Testing of instant replay means soccer closer to entering 21st century

The instant replay dream for soccer is one step closer to becoming an actual reality.

Last week, FIFA and the International Football Association Board, the folks that create the rules of the game, announced that leagues in the United States, Germany, Brazil, Portugal and Netherlands will be among the first in the world to test a new instant replay system starting in 2017. The replay system will attempt to correct miscalled goals, penalty decisions, straight red cards and mistaken identity — all natural stoppages in play.

The system will feature a “VAR” — virtual assistant referee — that will likely be away from the pitch and in a room with televisions to review those contentious plays. The idea is to get referees acclimated with the setup in 2017 and then hopefully approve the use of the system for use in leagues and international tournaments shortly thereafter.

The announcement comes over six months after MLS announced that it would be trying out it’s own type of replay system, similar to what FIFA just announced. But no matter what system is ultimately used, instant replay has to become a real thing in order to fully bring the sport into the 21st century.

Soccer already has a very small portion of instant replay ingrained into the sport with the use of goal-line technology. The system proved to be successful in the 2014 World Cup and subsequent use in the Premier League. But as great as it has been, it’s not nearly good enough. It only fixes a small part, albeit a very key part, of the game and there are a number of other match events that are just as important that need to be correct to keep the integrity of the match.

This system would be much more comprehensive and it would make sure the integrity of the sport is maintained. Imagine if we had this for Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup, or England’s tournament-winning goal in the 1966 World Cup final that probably didn’t cross the line. If replay is in place for either of those goals, the correct call would have been made and history would be a lot different.

That’s what we need. We need these calls to be made correctly. So what if it takes up to 30 seconds to make the call. Just add it onto the end of the half. The right call — whether it be a goal/no goal, penalty or no penalty, red card or no red card — has to be made no matter what.

Of course, instant replay isn’t going to solve every questionable play. I’ve seen clear blown calls missed with baseballs replay system and I don’t doubt that it won’t change with soccer.

But even if the system is able to correct 50 percent of calls that would otherwise be incorrect, then it’s completely worth it in my book. With the way technology is these days, it’s unacceptable to not be finding ways to make technology make the sport better.

And once soccer finally adopts instant replay, it’ll finally become a 21st century sport.