World Cup Comments

I really enjoy watching World Cup soccer, but it’s infuriating at the same time. While many people complain that soccer is boring the non-stop action keeps my attention. I think soccer has two big problems: foul-calling and scoring.

The game is altered far too much by one man with a whistle and a pocket of cards. Because the consequences are so dramatic players flop all the time. And it’s comical the way the sport treats “injuries.” Can you think of another sport where some guys ride off the field on a hand-carried stretcher? When you need a stretcher in American sports there’s always a cart or ambulance involved, along with a backboard. Everyone knows most of these injuries are a farce.

The low-scoring game doesn’t bother me so much, it’s that the way the game is decided doesn’t necessarily reflect the play on the field. It’s common to see the team that dominated the play on the field to lose 1-0.

I have a few rule changes I would like to implement.

–Expand the goals by two meters. Let’s see more shots on goal. With higher scoring this ought lessen the problem of the loser actually winning. Plus, players may be less apt to flop in the box if there’s a higher chance of turning a contested shot into a goal.

–Have a penalty box, like in hockey, instead of cards. This prevent a referee mistake from having such a drastic influence on the match.

–I like the idea of assigning cards after the match is over. Martin Schmidt makes the case in The New York Times.

Here is my idea: After the game, have a panel of three judges look at the film of the game. If two of them agree that a player dived or faked injury, then charge the yellow or red card to that player instead of the opposing player.

This would increase the cost for choosing to dive or flop. It would also allow soccer to use technology without slowing the game unnecessarily.

One could even think of extending this to situations in which no foul was called or no card was given but a player was, in hindsight, faking injury. Give the player a yellow card after the match. If it is his second, he will miss the next game.

–I’d eliminate the penalty kick for fouls in the box. Give free kicks from wherever the foul takes place. Again, more shots, less flops.

I like soccer, but I think it could be better. I look forward to watching the final.

8 Responses “World Cup Comments”

  1. Andrew says:

    2 more things I would like to see:

    1. Eliminate offsides. This would definitely increase scoring as well as punish poor defense rather than allow the strategy of “offside trapping” which really angers me.

    2. 7 on 7. There are way too many players on that field because no matter how large the field looks, there is far too much congestion.

    I love the punishment of flops idea. It’s what makes the “sport” unenjoyable to me.

  2. J. Cross says:

    I agree that your suggestions would make the game better but imagine how we’d feel if a soccer fan made such radical proposed changes for baseball? I think die-hard soccer fans are probably pretty tied to the current size of the goal and penalty kick rule.

    On the other hand, I think that assigning yellow cards after the game is entirely reasonable. This wouldn’t work very well for enforcing conduct in the final, however.

  3. flournoy says:

    Having an outside propose changes is a great way to find out what may be wrong. Outsiders typically come in with a clean slate and a fresh outlook. No irrational justifications like “But that’s how it’s always been.” It doesn’t mean that the outsider is right, or that he fully understands all of the factors that come into question, but he provides a new viewpoint.

  4. Breen says:

    Speaking as a “die-hard football :)” fan, I agree with J. Cross. Changing the size of the goal is about on a par with somebody coming in and telling baseball that the game would be much better if we only added five feet to the distance between the bases.

  5. Johnny says:

    All sports evolve. Football has changed its rules at least 4 or 5 times in a major way to increase offense. Baseball has done it also by lowering the mound and the DH rule. Basketball as well. JC’s proposed changes make a lot of sense. Like a lot of dads I’ve grown to like soccer since my kids took up the game. Having tried the game myself makes what the best in the world do even more amazing. But the rampant diving and the inordinate amount of power a referee has on the outcome of the game needs to be addressed.

  6. J. Powers says:

    I’m a former minor leaguer (8 seasons), now an attorney, who very much enjoys your site. Though I’m a bit old school in my approach to baseball, I am not cynical of your methods for evaluating players–in fact, I find it fascinating and informing.

    As for soccer (I confess to playing in high school), another rule change should be to allow limitless substitutions, which would allow star players to make more aggressive runs more often, knowing they could rest for 5-10 minutes at a time. As it stands, substitutions are limited and permanent, so players pace themselves, which slows the game and leads to at least some reticence to make aggressive runs.

  7. John Beamer says:

    Oh my goodness. This is the sort of garbage that I rarely see on this mostly excellent site.

    Making the goal wider?? Really? All that will happen is more pot-shots from longer range. Will we have more goals? Yes. Will it be more exciting? Probably not. Part of the attraction of soccer is the relative rarity of the goal (compared to most traditional US sports). This means you can have a situation whereby one team can pumell another but still go on to lose the game. It makes for more close games and more upsets. A wider goal will mean that a team that has more shots will score more – which is not necessarily the best metric for success. It is even more bizarre you say this given that baseball is sport where a loser (Royals) can still win 60 games a season. There is nothing wrong with the loser winning. Over the course of a season the best team usually wins. Bigger goals would mean they would win by more.

    As for your other suggestions that are a little more sensible. The idea of a “penalty box” for repeat offenders has been oft-mooted but has been rejected for whatever reason. I don’t see it as a big deal and am not sure to what extent it would change the game.

    Getting rid of the penalty kick. This would just encourage more fouls when there are scoring opportunities – not a good idea. There are certain rules (eg, a backpass) which permit a free-kick in the box. The score rate of these is low – there isn’t much you can do with a wall of players manning the goal line.

    Diving is definitely a big problem in Soccer. I actually really like the retrospective card idea. The only other thought is what happens when a dive results in a free kick which then results in a goal? Is this eliminated?

    Now for some of the comments:

    Elimate offsides? No. You would just get players goal hanging and a lot more long balls, which are boring.

    7 on 7. Interesting idea – players would get very tired more quickly – not sure it is good for the game. Maybe 10 v 10.

    Rolling substitutions. Again and interesting idea. I am not sure if would allow players to make “more aggressive” runs. I don’t think players shirk making runs because they are tired. Again, likely to have minimal impact

  8. John Beamer says:


    Sorry – just realised my first paragraph may have been a little aggressive. Please forgive me. Genuinely this is a great site, with fantastic content and it is always good to get an outside perspective on another sport.

    Keep up the excellent work.