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Americanizing Soccer for the U.S. Sports Fan pt. 3

The recent match between the U.S. and Cuba battling for a spot to the 2010 World Cup was a prime example of why soccer must revise its rule involving red-cards.  Expulsion from the game for a heinous foul is not the problem.  If the foul warrants expulsion, the referee should make the call.  What happens after the player is dismissed from the game is not what U.S. sports fans want to see from professional soccer.

U.S. sports fans expect the player to be fined and suspended for more games.  But, for the game being played at that moment, sports fans want to see another player take the suspended player’s place on the field.  There is too much invested in the game for it to become a laughing affair, as the match last night did.

Soccer purists, of course, will disagree, and they will try to cite the occasions when the team down a player was able to come back and either win or tie the game.  But, this occurs infrequently.

The problem is that the rule is set up to punish not just the player and his/her team, but, also the fans. 

It was big, bad U.S. vs. small, socialist Cuba.  The match-up was an attractive one.  The drama was both surreal and potent.  The outcome was unpredictable. 

The score was 2-1 late in the first half when the referee made the debatable and controversial call.  The remainder of the game was played with 11 players vs. 10 players.  The final score was 6-1.  

As professional soccer develops in the U.S., it must revise the red-card rule to reflect the best interests of sports fans.  U.S. sports fans will not tolerate watching deliberate mismatches.  It is not fair to penalize the fan.  The ultimate competition is an even match among players, eleven on eleven.

As the economy weakens, U.S. professional soccer must consider all peripheral factors that influence how sports fans see the beautiful game.  After having planned a day at the stadium, and having paid for gas, parking, tickets and refreshments, fans would rather see a fair outcome, even when the advantage of the expulsion is in favor of the home team and goes against the opposition.  The same can be said for fans watching on television. 

No one wants to see an expulsion because it changes the complexion of the game.  Whether it is 10 minutes after the start, or with 10 minutes remaining to be played, a red-card ruins the synergy that is created from the beauty of the game.  An expulsion sucks the energy from the fan and diminishes the result. 

In many instances when the red-card comes out, it is a questionable call.  By revising the rule, professional soccer in the U.S. alleviates the possibility of the red-card being a major issue (There can always be controversy surrounding the expulsion of a particular player who may never re-enter the game).  But, from a fan’s perspective, minimally speaking, at least it can always remain eleven players vs. eleven players.  If the player that committed the foul is, upon further review, after completion of the game, deemed to have not made such a severe penalty, then his/her suspension and fine should be reversed. 

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  1. Roger

    March 24, 2009 at 12:03 am

    The succes of soccer in a world scale,has a lot to do with the way leagues and tournaments in general are interconected.

    Something substancial is allways at stake; promotion,relegation,continental club cups qualification;World Cup qualifiers.
    Somehow a low division 3rd world country team is conected all the way to the World Club Cup!!
    Promotion and relegation is a key issue,a tool that enforces the “spirit” of the game, wich is a very noble one.Integration.

    Another reason for soccer huge succes is a standarized set of rules,wich habe been shaped throughout more than a century of experience.
    The problem with american soccer is their lords ignore the deepness of this game.They manage it like a bussiness; they created team names,logos,colors,shirts. Made some marketing and advertizing and hoped to catch on the momentum of the 94 World Cup. Their product has no soul.

  2. Roger

    March 23, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    By the way Mr Howard.
    Do you know that the rules of this game have been shaped as a result of more than a century????????????

  3. Roger

    March 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Is this post a joke?
    The top american soccer league is called Mayor League.It is managed by people without a soccer background. There are franchises more than soccer clubs. Eastern and Western divisions. Salary cap.NO promotion / relegation.Interleague play. play-offs made by more than 50% of teams.All starts games. You are talking about americanizing the game? more??!!
    The problem with MLS is that it doesnt feel neither tastes like soccer.
    With no pro/rel,this will never be a real soccer league.MLS is a private club.

  4. lsmetana

    October 14, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Why stop at making rule changes to accommodate the fans? Perhaps we could go all the way and make it 'sports entertainment' and script the finishes as well?

  5. Cavan

    October 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

    The reason for having to play a man down after a red card is meant to be a deterrent to getting a red card. If you are allowed to remain eleven on eleven after a red card, couldn't you just start a weaker hack whose job it is to injure the other team's star player? Then, after the star is taken to the hospital with a broken leg or whatever, and the thug player goes off, just replace him(her) with your real star player. Now you have your star in the game, fresher than everyone else, and the other team's star is in the hospital.

    Yes, there are times when a referee makes a mistake and the TV entertainment value of a game suffers. However, 99% of the time, the referee gets it right (at least within an acceptable shade of grey). Fans crow about the “bad calls” but first off, they are usually in an awful position to see what happened, plus they usually don't know all the rules of the game. Combine that with partisanship (that's what makes fans fans, right?) and fans are the last people who should be making any decision/judgement about rules infractions. If you want to see a mockery of an athletic competition based on skill and teamwork and athleticism and you want to see thuggery, go ahead and remove that rule. All it takes is one unethical coach and one hatchetman player (out of the vast majority who prefer to respect the game) and you'll see why the rule is the way it is.

    Bending the rules of the game is not going to magically make soccer hating old men like the game. The key for the MLS is to long term attract the many soccer fans who just haven't gotten into their product yet. Changing the rules will make the Eurosnobs that much more snobby.

  6. stickfigure

    October 13, 2008 at 8:45 am

    I hope this blog post was a joke – ridiculous argument

  7. Pingback: Pages tagged "soccer"

  8. Franco

    October 13, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Ok. Let's think about it. Champions League Final. I'm the coach and I ask to my worst player to kick very hard the other club's top player, who gets injured. My player is red carded and banned for 6 games. But, who cares? I won the final!

  9. undrafted

    October 12, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    FIFA won't approve of a league that makes such changes. American fans will really enjoy when FIFA bans all players who play in the unapproved league.

  10. Pingback: sports » Blog Archive » Americanizing Soccer for the US Sports Fan pt. 4

  11. Lee

    October 12, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    The call in the Cuba v USA game yesterday was neither “debatable” nor “controversial”. If you are going to make terrible arguments for your cause, at least get the facts straight.

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