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Report: MLS looks to implement video replay in 2016

After a series of test trials, Major League Soccer looks to move forward on implementing a video replay system for the 2016 season. But will FIFA approve?

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

As reported by Caitlin Murray with The Guardian, Major League Soccer has begun eyeing the 2016 season as an opportunity to implement video replay during matches. The league has completed test trials and feels confident in their system but will need to hurdle one last obstacle for introduction - FIFA approval.

The video replay system looks to take advantage of natural stoppages that follow controversial calls in order to allow time for the play to be reviewed and corrected, if necessary. Officials in a video replay booth would be able to quickly review calls, determine the correct decision, and relay that information to the referee all within about a minute.

Test trials have been used in several MLS markets (though without communication to the head referee) to determine if the system was feasible to use with the small window of time given for play review. So far, trials have concentrated on the review of red cards, penalty kicks, and goals. Beyond that, officials are hesitant to open the scope of reviewed calls in order to allow the referee to keep control over the game without being redundant.

With the support of US Soccer, the last obstacle is to petition FIFA for an amendment to the Laws of the Game. Currently, the Laws only allow for a decision to be overturned by consulting with assistant referees. The nearest date for submission of amendments is next March, which means that MLS could wait until the 2016 season is underway before getting a chance to proceed with replay review.

Fortunately for MLS, the Dutch Football Association is also an ardent supporter of video replay and has already presented data for implementation. They will again present updated findings next February, one month before FIFA takes the Laws of the Game under consideration. Should FIFA allow a league to operate as a test case for video replay, MLS hopes to volunteer.

MLS has had recent success in implementing an alteration to the game - even garnering global support. The use of vanishing spray by referees was popularized during the 2011 season and was eventually adopted by the Premier League, La Liga, and other major leagues in Europe. That success even found its way into the 2014 World Cup and has since been widely considered an improvement to matches.

The debate over video replay, however, is a bit more controversial. A popular topic among fans, many support the idea of getting calls correct while others feel the invasion of technology could degrade the human aspect of the game. Controversial calls are a time-honored tradition in soccer - but so is relentless referree bashing. Video replay is not likely to create perfect matches, but could extinguish some of the flames that are brought to social media forums by fans and pundits alike.