MLS reserve league will test out rule to stop fake injury time-wasting

The MLS reserve league will put an interesting rule to the test to stop time-wasting via “injury”.

An infuriating thing to be on the receiving end of, time-wasting is a staple of the modern game. Teams often look to burn time off the clock towards the end of close and important matches in order to claim victory.

However, in some cases, teams waste time playing for a draw too. For instance, Everton brought out the delay tactics during the first half of their Merseyside derby against Liverpool toward the end of last season.

Additionally, defensive-minded sides like Atletico Madrid are now famous for their time-wasting habits. To combat this, Pep Guardiola asked ballboys at the Etihad to make sure a ball was immediately available to both sides during Man City’s Champions League quarter-final.

Now, some fans may argue that time-wasting is a necessary evil. It is unavoidable in a sport where results are so important. But it does not make for a good spectacle. Opta stats reported that in a 90-minute Premier League game, there is actually under 55 minutes of action. For the remaining 35 minutes, the ball is not even in play.

People in charge want to make changes as a result. In 2006, FIFA announced a clampdown on ‘gamesmanship’ tactics. Players can receive a yellow card for time-wasting, which can go up to a red via double-booking for repeat offences.

Despite this, the issue is still rife. Therefore, the MLS in America has come up with a new rule to combat the time-wasting problem.

Gamesmanship is an issue in America too

Major League Soccer is definitely not immune to time-wasting. In September 2021, New England’s Henry Kessler went viral for his interesting tactics. He volleyed the ball into the stands before throwing a replacement up to the fans too.

Just last week, New York Red Bulls utilised time-wasting to limp to a 1-0 win over Sporting KC. The commentators voiced their frustration as striker Patryk Klimala over-sold an injury, refusing to leave the pitch but still requiring treatment to waste time.

Because of this, America’s top football league has floated ideas to prevent gamesmanship in the past. For example, the MLS considered a visible game clock, so players and fans know exactly how much time is left.

Now, their reserve league, MLS NEXT Pro, will test some new rules to combat time-wasting.

Time-wasting rule being trialled in the MLS reserve league

The first element outlines what happens if a player goes down injured. If the player remains on the ground for more than 15 seconds, the referee can stop the game. Then, a medical team will come on to assess their injury. In addition, the medical staff will help remove them from the pitch.

One stipulation to the rule is that if the player says that he does not need medics, the ref does not need to stop the match. The official can also keep the game moving if the player voluntarily exits the pitch.

After the player is off the field, they can receive treatment. They will also have to wait on the sidelines for three minutes before coming back on. However, there are six situations where a player can receive treatment but not have to serve three minutes before returning.

  • If a goalkeeper is injured
  • In the event of a head injury or life-threatening incident (e.g. cardiac, seizure)
  • When the injured player is also the penalty taker, and his side have a spot-kick
  • If two members of the same team need treatment from a collision
  • Where both the goalkeeper and opposing player require treatment from a collision
  • If a player is bleeding

That is not the only rule that MLS NEXT Pro is testing.

New red card regulation

The MLS reserve league is trialling a new method of suspension for red cards. If someone is sent off, they will be suspended for the next match against the same team that they received the red.

These can carry over into the playoffs or the following year’s regular season. The team-based red card also continues if a player transfers to a different club.

Should the red card regulations and time-wasting rules be successful, the MLS could adopt them in the near future. Whether European leagues want to test them out too remains to be seen.

Featured image credit: Getty