Soccer is a simple game, unlike other sports with thick rule books, there are only 17 Laws of the Game that have been largely unchanged since FIFA first adopted them in 1904. In charge of enforcing the laws on the field is of course the referee.
The great Uruguayan writer and lover of the beautiful game Eduardo Galeano once wrote about referees, saying “In Spanish he is the árbitro and he is arbitrary by definition. An abominable tyrant who runs his dictatorship without opposition, a pompous executioner who exercises his absolute power with an operatic flourish. Whistle between his lips, he blows the winds of inexorable fate to allow a goal or to disallow one. Card in hand, he raises the colors of doom: yellow to punish the sinner and oblige him to repent, and red to force him into exile.”
This lonely figure has a difficult job. Referees run miles and miles each game trying to track the action, stay out of the way, but have a good enough vantage point to ensure that they correctly call fouls or in some cases don’t call them. Alas, they are only human and their frail bodies tire, eyes play tricks, and they are sometimes mistaken about what transpires on the pitch.
In order to reduce human error on the results of games, MLS will join the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, Tennis, and NASCAR among American leagues and sports that use a Video Assistant Replay system.
Atlanta United will play in matches testing the system this weekend as MLS has selected the Carolina Challenge Cup to be a part of the pre-season VAR test. The system is also being tested in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic, 2017 Desert Friendlies, FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, and Portland Timbers Preseason Tournament. Just last night a reviewed play led to the Colorado Rapids being awarded a penalty kick in their pre-season match against Sporting Kansas City. The call resulted in the game ending in a 1-1 draw rather than a 1-0 win for SKC.
Replay will be tested during the regular season as well and the league will implement the system in competitive matches after the All-Star game. None other than world famous referee Howard Webb, who officiated both the 2010 World Cup and Champions League final match, will manage the implementation of the system. Until then, Atlanta will get a taste of VAR this weekend.