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MLS referees have four new points of emphasis for 2017

And we’re definitely seeing them in action.

MLS: Playoffs-Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In light of recent events yesterday, I thought now would be a good time to talk about the Professional Referee Organization’s new “points of emphasis” for 2017 and how they are impacting the game. On a conference call at the end of February, PRO’s General Manager Peter Walton said that referees will be cracking down on four particular situations:

  • holding and pushing in the penalty area
  • acts of visual dissent
  • delayed restarts
  • persistent infringement

Holding and pushing in the penalty area

This one is pretty self explanatory, and is why Kevin Doyle’s goal yesterday got called back. While jockeying for position is part of the game, the refs will be looking for “the overt pulling and pushing that happens where the defender or the attacker just doesn’t have their eyes on the ball and is clearly impeding the opponent” says Walton. I watched the replay about half a dozen times and still didn’t see anything, but allegedly Dominique Badji pushed off of an opponent to create space.

Acts of visual dissent

PRO is not going to deal with coaches or players berating referees, running towards them to argue a call, or even throwing their hands in the air. This is punishable by a yellow card. We already saw a coach getting warned on the sideline of the Portland Timbers and Minnesota United FC match on Friday night.

Delayed restarts

In yesterday’s game, both Caleb Calvert and Sam Cronin received yellow cards for kicking the ball away after the whistle blew. Surprisingly, the ref did not give Kei Kamara a yellow for picking up the ball and walking over to discuss a call late in the first half. But that’s none of my business.

According to,

Walton also said that

Persistent infringement

This is nothing new—players have been getting cards for those ticky-tacky little fouls already—but this year, all four officials on the pitch are keeping an eye out for it. Walton didn’t specify how many fouls would equal a yellow card, which makes it subjective for each referee and for each game. Dillon Powers earned a yellow card last night for persistent infringement.

Do the new points of emphasis tighten up the game, or make fouls and yellow cards even more time consuming? Tell us in the comments!