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MLS to introduce “Concussion Substitute Initiative” in 2021

Major League Soccer is participating in FIFA’s new pilot program to address concussions

MLS: MLS Media Day Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer announced Monday that its teams will “participate in FIFA’s concussion substitute pilot program,” according to a release. Teams will be able to make up to two concussion substitutes per game, regardless of how many substitutions have already been used up until that point.

Types of substitutes

There will be three different types of substitutes in MLS play this season.

  • Normal substitutes are... well, normal. Teams will continue to have five normal substitutions available throughout the game.
  • Concussion substitutes. Each team gets two per game and can only be used to address an issue in which a player is suspected to have a concussion. Concussion assessments can take place both on and off the field. Concussion assessments can also take place after a player has already been checked out by medical staff and returned to the field.
  • Additional substitutes are the great equalizer in all of this. Should a team withdraw a player for a suspected concussion, the opposing team will be granted an additional substitute after to use after all five normal substitutes have been utilized. This also applies to a second concussion substitution.

Who decides who comes off?

Referees will continue to wield the power when it comes to halting play for head injuries and potential concussions, but referees will not be involved in any decisions regarding making substitutions.

“Medical professionals in the facility, including team athletic trainers, team doctors and the Venue Medical Director, will continue to follow policies and protocols established by the MLS Concussion Committee for on-field and off-field assessment and management,” according to the release.

Why is MLS introducing this?

MLS disclosed they are participating in FIFA’s concussion substitute pilot program, which will undergo a 20-month trial period. The trial is set to end Aug. 31, 2022.