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MLS announces 4th sub for playoff games, clarifies VAR procedure

An innovation to the game could change playoff tactics

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-OKC Energy at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Knockout rounds of major tournaments are often filled with turgid matches featuring teams abandoning an attacking style for a more conservative one. The stakes are high and the risk of a turnover leading to a counter attack and game changing goal seems to make managers less apt to have their teams aggressively push forward. Add to it that sides facing each other are usually some of the best in the competition and the potential for boredom is great. Just thinking back to the drowsy affair in MLS Cup last season illustrates this.

Extra time also makes managers take a more conservative approach to knockout round substitutions. Saving a sub only makes sense given that fresh legs after players have been on the field for a full 90 minutes are at a premium. Managers who would normally think nothing of using all three substitutions in a normal match are forced to consider extra time when considering swapping players in regulation, especially if the score is even or close.

A new rule in Major League Soccer may change that come the post-season. Today the league announced that it will allow teams a fourth substitution in post-season games that extend into extra time for the 2017 MLS Playoffs. A press release noted that the The International Football Association Board approved the change and that, “Other competitions that have experimented with the fourth substitute include the FA Cup, Scottish Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.” The IFAB will review the fourth substitute experiment in MLS and other competitions and determine if it should be implemented fully by 2018 or 2019.

The rule change doesn’t mean that every manager will use the fourth sub the same way. Obviously teams could still set their defenses back and try to play for penalties, but giving managers more options should make high-stakes more interesting. At the very least, they will give fans something else to ponder when a manager inevitably keeps his fourth sub in his pocket for some inexplicable reason.

Video Assisted Review/MLS Disciplinary Committee parameter amended

The announcement of the fourth substitution for post-season matches came along side an amendment to the relationship between VAR and the DisCo. The league announced that:

In conjunction with the implementation of Video Review, the MLS Disciplinary Committee has amended its third parameter: where the referee sees an incident and does not issue a red card. Under the amended third parameter, if the incident on the field was checked by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) regardless of a review by the on-field referee, the Disciplinary Committee will only act in instances that warrant at least a two-game suspension. If a play is not checked by Video Review, the MLS Disciplinary Committee maintains the authority to issue supplemental fines and/or suspensions.

Got that? So if a player were to say, grab the face of an opponent and the referee decided not to issue a red card after video review - the DisCo would only issue a two-game suspension if it determined that the face grabbing was severe enough to warrant a two match ban. Note, this applies to any foul not issued a red card after video review and not just face grabbing.