yeah, sorry, I just mean there are two camps who come at it differently but both are motivated to maintain the status quo, so anyone trying to shift it has a lot to overcome - both inertia, as well as philosophical belief about the importance of deterrence above fairness.These are the same hands! Or at least arguing for the same conclusion
It's not high on my (relatively short) list of things to fix. The people who insist that soccer is fine exactly as it is, I find tiresome... but they are at least mostly right that a lot of casual-fan Americans tend to propose fixes that fail to account for a lot of what makes soccer a beautiful game and an enjoyable watch.
My priority list would go something like:
- Move to 3 on-field refs. Better calls, better discipline, fewer mistakes that require video review.
- Go to a penalty-box format for player discipline, instead of "stern talking-to, yellow card, red card". There should be a middle ground between "don't do it again, I really mean it this time!" and "you are ejected from the game without replacement and your team now has to play short a player". I think an orange card that means "you are ejected for 10 minutes and can then return" would be very useful to moderating the game and preventing cynical fouls, because refs are too hesitant to go to a red card today. I fucking hate cynical fouls to stop counterattacks. The NBA with their "clear path to the basket" violation, and NHL with penalty shots for tripping on goal-scoring opportunities and the like, both have the level of disincentive correct on those.
- Regularly calling defenders holding and grabbing attackers (most often on set pieces, but also in run of play), as a point-of-emphasis with officials. Defenders are coached in their development to grab onto jerseys, and slow people down with tactics that will be just shy of what would force a ref to blow the whistle, and I think that sucks and results in less opportunity for great acts of athleticism. Would be helped by #2.
- Something resembling MLB's luxury-tax system to balance the finances between teams in the same league. You'll never be able to legislate a fully equal salary-cap system, but the ossification of the team hierarchy has made for a lot less excitement unless you want to be a fan of a Superteam, which makes the whole system self-reinforcing. A few leagues do this a little bit but the amount of money generated by regularly participating in UCL or UEL really skews the fairness.
- Oldschool-MLS-style penalty shootouts in knockout play.
- If you commit a foul that actually injures an opponent to the extent that they have to leave the field (not just fake being injured to try and goad a card out of the ref), the player who commits the foul should have to leave the field as well until such time as the injured player is ready to return. Subject to some maximum time like 10' where it's clear they're just trying to keep the fouler off the field.
- Two-level penalty box, the outer of which results in a 50-50 PK instead of an 80-20 PK, to disincentivize flopping by attackers who are on the periphery of the box and don't have a realistic chance to score.
- Realistic amounts of stoppage time: basically, what we're seeing in this World Cup, which has shocked serious football fans, but I think is a lot more fair and prevents time-wasting. You don't see a ton of flagrant time-wasting in the World Cup, but man-oh-man do you see it in CONCACAF play and other levels of the game. If refs are strictly instructed to add up a whole lot of stoppage time, and add on time for anything that resembles time-wasting second-for-second, even if that means 15 fucking minutes after you hit 90', then it will be a big improvement. I don't want to take away refs' ability to end the match at their discretion, because I do think that's an awesome aspect of the game (you gotta stop the last attack, you can't just run out a clock), but I think we could stand to have a bit more soccer and largely eliminate tactical time-wasting.
- Revert to 3 subs for ordinary league play. 5 subs just gives yet-another-advantage to superteams who can afford a very high quality bench. I doubt Leicester wins the EPL in 2017 if every team with more money than them got to make 5 subs every game.
- Knockout-play overtime format: overtime begins 10-on-10, both teams have to remove a player before it starts. Every 10 minutes of overtime, both teams get a brief pause and have to remove one more player from the field. So e.g. minutes 20-30 are played 8-on-8. If any of these 10-minute periods end with a not-tied score, the game is over. After 40 minutes of Added Extra Time (the last 10 of which are playing 7-v-7 on a full-size field), if it's still tied, only then do you go to the penalty shootout. This makes AET likelier to decide the game in a manner that still involves playing soccer, opens up a lot of creative tactical possibilities, will be more fun to watch because attacks will be easier to create, and has fewer penalty shootouts deciding it.
I will argue with any serious soccer fan over the merits of those ideas. But people who (for example) propose a coach's-challenge system, or going to a strict stop/start clock with hard end times, I think usually fail to appreciate the parts of those behaviors that make soccer great. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with (for example) how infrequently goals are scored in the game. Yeah, some of the changes I propose will increase offense a little bit, but the most common complaint I hear from casuals is "nobody ever scores, games can end in ties, the games can even end 0-0!", and that just shows that they haven't been exposed to exciting, end-to-end action for games that just happen to end scoreless. Or drawn.