Rule Changes Coming to MLS

The IFAB have released a series of new rules that will go into effect on June 1, 2016. The MLS now uses IFAB rules since 2005.

When Major League Soccer started play 21-years-ago they didn’t follow the rules that most of the rest of the world were using. One such example is that their clock counted down instead of up, to try and align themselves with other American sports instead of the rest of the world.

Starting in 2005, MLS adopted the rules from the International Football Association Board (IFAB). People often mistake FIFA as the governing body over the rules (err Laws) of the game. That said, FIFA represents half the voting members of IFAB, but they are separate institutions.

You are probably wondering why all of this matters. Well IFAB have released a new set of rules that will go into effect on June 1, 2016. I’ve reached out to MLS officials and I’m able to confirm that the rules will go into effect for MLS in 2017. We’ll highlight a few of them for you. For a full list of the rules check out the IFAB website.

DOGSO Triple Punishment

Currently, when a player commits a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) a player is given a triple punishment. The triple punishment is a red card, suspension and penalty kick. The new rule will allow an official to only issue a yellow card instead of a red card.

A red card will still apply if there is a handball, holding, pushing, pulling or a player is not attempting or couldn’t possibly have played the ball. So basically, if a player just makes a dumb tackle but he was going for the ball, it will just be a yellow card.

Pre-Game Sending Off

Before a game starts a player can now be ejected. For example, if a player were to do something while coming out of the tunnel to start the game or in warm-ups, the official can dismiss that player from the game. If that player was a starter and the team sheet is already out, they can be replaced. However they can only be replaced by another player in the 18. If the dismissal happens before team sheets are out, then the team can still dress a full 18 players. Either way, three substitutes will still be available.

Injured Players Don’t have to Leave the Pitch

When a player is fouled and that results in a yellow card or red card, that player doesn’t have to be taken off the field after receiving care on the field. This is to prevent teams from playing down a man for a period of time until the referee waves the player back on.

This could be a negative as it could lead to more players faking injuries. Before they would have been forced off when a trainer comes onto the field. Now they will not. That said, players already try to “sell” the injury to get the player who committed the foul to be carded.

Red Card Advantage Played

If a player commits a foul that will result in a red card, but advantage is played and the player who committed a foul then gets involved in the play again, play will be stopped and it will result in an indirect free kick. So instead of the free kick being played from where the initial foul occurred, it will be played in a potentially more advantageous position.

This could be somewhat flawed as the player who committed the red card foul doesn’t necessarily know that they are about to be red carded and in an effort to hustle and help their team could potentially further cause damage to their team by getting back into the play.

Things that Never Happen

There are new rules around scoring an own goal from a corner kick or goal kick. If a player is taking a corner kick and he somehow sends it all the way to the opposite end of the field and goes into the goal, it won’t result in an own goal but instead will result in a corner kick for the other team. On that same note, a goal kick that is taken and somehow goes into your own goal, will also just be a corner kick for your opponent.

Attempted Violent Conduct is a Red Card

An interesting rule, that I somewhat thought already existed, is that if a player attempts “violent conduct” then it will result in a red card even if no contact is made. This reminds me of the foul “committed” against Conner Hallisey in the season opener in Seattle that resulted in a player being sent off for Seattle despite that there may have been no contact.

I assume this is also the case for someone trying to take a swing at a player but missing or some similar conduct. It will now be a red card.

Another way to get a red card that I thought was a rule is contact to the head of a player by hands or arms when it occurs away from the ball. The thing with this will be if anyone sees it. One would assume the referee will be watching the action around the ball and this will be something where discipline will be handed down later.

Video Replay

The new rules allow experimentation around the use of instant replay. Previously the rules didn’t allow it, which could be why it’s yet to be used in any league. In the Netherlands they are actually experimenting with that tomorrow. Don Garber has previously indicated a desire to use video replay in MLS and this new law should assist in that.

Other Random Rule Changes

  • Tape or material covering socks much match the sock color. I wonder if they could potentially affect TruSox, which many players wear under/over they game socks? If you haven’t heard of TruSox, it’s the best story about socks you’ll ever read.
  • Kickoffs no longer have to go forward first. This will eliminate the need for two players to be involved in the kickoff. Another point of emphasis is all players need to be on their side of the halfway line at kick off.
  • Coin toss will decide which end of the field a penalty kick shootout will be on. A second coin toss will decide who goes first. Also around PKs, goalkeepers can be replaced at any time. Previously all substitutions needed to be made before time expired on the game and the shootout began.
  • Now an opposing player cannot touch a goal kick if they were in the penalty box when the kick was taken until someone else touches the ball first. So no intercepting an errant pass.
  • Yellow cards will be issued to GKs who move off their line early.
  • Yellow cards will also be given to players who feign a PK and they will not be allowed to re-kick.
  • An attacking player in the goal can be flagged for offsides even when they don’t contact the ball on a goal scoring play. I have to assume this would be if they interfere with the goalkeeper.