Going well beyond expansion to 48 teams, FIFA is reportedly considering a number of substantial changes that would be implemented prior to the 2026 World Cup–including one that was tried and tested more than 20 years ago in MLS and even further back in the old NASL.
Marco Van Basten, the former Dutch great who is now FIFA's Chief Officer for Technical Development, revealed the potential changes in an interview with German outlet Sport Bild, and one of them is eschewing standard penalty kicks at the end of tied knockout matches for a run-up style shootout.
The players for each team have a given amount of seconds to run up from a set distance and try to beat an onrushing goalkeeper, instead of just shooting from 12 yards out.
FIFA was already considering have group-stage matches go to penalties to avoid draws in the three-team groups and prevent teams from settling for mutually beneficial draws in the final game of the stage. This change would take it a step further, and would conjure up some decades-old memories from American soccer.
Looking back, what did some of MLS's key figures from the 1996 season think of the shootouts?
Here's a selection from our extensive oral history of MLS's first season:
DOUG LOGAN (Commissioner, MLS): FIFA were truly intrigued by the shootout. To them, had that worked, it might have worked well.
JONATHAN KRAFT (Ownership, New England Revolution): The shootout was a mistake. It was exciting but it was a mistake.
ERIC WYNALDA (Forward, San Jose Clash): I hated it. You had the rest of the world going, “What the hell are they doing?” All of my friends in Germany would just laugh at us. ... I actually got hurt! That was the injury that really knocked my career off the rails, when I ran into [Kansas City Wiz goalkeeper] Garth Lagerwey during the shootout.
BRAD FRIEDEL (Goalkeeper, Columbus Crew): In one of my first games we drew 1-1, so I walked off the pitch and into the locker room. The equipment manager came in and said, “What are you doing? You have a shootout; nobody told you?” I did know; I had just completely forgotten. I had to put my shirt back on to go back out.
According to Sport Bild, some of the other changes that FIFA is considering include: implementing penalty-box-type "sin bins" for carded players; increasing the number of substitutions from three; substitutions on the fly, instead of during stoppages; a maximum number of fouls allowed per player; abolishing the offside rule; and making teams actively play during the last 10 minutes of a game–the ball would not be able to be stationary for more than 10 seconds–to avoid time-wasting.