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Remember World Cup stoppage time? It'll be the norm next club season

On Saturday in London, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) gathers for its 137th annual general meeting regarding the Laws of the Game.

The meeting agenda calls for a confirmation of the guidelines on "deliberate play" in offside situations before the 2023-24 season, an update on the Club World Cup trial of referees communicating VAR decisions to the crowd, more updates on ongoing global trials of concussion substitutes and a discussion on measures to increase respect for officials at the amateur level.

But those topics aren't as fun as this particular piece of business: "Possible measures to increase net playing time / reduce time-wasting."

The ultimate trial of this measure took place at the 2022 World Cup, where rather than just awarding three minutes of stoppage time because that's tradition, the time that was wasted was actually meticulously accounted for. It was strange to see fourth officials routinely call for 10+ minutes of added time, but it was effectively the most honest indication we've seen of how much time is truly wasted on the pitch.

However, the return of club football saw the return of the traditional awarding of nebulous amounts of stoppage time. The reason was since the World Cup happened mid-season, leagues were unwilling to change their policies until the upcoming offseason.

But the stoppage time certainly added to the excitement at the World Cup, and FIFA president Gianni Infantino is actually justified, for once, in calling time-wasting a blight on the modern game.

The idea is that once every stoppage is strictly accounted for in added time, we'll likely see a 2023-24 club season with World Cup-esque numbers of added time but then that number's going to decrease as players realize there's simply no benefit to time-wasting. One other key component of this added time measure is that goal celebrations — previously ignored in determining stoppage time — will be closely monitored. Brazilians might need to cut down from five-part goal celebrations to simple three-act structures. 

Technology has been successfully implemented to this degree before. VAR hasn't been without controversy, but during the 2020-21 Premier League season a whopping 22 "soft penalties" were rescinded. That number dropped dramatically in 2021-22 with only nine rescinded — players simply stopped fishing for minimal contact once they knew it'd always be spotted by the VAR.

Teams holding a slender 1-0 advantage won't be rolling around and calling for the stretcher every 10 minutes if they're going to face 30 minutes coming up on the fourth official's board. It's ironic that these rules will be implemented before a CONCACAF World Cup qualifying cycle that the USMNT doesn't need to navigate. 

Nevermore! Nevermore!

Unemployed: CONCACAF's stretcher girls.

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