What I Would Do To Improve Soccer

There's a spirited discussion over on the excellent Wait But Why on Why Americans Don't Love Soccer.

I think the majority of the items are spot on correct - they're some really basic items that just seem like no-brainers. They would not affect the flow of the game at all, and improve the fairness (reducing things like incentives for flopping and fake injuries). However, they missed a big one that I think would be even better - more refs.

If you look at the other major sports - Football, Basketball, Hockey and Baseball - they all have much higher square-footage to ref ratio. For example:

  • Football:  110m x 48.7m = 5,363 m² / 7 refs = 766 m² / ref
  • Basketball: 28.65m x 15.24m = 436.6 m² / 3 refs = 145.5 m² / ref
  • Hockey: 61m x 30.5m = 1,860.5 m² / 4 refs = 465 m² / ref
  • Baseball: Varies, but around 100k ft² = 9,290.3 m² / 4 umps = 2,322 m² / ump
  • Soccer: 105m x 68m = 7,140 m² / 3 refs = 2,380 m² / ref

Soccer has the MOST square footage necessary to cover for each ref. And, if you change baseball to just looking at the infield (where most of the action requiring umpire evaluation happens anyway), soccer has a practically 4x greater difference than the nearest other sport. Yet fouls in soccer are just as serious (or worse) than other sports. 

More refs would massively improve the game - diving would be less likely and more bad behavior would be caught and punished. I love the idea of changing the rules (particularly the two tier penalty in the box to prevent cheap dives to get penalties), but let's start with just more accurate calling of the game.