Are There Too Many Red Cards Given in MLS? Are They “ruining games?”

CARSON, CA - July 17, 2015 Bruce Arena.

CARSON, CA – July 17, 2015 Bruce Arena.

Scribbler –  Alex Baker

Four players were sent off last weekend in the fifth round of MLS play, bringing the grand total of red cards issued this season to 16. That’s an increase over what we’ve seen in recent seasons and represents the second-highest rate of sending offs in Major League Soccer for 15 years.

“There’s just been too many red cards in this league, it’s ruining games,” said LA Galaxy coach, Bruce Arena after Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder, Matias Laba was sent off for a challenge on the Galaxy’s Mike Magee Saturday.

“It doesn’t make the game entertaining, I don’t think the fans like it. I don’t know about the players but it seems like every game in this league there’s a red card now.”

Fans in attendance at Vancouver’s BC Park stadium and pundits on social media alike questioned whether Laba’s sending off was legitimate. While the Argentine defensive midfielder was definitely showing his studs even Magee, the recipient of the tackle, seemed unsure whether a red card was warranted.

“To be honest when I got up I was asking the ref if he got a card. So I was kind of pleading for a yellow and he got a red,” said Magee.

Vancouver coach, Carl Robinson also questioned referee Jair Marrufo’s decision to send Laba off.

“There are too many red cards. Us, as a group of coaches, and the players in there are unsure. We’ve got one of the top midfield players in the league (who has) made a tackle today he’s been sent off. I’m not sure why,” said Robinson, speaking to Vancouver Metro News.

However, a day earlier in his pregame remarks, Robinson had also admitted the league needed to find a way to minimize “the studs up tackles, the elbows,” and “naughty challenges.”


Yet despite the prevailing perception that MLS has seen an excess of red cards this season, according to data published on MLSSoccer.com, the current ratio of 16 cards in 42 games – which averages out to 0.38 cards per game – is not far out of line with league average over the past 21 seasons.

Part of the issue may extend from directives issued at the season’s outset by the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) to “improve detection of key match incidents.” Those incidents include sending offs, awarding penalties, and showing a yellow card when a red is truly warranted.

(Video courtesy of Vancouver Whitecaps, audio by Alex Baker, and pictures by ISI Photos).

error