"We have always strived to be at the forefront of the sport and to take the initiative when an opportunity to help advance the game is available," said Esse Baharmast, U.S. Soccer's Director of Officials. "It is our belief that this rule modification will make the game a little faster and a little more exciting to watch."
With the U.S. professional soccer season set to begin this month, the United States will be the first country to implement this rule modification. Major League Soccer, as well as the A-League, D3 Pro League, Premier Development League and W-League of United Soccer Leagues, will all follow the new guidelines. By the U.S. adapting to the rule change prior to the start of the professional season, it will provide a smoother transition for players, referees, coaches and fans As for the rest of the world, the approved change will be effective on July 1, 2000.
Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) has been modified removing the requirement that the goalkeeper not take more than four steps before releasing the ball into play from his hands and at the same time, strengthening the requirement that the ball must be released within six seconds. An indirect free-kick will be awarded inside the penalty area to the opposing team if a goalkeeper fails to release the ball within six seconds.
In remaining consistent with U.S. Soccer guidelines in the past on this matter, referees will be reminded that the time taken by the goalkeeper while gaining control of the ball will not be counted, trivial infringements of this limitation should not be penalized and the referee must not count the time verbally or with any visible action.
Earlier this year U.S. Soccer, in conjunction with Major League Soccer and United Soccer Leagues, began experiments with a two-referee system, which is currently being tested around the world by FIFA.
The first phase of these two-referee trials will be completed by June 3, and will see the system used exclusively at official exhibition matches between MLS and A-League clubs, and at all A-League U.S. Open Cup qualifying matches. Following the completion of the first phase of testing, a decision will be made as to whether to proceed to the second phase, which will see the two-referee system employed throughout the 2000 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. U.S. Soccer is hoping to provide FIFA with data collected from over 75 matches in 2000 on the two-referee system.