Once again, MLS has made themselves look like an amateur league. In fact, on Saturday night something happened in the league that would not take place in almost any amateur league around the soccer World.
That may seem a bit over the top but for the fans of Toronto FC and FC Dallas Saturday night was a long and frustrating evening and that was in large part due to the lack of clarity from MLS. The rain and lightning were certainly beyond the control of the league and in that respect the officials handled things well to keep everyone safe and protect the playing surface during a lengthy storm. What the league could control was the clarity of their own rule book.
As the rain delay went on and on it started to look like the game might not be able to resume. Every time the thirty minute lightning clock was getting close to the point of allowing the players back on the pitch another strike would hit in the area resetting the clock and sending everyone back to their respective locker rooms. Add in the fact that the rain was so heavy at times that it started to saturate the pitch and it looked like the game would never be able to resume.
The issue is that during that time there was a real lack of clarity regarding how the league would handle the game being unable to resume. Even the folks in the press box at Toyota Stadium in Frisco were having a hard time getting accurate details out to the fans regarding what would occur if the match was unable to resume.
The mixed messages varied from the game would be abandoned and rescheduled for a later date (possibly the following day) where the full 90 would be replayed meaning that the three early FC Dallas goals would be erased or the other extreme of the game being picked up at a later date from the time that the ref first sent the players off the field late in the first half meaning that FC Dallas would keep their lead. Clearly, the two options are extremely different and the lack of clarity between which would take place was causing a lot of confusion for those waiting for the game to resume.
The other issue was that there did not appear to be a timeline on when the match would be cancelled if they could not resume. Eventually it came out that the cutoff would be midnight local time but that cutoff seemed to have been arbitrarily set by those at the stadium. There did not seem to be any specific league guidelines for how long a delay can be before a game should be abandoned which was another source of confusion.
The end result of all the confusion was fans waiting hours with no clear idea of what would happen or when it would happen. They were not the only ones left out in the cold though as the players would certainly not have been enjoying going out to warm up a number of times only to be sent back off the field. At some point they certainly would have been wondering just what was going on like the fans were. Hopefully, the league offered the teams involved a lot more clarity than they did the media and fans.
What is really distressing about the whole situation on Saturday night in Frisco is that all of the confusion would have been so simple to avoid. If you recall the rained out Voyageurs Cup game between Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps the Canadian Soccer Association was fairly quick to communicate their rules to the fans and the broadcasters of the game. That eliminated the confusion at least while fans were just left to wait and see if the rain would let up before the deadline to cancel the match. When it was cancelled everyone involved was clear and what it would mean which in that case was the game being replayed in its entirety at a later date.
There was no such clarity from MLS on Saturday. A quick release from the league and all the confusion would have been gone. Even better would be having some published rules that are available to fans and media so that they could look up what would happen in a situation like this. That would eliminate the confusion and hold the league accountable to something which would certainly be a welcomed change by fans who often wish they had a better idea of just what rules are governing things in MLS.
We could turn to the FIFA rule book for a guideline on how to handle a situation where a game is abandoned due to something like lightning and we would find the rule that almost any amateur team around the World would have followed but we support MLS and we all know that they play with their own rule book rather than the rules set out by FIFA.
According to FIFA if the game last night had been abandoned it would be replayed in its entirety rather than resumed later or counted as an official result.
In MLS, the current rule seems to be the exact opposite of that set out by FIFA and the game would have been resumed on Sunday from the time the ref stopped it. That is still not a fact that the league has confirmed though but rather the general consensus that seems to have been formed by those who were present in Frisco last night.
None of this mattered on the night as the game was resumed just before midnight local time and the weather cooperated enough for them to be able to complete the 90 minutes (including taking a 15 minute halftime just minutes after resuming the game). It did once again bring up a big issue that many fans around MLS continue to have though and that is the need for increased clarity from the league. It would be nice to not spend three hours on a Saturday night being completely confused.