MLS Unveils New Rules Aimed at Minimizing Time Wasting in Soccer and Boosting Playing Time

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    The MLS, the professional soccer league in the United States, has implemented a new rule dictating that when a player is substituted, they must exit the field within 10 seconds. Failure to comply results in their club playing at a numerical disadvantage for a minimum of 60 seconds before completing the substitution.

    MLS Logo Image Credits Wikipedia
    MLS Logo, Image Credits – Wikipedia

    The recently approved rule, sanctioned by the MLS Owners’ Council, is set to take effect starting the 2024 season. This change is part of several new developments that will impact various aspects of the game within the league.

    How will the Upcoming Rule Change be Structured in MLS?

    In accordance with the new rule in MLS, if a player fails to leave the field within 10 seconds during a substitution, the incoming player will face a 60-second waiting period before being allowed to enter the game at the next stoppage. Throughout this waiting period, and until the substitute enters the game, the team must play with a numerical disadvantage. It’s important to note that exceptions to this rule are granted in cases of injuries and goalkeeper substitutions, as reported by MLS.

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    The efficacy of this rule was demonstrated through successful testing in the last MLS NEXT Pro season, where over 99.7 percent of the more than 3,200 substitutions were completed within the designated 10-second timeframe.

    MLS Next Pro Logo Image Credits Wikipedia
    MLS Next Pro Logo, Image Credits – Wikipedia


    What Modifications and How Many Additional Changes are Expected in MLS for the 2024 Season?

    Apart from the substitution rule, several other changes are anticipated for the 2024 MLS season. One significant alteration involves the scoreboards, which will now continue running until the conclusion of each half. This extended running time will include the display of minutes and seconds of added time. Unlike the usual practice where stadium timers stop at the 45th and 90th minute, this modification aims to provide players and fans with real-time information on how long remains until the match concludes.

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    Another noteworthy proposal, pending approval from the International Football Association Board (IFAB), is the introduction of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) decisions being announced through stadium public address systems. This move seeks to enhance transparency and communication regarding VAR outcomes during matches.

    In its ongoing commitment to prioritize the health and well-being of soccer players, MLS is set to implement the Off-the-Field Treatment Rule starting in 2024. This rule is designed to provide medical professionals with the necessary time to assess and treat players in a less stressful environment.

    Soccer Football – World Cup – South American Qualifiers – Ecuador v Brazil – Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado, Quito, Ecuador – January 27, 2022 Referee Wilmar Roldan refers to VAR Pool via REUTERS/Rodrigo Buendia

    According to MLS reports, if a player with a suspected injury remains on the ground for more than 15 seconds, the referee will halt play and summon the medical team onto the field for an evaluation. Once deemed safe, the player will be taken off the field and must remain out of play for a minimum of two minutes to undergo further assessment and treatment. This measure aims to ensure thorough and careful consideration of players’ health concerns during matches.

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    Why did MLS pull its franchises from the US Open Cup in 2024?

    MLS recently announced a significant change regarding its participation in the 2024 US Open Cup. The league will withdraw its 29 squads and instead introduce player development teams from its MLS Next Pro teams. This decision, made by the Owners’ Council, aims to provide greater opportunities for player development while relieving excluded teams from additional match burdens, especially considering the extended season caused by the new Leagues Cup format implemented in 2023.

    The 2023 Leagues Cup format added a World Cup-style tournament, extending the season by an extra month for teams reaching the final stages. Notably, Inter Miami and SC Nashville, both finalists, experienced this extended season. Houston’s victory over Miami in the US Open Cup this year secured them a place in the CONCACAF Champions League, but it came with the challenge of dealing with additional fixtures. Lionel Messi missed the match due to an injury incurred during his participation in the Leagues Cup.

    Lionel Messi, Image via Reuters
    Jul 21, 2023; Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA; Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against Cruz Azul during the second half at DRV PNK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

    While MLS is stepping back from the US Open Cup for 2024, the league expressed openness to a potential return in the future. The official statement emphasized MLS’s commitment to collaborating with the US Soccer Federation to enhance and evolve the US Open Cup in the coming years.

    Traditionally, the US Open Cup, established in 1914, is an inclusive tournament, akin to Spain’s Copa del Rey or England’s FA Cup. Although open to all U.S. soccer clubs, MLS professional teams have dominated the competition since its inception in 1996.

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