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DiCicco explains vision for substitution rule

In a phone interview about Cindy Parlow Cone’s appointment as the Portland Thorns FC head coach, former U.S. women’s national team head coach Tony DiCicco also discussed one specific aspect of the National Women’s Soccer League: its substitution rules.

“I would like to see them do what we did in the WUSA, which was four plus one,” he said.

DiCicco coached the U.S. women from 1994 to 1999, leading them to their historic FIFA Women’s World Cup victory in 1999. He was the founding commissioner of WUSA, and he coached the Boston Breakers of WPS.

In WUSA, similar to the early days of Major League Soccer, teams were allowed four substitutions of field players and one goalkeeper substitution. The reason the rule went away in MLS — which used a three-plus-one restriction — was teams would use that goalkeeper sub to get a fourth field-player change.

MLS teams often had their goalkeeper switch positions with a field player momentarily, sub out the goalkeeper and then have the original goalkeeper swap positions with the sub. In WUSA, however, teams had to designate which player on the bench would be the substitute goalkeeper, and only that player could enter in goal.

“It’s all for player development,” DiCicco said. “We did it in WUSA; it worked out great. For whatever reason, we weren’t allowed to do in in the WPS.”

WPS had a three-player substitution rule, in accordance with FIFA bylaws. This is the standard substitution limit in professional leagues around the world.

DiCicco said his ideal substitution rule would allow coaches to get more players experience, and it would make it easier to deal with national team call-ups and injuries than if the league institutes the standard three substitutions per game rule.

“In the college game, you can get players minutes (and) kind of keep a bigger bench happy,” he said, specifically referring to Parlow Cone’s transition from coaching in the NCAA to NWSL.

By NCAA regulations, substitutions are unlimited, except players cannot re-enter the game in the first half; they may re-enter once in the second half and in overtime. No professional leagues in the United States have those same rules, but the NCAA way does allow for more players to get playing time and develop in a competitive atmosphere.

While certain details on NWSL player allocation have started coming to light, the league is still a little way off from announcing rules and regulations for the upcoming inaugural season.


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