Major League Soccer and the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) today announced that live, in-game testing of video assistance for referees is being conducted during select MLS preseason matches. In compliance with the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the universal decision-making body for the Laws of the Game, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) testing will use video technology to help referees reduce clear errors in four game-changing situations -- goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents, and cases of mistaken identity. As was announced by MLS Commissioner Don Garber during his 2016 State of the League press conference, MLS will look to implement video review testing into select regular season matches during the second half of the season, following the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.
The continued testing will focus on ensuring that communication between the referee and the Video Assistant Referee is clear, precise, and efficient, with the aim of reducing avoidable delays to create minimum interference with maximum benefit.
Fifteen of the 22 MLS clubs will gain exposure to VARs during these preseason competitions. CLICK HERE for a list of preseason matches that will incorporate live, in-game VAR testing. The list includes all four Houston Dynamo matches in Tucson, Arizona.
VAR made its in-game testing debut in MLS on Friday, February 3, when the process was used during a preseason match between Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes to confirm a penalty kick in the 88th minute (WATCH).
In addition to the in-game tests during preseason, offline testing, with no impact on the game, will take place at all 22 MLS venues during MLS regular season matches from March through August with the goal of incorporating video review into MLS matches following the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.
“These additional tests during preseason, as well as the offline tests during the beginning of the MLS regular season, will enable us to refine the experiment protocols and procedures prior to implementation in league matches,” said Executive Vice President of Competition and Player Relations, Todd Durbin.
“During this preseason phase of testing, PRO will be keen on identifying consistent decision-making and fine-tuning referee-to-VAR communications,” said Peter Walton, PRO General Manager. “These valuable trainings will provide real-time review opportunities and will serve as a stepping stone for in-game testing during the MLS regular season.”
The IFAB hopes to make a decision about the VAR experiment in 2018, or in 2019 at the latest.