Tom Ginsburg’s proposal to eliminate penalty shootouts

July 12

I’m a relatively late convert to World Cup soccer, but I was quite intrigued, and tentatively convinced, by a proposal I heard recently to eliminate the use of the “penalty shoot-out” as a tie-breaker — made all the more timely by the end of the Argentina-Netherlands game.

From my colleague Tom Ginsburg:

On Sunday, several hundred million people around the globe will tune in to watch the World Cup final. For ninety minutes, the players will engage in a contest of stamina and skill, sprinting up and down the field. If the game is tied, there will be an extra half hour to try to resolve the contest. But what if the game is still tied? This is where things get really silly.

Americans who have tuned into the World Cup for the first time may have been bemused by the concept of the “penalty shootout.” … The penalty shot sometimes comes down to a guessing game between the shooter and the goalie, who must choose a side towards which to lunge as the shot is launched. While surely there is less luck involved than the earlier system of deciding ties by a coin flip, there is a certain amount of randomness, turning a game of skill and stamina into a game of chance. The emotional state of entire countries comes down to what is in essence a free throw into a randomly moving basket.

And here is his proposal:

Play a first overtime of 30 minutes. Then, if the score is still tied, have a second overtime which begins not with 11 players per side, but with 10. Then, every three minutes, one player on each side must leave the field. So after 123 minutes, it will be nine-on-nine; after 126, it will be eight-on-eight, and so on. Eventually, 143 minutes into the match, there will be two players on a side. By that point, the game will likely end, and it will be a contest of endurance and strategy. Which team has the most players with the legs to run for nearly two and a half hours? Which coach can devise the best formation for five-on-five or three-on-three play?

The whole thing (not too long) is here.

Will Baude is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where he teaches constitutional law and federal courts. His recent articles include Rethinking the Federal Eminent Domain Power, (Yale Law Journal, 2013), and Beyond DOMA: State Choice of Law in Federal Statutes, (Stanford Law Review, 2012).
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