How to Make Soccer 5x More Entertaining

Do people really need another reason to root for Brazil?

I want to preface this post by saying that I love soccer (or to those of you in Europe or South America, soccer). I’ve played it since I was 5, I love watching it, and I’ve even coached it. I care about this game more than any other sport.

Also, I don’t really care if other people–namely, Americans–don’t like soccer. Why does that matter so much to everyone? Why does soccer need to “catch on?” Can’t you just enjoy soccer if you like soccer, and if you don’t, you don’t?

However, after watching at least part of every World Cup game this year, I’ve come to realize that there are some inherent flaws in the game. One of the big issues is that the best team doesn’t always win. A team can completely dominate possession and number of passes and shots, and the other team gets one lucky goal, and they can pull off an upset. Granted, this happens in any sport. But I think it’s fair to say that this happens more often in soccer.

Also, in a game that often comes down to one goal, the refereeing has a huge impact on the game. Huge. So you have to find a way to make them more accurate. A few of my solutions address that point.

Last, if you’re not blind, I’m sure you were frustrated by the sheer number of flops, dives, and acting in the World Cup. It’s become part of the game, and it shouldn’t be. It truly makes soccer difficult to watch at times, and there’s really no place for it in the game.

Here are my solutions:

  1. Instant Replay. There are tons of different ways you could do this, but I’d suggest using the NFL system: Each coach gets two red flags to throw if they want to contest a specific set of circumstances: Offsides, goal-line plays–plays that make a huge difference on the game.
  2. Post-Game Review of Cards. This is especially relevant in tournament play, when two yellow cards equal a one-game suspension. I think FIFA should review the game tape and take away unjustified yellow cards and give yellow cards for flopping. I think this would significantly cut down on dives.
  3. Limited Offsides. In soccer, you are “offsides” if you are an offensive player who is between the goal and the last defender when the ball is played to you (that’s the very basic explanation). The intent of this rule is to prevent players from cherrypicking. I think it’s called way too tight, though. If you’re two inches offsides, you’re not cherry picking–you’re just not well-defended! And consider the goal Dempsey scored for the U.S. that was taken away when he was three feet away from the goal (as was the player passing the ball). Why does offsides even apply when you’re that close to the goal? I would propose this: If the player receiving the ball is inside the six-yard box and there is a defender somewhere in the six-yard box, the offensive player cannot be offsides. At the very least, I think FIFA needs to review the intent of the offsides rule.
  4. Power Plays. I don’t know much about hockey, but I like the power play concept. In soccer, if you are given a yellow card, you would be forced to sit on the sideline for 5 minutes while your team plays down a man. Although I think this puts more power in the hands of the refs and might actually encourage flopping (it would need to go hand in hand with #2), I think it would increase the number of goals scored, and thus increase the overall excitement of the game.
  5. One-Handed Throw-Ins. This wouldn’t be hard to change at any level of soccer. How cool would this be?! (Just for pride’s sake, I’ll mention that I used to be really, really good at throwing the ball in. It was just as good as a corner kick when we were near the goal, and I didn’t even have to do any fancy flips.)

I’ve heard other ideas for increasing scoring, but I don’t really like the idea of making goals bigger or forcing teams to play without keepers at certain points in the game (although the latter intrigues me–what if neither team could play with a goalie for the first 5 minutes of the game? Think about the mad rush of shots!)

Also, if you are not a goalie and you use your hands to prevent a ball from going into the goal–a ball that is definitely going into the goal–the opposing team should be awarded a goal. It’s goaltending, plain and simple, and there’s no place for it in a game where the number one rule is you can’t use your hands.

What do you think?

20 Responses to “How to Make Soccer 5x More Entertaining”

  1. T-Mac says:

    As someone who’s also invested a significant portion of my life in the beautiful game, I’m intrigued by this post.

    I do have a few questions/points of agreement:

    1) At the beginning of this post, are you saying that you think Europeans and South Americans should cave and all call the game soccer? If so, why?
    2) I love a few of your ideas. As I look back, I actually like all of your ideas except a few. I’m not sure I understand the benefit/challenge of the one-handed throw in. Is that to make it easier or harder to throw the ball in? Also, I’m not in favor of the 5 minutes of empty net or expanding the goal. I do have one scoring proposal though. What if a team received 1 point for a goal within the 18 and 2 points for a goal shot from outside the box. (A cross from outside the 18 headed in from within the box would be 1 point.) What do you think?
    3) How does Brazil end up with so many hot women? Seriously. Every World Cup there is at least 1 extremely hot Brazilian woman on display. I think it was Ronaldo’s girlfriend who kept getting camera time during the World Cup in 2006.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      1. Oh, I was just making a joke. 🙂
      2. For the one-handed throw in, I just think it could lead to a little more excitement (and more throw-ins that are like corner kicks) than the current type of throw-in. I’m intrigued by your scoring idea, but I think it might encourage more players to take shots from way outside the 18…even at the professional level, way too many of those shots are so outrageously off target that I think it would just make fans roll their eyes every time such a shot was taken.
      3. Brazil and Argentina…don’t most supermodels come from Argentina?

  2. John aughey says:

    Several ideas. They should play like the rest of us play.

    The field shall be on a hill with at least one picnic table in the middle.

    All players must carry a full glass of beer. The goalie must carry a small child.

  3. Bi-Curious? says:

    As an American, I hate soccer, but as Zia, I love any and all ideas to trick out sports. All of your ideas are spot on.

    I cannot believe that there is no post game review of yellow cards. The NBA playoffs were impacted this year when the refs lowered an intentional technical foul to a normal foul after watching the replay. This prevented a player’s suspension (b/c he already had several prior to that phantom call).

    People who oppose instant replay shouldn’t be allowed to drive in cars, use the internet, or take vaccines — these are all amazing things science has given to us that small minded luddites fear. Instant replay should be in every sport. Games shouldn’t be decided on wrong calls. The NFL has the most expansive replay system which is further proof of why it is the greatest sport ever.

    Yes, offsides need to be limited. They did so in hockey I believe (I don’t know for sure b/c hockey is just soccer on ice, so I don’t care for it either). Scoring is fun (sir!). More scoring is more fun (double sir!). It’s zero sum, if you cherry pick — you will be one defender down on the other end. I’m not saying you have to remove all offsides (although I wouldn’t mind that), but at least ease the rules.

    I like Trevor’s idea of a psuedo 3 point line.

    Also, I suggest the use of a new fangled invention called a digital watch. This would end the stupid unkownable overage time and teams killing time on out of bounds plays and injury time like they did in the Ghana game.

    The best suggestion by far would be to get the woman from the picture to go to every game. Brazillians are hot b/c of hybrid vigor as it is called in science or interracial parents as we call it. Science rewards parents who are more genetically diverse for breeding with hotter kids. Perhaps a cruel reward of sorts. Brazil is a melting pot.

    Power plays and anything else to increase scoring would be great. Maybe enough to get me curious about switching to the other side and checking out soccer.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      The NBA example of reviewing fouls is a great example. FIFA seems to think it’s bad to correct refs after the game (except in extreme circumstances), but I really don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. We all know that refs are human and that their vantage points are limited–a post-game review could clear up some gaffs so we can all move on.

      I’m against the digital watch, though. One of the best parts about soccer is that you know almost exactly how long a half is going to take. I’m sure that makes it easier for TV programming than most other sports.

      The hot women definitely should be incorporated into the heart of the game.

  4. I don’t know. I’m more of a Netherlands fan.

    (check link; wish I knew how to embed a picture here)

  5. Dionne says:

    I rooted for Spain because their players were super hot! so I totally understand your logic!

  6. Lorena says:

    Last, if you’re not blind, I’m sure you were frustrated by the sheer number of flops, dives, and acting in the World Cup. It’s become part of the game, and it shouldn’t be. It truly makes soccer difficult to watch at times, and there’s really no place for it in the game.

    Yes and no. I always hated this, but then it was explained to me that certain players are of course teamed up on (if they’re really good) and therefore are fouled throughout the game without the ref noticing. So, at some point, in order to get the defense to lay off and play without fouling them every 2 seconds, they have to dive when the ref is looking. Iniesta I think is especially good at drawing a foul, which is a much better tactic than actually flopping (ahem, Ronaldo, ahem). If the fouls go unchecked the whole game, it can put the player in true danger. And they’re not just playing soccer ‘for kicks’, it’s their livelihood. If the defender finally goes so hard they blow out the player’s knee, that’s that. No more job. It doesn’t matter if the ref gives a red card and awards a PK, that player’s career is done. So, it’s a give and take. There’s really only one ref (you know what I mean), and he can’t catch everything. Or even most things (esp. if they happen away from the play).

    Long comment!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      That’s a really interesting point. I’d never thought about that. Again, though, I think this could be solved simply by having FIFA review the game tape and give cards after the game. I think that would discourage off-the-ball fouling. Institute fines as well for those fouls. I’d rather have that than players flopping all over the place. Drawing a foul is an okay solution, but I really admire players who keep trying to play on. I saw a highlight of a game yesterday (I think it was Celtic vs. Seattle) where a player was taken down by the opposing keeper, and the player still managed to score (he was still awarded the foul). I feel like that happened so little in the World Cup–players simply went down instead of trying to continue playing soccer. One of the few examples of a player playing on was the final goal Ghana scored against the U.S. Bocanegra clearly fouls the Ghanian forward, but he kept running, and he won the game seconds later. Although I wanted the U.S. to win, I applaud that player’s effort.

      • Lorena says:

        I can concur with your point about admiring players who “play on”. Rooney is one of my favorite players for this. Tevez as well. They’re just work horses.

        But how can you do a play review when you didn’t even see the foul? Would that not just lead to players bitching to the ref the whole time? Time wasting is a major strategy in soccer, and I think bitching to the ref sometimes is to do that. So, why encourage ref bitching? (sorry for repeated cussing)

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Well, what if players were given a chance to complain to the ref after the game in a formal way? Like, each team could submit some off-the-ball fouls they want reviewed (there must be game tape of the entire field at any given time). I think it would be used sparingly, but if there was a particular player fouling a lot off the ball, he could be penalized for it.

  7. Lorena says:

    Okay, now to reply to the numbered part of the post (look at me getting all involved with your bloggy blog today!):

    1. Plays like the goal England clearly scored? Or when Henry handballed Ireland out of their qualifying spot? I like your/NFL’s 2 play max concept. Or at the least reviewed plays when the refs aren’t in immediate agreement.

    2. See my comment above on dives (though I agree that diving is way overdone). I’d like to see some red card reviews too! Like when Fletcher was given a red in the Champion’s League semi in 2009 for a high boot and couldn’t play in the final. When actually it was just rather deft and extremely impressive defending that wasn’t a high boot or a foul. I agree that flags are less relevant in league/club games…but in tournaments (especially club tournaments where there’s more money on the line)

    3. I do see your point here. Like what’s the difference between 3 inches when clearly the offender is reading the play and the defender is not? That’s just unfair to a good offense. That said, we all know refs have different styles (like that World Cup final with all those cards…I love you Howard, but, really?) just like any sport. Some don’t tolerate cussing. Some don’t tolerate offsides. Some do tolerate kicking someone in the face (ahem). So a quality player (which let’s hope all these professionals are) will learn the refs style and play to it.

    4. No, I completely disagree. I do know a bit about hockey (no expert though!) and the games are too different. In hockey there’s a genuine benefit to having a power play. Same with water polo. In soccer, there is not. It’d just be wasted time honestly. In hockey the clock stops so the player can get off the ice and the teams can set up for the face off. The play is so fast and the line changes are so frequent. Soccer is not this way. It’s so much slower and the pacing of a team/game is hard to unset once it’s established (in comparison to hockey strictly). If you chuck off a player for 2 minutes or 4 minutes, you’re interrupting the flow of the game as well as wasting more time getting the player off the field and into the penalty area than he’ll actually spend in there. It gives both teams a chance to reset. So, actually, it might in fact encourage flopping. If a team is up, they want to time waste, so why not just flop over and over? Eventually one of them will look like a foul and the other team will get sent off and no matter how fast they run to that box, it’s still wasting time. Plus, if the time waster team really wants to waste time (i.e. changing players in the 87th minute), they’ll just foul someone so they can get sent off. Then take their sweet time getting off the field. That could be made into a “time wasting” foul, but how is that then punished? Plus, playing a man down in soccer just doesn’t thwart your team all that much. Especially not for a super short period of time. Often teams are man down anyway because someone’s wallowing on the ground or lollygagging in the back to rest up a little from running. I just don’t see it working to benefit soccer. I think it would cause more problems than benefits.

    5. Disagree. You’ve seen how sexy a throw-in Casillas can do. He’s like one-handed throw from goal perfectly on target to create a great breakaway type of play (of course then on the other end Xavi and Iniesta dribble brilliantly and get an open shot then instead pass it to Alonso who, bless his soul, sprays it every bloody time. I <3 Spain but they do a number on your nerves). This is stated to point out how incredibly far a one handed throw can go. But let me state this, remember Ghana's throw in abilities? A two-handed throw-in simulated a perfect corner kick every time. (might have been Paraguay now that I think about it…same point though) Should such talented players be denied their skill level? I think not.

    On the Suarez bit. Basically. I don't respect Suarez at all after that (and that's a shame since he may be coming to ManU. Sigh.) However, he knew the consequences of the choice he made. He'd miss the next game and likely lose that game. The real fault lies in Gyan. That said, what he did bought Uruguay a chance to maybe move forward. A tiny chance, but still a chance. If Gyan had buried it, would anyone have made such a fuss about Suarez's hand block? In hockey, if the other team has pulled their goalie (so, open net) and you shoot, then a player throws their glove or stick to block it, it's an automatic goal. The same concept as this Suarez block. So, should it be allowed? It's hard to say.

    While I was down in South Africa and the Ghana/Uruguay, er, saga, went down, tempers were pretty flared. Rightfully so of course. One talk show on the radio had the comment that FIFA regulates football, but who regulates FIFA? It's a valid point… so much money is involved in football, there ought to be something to keep it in check.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      This is a great response. I’m not going to reply point by point, because we’re in agreement for the most part (plus, these are just ideas…who am I to say that they’d truly improve the game?). #5 in particular was just a fun thought that I thought might increase scoring. Plus, it might speed things up. A lot of teams have that one guy who can do the long throw, so you have to wait for that guy to jog across the field to pick up the ball–if any player could do a long throw, you’d avoid that. (Keep in mind that this is coming from a player who used to be able to complete a very long, accurate long throw.)

      You have some great points about #4. I definitely don’t want to encourage flopping.

      About Suarez…I think it’s a goal. If the ball is clearly going into the goal and you choose to violate the one sacred rule of soccer (don’t use your hands), I think it’s a goal.

      On that same note, what about this: In one of the last few games (I think it was the third-place game), a player went down and his teammate kicked the ball out of bounds. When play resumed, the other team kicked the ball back to the keeper, but it took a tough bounce and came very close to going into the goal. One, would they have been awarded a goal? (I think so.) Two, given that scoring a goal wasn’t the team’s intention, would then then let the other team score an unhindered goal to make up for it?

      • Lorena says:

        Oh! I remember that. Hm, I don’t have an answer for you actually.

        One note of opinion (it’s all opinion isn’t it?), I like that it’s a low scoring game. That said, I hate Italy’s form of play. Hate.

        Okay, off to lunch!

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          True, it’s all opinion :).

          I like that it’s low scoring too. BUT I think if you give the game a few nudges to help increase the scoring, you end up with fewer games where the worse team wins 1-0 off a fluke goal. There’s no data to back that theory–just a guess.

          I had a dream last night that the Swiss won the World Cup after winning every game 1-0. Odd.

          • Lorena says:

            Well, they were the only team to beat Spain. Who won all their knock out stage games 1-0. Not too odd from that perspective…

            Yes, fluke goals are so awful. I love watching quality play. The Spain/Germany game was like watching golf, I’ll bet. Spain played so technical that you could probably only really enjoy the entire game if you just simply love and know soccer. Same with watching golf. I cannot watch golf, but I know nothing about it, so the techniques and decisions aren’t apparent to me. You get it.

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