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Has VAR Been Successful in Major League Soccer?


Following prolonged discussions as to how the sport can be improved, Major League Soccer began using video assistant referee (VAR) systems in late 2017. While the technology has since been introduced to various leagues throughout the soccer world, very few have taken to VAR quite like the American game. However, as the system itself will never be able to guarantee a correct decision in its current state, it continues to split opinions among managers, players and supporters. 

As a result, we’re going to analyze the introduction of VAR into the MLS and consider whether it’s been a success thus far. 

Division Remains 

Over the coming years, the MLS aims to become one of the world’s best leagues. In seeking to do so, pioneering the way for new technology like VAR could help to springboard the division to new global heights. According to league officials, a report by ESPN states that the correctness of decisions has improved by four per cent to a total of 98.4 per cent since video technology was introduced. While this is a dramatic improvement, it illustrates that VAR isn’t able to clarify every decision with unquestionable accuracy, and, in turn, this results in uncertainty over whether its use can be justified in the coming years. 

Despite claims that VAR has been a tremendous success in the MLS, that sentiment is not wholeheartedly shared by soccer coaches. Following a clash between Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps at the end of August, VAR was central to post-match discussions. Twenty-five minutes into the game, and with the score at 1-0, Toisant Ricketts’ rebound goal which sought to establish a two-goal lead was ruled out after replays showed that the forward had stepped into the box before the initial penalty was taken. Crucially, the retaken penalty was saved, and Whitecaps went on to lose the fixture 2-1. After the match, Marc Dos Santos, the Vancouver coach, expressed his belief that VAR was sucking the joy out of the game, before brandishing it as robotic. 

Influence of Technology and Signs That VAR Could be Embraced 

Even though VAR is still facing an uncertain future, there are no doubts that technology both inside and outside of football remains central to the long-term growth of the sport. Primarily, goal-line technology highlights how effective new developments can be within the game, and how patience is required before supporters grow to recognize the positive impact that contemporary changes can have. 

File:Baldomero Toledo checks VAR - Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City.jpg

Baldomero Toledo checks VAR – Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City” by SounderBruce (CC BY-SA 4.0) 

Moreover, the rise in online sports betting platforms demonstrates that soccer fans have embraced forward-thinking developments off the pitch. Along with offering deposit bonuses across various MLS fixtures, oddsmakers also promote free bets, live betting, risk-free bets and much more. Additionally, and much like VAR, online platforms are now providing prospective users with far more data that they can use to ensure that they make the best possible decisions. Ultimately, with soccer fans growing fond of sports betting and the heightened focus of data within the field, it’s clear that, if given time, they could learn to appreciate VAR. 

For the MLS to fulfill their aspirations of reaching a broader global platform, then everyone involved within the sport must be united in a technology-focused future. Although VAR is yet to rid of widescale division, the MLS and its fans could be the pioneers in giving it the time that it needs to truly flourish. 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons