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Americanizing Soccer for the U.S. Sports Fan pt. 6

Pro Soccer’s greatest obstacle in the busy American sports calendar is figuring out how not to get lost in the shuffle. With the other pro team sports so entrenched in the American sports fan’s consciousness, pro Soccer, even in the height of its season, receives little or no time being in the mainstream spotlight. Soccer must expand its schedule in order to gain a bigger presence with American sports fans. A greater amount of games will maintain a higher profile for Soccer and keep the busy sports fan entertained with more Soccer highlights.

The best way to give fans more matches in a season is to allow for unlimited substitutions throughout each match, including being able to re-enter a game as many times as needed. By providing for this caveat to the ‘beautiful game’, coaches will be able to manage the time each player spends on the field and project ahead to play a fuller schedule of games.

Coaches will have to use their players not just according to who should rest, but also for strategy purposes. Coaches will substitute to counter the efforts of their opponent.

A typical roster consists of 22-25 players. By allowing for substitutions, more players will get playing time and there will be fewer injuries due to players who end up staying on the field too long and over-extending themselves. As it is now with only 3 substitutions per game, players are forced to play till their bodies are spent and playing another game 2 days later becomes a more difficult chore to bear.

Substituting players introduces another concept, time-outs. There should be five 90-second timeouts per half that will allow for the flow of substitutes. Also, at the end of a half or before or after overtime are times for substitutions to be made.

There are 2 other exceptions for substitutions: Injuries and Red Cards. A player that is injured on the field during game action and receives care on the field must be substituted for immediately. A player that is injured and leaves the game is not allowed to reenter the game until the end of the half or the end of an overtime. Red cards are addressed in Americanizing Soccer for the U.S. Sports Fan pt. 3.

The idea behind substitutions is to keep players as fresh as possible in order to provide for more matches. This puts pro Soccer on the sports radar more frequently, which leads to additional time on center stage in the U.S. sports world, where it belongs.

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  1. Gary Pullis

    August 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    As the salary cap is increased, teams will be able to afford greater depth and a denser schedule may be possible.

    Sweeping rule changes will alienate the hard won existing fan base.

    I do find the East/West standings to be annoying, but if you think of the MLS cup as a legitimate cup instead of a playoff, it’s kinda fun.

    Plus, the CCL is a great source of extra games that will gain recognition as time goes on.

    Actually, the best thing you can do for the sport in the US is to take advantage of package deals and invite friends to games.

    That and enthusiastically explain the rules as they are and where MLS fits in the hierarchy of world football.

  2. Craig

    August 7, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Hey, Mitch. Maybe we should have the clock count down to zero with clock stoppages, and have a one on one “beat the goalkeeper” shootout if the game ends in a tie. The words “Americanize” and “soccer” should never appear in the same sentence. One of the reasons MLS is began to gain some traction with the American soccer fan is that they abandoned most of the idiotic non-FIFA rules. Don Garber was right when he said that the way to grow the sport here is to convert the millions of existing American soccer fans to the MLS product — not to try and convert the non-fans.

  3. JUICY

    August 7, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I’d love to see this “Mitch Howard” try to back this worthless piece of shit article up. Unlimited subs???????????????????????????????? WTF If that every happened I would officially never watch another MLS Game again.
    Soccer is supposed to be a get-a-way from the same old american sports. It should never try to “americanize”
    Dumbest fuckin idea

  4. Casey

    August 7, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Is this a fucking joke????
    You want to change crucial rules to the game because Americans won’t like it?? Thats too bad. the game is played the same everywhere else in the world. We’re not above the rules of the game. Becoming another NFL or NBA is the last thing MLS needs. they need to separate themselves from the rest of the over commercializes time consuming american sports and become an outlet of sport at its purist. If mainstream americans don’t like it, thats too bad.

  5. al

    August 6, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    worst. ideas. ever. (#6)

    • David

      August 7, 2009 at 11:15 am

      worst. ideas. ever. (#6)

      Yes! hahaha, I agree
      too bad in bringing in new, less familiar soccer fans with these proposed “americanized” rules you would loose people who actually like soccer, the hard core fans, which are much more important to a sport or franchise than casual fans.

      And yes, MLS already tried to Americanize the game, and they failed miserably.

      More games does not equate more fans or coverage. Issue of quantity v. quality. You can have 100 crappy games a week and no one is going to care

  6. Brad

    August 6, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Don’t forget about the draft, I hate it. The NBA and MLS should dump it. The draft is great in the NFL and MLB.

    Conference have to go.

    I like the playoffs but it needs to be tweeked.

    I don’t want a lot of games; more games makes the regular season even more meaningless.

  7. Jammer

    August 6, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Wow, just wow. Is FIFA the pope and infallible? Other leagues do change rules, to their great benefit.

    First of all, this could improve player development.. Imagine 2-3 games a week, with say 7-8 substitutions. (I’m against unlimited and re-subs.) Then you can always play your best players half the game, meanwhile many more players get meaningful time, and a few have to go the whole 90 minutes each game — who would necessarily be different players in consecutive games. More players would get developed, since more would play. Bench players would all have to contribute, and have a chance to prove themselves, and probably get paid more since they would actually matter. In important games, top players would be pressured to play more, maybe 60min 3x a week, or more in important games.

    MLS would benefit as they can get more tickets out of their stadiums. And I agree with the main point of the article — more visibility. Summer is the slow sports season, and with only one game a week, MLS drops off the media radar about 5 out of 7 days. Only NFL plays one a week, but that game is on a different scale.

    5 timeouts/team/half seems excessive to me.. How about 3 or 4 per game. Timeouts might also improve tactics which seem to be a problem in MLS. More games would allow more chemistry and team style to develop. I would rather see a team working together with confidence than marvel at their aerobic ability.

    I also think there should be 2 on field officials and red cards should be substituted.. just common sense stuff.. Maybe the MLS could lead the way and FIFA would one day be following suit.

    • Lars

      August 6, 2009 at 5:54 pm

      This is just shite. Take the garbage out. When FIFA changes, the game should change in North America with it, until then No. It does not benefit anyone in the US or Canada to be playing by different rules than the rest of the world. It only hurts the players.

  8. vnice

    August 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm


    It just won’t…so stop talking about it like it’s possible.

  9. Angel

    August 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I just wonder why the hell are we even bothering to read this crap piece of Sht. who is this guy name “Mitch Howard”. I think this guy hate Football(soccer) to the bone. He want to murder the game here in the US. I don’t know who owns this website but this guy is a idiot. I know the good thing about this country is the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But this is a joke that is getting out of control. This is Football soccer and it been play the way it is for 100’s of years, Not American Football , Hockey, Or Basketball. NO NO NO Americanize-e this beautiful game. People like you make us look stupid and no respect in the world of Football soccer.

  10. Joe in Indianapolis

    August 6, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    No No No NO NO NO NO!

    Look, I support this site. I don’t normally act like a jerk to you bloggers. But stop writing this crap. You sound like a f.u.c.k.i.n.g idiot. You sound like some ESPN flunky who picked up soccer yesterday. You sound like the marketing genius for MLS who thought that “golden goals” would bring in the fans in droves. Just stop it.

    I am not a euro-snob. I am an American who loves soccer. I’ve supported Manchester City since the 90’s, I’ve followed MLS since around 2000, and I’ve supported the Seattle Sounders starting this year. I follow the U.S. Open Cup religiously. I am not advocating that everything about our leagues have to mimic Europe. However, this would fundamentally change the game. Unlimited subs? Re-entering? So… you want it to be like basketball? Just stop.

    Again: NO NO NO NO NO NO Idiot

  11. Peter L

    August 6, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    THIS HAS TO BE A JOKE! Mitch, in case you’re not pulling everyone’s leg, the reason I believe MLS will succeed is that it follows the on-field soccer rules by FIFA, same as EVERY other league else. Sure, in MLS there is the one league entity, no reg./promo., conferences, playoffs, salary cap are not shared by many leagues, but they are off-field issues and don’t bother me because they are distinctly American. Would I change some of those rules to align more with intl. soccer, ideally yes, but I can live with that form of Americanization. Do not touch the on-field play, it is the reason why there call it the Beautiful Game. I used to watch American sports but as I got older, I grew more and more disgusted with heavy-handedness that they are characterized by and you want to introduce into MLS. Now MLS/intl. soccer is the only team sport on my plate worth watching.

  12. What?

    August 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Are you serious? haha

    Why don’t you just substitute the ball in the NFL for a soccer ball ? – there, you ‘Americanized’ soccer.

    Unless your objective is to try and make the US even less relevant in world soccer and the sport even less relevant in the US…

  13. Mike

    August 6, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Golden goal, shoot-outs, unlimited subs, these are all bad ideas that have been implemented to poor results in the past.

    I used to avidly follow the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA, I have to say the common element that marked my eventual abandonment of all these leagues was the intense desire from the powers that be to do everything possible to make for high theatrics (for example: rule restrictions on defenses, the elimination of ties–hockey, the shortening of parks so that more home runs could be hit). MLS doesn’t need to make the game more showy to bring in more fans.

    I agree with Brad, a POSITIVE type of AMERICANIZATION would be to get more american involvement in the leagues. A unified system of US Soccer would be the best possible course. Relegation/Promotion would be great, if not outright, then the economic relegation/promotion could be just as good, beyond the Football League in England, there are certain criteria for promotion or relegation with regards to a club’s economic standing (min. stadium capacity, $ resources, etc.)

    Teams in USL such as Cleveland, Charleston and others have great fan bases, would proudly support their teams and bring in added interest to MLS if given the chance for a taste of the “top flight” that is MLS. That would grow the sport. There is such a diverse player pool amongst the lower leagues and in these cities as well that soccer could see a boost in the communities Garber is always talking about (the latino, african, carribean, etc.).

  14. lozcast

    August 6, 2009 at 10:06 am

    As much as I think that substitutions need to be addressed, I disagree with a lot of what you say. Substitutions are the managers chance to change a game, and there is a certain skill to management that means you have to make the right decisions and stick by them. That’s why not everyone can be a football manager.
    Yes it is also to keep players fresh, but I’m sure we know better than it just being about fitness. This isn’t basketball or Hockey, it takes a different type of fitness and athlete to play football, and the constant stoppages in football would only make the game less of a spectacle and ultra-difficult for the referee who already has enough to think about, let alone who is entering and leaving play every 5 seconds. Frankly it’s a fairly poor idea and I think there are better ways to address the patience of the MLS fans.

    Why not promote the good things about football and not try to ‘Americanize’ it?

    I agree with a lot of what Adam says, sorry if I repeated your points Edg!

  15. Adam Edg

    August 6, 2009 at 9:39 am

    “I absolutely don’t like about the league are the “American-ized” elements, ie: Playoffs, Salary Cap, Two tables of east and west.”
    “take out the salary cap, kill the playoffs scheme (isn’t this what cups are for?) and develop a promotion/relegation system”
    1. No need to kill the salary cap per se. Raising it and making more exceptions for talented AMERICAN players would be a smart move. The salary cap ensures stability, league parity and prevents us from going NASL all over again. We also need a salary floor, a higher minimum salary, and higher roster requirements. Some players just cannot make enough in MLS and some teams spend all of their money on a couple of players to create a short bench. MLS players should make mroe than the average cubicle dweller and teams should have enough depth to comfortably play at least two COMPETITIVE matches per week (league, Open Cup, Superliga, CL).
    2. I agree, DUMP the playoffs. The regular season winner is the champion. Or have the regular season winners of the two tables play for the MLS Cup in a single game at a neutral site. Or a match between the Supporter’s Shield winner and the USOC winner (or highest finishing MLS team).
    3. I see no further need to continue having two tables. I understand that it highlights geographical rivalries and helps maintain the unbalanced schedule by easing travel costs. But everybody involved can figure out that San Jose is closer to Seattle than New York without a split table.
    4. Promotion/relegation is a tricky beast. It would be hard to implement and a tough sell considering MLS and USL both have franchise fees. The fact that MLS requires $40 million and USL-1 requires $750k makes it even more messy. However, I came up with some ideas of how this COULD work. There is a four part post on my blog if you are interested. Kartik seemed to like it…

  16. Adam Edg

    August 6, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Didn’t MLS try some of these very things in the early days only to find a less than receptive public?
    I agree with the others – these are not acceptable suggestions. Unlimited substitutions do not belong in MLS. If anything it would hinder our ability to compete against foreign clubs and would weaken our national team. College soccer allows previously subbed players to re-enter in the second half to prevent. Adult rec leagues often allow unlimted subs, but that is due to the fact that many players are far from being in professional form. Both levels are disctintly different from the professional game.
    Line changes belong is certain sports (hockey, lacrosse) soccer is not one of them! (ok, indoor soccer is, but not outdoor/full field) I do not even like the unlimited/constant subs allowed in gridiron football or basketball (seriously the court is not that big and it’s not like they hit each other).
    Losing a man to injury or a red card is one of the unique things I like about soccer. It is one of the examples of forced tactical changes which make soccer exciting. Managing to win – or even tie – when a man down is just cool.
    Keep the game as it is. If FIFA decides to expand the allowable number of subs to 4 or 5 (at most), the MLS should make the change. Soccer gains a lot of respect from haters once they realize that the players go nonstop for the entire game. Seeing a player on the field for the full 90 is impressive – especially when they are still making things happen late in the game. Constant subbing would destroy that.

  17. thedoc

    August 6, 2009 at 9:12 am

    american would think of the sport as even more of a joke if they didnt play by the same rules as the rest of the world.

  18. Brad

    August 6, 2009 at 9:11 am

    I agree with Mike. The PROBLEM with American ‘soccer’ is the Americanization! You underestimate this country like so many people do. We’re not fools who need to have the sport spoon-fed to us. MLS needs to get with the program, take out the salary cap, kill the playoffs scheme (isn’t this what cups are for?) and develop a promotion/relegation system that will actually develop talent from the ground up from within our own country! What MLS NEEDS is more American talent…..the more great American players we have, the more Americans will go to games and support these teams. The same thing that works in every country in the world can work here as well.

  19. gmonsoon43

    August 6, 2009 at 9:09 am

    This change would be hurt the development of players in the US and Canada. These rule changes appear to be extremely similar to the college rules. The biggest complaint against College soccer is that it delays players development due to its mutated form of soccer.

  20. Mike

    August 6, 2009 at 8:55 am


    I am an American and I support MLS, if anything though the things I absolutely don’t like about the league are the “American-ized” elements, ie: Playoffs, Salary Cap, Two tables of east and west.


    I don’t even like to hear FIFA heads like Blatter or Platini mention sullying the great game with similar crazy schemes. World Football, Soccer included, isn’t going to draw in more fans by changing the sport’s core, if anything it will lose fans by veering too far away from its current setup.

  21. Lars

    August 6, 2009 at 8:19 am

    No. Absolutely not. American sports fans aren’t retarded. They can figure the game out on their own without rule changes.

  22. Matt

    August 6, 2009 at 7:56 am

    This is a joke, right?

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