Arena: FIFA has 'stupidest' yellow-card rules for World Cup qualifying

If you really want to wind Bruce Arena up, all you need to do is ask him about the FIFA's yellow-card rules for World Cup qualifying.

Players are suspended after their second yellow card, no matter how many qualifiers they've played.

"A lot of people don't realize this," he said after the 4-0 win over Panama. "They have the stupidest card rules. So we're in [16] games now. If you got a yellow card in game one and picked one up tonight, you'd be suspended for game [16]. It's the stupidest — I don't understand it. I'm just happy I haven't been around this stuff for a lot of years because I'd lose my mind."

Arena is looking at it from both extremes. He says his players can't afford to take a yellow card to protect the USA's young star, Christian Pulisic, from being beaten up like he was by Panama in both matches. And referees are reluctant, he says, to hand out cards.

"Our players can't take a card," Arena said. "It happens the whole competition. For some reason, then the referees aren't giving out yellow cards too because they realize that players will be suspended the next game.

"So we never know what kind of mentality the referee is going to bring, what kind of posture we can take. We have to be smart. We can't lose Michael Bradley going in and whacking someone retaliating on a foul on Christian. We need him in this next game."

Of the nine U.S. players carrying yellow cards into the Panama game, six of them played -- Paul Arriola, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin and Bradley -- and none of them picked up yellow cards, making them all eligible for Tuesday's game against Trinidad & Tobago.

But all nine players on cards will still need to be careful. Yes, the cards carry over to the intercontinental playoffs in case the USA loses on Tuesday and Panama or Honduras leapfrogs it.
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