When I began Eli Sports it was intended to cover ALL sports and although we have not quite reached that ultimate goal yet we’re working on it. What we aren’t is an all  Football and boys Basketball with a touch of girls hoops thrown in site. This year we live streamed and/or wrote stories on Football and Basketball both boys and girls but we also have done Volleyball, Girls Soccer, Girls Swimming, Cross Country, Slowpitch Softball, Boys Swimming, Girls Bowling, Dance/Drill, Cheer, Baseball, Boys Soccer, Fastpitch and Track and Field. Our goal remains to cover them all and we’re getting closer each year.

One of the first things I realized is that I couldn’t just cover the sports I liked best and understood. So when we began covering soccer it was a sport I never played, didn’t know anything about it but the basics, no understanding of offenses, defenses and strategy, no knowledge of the rules other than you can’t use your hands and I felt it was a soft sport where you just run around and kick the ball. Afterall, if you can’t use your hands how tough can it be? Yes, a total football snob view of the sport, uneducated and naive.

Then I had to cover it. I had to learn terms understand basic offenses and defenses, witnessed the physicality and the incredible athleticism it takes to be good at this sport.

Again, full transparency I was a football snob and discounted soccer as something you did in P E class. Since then I have not only seen the beauty of this sport and began to understand it but simply watching some of the sheer athletic plays is a great thing to witness. There it is my confession, yes I have become a soccer fan!

However, as much as I was a football snob, the blowhardiness and snobbish behavior of many long standing soccer fans is not cute anymore. The tiring droning on that “we’re the biggest sport in the world”, “we play by different rules because we have always done it that way”, the faux outrage of a common penalty that results in the game restarting in less than 5 seconds. The we’re not respected angle is wearing thin.

As an outsider beginning to discover your sport let me say you don’t make it easy. Every game we broadcast we do some very regular things like print rosters, look up each teams schedule, results and the league standings. Reasonable right? It is in all other sports except soccer. The wins and losses and ties are useless until you know how the league is keeping track of who is their champion. Is it a team that counts wins and losses, is it a points system league with 3 points for a win and 1 point for a tie? Is it even more jumbled than that? Do they end in a tie or does this league go to some kind of OT and if so which kind?

If you truly want to be understood then it’s time to unify some of the basics as each league’s little quirks and oddities isn’t cute anymore. Not everything has to stay grounded in rules for game that began with a sundial as your timer and human heads as the ball.

It’s time for just a couple of majority rules tweeks to simplify the overall game for everyone to be able to follow and understand much better what each match is truly about and how it’s going to end.

Then there’s behavior. I can say without any hesitation that the amount of cursing, tantrums, poor sportsmanship and terrible fan behavior was at it’s peak in boys soccer this year and it wasn’t even close. This needs to frankly stop. I love the fierce competition and yes that is going to boil over now and again but it was more than excessive this season and it is not a way to attract new and especially younger fans. There needs to be a huge change in behavior and it needs to happen now not a little bit at a time.

I have 3 issues that would greatly benefit soccer to taking that next step. Think about it, you have all of Spring evenings to yourself. Baseball, fastpitch, track, golf, tennis all are played in the afternoon with some minimal exceptions. You have no competition for evening events. What are you doing to try and draw more and more fans to your games? This year you had different rules that each league plays by, convoluted standings that some coaches had to create their own spread sheet to keep track of whose in 1st and then terrible behavior.

That’s your plan? This is how we can stop griping we don’t get enough respect and get more people to come watch? It’s time for some common sense changes and start showcasing the greatness of this sport and not the weirdness of it.

Here are my issues and my suggestions to clean this up a little bit without taking out the true weirdness and quirks that are beloved by soccer fans.

Issue #1 Rules

This is something I don’t understand in anyway shape or form. And I don’t want to hear it’s “because we’ve always done it this way garbage.” Let’s start with rules.

Why are their different rules for the same sport? It isn’t even by classification it’s different between leagues. For instance, you can play in the SPSL 2A and if the game is tied when the official blows the final whistle the game is over. Then you can go 30 miles to the south and watch the EVCO 2A and when the final whistle blows and the score is tied they go to 2 5-minute golden goal overtimes and if it’s still tied then the outcome is decided by a penalty kick shoot-out. No ties. Same sport, same classification, 30 mile differfence in location 2 completely different sets of rules.

Why this is frustrating for new fans like me is I don’t understand in one match the 2 teams are attacking and taking chances once into stoppage time. Why they get more aggressive in the closing moments when in another match the teams fall back on defense and take their time and after a good amount of stoppage time they are willing to let the time run out?

Well the answer is those being more aggressive know when time runs out they are tied and it’s over while those who may be more conservative know they have OT’s coming and someone is going to win and sometimes the best strategy is to wait for your best chance to win the game and you have time to be patient.

If you are not familiar with the rules the match is being played you don’t know how it’s going to end. I have literally asked others covering the game and even some fans who weren’t sure how the match would end. How is this good for your sport? Why is how the match is going to end being a secret a good idea? You know how much of a let down it is when you are expecting one outcome and another ends it in a tie?

And let’s throw in some leagues with even have more bizarre rules where they split their league in divisions and there are different rules when playing teams in your own division over those when you cross-over. Yes that’s true, more on that later.

To be honest, I don’t care which rules you play by but pick one for all. If you want to end it in a tie with a point system to determine your league standings I am totally good with that because I know. If you want to go to OT with 2 golden goals and PK’s, I’m good with that, if you want to go straight to PK’s I’m good with that just pick 1 system for everyone so we don’t have to research your league to figure out how the game is going to be played.

Issue #2 Standings

Why is soccer the only sport that declares their league winners with different systems? It’s not just by classification such as the 4A’s play this system and the 1A’s use this system this is a league by league issue. Some leagues do it by wins and losses and yes those leagues also go to OT and PK’s so there are no ties. Others use the traditional points system 3 for a win and 1 for a tie.

Ok, I get it that is more traditional but the problem with looking at standings the point totals are not listed. So whose in 1st place with 1 team at 4-2-0 and the other at 3-0-3. Some would say not losing is better than having 2 losses but the truth is they are tied with 12 points each. So if a point system is to be instituted can the standings be listed with the point total along with the wins/losses/ties record and the true 1st place team or teams are at the top of the standings.

Then you have the absolute fiasco of the SPSL 4A who has this crazy system that you need a math major to understand. The SPSL 4A has 10 teams. In soccer they divide the teams into two 5 team divisions. When playing within your division it is the usual 3 for a win and 1 for a tie system and they play each other twice. That’s the easy part.

When they crossover they only play their cross divisional opponents once. Apparently they wanted to have the opportunity to score up to 6 points. So to accomplish this if a team beats the other team 1-0 they get 4 points. If they beat the other team by 2 goals they get 5 points and if they beat the team by 3 or more goals they get 6 points.

This really seems to encourage piling on at the end of the match and not about winning the game. Seems to me simply winning the game regardless of score or OT’s or anything else should be the same. This isn’t ice dancing where you are scored by a group of judges based on how it looks to each of them. It’s simple, we won, you lost, style points shouldn’t count.

Now I wish I could say the weirdness of the SPSL 4A was over but, I’m not done. So in the cross divisional games if they end in a tie the rules are differfent within their OWN league. Remember playing in your own division it’s simple, 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, NO OVERTIME.

When you play a cross-divisional opponent the game does not end in a tie and you go to PK’s. The winner then gets 2 points and the loser gets 1 point. Again, I can’t stress this enough this is all in the SAME league!

When we covered the SPSL 4A many thanks to Puyallup Assistant Coach Jack Rose who sent us a link to his own personal spread sheet that he had to create to be able to follow the actual standings. This is a spread sheet that is not available to the general public. There is no way the hardcore fan knows the standings outside of their son telling them what place they’re in likely being told by their coach. For casual fans there is no possible way to figure out this system.

Why does this matter? If you are trying to draw interest from new people to be interested in your sport and your team it has to be easy. Make it easy to know when there is a big game, there should be no difficulty whatsoever for everyone to know whose in 1st place and when games have more meaning than others. This needs to be fixed.

The good news is I have heard from some SPSL 4A AD’s and coaches they believe the system is going to be changed. That is welcome news. I say since you’re changing it, it’s time for all leagues and districts to offer the same product to everyone and simply unify the outcome of all matches.

Issue #3 Conduct

The language and conduct on the soccer field is getting out of hand. This quote came from the WIAA Executive Board Meeting from March 17 in the Ejection Report. “The inappropriate language from both athletes and coaches toward officials is disturbing and increasing. He added that many of the subsequent cautions in boys soccer would be an ejection in other sports.”

This is a flat out embarrassment. I spent a lot of hours on the sideline taking pictures and could hear the objectional language and conduct up close. I’ve never heard so many F-bombs dropped by players in front of officials and coaches with no response by either. The absolute horror and outrage that players and coaches freakout about on calls or non-calls is atrocious. Especially in soccer where most of the calls result in a quick kick to get the action going again.

I hope the officials stop taking this and start firing yellow and red cards early next season and send a strong message this is not going to be tolerated by the officials and maybe it will start putting a stop to it. Another way to stop it is for coaches to coach and have standards and not allow it. There’s no reason for this type of behavior and when you see that being allowed on the field guess what happens in the stands? The idiots start bellowing nonsense.

The officials shortage is real. Soccer officiates 22 players with 1 official and 2 side judges. Football has 5 officials or 4.5 players for every 1 official, basketball has 3 for 10 players or 3.3 per official. Soccer really has 1 official for 22 players. It is probably the most difficult sport to officiate. After the pandemic, behavior started to get a little better but players, coaches and fans are going back to their old habits and it seems to be more prevelent in soccer than other sports, so stop it.

You know what is interesting to me is after a tough, physical match where the rules are pushed, words are spoken and it is an intense match that afterward those same players are hugging their opponents, they’re posing for pictures and seemingly are not taking it personally. So it appears the players are open to being coached and guided correctly. Coaches, parents and officials it’s your turn to do your job.


This sport has so many good things going for it. I like a lot of the quirkiness. I like when the ball goes out of bounds at the 30 yard line you throw it on at the 35, close enough just play. I like that a free kick does not take a huddle of 5 officials to talk it all out for 5 minutes and come to the conclusion indeed it was a false start and then play resumes. I like stoppage time and the official’s discretion on when the game is over. I love that anticipation of getting one more run and one last chance or cringing when this thing is going to end. That’s weirdness I have grown to appreciate.

I love the competitive nature of soccer in Washington State, I love the State Tournament competition and I love how more teams are getting more and more competitive. There were 3 new Champions in soccer this Spring, Mount Si in 4A, Lake Washington in 3A and 2A’s Franklin Pierce. Royal came up just short losing to Overlake 1-0 in the 1A’s otherwise it would have been a sweep of newcomers.

This just shows how much this sport is spreading and more and more people are coming to the games. So soccer what’s it gonna be? Keep up the snobbish attitude that we’ve always been on the outside looking in and we don’t welcome more attention and new fans or embrace the fact there are many new fans looking to get in on the fun and appreciate the great sport of soccer.

The choice is yours.



By paulb

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