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Shooting Down the Shootout: The debate over how to better end games

On November 16th Amherst defeated the Saints Men’s soccer team in the NCAA Division III soccer tournament.  A hard fought game was decided by penalty kicks as Amherst advanced 3-2 on penalties.  It seemed unjust that Amherst, arguably the weaker side, advanced on the luck of penalties though the Saints outplayed the Lord Jeffs for the majority of the game.  Ending a game by penalties in soccer or a shootout in hockey has left many fans feeling unsatisfied and disappointed especially if you are fans on the losing side.  Hockey and soccer are team sports that exemplify team chemistry, and strategy.  It does not seem right that some of their games must be decided by a skills based competition between two individual players. 

What can soccer do to eliminate penalty kicks?  Games cannot have unlimited extra time or players’ health would be in danger due to fatigue.  One intiative that FIFA could impose would be “golden goal” also known as sudden death.  FIFA had this system in place from 1996-2002 but many argued that teams were so afraid of conceding a goal they sat back and waited for penalties.  The MLS also had a variant to penalty kicks.  A player would start thirty-five yards out from the goal and score within five seconds.  The system was abolished in 1999 but at the very least more skill would be utilized and the goalies would have a better chance.  Lastly, some have proposed the ADG system.  ADG (Attacker Defender Goalkeeper) involves all three of those players.  The attacker starts at the center spot and has thirty seconds to score.  Each team nominates five attackers and five defenders.  While FIFA is unlikely to deviate from penalty kicks in the future, these are some intriguing alternatives to keep in mind.

After the NHL lockout in the 2004-2005, season regular season games can no longer can end in ties and are instead decided in a shootout.  The shootouts were popular initially drawing fans’ attention as they saw stars like Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise make goalies look foolish.  However, the nostalgia of the shootout has worn off to many fans and players.  Like soccer, hockey is a team sport and ending a game in a one on one skills competition seems strange.  Hockey is also extremely fast paced whereas the shootout is stop and go until a team wins.  The overtime period before the shootout is five minutes of four on four hockey.  General managers and owners have considered expanding overtime to 7 minutes of four on four and 5 minutes of three on three hockey.  If the game remained tied at the end of that period the game would be deemed a tie.  There is nothing wrong with a regular season game ending in a tie.  Americans have become ignorant of this.  The NFL still ends games in ties.  With this system ties would be rare due to the open space players have to showcase their skill and scoring ability. Plus, regular season ties make those triple overtime games in April and May more memorable. 

The NHL is much closer than FIFA to changing their system.  These are just some ideas that have been proposed over the last couple of years.  Penalty kicks and the shootout are bitter ways to end a team game as last week’s NCAA match against Amherst proved for the Saints and to us as fans.

About the author

Joe McGrath '16