In the 1980s and 1990s the NASL and MLS used an unusual kind of penalty shoot-out to decide drawn games.

The system used was like that used in hockey: starting from 35 yards out, an attacking player was given the opportunity to dribble the ball toward the goal and had five seconds to shoot. The goalkeeper was able to run out to prevent the shot as they would in a one-on-one in normal play. See, for example this youtube clip.

In the MLS in this period all games had to have a winner, so the system was routinely used to decide games that were drawn at full time.

Why was this format discontinued? Was it a technical deficiency in the format or was it a matter of adopting IFAB rules more closely (e.g. by allowing drawn games)?

1 Answer 1


According to The New York Times article published in 1999, "M.L.S. Is Making Changes":

M.L.S. Commissioner Don Garber said yesterday that "the changes were made to comply with the wishes of the some 60 million people in the United States who considered themselves soccer fans."

"We have to go back and shore up our existence with the core soccer fan," Garber said in a conference call in which he announced next season's changes. "We found through research that millions of people played soccer without a shootout. We want to build the model with core fans, instead of going over it."

Article also states, Garber conducted a survey of soccer fans about their feelings for the shootout. The research showed much more than a mere dislike for it.

"There was a negativity buzzing among the hardest-core fans," Garber said. "It took a couple years to figure out you can't conclude a basketball game with foul shots. Beginning with the season in 2000, the shootout will be dead."

So, one of the reasons for changing the rules was that survey conducted by M.L.S. Commissioner Don Garber. (haven't had much luck with finding survey files)


  1. M.L.S. Is Making Changes

  2. The United States of Soccer: MLS and the Rise of American Soccer Fandom by Phil West (google search)

  3. Short-lived football rule changes

  4. Wikipedia article: Penalty shoot-out

  5. Hockey-Style Shootouts in MLS

Also read:

  1. FIFA mulls NASL-style shootouts for 2026 World Cup group stage

  2. FIFA considers run-up shootouts for 2026 World Cup like MLS used in the 1990s

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