Major League Soccer fans should prepare themselves to try to sound like rules experts because video review is coming to the league this weekend.
While goal line technology has been used in international FIFA tournaments and some of the top leagues in Europe, video review beyond determining if a ball went over the line or not has begun seeping into the game around the world as well. For MLS, the video assistant referee (VAR) starts now that the All-Star Game in Chicago has come and gone.
The system has been tested in the USL for the psat year and was in use the Homegrown Game at Toyota Park on Tuesday. In that game, VAR was used to determine if a collision involving Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez should have resulted in a red card. The call stood as originally called with no foul being given.
“We’ve always been a proponent of using technology to make our game better,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said is a press conference Wednesday before the All-Star Game. “If it was up to us, as opposed to the governing bodies of the sport, we’d have way more technology in our game than we even have today.”
Howard Webb, a retired English referee who reffed in two World Cups including the final in 2010, is managing the VAR program. His succinct catchphrase for the desired goal of VAR is “maximum benefit for minimum interference.”
Webb wants the flow of games to remain while having the ability to correct clear and important errors. The video assistant referee is watching each match and is able to signal the head official on the field that a play should be reviewed. The ref would then head to a monitor just outside the field ot play to look at the play in question. Even after review, the final decision remains with the head referee.
“This is about trying to correct errors that are made,” Garber said. “It’s not about trying to correct judgment.”
There are four types of calls that the new system allows to go under the scrutiny of video review: goals, penalty kicks, red cards and mistaken identity.
When there are “clear and obvious” errors in the goal itself or in the buildup to the goal, the play can be reviewed. This includes goal line decisions, a handball or a foul that aided the goal scoring team or an offside call that was missed. This goes both for goals that should have counted and weren’t and goals that were counted and shouldn’t have been.
This is similar to goals except for penalty kicks. Penalties that should have been awarded can be reviewed and given. Same goes for penalties that were given and shouldn’t have been.
Direct red cards are also something that can be reviewed under video review. It has to be a straight red card for it to be reviewed. A second yellow card that results in a red card is not reviewable. One additional note is that if no card is given and video review is called to look at a potential red card, the ref may give a yellow card instead. Yellow cards or potential yellows are not reviewable.
This is the most straightforward of the four categories. If one player commits a foul that results in a card and the ref gives the card to the wrong player, video review can help to fix such situations.