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Why It's OK to TIE in Soccer (World Cup Rant #2)

So if you live under a rock you will be one of the few American's who doesn't know that the United States Men's Soccer team tied the Portugal last night in the 2014 World cup 2 – 2. For the rest of us who watched the game, the vision of Cristiano Ronaldo's pin-perfect cross meeting the head of Silvestre Varela tying the game with 30 seconds left to play will be seared into our memory for a long while, especially if the cards fall against the U.S. this Thursday in the last day of group play. With that being said, the game was thrilling as thrilling can be and the U.S. fought back from a goal deficit to take a 2 – 1 lead with 15 minutes left to play in the game. The tie was bitter sweet because, while the U.S. got a massively important point against the #4 team in the world, winning the game would have guaranteed the U.S. a place in the Rd. of 16 and given them a chance to finish on top of the so called "Group of Death" (which we can actually still do with a win against Germany on Thursday)!

As perusal, I began scrolling through my Twitter feed to see how America would respond to such a game. As I expected there were many disappointed fans who were hoping for a victory and stunned by what took place in the last 30 seconds of the game. However, this was not the only trend I saw on my twitter feed. Their were countless casual American sports fans (most of them American football fans mind you) who were complaining about how a game can end in a tie in soccer.

Once again the ignorance of the American sports fan astounds me and I find within my self the need to correct and inform. Moreover, the reason for allowing ties in soccer should be so clear to American football fans who are always up in roars about a little something they call "strength of schedule".

Firstly, let's start with the basics. In soccer the standings are based on a "point system" and not "win/loss". The point system works as follows: A win earns a team 3 points, a tie earns a team 1 point, and a loss gets 0 points. This means that a team who has won three games would have 9 points. A team who has won two games and tied one would have 7 points.

Secondly, tying in soccer only happens in some situations. If you would be patient (I know that's asking a lot of you casual American soccer viewer) in about one week there will be no more ties allowed in the World Cup. The tournament will move on to the "Knockout Phase" which is a single elimination, win or go home, bracket style tournament that involves only 16 of the 32 teams.

The reason I brought up the entire idea of "strength of schedule" has everything to do when tying is and is not allowed in soccer. The reason that tying is allowed in most soccer leagues and in the "Group Stage" of the World Cup (that's what's going on now) is because "strength of schedule" does not exist. During the group stage of the World Cup the teams in each group all have the exact same schedule.

For Example, the USA is in "Group G" (Also known as "The Group of Death") along with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana

Guess what the USA's schedule is? That's right, we play Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

Guess what Germany's schedule is? That's right, they play Ghana, Portugal and the USA.

Guess what Portugal's schedule is? That's right they play Germany, USA, and Ghana.

Do you want me to go on??? I didn't think so.

Every team in Group G has the exact same schedule. The same goes for the other seven groups in the world cup too. The same goes in the English Premier League over in Britain. There are 20 teams in the league. If you are on one of those teams (say Manchester United) then that leaves 19 other teams besides your team.

Guess how many games each team plays in the English Premier League? That's right 38 games. You play every other team twice; once at home and once away (19 x 2 = 38). That means that every single team in the English Premier League has the exact same schedule. Not only that, they have the exact same schedule & home field advantage is exactly the same across the league because you play all your opponents both home & away. What this allows for is absolute equality of scheduling across the league. This means is that the small and less skilled teams are able to take something away from their most difficult fixtures of the season.

One example that some of you might have watched over the weekend was when Iran played Argentina. Without doing a Google search, I cannot name one player to you off of the Iranian national soccer team. Likewise without doing a Google search I can real off about half of the Argentinian staring lineup to you without a problem. Not only that, Argentina have what many have argued to be the greatest player of all time: Lionel Messi. Realistically, Iran has zero chance of beating Argentina, but, if they play the game of their life, stay focused for 90 minutes, and execute their game plan then they give themselves a chance to tie Argentina and earn a precious point for themselves which could possibly get a team like Iran (ranked 43rd in the World) a place in the rd. of 16 in the World Cup!

Soccer offers a remedy to the scheduling woes of professional sports in America. By creating a completely equal schedule the tie creates an aspect to the game that gives an opportunity for lesser teams to compete with the bigger ones.

But like I said earlier, tying is not always permissible in soccer. Only when the scheduling is equal is tying allowed. As soon as a tournament style bracket is initiated it's win or go home. That means overtime and penalty kick shootouts when the score is tied.

With all this being said, I am afraid that the complaining I've witnessed about tying in soccer is just another example of the ignorance and shortsightedness of the typical American football fan who needs a commercial distraction every 30 seconds and can only prolong their attention to actual action for no more than six seconds at a time (the average length of a football play).

I hope this sheds some light on the dim mind of the average American sports fan!


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