There has been the perception that MLS referees are issuing more red cards than in the past and for less serious infringements. PRO general manager Peter Walton
says the number of red cards has
indeed slightly increased but for a reason -- referees are doing a better job of applying the rules.
“Nothing has changed in law,” Walton said in a conference call with
reporters. “Nothing has changed in the way that PRO wants the game to be played or officiated. What has changed is that our referees are much more consistent in the law that we want them to
After 42 games, 16 red cards have been issued, up from 14 in 2015 and 11 in 2014. Walton said that MLS referees failed to call 28 percent of red card offenses during the
2015 season. So far in 2016, only 15 percent of such incidents have not been corrected punished.
When evaluating serious foul play, Walton said MLS referees are considering (1) the speed
of the challenge, (2) the force of the tackle, (3) whether it was with a straight leg or two legs, (4) the distance of the player's leg off the ground and (5) where contact was made on the
Higher red card rates will continue, Walton said, until players modify their behavior.
"What I do expect," he said, "are players to just have in the back of their
mind that they shouldn't make such challenges because they stand the risk of seeing a red card."