blatter and to a lesser extent Platini,who were opposed to new technology introduced to football, even at the trial phase. These “hold backs” were truly supporters of old school football and did not even want goal line technology introduced at the WC.Replay technology, proven in many sports were refused on numerous occasions, even though they were vetted and through various FIFA subcommittees.

    • Using video review in 10 non-competitive games in MLS is somehow related to Blatter and Platinni being temporarily suspended from FIFA. Are you off your meds again?
      What else are they responsible for? The Middle East crisis?
      The fact is that for every FA that wants to do it there’s another 10 that either don’t care or don’t have the means to do it. It has nothing to do with the FIFA or UEFA presidents.

      • Rob… From the above article !

        FIFA delayed an application by the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) to conduct its own trial of the video referee system, with then-FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke saying: “It’s a question of making the biggest decision ever in the way football is played.”

  16. On Saturday MLS gets exposed as not being able to develop players worth a crap. On Monday they announce they’ll start using video technology.
    All gimmicks, smoke and mirrors with a little football thrown in to keep the masses engaged.

  17. Why not use the money to hire some decent refs. MLS refs suck plus the league does not back them up so they ref scared. They are intimidated by the players and it shows. I still see too much mass confrontation and games out of control.

    • As if there are tons of experienced refs out there in America just sitting around doing nothing complaining about the money. Dream on.

    • So I’ll assume this is a serious question. First, I don’t think there are like a ton of more qualified refs out there that the MLS has just decided to not hire. So I take issue with the assumption that they could simply use the money for better refs.

      Second, don’t you realize this will make the refs better? Giving refs the chance to review their decisions will improve the quality of their decisions overall, and inspire more confidence (from fans and players) that the refs have it in their ability to get the calls right.

  18. I look forward to seeing the results of this assessment. Maybe with what I hope to be significant changes at FIFA headquarters and the way it’s run, technology can finally be used effectively to help improve the on-field results…

    • I look forward to seeing the results, as well. I’m not against the preliminary testing of new ideas. But as soon as they start slipping commercials in (It may not happen at first– but it will) , it’s going to be a lot less cute. I feel it will very quickly become clear that there are a LOT more grey areas than everybody thought.

      Well, everybody besides Don Garber, who saw it coming a mile away from experience and who is probably lining up sponsors for the pilot program as we speak As Don knows from his NFL days, “increasing competitive fairness” is a great way to sell anything. And frankly, it’s fine in the NFL. The ball is barely in play for a 20-30 mins in a 3 hour broadcast. The fans don’t care as much about competitive flow because there wasn’t much in the first place.

      Frankly I’m actually a little amazed that this move is getting such apparently universal support on this site. When has Don Garber ever changed rules for any purposebesides increasing revenue? The elimination of referee mistakes will never happen. Replay delays (10 mins in length sometimes) produce the wrong result quite often, actually..

      I know not everyone sees it the way I do, and that’s ok. But I hate commercials. Hate them. And it’s no secret MLS’s TV ratings are abysmal and the strategies employed to date have not worked at all. Doesn’t mean we need to dust off the old “gimmick bag” and legislate a bunch of new rules. Getting the stadiums to a comfortable place took 20 years. And that was probably fast.


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