In 1978, as an attempt was being made to establish professional soccer in the United States, I had a letter in Sports Illustrated saying soccer’s biggest downside was its lack of scoring.
In that letter I also said there was (and still is!) a surprisingly simple solution. Though purists and goalies would cry foul, enlarge the goal so that 7-6 and 8-5 barn burners would become the norm — instead of game after game ending 1-0 or 2-1, with scoring chances almost always coming up empty. Germany’s 1-0 win over Argentina in the World Cup final July 13 was just the latest example of the essential problem at the heart of soccer.
How much bigger would the goal have to be in order to significantly enhance scoring? I’ll leave that to the experts.
In addition to the stronger team too often losing when goals are so rare, referees are handcuffed when it comes to calling fouls in the penalty area — because many times such a penalty kick in and of itself would determine the outcome of a game.
Speaking of penalty kicks, to have a soccer game won or lost by a series of penalty kicks (as happened frequently in the recent World Cup) is like a basketball game being decided by a foul-shooting contest. Penalty kicks and free throws are not the essence of either sport.
Whoever first set the width and height of the soccer goal couldn’t have foreseen the athleticism of modern goalkeepers and surrounding defenders. But now (even more than in ’78) the soccer world has more than enough data to justify a change.
Other sports like basketball (with the 3-point shot) and football (with instant replay) have had the vision — and courage — to change their rules, greatly improving both games.
It's time for soccer to do the same.