With the growing likelihood that a condensed 2020 MLS season awaits during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith knows that players’ physical preparation will be tested.
That’s why, among other reasons, he's fully in favor of the five-substitute rule that’s been approved by IFAB. It is a possibility that MLS could adopt the rule once there is a return to play. Smith floated, during a conference call Wednesday with media members, that game-day rosters could be expanded from 18 to 20 players to give teams more flexibility.
Should the substitute rule be adjusted from three to five, Smith tossed on the asterisk of capping entry opportunities at three per team.
“For example, if we were winning the game, it would be a natural course of events sometimes to try and give your own players a bit of a break in proceedings or to break up the game and the flow of the game,” Smith said. “If you’ve got five substitutions, it’s not going to be very enjoyable for the viewer to see constant changes that just disrupt the flow of the game. So, the three breaks in the game and five substitutions makes a lot of sense. Therefore you’d have to have multiple substitutions at any given time.”
That would require some juggling from coaches as different game scenarios arrive. If you’re trailing late and searching for an equalizer, perhaps a team brings on a winger and striker at the same time to try and pin a team back. If you’re trying to preserve a win, perhaps a third center back or defensive midfielder enters to bottle up the opposition.
“Personally, whatever season we go into now will be completely different to how this season started or any season that we’ve had before,” Smith said. “So, looking at the restrictions and some of the difficulties that we’re going to have to endure, whether that’s a reduced preparation time now, is it squeezing games on a more regular basis to find our way to a more fulfilling season and more games? In that case, I’m fully in support of having extra substitutions to ease that burden and mentally to try and think about what else [we can do]."