Messi preparing for penalty kick


On the eve of the 2022 World Cup Final in Qatar between Argentina and France, we take this opportunity to look ahead towards the 2026 World Cup to be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. The 2022 World Cup has provided a lot of drama, notable upsets in penalty kicks and some unexpected players sitting on the sideline. World powers like Germany were sent packing in the group stage. Brazil, Spain and Portugal failed on penalties. Morocco and Croatia made impressive runs into the semifinals. 

Despite the impressive and engaging performances on the pitch, I believe that there are three great opportunities to make the game even better, without changing the core nature of the sport: 

1) Eliminate offsides for balls played from inside of 18 yards,

2) Revise the basic offsides rule on the rest of the pitch so that only one foot must be behind the defender’s back foot.

3) Require penalty kicks to be taken by the player who was fouled in the box. 

We take a look at the rationale for each of those changes below: 

1) Eliminate offsides for balls played from inside of 18 yards 

Goal scoring is always at a premium in soccer, even more so in elite international competition where one goal can be the difference between a spike in national pride and a catastrophic exit from the tournament and national depression. Allowing goals to be more accessible would add a lot of excitement to the game as we saw in multiple comebacks during the knockout stages. 

While this change sounds like a major shift, when you look at the on-field play, you see it would encourage and facilitate the creativity that comes from flick headers, short touch balls and a quick through pass. Eliminating offsides for balls played inside the 18-yard line would mean that a premium would be placed on ball skills. It would prevent having the defense pack in the box and push up the back line creating an offsides situation for a ball that might only be played 2 or 3 yards forward.  

This change would highlight the enormous skills of attacking players and would create more space inside the box, thus also increasing scoring. Obviously, goaltenders and defensive players would need time to adjust (and may never like this change), but I believe that fans and TV networks would welcome the additional scoring opportunities. 

2) Revise the basic offsides rule so that only one foot must be behind the defender’s back foot 

VAR has given us an incredible ability to decipher a player in offsides position. Unfortunately, that ability has been taken to an absurd level which now classifies a player raising his hand for a pass as “offsides” if that hand happens to be mere millimeters beyond the defender’s body.

I would love to see soccer adopt the NHL blue line offside rule where one foot beyond the blue line does not constitute offsides as long as the second foot remains in an on-sides position.

This would require the attacking player to have only one foot behind (or even with) the back foot of the defender. VAR would be able to see the same level of detail but by requiring only one foot, we would eliminate many of the offsides calls that nullify exciting passes.  

Less VAR decisions eliminating goals would be better for the game and for the fans.

3) Require penalty kicks to be taken by the player who was fouled in the box

This is one rule that has never made sense to me. Why should a team be allowed to substitute their best goal scorer when the foul was committed against a different player, one who is often much less of a threat to score a goal.

Sure, if you foul Messi, you are preventing him from a scoring chance. It makes sense to allow Messi to take the PK. However, when you foul a defender making a run in the box or going in for a header, it doesn’t seem to fit.

Just like in basketball, the player who is fouled, or the player taking the shot which results in a hand ball should be the one rewarded with the penalty kick. I understand the elite players like Messi, Renaldo, Harry Kane and others may see their scoring production drop, but it would make the punishment fit the crime. 

There may be situations where the attacking team should have discretion on who should take the PK, but those would be limited to scrambles for loose balls that may result in a hand ball.


There are a lot of other ideas for rule changes floating around, and I would love to hear your ideas.

Several others come to mind such as:

  • Concussion substitutions
  • Players being allowed to return to the game after being subbed out
  • A foul limit towards disqualification
  • Elimination of penalty kicks to decide major competitions
  • And more.

What is your best idea for a rule change?

Which of the above do you like best?