Saturday, July 10, 2010

More on Soccer -- Changes for Improving the Game

There has been some comment on my recent post related to ways to make soccer less boring, and it appears some readers do not fully understand the direction I am trying to go.

For example, with regard to the idea of a Goal Tunnel: The point is that most of the time, as it is currently structured, soccer is stadium pinball. The proposal I made for a Goal Tunnel is intended to play off of that feature of the game. But the Goal Tunnel, the use of two balls, and these other approaches are only suggestions. It might be enough simply to allow free substitution, or increase the goal size.

Among the changes I proposed, free substitution should be non-controversial. When there is no substitution, the players cannot be as aggressive, because they know that they will still have to be out there even if they become fatigued. So you have a game that is slowed down and conservative. Most every team sport other than soccer allows substitution. Hockey, football, basketball, and lacrosse all have free substitution. Baseball is an exception, but fatigue is hardly an issue for anyone but the pitcher. And there, substitution is allowed.

But in this post, let me focus on another of these changes, an increase in the size of the goal, and show how this can not only increase the amount of scoring, but also make soccer a more interesting game. This illustration will also help with another important point: one change might require other, supporting changes.

Suppose we increase the size of the goal to span the entire goal line. Then it will be impossible for the goalie to cover the goal area, so he may as well move into the field, which means there will be eleven people in the field rather than ten. With so large a goal, it will be trivial to kick the ball past the goal line. So to overcome this problem, require players to carry the ball across the goal rather than simply kick it across. Which, of course, means the players finally get to use their hands, a long overdue improvement. Because the ball can be carried, it should be made smaller and shaped so that it can be tucked under the arm.

The Goal Tunnel can go, but the basic concept behind it, that of tackling, should still be allowed, at least tackling the person carrying the ball. And allow a pause in play whenever the ball carrier is down so that both teams can do any substitution, regroup and reassess their strategy.

A last problem that comes up with the enlarged goal is how to allow the other team to gain possession. If the ball is small and easily held, it will be hard for the other team to jar it loose. So perhaps if the team with the ball cannot advance it sufficiently after a number of “downs”, the other team should be awarded possession.

This is only one example of an improvement in soccer, derived from the simple first step of increasing the size of the goal. But I believe these changes could turn soccer into a much more engaging sport.


  1. Where have you been hiding that clever sense of humor all these years??

  2. I don't think the changes need to be that radical to make it more interesting and accessible. How about line changes like hockey? How about a penalty box so one team is forced to play short sided. Get rid of the yellow and red cards. Introduce a number of fouls like basketball. How about timeouts so we can stop the pathetic fake injuries? How about 2pt shots for shots on goal outside a certain range? How about some sort of shot clock?

  3. It seems like what you really want is a TV friendly recreation of american "football" as opposed to the elegant game that the rest of the world calls football :-)

    Why bother? If it is so hard for Americans to appreciate the game as it is, maybe they should just be allowed to revel in the two or three sports they (and, mostly, only they) love and enjoy!

  4. Rick,
    I think you need to watch more FOOTBALL to grasp the subjectiveness of the game. Try playing the game in Peru or Mexico City. Become a ref for a day at a Mens over 30's game.Coach an AYSO team in a low income neighborhood. I just dont get how a guy like you gets a big page on the wall street journal and nothing on your article explained a thing except how much you didn't like the sport. The changes you offered were comical and I mean that as an insult. My best advice to you is to see how 1 sport that is practical, full of mistakes ( refs,calls,goals,etc) can gravitate an entire world like no other sport can.

  5. "The changes you offered were comical and I mean that as an insult"

    Hahahahahahaha! Thank you for making my day.

    Seriously though, the difference between "soccer" and "gridiron" is the difference between, say, checkers and chess. Or the card games "War" and "Bridge". Or the movies "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Rudy". (I couldn't think of a soccer movie so I just picked the most degrading comparison I could think of)

  6. Those who do not know rugby are doomed to reinvent it.

  7. This is the stupidest article ever I have heard to 'improve' soccer. I have read plenty of dumb advice to improve soccer by Americans. The fact that you focus on the score shows you know nothing. Maybe you should focus on American Football which has 11 minutes of play in the three hours that people have to sit through. NFL looks better on the average on TV than soccer because it is rugby with rule changes to suit TV to sell beer and whatever!!!

  8. I'm impressed. You turned Football into Football.

  9. Hi Rick,
    I am a bit surprised that everyone, supporters and detractors alike, have looked at the game solely from a spectator's point-of-view.

    Isn't a sport meant to be played - and not just watched?

    I am sure you will agree that a heart-pounding 45 minutes spent running, attacking and defending against 11 opponents across the length and breadth of an open field can be somewhat exhilarating.

    In my humble opinion, it is a crying shame to reduce any sport - let alone such an intense and physical game - to the level of a mere TV programme.

    And there is one more quality to football, or soccer if you will, that makes it unique. You need nothing more than a few hardy folk and ball - any ball - to play. (Even the boot was made mandatory by FIFA only in the 50s - and that too in international matches.)

    Perhaps the reason why billions of people around the world love the game is simply that they play it.