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Is it time for Instant Replay in Major League Soccer?

Well sometimes when you open a can of worms, something good can come out instead of just worms. I am hoping that with the decision of Major League Soccer to start reviewing dives/embellishment can turn from what it is today, a hit and miss system that lacks any real standards and leaves much to the discretion of the Disciplinary Committee and their weekly review of matches.

Yes I think it is time for Major League Soccer to implement instant replay, now I hear the howls and screams of many, but give me a couple of minutes of your time and let's see if I can't change your mind.

First, I am for a very limited instant replay that would only be used on 3 occasions during matches that already have breaks in the action. Goals, PK calls, and red cards should all be reviewed by a 5th official who should have access to all feeds of the match. There is a minute or two break when these events happen in a match and almost all of them are replayed on the big screen of matches before the actual match returns to action. I am calling for a 120 second period during which the 5th official will review the play and determine if the correct call was made or not, if he believes a decision was wrong, he will provide the video proof to both the referee and 4th official on the sidelines. A vote with 2 of the 3 agreeing to overturn a decision will be required to change a call on the pitch.

more after the jump:

Second, the reason for this is simple. The game is too fast for the officials to get the right calls all the time and more and more we are seeing game changing calls that when reviewed are the wrong call. While MLS has tried to discourage diving to get PK's by having the Disciplinary Committee review them after the fact that reality is that doesn't do anything to preserve the integrity of the game. To prove my point I am going to use a number of situations that involved Real Salt Lake this year, some good and some bad, but I have little doubt that anyone who follows another team wouldn't be able to find similar examples:

  • Fabian Esindola's offside goal against the Colorado Rapids, the officials were out of position late in the match and simply missed the call. I have little doubt that if reviewed this goal would have been disallowed.
  • Charlie Davies' dive at Rio Tinto, again the referee is out of position and the AR with the better view isn't consulted and a PK is issued and converted. A review of this play would be the one that would open the whole can of worms with MLS trying to review calls after the fact.
  • Then you have a couple of issues with Saborio, first his dive against San Jose which shouldn't have gotten a PK, the embellishment at Seattle that drew a red card for JKH that was very suspect.
  • You have the bad red card to Nat Borchers in the early minutes of the New England match, and I could go on and on with issues from both RSL matches as well as others. Clearly there is a problem.

Now there is one spot that I am torn over, what about goals that are ruled not goals? For RSL there have been a couple of these this year, just ask Nat Borchers about it. For now I am thinking we want a clear line drawn and for me it is simple that only 3 things should be reviewed via a new instant replay review system, goals, red cards, and penalty kicks.

I do have some support on this issue from RSL owner Dave Checketts has called for this a few times over the last couple of months during radio interviews, and I hear from a good source that the owner of the Portland Timbers, Merrit Paulson, is also an advocate of it. I have reached out to RSL to see if we could get a comment on it from either Bill Manning or Garth Lagerwey, and if I hear back I will add that info to the post.

I am not foolish enough to think that this would be a silver bullet that would result in no more bad calls or missed calls, but as we look for ways to improve the game (goal line technology, adding more officials, and whatever else you can think of). It seems to me that perhaps the most effective of these would be to simply take advantage of the many camera angles and use 120 seconds to make sure we are getting the potential game changing moment's right.

This is a big step, it would upset FIFA if we didn't convince them to endorse it, but the time has come for MLS to say we need some help and this might be a way to add a new level of integrity to the game.

So I expect a lot of comments both in support and against the idea, but that is the point of this. So voice your opinion, let's all be civil, and have some fun.