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To Shootout Or Not?

No. 1 Soccer Camps Shootout

By No. 1 Soccer Camps Regional Director Rob Andrulis

Marco Van Basten, FIFA’s Chief Officer for Technical Development, thinks it is a good idea. Along with the expansion of the 2026 World Cup to 48 teams, FIFA is considering using run-up shootouts to break ties in the group stages of the World Cup. With the addition of the shootout, the World Cup could look like the early days of the MLS. If adopted this method could potentially be deciding matches in upcoming World Cup tournaments.

Since, 1996, the inaugural season of Major League Soccer, No. 1 Soccer Camps has been teaching the MLS shootout contest as part of our “Breakaways session.” During the session field players and goalkeepers are put through a series of technical breakaway exercises to prepare them for the contest at the end of the session. Safety is of the utmost importance while teaching the techniques of this situation.

“Back in the early days of the MLS, it was decided to institute the idea of having matches that where tied after regulation to have that tie be broken by a Shootout contest instead of penalty kicks,” said No. 1 Soccer Camps Founder Dr. Joe Machnik. “Back in the days of the NASL there was a 35 yard offside line put in place and by doing so, it created many break away situations from in and around that line, hence the idea of the 35-yard shootout was born.”

The set up for the MLS Shootout is very simple. The field player is 35 yards from goal and has five seconds once the ball is touched to shoot. The Goalkeeper must have at least one foot on the end line to start. If the goalkeeper touches the ball, the field player is not allowed to attempt a second shot. If a foul is committed by the goalkeeper inside or outside the box, a penalty kick is awarded and the Goalkeeper could receive a Yellow or Red card for the infraction. The MLS Shootout was developed to bring an exciting conclusion to the match – a true breakaway situation, field player versus goalkeeper, under the spotlight!

Dr. Joe added, “The MLS substitution rule at the time of three field players and one goal keeper allowed for many tactical changes near the end of regulation most notably goalkeeper changes.” A keeper who excelled in breakaway situation was often subbed late in the match for exactly that reason. A great example is how the Columbus Crew utilized Crew player (and former No. 1 Staff Coach) David Winner during a match. Then Columbus Crew Coach (and current No. 1 Soccer Camps Regional Director) Greg Andrulis liked the idea of the shootout and his ability to use Winner in that situation. “There were some nuances with it and it was a lot of fun; it brought some drama to the conclusion of the match instead of players and coaches shaking hands and moving onto the next match.”

Brazilian Legend Carlos Alberto Torres was a true wizard of the shootout during his playing days with New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. Also known as “O Capitao do Tri”, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time. During the shootout Carlos would use his incredible foot skills to lift a bouncing ball off the turf and calmly chip the on-rushing goalkeeper.

There are pros and cons to the Shootout Method of deciding a match. Injuries are an integral part of the equation. Collisions between the player and goalkeeper are a real possibility. On the flip side, in the past it allowed for a very exciting and entertaining way of deciding matches. The shootout also extended the playing careers of many American and International stars who excelled in the shootout format including International Great and Columbian National team player Carlos Valderamma who used his incredible touch and dribbling skills to score many artistic shootout goals.

Busch Shootout
MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (2008) and former No. 1 Camper and Staff Coach Jon Busch

We also asked for some thoughts from former No. 1 Camper and Staff Coach and 2008 MLS goalkeeper of the year Jon Busch. Jon has had a very successful professional career playing for many teams including the Columbus Crew with the then Head Coach Greg Andrulis. “As far as the shootouts I liked the idea. When I first started my pro career, we had them in the USL and I enjoyed them better than PK’s,” said Busch. “They gave the goalkeeper a better chance of being successful. I believe there is a bit more skill involved on both sides of the ball in a shootout then in a penalty kick”.

A lot to ponder as FIFA ultimately decides: To Shootout Or Not?

Check out these Best Old School MLS Shootouts

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