Throwback Thursday: Hockey-Style Shootouts in MLS

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With the new CBA agreed, the 2015 MLS season will begin Friday night, when the defending champions LA Galaxy host the Chicago Fire.

The domestic league has come a long way since its inaugural season nearly 20 years ago. MLS has the kind of revenue, stability, and visibility that would’ve been barely conceivable in the 1990s. To get to where it’s at today, the league had to change and grow, invariably shedding off some of its earlier quirks.

One of them is the shootout.

MLS used to require all games with level scorelines to be resolved with penalty shootouts. This was due in part to the perception that the typical American sports fan would be turned off by games that ended in ties. (The extent to which this is true is still debated in some of the danker corners of soccer forums.)

Not only that, the player taking the penalty shot would have to start 35 yards from the goal and dribble forward until they got within shooting position. They had 5 seconds to get their shot off. It’s not unlike what they currently do in the NHL, except MLS didn’t even do overtime.

It was kind of weird, you guys, and it lasted from 1996 until 1999.

To get a sense of how bonkers (but also kind of exciting) a tied MLS game looked in the late-20th century, here’s a clip of one of those shootouts during the last season they were used. This is the conclusion of the league fixture between the San Jose Clash and DC United.