Starting on August 5, Major League Soccer will begin implementing a new video assisted referee (VAR) program for the remainder of both the MLS regular season and playoffs.
According to the league, a fifth member of the officiating crew on site will utilize all available broadcast angles to check plays for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” in any of four potentially game-changing situations: goals, penalty kicks, direct red cards, and incidences of mistaken identity.
HOW VAR WORKS
A fifth match official will be in a booth at the stadium watching all available broadcast match angles to alert the head referee when a mistake has been made or when he's missed a critical foul.
If VAR spots one of these match-changing incidents (goal, penalty kick, straight red card, case of mistaken identity), he can recommend review to the head match official. Should the head official accept VAR's recommendation, he will make a video review signal with his hands – the TV box motion – at which point he can watch the incident on a sideline monitor or simply accept the recommendation of the VAR.
However, if the head referee resumes play before an incident has been reviewed, the head official cannot go back and rescind or change that decision.
While VAR can make suggestions to the head official, the head official is ultimately the only authority responsible for decisions made on the field. That means that even if VAR suggests that a head official overturn a decision he's made, the head official is under no obligation to do so. The final decision rests with the head match official.
Video Review can and will be used to confirm the legality of all goals scored. This means checking for a handball by the goal-scorer, an offside infraction preceding the goal, any foul committed by an attacking player leading to the goal, and if the ball crossed the goal line.
The VAR will use all available broadcast camera angles to come to a decision. However, if no angle provides conclusive and decisive evidence to overturn the center referee's on-field decision, neither the VAR nor the center referee can overturn the call made on the field.
Penalty kick decisions, like goals, are also up for review by Video Review. For instance, if a referee incorrectly awards a PK, Video Review can suggest that the head official review the video evidence of the decision. If the head official feels that the video evidence suggests that his decision was clearly and obviously incorrect, he can then overturn his own decision.
Video Review can also be used to check if a foul was committed by an attacking player before a penalty kick was awarded, if an attacking player was in an offside position before a penalty kick was awarded, or even if the ball was out of play before a penalty kick was awarded. In other words, the VAR and the center official can effectively negate or confirm a penalty kick decision.
Any time a center official sends off a player for a direct red card infraction, that decision will be reviewed by Video Review. If they suggest that the head official review his decision, he can decide to do so, either by stopping play and checking on a sideline television monitor or by heeding the council of the VAR.
VAR can also recommend a review where a red card may have been warranted but wasn't given. If the head referee agrees with the VAR assessment, he can review the play and show a red card (or not). The VAR can also review the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (aka DOGSO) and whether a penalty kick or a card is warranted for the foul.
Video Review can also be used to correctly identify a player who has committed a card-able offense if the referee has mistakenly gives a card (whether yellow or red) to the wrong player.