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MLS Making New Additions to Make the Game Better

photo by Matt Kremkau

by Daniel Feuerstein

On Thursday of last week, on a ZOOM call with Senior Vice President of Competition & Operations Ali Curtis, along with the Executive Vice President of Sporting Product & Competition at MLS Nelson Rodriguez, the media discussed the new initiatives to better the game for Major League Soccer. Topics such as the flow of the game and fans experience inside the stadium were broached. After a solid thirty minutes of discussing what they are and answering the media's questions, here is what the league has come up with and was approved by the IFAB:


Reducing time wasting during match delays and the abundance of gamesmanship that has plagued the sport is a major point of interest for the league. It has been a major complaint from different leagues, FA's and confederation managers. We have seen delays such as when a player is substituted and taking too much time to remove themselves from the pitch.

The objective is to reduce this issue. The player has a maximum of ten seconds to exit the field. The failure to exit from the nearest point on the boundary line within ten seconds causes the incoming player or players to wait until the first stoppage following a sixty-second holding period to enter the field. The exceptions will be for Goalkeeper substitutions, injuries, and/or medical staff entering the field. These are special situations that have been pre-approved  by the league office, safety/security reasons


To reduce gamesmanship and match delays by potential injury, the player may be required to leave the field of play for as much as two minutes. The exceptions will be if the player doesn't need the medical staff or voluntarily removes himself from the field. Potential head injuries, cardiac issues, or life-threatening events will be exceptions. This rule doesn't apply to Goalkeepers or penalty kick situations when the potential injured player was designated to take the penalty. 

If two players on the same team require the medical staff to enter the field, such as for collisions that involve a goalkeeper and an opposing player and both need the medical attention, the two-minute treatment period begins when the ball is put back into play. The time will be kept by the fourth official with support from VAR.


As we have seen in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and the NHL, reviews calls have been announced by the referees and umpires to inform the crowd of outcomes. FIFA began to use these announcements during their U-20 Men's World Cup and then this past Women's World Cup. Sadly it hasn't passed for league play. This looks to cut down on arguments between coaches and referees by providing better communication. It will also alert fans and commentators on what was reviewed and what overall outcome has been chosen. 

Starting this season Major League Soccer will start announcing VAR challenge reviews. They will talk to the crowd through their headset microphone about the challenge. This will be a much needed change in an effort to better communication between officials, teams, and fans alike.


Match clocks will no longer stop at forty-five minutes and at ninety minutes. They will continue to count up once the amount of stoppage time has been announced. The league felt, for sporting integrity, that crowds and teams should be able to see how much time is added on to move forward and not play the guessing games. It will also assist the officiating crew to look up and communicate with each other through their headsets. 

If you are a traditionalist, and you hate some of these ideas, then I understand where you are coming from. As we all know the game continues to evolve and I believe these types of movements are a positive for the league and hopefully the Red Bulls can take advantage of certain issues plaguing with certain referees. It should also help referees do a better job of adhering to the laws of the game.

NOTE: With MLS & PRO currently locking out their game officials, they have postponed several of the changes they were going to implement into the 2024 season. As of right now The Timed Substitution Rule, Off-field Treatment Rule, and making VAR Announcements will not be used at this time, but the Stoppage time clock will be used once both halves reach 45 and 90 minutes inside the stadium.


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