MLS: Why the Video Assistant Referee should be a huge success

Video review has arrived in Major League Soccer.

Week 22 action beginning on August 5 will feature video review over four potentially match-changing moments. Goals, Penalty Kicks, Red Cards, and Mistaken Identity are the four areas the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) will review to get decisions right on the field.

Howard Webb, working closely with the IFAB (International Football Association Board), is overseeing the program for MLS and after a lengthy three-year build up the new review system will be available league-wide for the rest of the season.

The VAR will remotely review the four match-changing moments as they arise in matches and then notify the referee if there should be a review of this moment. The referee then aided by video replay will be allowed to let the call on the field stand or change the decision based on the video evidence.

The hope is that the entire process takes less than two minutes to complete thus resulting in a minimal disruption to the flow of the play.



It didn’t take long for the new system to be utilized with a goal disallowed in the FC Dallas versus Philadelphia Union match in the first day of the program.

In the 79’ minute an FC Dallas player clattered into the Union ‘keeper kicking him just before a second Dallas player swept the ball into the empty net for an apparent goal. The referee awarded the goal on the field but was buzzed by the video assistant to take another look at the play.

The referee, MLS veteran Ricardo Salazar, made a screen-box motion with his hands to signal the video review and then went over to the video monitor to watch the play again. After the review Salazar returned to the field, disallowed the goal, and awarded the Union a free kick for the foul suffered.

In all it took about 90 seconds to complete the entire process and return to action. The Union won the match 3-1.

There were eight MLS matches on Saturday, August 5 with 26 goals reviewed by VAR with just the one goal in the Dallas-Philly game overturned.

Other moments of review were the Lloyd Sam red card in the DC-Toronto match, a Montreal PK versus Orlando, and an Alex red card in the Dynamo-RSL match that all stood as accurate by the VAR requiring no further video review. There were no instances of Mistaken Identity reported.


Widespread praise

The VAR system received widespread praise for its first stroll out on the park and the speed of the decision and the “getting it right” aspect of the program was highlighted.

Pundits still will complain about VAR slowing down the tempo of a match and potentially disturbing the flow of the game but in a very small sample size the VAR system was a huge success for the MLS on day one of operations.


All eyes on the VAR

Things like a fourth official and goal-line technology were added with minimal disruptions to the game but the idea of VAR being added on a global scale has coaches, players, and supporters all debating its sure-to-be major impact on our beautiful game.

The VAR program is up and running in MLS this weekend and the world is watching. With success in MLS, the world is not merely watching an experimental video referee program….but rather a coming attraction to a league near you around the world.


Written by Forrest Wimberly

Follow Forrest on Twitter @ForrestWimberly

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