How a 1990s MLS Quirk Will Shape Up World Football

May 19, 2020, 5:39 PM GMT+1
Amando Guevara, Pat Onstad
MLS All Star Game | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Nostalgia is a strange concept, it turns you into your dad and his mates. We long for crap 90s football as they do with English teams trancing through Europe in the 70s.

We like to tell ourselves that the 90s was different though. Mad baggy shirts, Emmanuel Petit appearing on The Bill, that sort of thing.

Turns out, across the pond, they were leading the way with an innovative penalty-shootout. 35-yards-out, six seconds and a goalkeeper free to come off his line. This, my friends, is what we should all long for.

MLS loitered on to scene in 1996 and depending on your standpoint, brought with it an intriguing and/or awful way to implement a penalty-shootout. Like all main American sports, draws are seen as a waste of time and every game should contain a winner and a loser. There's no grey area in America, eh.

The current penalty system kind of sucks doesn't it? As a goalkeeper, you're not expected to make a save, and if you do, its a bonus. The reason why is because it's too easy for the attacker. The conversion rate is about 75-80% in the Premier League, you might as well give a goal to the team who win a penalty,

Instead of the 12-yard penalty that we all know too well, players started 35-yards out from goal and had six seconds to finish with the opposing goalkeeper free to move of his line. The winner would get one point and the loser got nothing. Outstanding.


With it sadly disappearing from our lives in 2000, we never really got to see the full potential. The issue is, you see, is that the standard of football when MLS started out wasn't great and the pitches were terrible. I can hear you watching the video above and screaming "JUST BLOODY CHIP HIM," like you used to do down the field after school.

Of course you wouldn't have it after EVERY draw because well, football needs draws, it's just part of the furniture. But instead of a 0-0 draw between Kansas City Wiz and Dallas Burn in 1996 on a plastic pitch, it's the semi-final final of the Champions League and Messi is up against Oblak at the Wanda Metropolitano. Everything changes.

Maybe the keeper would still be at a disadvantage. Oblak has two choices; come steaming out, allowing Messi to effortlessly lob him or wait on his line, inviting Messi to a one-on-one, in which he would probably slot home anyway.

Filipe Luis, Lionel Messi, Oblak
Club Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga | Sonia Canada/Getty Images

But we're bringing it back, so we can rejig a few rules. Why not throw a defender in there? After extra-time, choose your five penalty-takers and five defenders. Maybe the attackers are only allowed to have three touches. Basically, it's one of those training drills you do on FIFA. But in real life. In real games.

You cannot deny it would be 10 time more exciting. It brings multiple skills into play instead of a static shot that favours an attacker. Former MLS star Alexi Lalas fully backs the idea and makes a brilliant point in terms of it being more game-realistic than a normal penalty.

I saw this different penalty-taking regime referred to as 'the most 90s American thing ever' and I whole-heartedly agree but you know what else is 'the most 90s American thing ever'? The American Gladiators episode were the contenders were lifeguards v Baywatch actors. And that was, er, great.

To be honest, if you're going to sit and reminisce of a bygone era, at least include the good bits. Don't get me wrong. Goalkeeper kits akin to a Jackson Pollock and the Anglo-Italian Cup were awesome.

But the future is in a penalty-shootout shakeup. This is the lonely hill I am prepared to die on.