MLS referees have handed out 16 red cards through the first five weeks of the 2016 season, prompting just a little bit of discussion among coaches, players, fans and media.


And while the merit of some of those reds are certainly up for debate, the notion that more ejections are taking place at the start of 2016 compared to other seasons is a bit off.


In fact, the red-card numbers for this year look very similar to the totals from each of the last two seasons. As mentioned above, officials have handed out 16 reds through the first 42 games of the 2016 season. That’s only two more than the 14 reds shown through 42 games in 2015, and three more than the 13 shown in that span in 2014.


On a broader scale, the red-card totals from 2016 are comparable to many of the seasons in the league history. You can check out the full ejection numbers through roughly 42 games from each of the league’s 21 seasons in the below table, which comes to us courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:

Year
Games Played
Red Cards
Reds Per Game
2016
42
16
0.38
2015
42
14
0.33
2014
42
11*
0.26
2013
42
3*
0.07
2012
44
5
0.11
2011
44
19
0.43
2010
45
14
0.31
2009
43
16
0.37
2008
42
10
0.24
2007
44
6
0.14
2006
46
8
0.17
2005
43
7
0.16
2004
42
10
0.24
2003
43
9
0.21
2002
44
16
0.36
2001
46
19
0.41
2000
42
13
0.31
1999
43
19
0.44
1998
43
23
0.53
1997
43
5
0.12
1996
43
8
0.19

*The initial table did not take into account rescinded red cards from 2013 and 2014, decreasing the total number of red cards in the opening part of each season from four to three and 13 to 11, respectively. 

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