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The Laws of Soccer 101: Tiebreakers

As the STO Commish once noted, tying is Un-American and should be avoided when possible. We Yanks like clearly defined winners and losers, so tying in the NFL (aka “the Not Football League”) is highly improbable. Heck, tying in baseball and basketball is impossible (except in a MLB All-Star Game when Selig got sleepy).

FIFA loves ties though. In fact, it hates tiebreakers like Away Goals, Golden Goals, PKs, and even a few measly minutes of OT. FIFA has only two pages of rules about tiebreakers in its entire tome of Laws, and they set forth that these provisions are only to be utilized when “required”. In truth, FIFA hates tiebreakers so much, it has no law for them.

That’s right, the section entitled “Procedures to Determine the Winner of A Tied Match” is not a “Law” of soccer like the 17 “Laws” we have covered over the last month or so. No, it’s more of an “appendix” or “epilogue”. You know, the part no one ever reads and no one ever expects anyone to read. The fact tiebreakers don’t have their own law is strange.

It signals to me that FIFA loves ties. Unfortunately, FIFA only apparently wants ties to be broken in the most important games, like the Finals of the Champions League and the World Cup. The fact that only the games of the greatest importance would end so arbitrarily has always bothered me. Just ask France, who lost the 2006 World Cup on PKs after battling Italy for two hours. Well, actually don’t ask France. I think we Yanks know what they would say:

“C’est la vie”.

 Now, I could do a million Pop Quiz Questions about “tiebreakers” because each form of tiebreaker has relatively elaborate rules (especially PKs), but I will spare you today because your Final Exam is coming up soon. I’ll give you one hint for that test though. Did you know a field player must swap with the goalie if he is injured during tiebreaking PKs. That’s right, no substitute GK can come on once the process has started. I’ve never seen that either, but it’s fun to know it could happen one day.