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MLS starts Video Assistant Referee testing in preseason

Hallelujah!

MLS: Western Conference Championship-Seattle Sounders at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a huge advocate for Video Assisted Refereeing/Replay in soccer. While MLS Commissioner Don Garber initially said that the technology was too expensive, it appears that he has changed his tune over the last couple years. At his most recent State of the League speech back in December, Garber announced that “MLS will add video assisted refereeing in 2017, beginning with testing and experimenting in the first half of the season before a full rollout to every MLS game after the midsummer All-Star Game.”

VAR experimentation in MLS will start this preseason, giving 15 out of the 22 teams an opportunity to experience the technology. It was actually used just last week in a match between Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes to confirm a penalty kick (see how it worked here). According to today’s press release, “in compliance with the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the universal decision-making body for the Laws of the Game, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) testing will use video technology to help referees reduce clear errors in four game-changing situations - goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents, and cases of mistaken identity.”

And before you get all flustered about VAR delaying the game, don’t worry.

I’ve done the math. Well, Jeff Agoos did the math. The MLS VP of Competition said that current infractions take about 40 seconds to more than a minute to resolve. With VAR, a decision could be made in as little as 20 seconds. So if anything, it would potentially speed up penalties, while making the decisions more accurate at the same time.

Three Colorado Rapids preseason games will be part of this test run:

  • Feb. 15 friendly vs. Sporting Kansas City in Tucson
  • Feb. 18 vs. New England Revolution as part of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup
  • Feb. 22 friendly vs. NYCFC in Tucson

After collecting data and analyzing whether or not VAR impacts the game, IFAB will make a decision about implementation in 2018 or 2019.

Learn more about VARs here, and then tell us - do you agree that this is a step in the right direction to get more accurate calls?