Soccer could use more subs

STEVEN SANDOR -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

Last week, I wrote about how UEFA president Michel Platini supports reducing the number of games in which exhausted players are obligated to appear.

But, since there is no likely way to convince teams to lose revenue by reducing games, why not give coaches more opportunity to sub players?

If more subs were allowed, maybe there wouldn't be another tragedy like Antonio Puerta's -- the Sevilla defender who died last month after a series of heart attacks in a La Liga match.

The United Soccer Leagues, North America's other pro circuit, which runs the First Division, the Women's W-League and the Premier Development League -- of which the Toronto Lynx is a member -- allows teams to make more than three subs a game.

In the First Division, coaches are allowed five subs a game. In the W-League and PDL, six are allowed.

I like it. In the MLS and all other world leagues, if a player is flagging early in the game, the coach is hesitant to make a change, as it would burn one of his three subs and restrict the decisions he can make later in the match. But, with five subs at the disposal, the coach is free to make the change.

Robert Irwin, head of team and game-day operations for the Lynx, said that for his team, the relaxation on the sub rules is vital.

"Our role is a developmental league, so what is the point of carrying 18 players on the roster if we are not going to play them all?" he said.

And, early in the season, those extra subs help.

"That's true with younger players ... When they play their first game, with just two weeks of training, they aren't always ready to play a full 90 minutes."

Steve Thompson, director of professional league operations for the USL, said the five-sub rule has never been challenged internally.

"Sometimes it does come up for discussion, but no members have ever pushed the topic. No resolution has ever been made about it."

Rule changes are part of soccer. I have seen tape of vintage FA Cup finals, when no substitutes were allowed. That was changed. Red and yellow cards were not always part of the game -- they were brought in by FIFA at the 1970 World Cup. Why not embrace another tweak?

-- 24 hours sports editor Steven Sandor has written about the Beautiful Game for numerous publications around the globe. The Red Card appears Wednesdays in 24 hours. 


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