Penalty shootouts need to go

Madison Peters, Copyediting Coordinator

Picture this scenario: you have been playing a game of soccer for 90 minutes, but ultimately, the score is tied. After all of the hard work you have put in running up and down the field shooting, crossing and passing, the end score will come down to a single kick. Unfortunately, the odds of your team winning do not even amount to a 50/50 chance. Now, factor in the coin toss at the beginning of the game that determines which team kicks first. If your team loses the coin toss and kicks second, your chances of winning have decreased to 40%. This is because the team kicking second is having to play catch-up for the rest of the match. 

In a penalty shootout, each team will take turns shooting at the goal from the penalty mark. The goal will be defended by the opposing team’s goalkeeper only. Then, each team will have different kickers take five shots at the goal. The team with the most successful kicks will be the winner. If the score is still tied, the shootout will continue until there is a victor. 

When a game comes down to a penalty shootout, it can be intense. However, this way of breaking the tie between two teams completely conflicts with the true nature of soccer. By using this tie-breaking process, it becomes one player versus another. However, soccer is meant to be a team sport. Soccer consists of the players working together and maintaining communication to win the game. If a game comes down to a penalty shootout, one bad kick or one good save can completely alter the results of the game. The shootout does not depend on skill, but rather on pure luck. If the keeper dives the wrong way, you could pass the ball anywhere along the ground and score.

Another downside to penalty shootouts is when you are the unlucky one defending the goal. As you stand between two white sticks and a player fires at you from 12 yards, you’ll experience five times the stress, and your whole team will be infuriated if you do not dive to protect the goal.

Looking back in history, this was the best alternative for breaking a tie between the two teams. Before penalty shootouts were integrated into the game, ties would often be broken by either a coin toss or a replay. The problem with a coin toss is it’s unfair and is based solely on luck. Replays were not a good option either as they took more time and were physically more taxing on players. 

Obviously, there are going to be flaws in every alternative to penalty shootouts. However, there are other options than what we currently have in place that stay more true to the nature of how soccer is meant to be played. One popular alternative to penalty shootouts is Attacker Defender Goalkeeper (ADG). ADG pits an attacker against a defender and a goalkeeper with 20 seconds to score. ADG is similar to a penalty shootout but differs by including more members of the team. Each team will elect five attackers, five defenders and a goalkeeper. Some of the advantages of using this system rather than penalty shootouts are that more players get to compete and it showcases their skills.

In short, there is not a perfect solution to break the tie in a soccer match, but there are other alternatives to improve the overall gameplay and preserve the nature of the sport, rather than relying on luck to decide who wins.