7/9/07 How to Improve Soccer
There is a way to improve soccer to make it better and more exciting, in other words more Ammurrican.
Rather than try to explain the many problems with soccer as it's now played (see The Good, The Bad, and the Unusual below) I give my rules for a new soccer-like game that would be better. I'll call it X-ball, as in experimental. If the rules laid down don't do the trick, change them until they satisfy.
Assume the basics are the same, no hands, no tripping or bumping, etc., kick or head a ball into a goal. Here are the differences.
1. The 6 yard box becomes a 10 yard box which becomes the penalty box. The current penalty box becomes the goaltender's box.
2. The goaltender can only block, deflect, slap or punch the ball with their hands and arms. No catching, cradling, corralling or otherwise controlling the ball in any other fashion. No dribbling the ball like a basketball or juggling it with the hands in a controlled way.
3. No goal kicks or corner kicks. All inbound plays are throw-ins from where the ball went out, even from the end line. No throw-ins from within the goaltender's box. If the ball goes out in that area the throw-in is at the edge of the box.
4. Two players from each team are designated "forwards." These players must remain in the attacking zone at all times. They cannot help defend in their own end.
5. No offsides rule.
6. Any foul inside the 10 yard box is a penalty kick from the penalty spot.
7. Fouls within the goaltender's box, and outside the penalty box, are direct free kicks from the spot of the foul, not the penalty spot. The ten yard rule still applies.
8. Goalkeeper must stay in goaltender's box at all times.
9. Allow three substitutions per half. Starting lineup can be completely changed for beginning of second half, including returning players substituted out in first half.
These changes are designed to do four things. Increase offensive effectiveness and goals (rules 2, 3, 4, 5). Without the offsides rule, the defense must adjust to the offense. This will stretch the defense and open up midfield play increasing up and down play. Since the goaltender can't catch the ball, there will always be rebounds and action ensuing shots on goal rather than a dead end to an offensive thrust. Eliminating goal kicks means the defence gets no free pass out of their own end after a missed shot or offensive thrust.
Decrease incidents of referees and linesmen deciding game outcomes on close calls (rules 1, 5, 6, 7). Protect players from collisions on "over the top" long passes (rule 8). Keep players fresher for the end of the game when players are often too exhausted to perform (rule 9).
One more thing, get rid of the penalty shoot-out to decide games tied after overtime. That's not really soccer or anything game like. It's like settling a baseball game tied after ten innings by playing home run derby. Silly, really. Instead have more sudden-death overtime... without goalies. That should decide things fairly quickly.
Of course this will never happen. So the only thing I'll suggest is a way to improve Major League Soccer, a little bit. Stop playing in the summer. Soccer players do a great deal of running and summer heat is a killer. Play in the fall and spring as they do everywhere else.