Major League Soccer has been announced as one of the leagues in world football that will participate in the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and FIFA’s Video Assistant Project. Australia’s Hyundai A-League, Germany’s Bundesliga, Brazil’s Campeonato Braileiro, the Super Cup Supertaca Candido Oliveira, the Portuguese Cup Taca de Portugal of the Portugese Football Federation, and different competitions in the Dutch Football Association KNVB will join MLS in participating in this program.
MLS will begin testing this program this summer in USL matches hosted at MLS and USL venues. After testing, the league will develop a plan on implementing video review in MLS matches.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will focus on four "game-changing" situations; goals, penalty decisions, direct red incidents, and mistaken identity.
Goals – The role of VAR is to help the referee to determine whether there was an infraction in the immediate build up to a foul, including fouls and offside. What constitutes "immediate buildup" will be something to watch.
Penalty Decisions – The role of VAR is to ensure that no clearly wrong decisions are made in awarding or not awarding a penalty. "Clearly wrong" being the key term here.
Direct Red Card Incidents – The role of VAR is to ensure that no clearly wrong decision is made in sending off a player. Again, "clearly wrong".
Mistaken Identity – In situations where the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player, or is unsure which player should be shown a card, the VAR will notify the referee so the correct player is disciplined.
"Major League Soccer has been a strong proponent of using technology in soccer where it enhances the game, and we are pleased to be among the first leagues in the world to participate in the Video Assistant Referee project," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "We believe the time has come for a mechanism that helps referees avoid clearly incorrect decisions that change the game. We look forward to working with the IFAB and FIFA to test video assistance for our referees."
This news will come as a welcome relief to MLS fans who have had just about enough of PRO and the officiating in MLS games. As with most new systems, this will take some getting used to. It remains to be seen what kind of delays to the game this will cause and exactly how the system will work, whether there is some kind of buzzer system or an official on the field to flag down the referee.
The trials are expected to last for 2 years with a subsequent decision by IFAB on the process potentially in 2018 or 2019.