Q&A with the SA Editors: Oct 27, 1999

William A. VanBuskirk Pottstown, Pa. What criteria are used for assigning assists on goals? Mike Woitalla: The practice of awarding assists in score summaries and using them as a statistic for judging individual players can be traced to American soccer, but it is catching on around the world. For example, Italian publications use the English word and the German press uses the word Vorarbeit, which literally translates to "pre-work." As far as how a scorekeeper defines an assist, the definition does vary somewhat between different leagues. Let me repeat the answer I gave seven weeks ago ... Here is the previously posted "Q&A with SA Editor" response regarding this subject: Soccer America Magazine columnist Paul Gardner wrote an in-depth article about the concept of awarding assists in his "SoccerTalk" column in the Sept. 20 issue. Here's an excerpt from the column in which he outlined Major League Soccer's policy: "In short, the assist is a highly slippery concept. But it is an important one. The MLS definition: 'The player(s) whose pass(es) leads directly to a goal without a break in possession is (are) credited with an assist(s).' To break the passing sequence, an opponent must 'gain control' of the ball. No more than two assists on a goal are permitted. "A straightforward, workable definition, one that tries to remove subjective opinions from the process. But not entirely satisfactory as it opens the door to meaningless assists ... The MLS regulations admit that 'there is no distinction between passes that exhibit a high degree of skill, vision and/or accuracy and passes that do not.' MLS awards two points for a goal, one for an assist. "FIFA has no written definition of an assist. Despite this vagueness, it uses the assist count as a tiebreaker to decide top-scorers: At the U-20 World Cup earlier this year in Nigeria, both Pablo of Spain and Mahamadou Dissa of Mali had five goals, but Pablo took the Golden Shoe as he had two assists to Dissa's one." Stan, MLS also awards an assist to the player who takes a shot that forces the rebound (off the goalkeeper, post or crossbar) that a teammate slots home for a goal. This is consistent with the NCAA's policy for college scorekeeping. And the NCAA also permits the awarding of up to two assists. (If you have a question for a Soccer America Magazine editor, click "Q&A with SA Editors" in the left column of the home page under "Interactive.")
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