Alternatives to Penalty Kicks for Settling Soccer Ties

Settling a soccer match by penalty kicks is like deciding…

  • Boxing decisions by having fighters taking turn freely punching each other till one goes down.
  • Baseball ties after 9 innings with a home run hitting contest.
  • Basketball ties in regular time with a free throw or 3 point shooting contest.
  • American football ties with a field goal kicking contest.
  • Tennis ties with an ace serving contest instead of tie-breakers.

Soccer needs an alternative that involves the natural play of the game! What alternatives? Here are some to consider.

Soccer penalty shoot outs may produce lots of drama, and some iconic moments for misses on what should be “automatic” goals, but all they really produce is disappointment. The losing teams  and their fans feel they got unlucky, possibly robbed, and the winning teams and their fans don’t exactly take a lot of pride in winning on kicks. Those shootouts are more a matter of luck, good and bad, than anything else, because if done right, they could realistically be expected to be scoring on every shot… forever. I would neither call all of that great drama, nor the best kind of iconic moments of game winning goals, home runs, hits or such in other sports that ended it all.

So what could soccer do for an alternative to shootouts?

Playing it out

Well, playing it out could be a good start. Yes, play “Golden Goal” or first team that scores until you have a winner. Golden Goal should work out better here knowing there would be no aversion to a loss, which was why FIFA dropped the Golden Goal in the first place.

Let teams substitute once every 15 minute period, including subbing players back in if they need a rest. And give a 2 minute break and restart at midfield every 15 minutes non-stop like clock work, so no injury time. I realize goals are hard to come by in soccer, but that’s why I propose the subbing and rest periods.

Otherwise, let fatigue and consequences to future games become the incentive to win sooner. They do it in hockey, baseball, basketball and Wimbledon… and there have been some ridiculously long games/matches! But tough luck cause who’s fault is it that things dragged on?

Playing it out will make team depth a more meaningful concept so a country would really get to show the depth of its soccer talent, rather than just the starting 11 and maybe a few subs coming on for some minutes every now and then. Hey, if the main guys and gals can’t do the job, maybe some other lesser known, but quite talented, players can!

Play mostly substitutes in extra time

To continue with the matter of team depth, perhaps in extra time, what could be done would be to get all the substitutes left on the bench on to the field, removing as many players on the field as needed to make this happen. Teams would have their choice of players to leave on. This would also force a new goalie as there’d be a substitute goalie on the bench to sub on, to make things more interesting. Then play Golden Goal till a team wins in 15 minute periods. Players can be subbed back in after 30 minutes at a rate of 1 every 15 minutes, or original player for original player until after that first 30 minutes, so the original players don’t come back any time soon to take off the substitutes.

Reduced teams in extra time

If not playing it out, perhaps put in a deterrent not to get to kicks so often, like maybe playing “golden goal” but 9 on 9 for the first 15 minutes of extra time. Then 7 on 7 for the second half if we get that far. Continuing would seem ridiculous as there’d be next to nobody on the field, but maybe only then would it get to penalties. This may be a bit like having boxers take off some tape on their gloves so punches hurt more in extra rounds to try to end it more quickly, but it’d be better than taking turns to deliver free punches as penalty kicks would be like in boxing.

Ludicrous! What about hockey shootouts?

To many, what I am proposing probably sounds ludicrous! But hey, it’s change, and drastic change cause that’s what will be needed to solve soccer’s ugly problem. However, the important thing about my proposed changes is that they allow the skill of the game as naturally played to win the game. Sure, there are different players forced in, different time periods, more open fields, or whatever. However, the players have to play the game as it’s played and rely on skill to win it, not luck as with penalty kicks that are artificial set ups repeated over and over.

Critics may also point out, rightly so, that it is especially ludicrous a Canadian like me propose such things when hockey, the national Canadian sport, has shootouts are used for determining ties!

Very true, but hockey doesn’t use shootouts to determine its most important games. Playoffs in the National Hockey League are not decided by shootouts! Olympic hockey does not use it to determine the gold medal games. THAT would be ludicrous, if you ask any Canadian, or hockey fan! Shootouts are for regular season games to get teams extra points to the one they already have from having a tie and, to that end, soccer could learn a few things!

Have soccer shootouts in regular season games!

Yes! I am suggesting regular season soccer take on shootouts instead of settling for all those ties. Leagues implemented the 3 points per win system to encourage teams to win instead of playing for ties, so there is room for a shootout… after a small period of more open soccer… a bit like hockey.

What I’m proposing after a regular season draw or tie is to have 15 minutes of something like 9 on 9 soccer, possibly with 4 forced substitutes if the original players aren’t to be left on. It would open up things, like hockey does, and show some team depth rarely seen due to substitutes getting minimal playing time in soccer. Play Golden Goal during this time.

If a team wins in over time, give them 3 points and the losing team a point. It’s as if a team got a second chance to get their 3 points.

If it remains tied after the extra 15 minutes, then go to shootout for some further entertainment value. The winning team would get 2 points, though, not 3, and the losing team would still only get one point.

I allow the losing team to get a point in any outcome for two reasons. First, to be fair, as they did work a full game tie. The second is to utilize a little psychology. Teams playing for a point will feel like their work is done after regulation time and will have to deal with a little let down, psychologically, to work extra hard to get to the shootout. You may say that could further motivate team to play for a draw through extra time just to get to the shootout, yes. However, they will also know they will need to not only get lucky in the shootout, but also work for that extra 15 minutes to get there only for 2 points, not 3. Meanwhile, teams looking for 3 points will have to deal with their own let down if they don’t get 3 points via Golden Goal in over time.

Let’s try it before we call it ludicrous!

What I propose may be ludicrous, yes, but I would encourage someone try it before we call it that. Maybe they could try it in:

  • Cup tournaments where there are only one games, like some cup finals, they could try these tactics. It’s a minimal number of games to start.
  • Division II of some countries rather than the top division.
  • International friendlies, though there aren’t anything much real at stake there.
  • Some regional tournaments they could try these tactics before they take it to the world stage or anything big like the Euro tournament or Copa America.

Somebody should try something before another big tournament has to end, or advance teams, on a shootout for crying out loud, like Euro 2012 or the Olympics! That’s what I’m about ready to do if so!!!

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