2018 World Cup


Video refereeing might be implemented for the 2018 Russia World Cup.

The historic vote on whether Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be added to the event is scheduled to take place on January 22 in Zürich amongst officials from the International FA Board (Ifab).

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However, VAR’s have already been used in Italian and German football leagues, and according to former referee and Ifab’s technical director David Elleray, it has yielded mostly positive results so far.

Generally I think it has gone much better than people have anticipated and almost every week we get an inquiry from another league about using VARs.

The technology has drawn some skepticism though, most vehemently from Italian Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who thinks that VAR’s ruin the entertainment value of soccer.

“It takes too long. I didn’t celebrate when we were awarded a penalty because six minutes had passed,” Buffon said after a game that Juventus has won over Genoa this past August. He added, “They told us that VAR would be used in clear-cut incidents where there were mistakes, but now you are even checking the replays for a trodden toe or a finger in an ear.”

The frustration that Buffon experienced has already been felt by athletes and fans alike throughout the four major sports in America — Basketball, Football, Baseball and Hockey. Variations of video replay, and the merger of technology and sports has spawned fan and player unrest about compromising their respective sport. And soccer won’t be immune to such a debate.

That is the something that Ifab officials will have to mull over in a couple of weeks when they vote. Yet, while it seems imminent that VAR’s will play a starring role in this year’s World Cup and beyond, there’s really only one question that officials must ask themselves before making this impactful decision.

At what cost is it worth it to get the call right?

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Hope Solo’s quest to succeed Sunil Gulati as President of the U.S. Soccer Federation shouldn’t be, and likely won’t be, strongly considered.

The United States’ embarrassing failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup helped trigger Gulati’s decision to not seek re-election for a fourth term, creating a logjam of nine candidates looking to replace him.

However, Solo is not the answer.

The decorated U.S. Women’s goalie took the stance — detailing her passion and qualifications on Facebook — that in order for U.S. soccer to return to prominence, it would need to distance itself from the path of capitalism and elitism that she claimed persisted under Gulati’s reign.

Referencing her own experience as a youth, Solo drilled down on how the USSF must refocus on the development of youth soccer in America. From Solo’s Facebook post:

“The systemic problem in U.S. Soccer starts at the youth level. Soccer has always been a middle-class sport and in more recent times, has become an upper middle-class sport. Some of the best clubs around the country charge each youth player between $3000-$5000 per season. I have personally witnessed young players heartbroken over the financial reality that they could no longer pursue their dream.”

Solo holding up a mirror to the USSF is refreshing, and an unfortunate truth. But her vision to eradicate a pay-for-play culture in American soccer, among other goals, rings hollow, as her personal past makes her unfit to do so.

Solo was arrested in 2014 for allegedly drunkenly assaulting her nephew and half-sister, which is still a pending case according to ESPN. And more recently, she was suspended in 2016 for six months after she called the Swedish team that eliminated the U.S Women from the Rio Olympics, “a bunch of cowards.”

Solo has always been a strong advocate for soccer and was outspoken as a player, but some of her actions off the pitch don’t align with her vision to rebuild American soccer at the youth level, should she be president.

Someone that the USSF could benefit from at the helm is Kathy Carter, who is currently president of Soccer United Marketing.

As one of the several candidates vying to replace Gulati, Carter has a proven track record of promoting and executing the business of soccer in America.

The other seven people in the running, besides Solo and Carter, are former men’s U.S. players Paul Caligiuri, Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino, USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro, Boston lawyer Steve Gans, New York lawyer Michael Winograd, and Northeast Conference manager of the United Premier Soccer League, Paul LaPointe.

Should Solo work with the USSF in some capacity? Absolutely. Just not as the president.

The election will be held at the annual general meeting in February.

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