Monday, November 23, 2009

Soccer Championships Should Be Decided By Playing Soccer, Not Kicking PK's

If the barons of Major League Soccer want to know why the game isn't more popular in the U.S., all they have to do is look at how the MLS championship was decided yesterday.

After a full season of games and play-offs, the two contenders--Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake--battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation. They were still tied after another 30 minutes of extra time. So, rather than continue playing SOCCER until a winner emerged, the entire season came down to a round of penalty kicks.

It would be like deciding the World Series with a home-run derby; the NBA championship with a 3-pt contest; or the Superbowl with a series of ever longer alternating field goal kicks.

Penalty kicks are not soccer. They don't even require all that much skill. Some people think it's a "dramatic" way to finish games (Real Salt Lake made the championship game by winning it's division in yet another PK finish), but if that's so, why not just create a game based around shooting PK's?

The problem, of course, is that modern soccer has evolved into a defensive struggle in which teams seldom dare to take chances in order to score. A ridiculous number of games end in 0-0 and 1-1 ties, and the concept of "sudden death" overtime has never caught on.

Because the game is difficult to resolve within the game format, modern soccer has devolved into PK contests that demean the sport.

MLS should ban the PK as a means of deciding games that require a decision. Such games should be decided on the field, in a sudden death format, with no limit on the time to be played until the game is finished. Those games will have dramatic finishes, you can be sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that PKs are not the appropriate way to determine a champion for professional soccer leagues and the World Cup. Those who many years ago watched UCLA beat American University for the NCAA championship in quadruple overtime, however, realize that the quality of the game deteriorates rapidly after multiple extra periods. The defensive stars of American University sat down on the field from fatigue while their teammates slowly prepared for an offensive corner kick. A goal finally was scored when a little-used, but fresh substitute from UCLA ran past the fatigued American University defenders. I believe that the rules should be changed after the first overtime sessions to encourage the scoring of a goal, such as the elimination of off-sides.