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MLS on front lines of FIFA video replay effort, will trial in USL

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer is taking a big step toward implementing video replay, announcing today that they'll be taking a "leadership role" in a FIFA and IFAB-led effort.

In conjunction with PRO and USL, the Video Assistant Referee Project (which, sadly, nobody seems to have called VARP yet — so let us be the first) is set to be implemented first in some select USL matches at both MLS and USL venues, with the aim being developing an implementation plan for MLS matches.

The project focuses on four situations which video assistant referees would be utilized, each of which is described as "game-changing."

  • Goals: The video assistant would determine if there was an infringement that means the goal should not be awarded.
  • Penalty decisions: The VAR would ensure "no clearly wrong decisions" were made in awarding or non-awarding of a penalty kick.
  • Red card incidents: The VAR would ensure "no clearly wrong decisions" were made when a player is sent off.
  • Mistaken identity: The VAR would make sure the proper play was cautioned or sent off.

The process described by FIFA for the utilization of a video assistant referee is a three-step one:

  1. Either the referee informs the VAR that a play should be reviewed, or the VAR informs the referee of the same
  2. Video footage is examined by the VAR
  3. The referee either accepts the opinion of the VAR, or reviews the footage on his or her own at the sideline.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has been outspoken in favor of video replay; he told FIFA that the league should be involved in early efforts for replay.

In a Sept. 2014 interview with Sports Illustrated, Garber called for video replay.

I would love to be able to do that. [MLS deputy commissioner] Mark Abbott was out in Zurich at a meeting last week [at FIFA headquarters] and let folks in Zurich know that we’d be happy to work with them to be that league. I don’t know what their plans are to experiment with that, but I believe the time has come for there to be a mechanism so that games are not determined by [referee calls] that are not right.

MLS is not the only organization committed to this project. From the press release:

In addition to MLS, the Hyundai A-League in Australia, Germany’s Bundesliga, Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro, the Super Cup Supertaça Cândido Oliveira and the Portuguese Cup Taça de Portugal of the Portuguese Football Federation as well as different competitions under the umbrella of the Dutch football association KNVB are scheduled to participate in the Video Assistant Referee project.