New rules in effect in MLS: time-wasting during substitutions will be penalized

Starting this weekend, several new rules will take effect in Major League Soccer. The American league hopes to create more clarity regarding refereeing decisions and reduce delays during matches.

SoccerDino, Website Writer
Published: 04:00, 17 Apr 2024

The new rules being introduced by Major League Soccer (MLS) aim to significantly reduce time-wasting and improve the flow of the game, especially in critical moments like injuries and substitutions.

For injuries, the rule mandates that if a player remains down for more than fifteen seconds, they must be moved off the pitch for further medical treatment, unless the injury is severe like a head trauma or relates to a disciplinary incident such as a yellow or red card infraction. This ensures that gameplay can continue with minimal disruptions, while still attending to the health and safety of the players.

In terms of substitutions, the league has instituted a ten-second rule to expedite the process. Once the fourth official displays the substitution board, the player being substituted has ten seconds to exit the field. If this timeframe is exceeded, the incoming substitute must wait an additional sixty seconds before entering the pitch. This not only curtails delays but also introduces a strategic element for coaches, as failing to comply with the rule could temporarily disadvantage their team by reducing them to ten players.

These regulations were rigorously tested in the MLS reserve league, where they were found to be highly effective, with 99.7% of over 3,200 substitutions completed within the designated ten-second window. The successful implementation at the reserve level encouraged MLS to adopt these rules for the professional league, anticipating that they would enhance the overall pace and timing of the matches.

Additionally, in an effort to foster greater transparency and understanding of game-changing decisions, MLS referees will now provide explanations for VAR reviews. This practice, influenced by methods used in other sports like American football and inspired by similar movements in European football, aims to demystify decisions made during VAR checks, thus improving the spectator experience and trust in the officiating process. Initially, this initiative was delayed due to negotiations over referee working conditions, but it has since moved forward.

This set of changes reflects MLS's commitment to improving the game's integrity and viewer experience, drawing on successful practices from other sports and responding to feedback from fans and stakeholders. By addressing these aspects of the game, MLS continues to align itself with global football standards while maintaining a unique approach to the North American sports landscape.

Updated: 04:00, 17 Apr 2024