Professional umpiring organization admits VAR ‘mistake’ that affected MLS playoff race


The Professional Referees Organization (PRO), which manages the assignment and training of referees in various North American leagues, admitted on Monday that the video assistant referee handling Sunday’s game between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City made a critical error – a decision that affected the MLS playoff race.

In the 90th minute, Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad appeared to commit a handball foul in his own penalty area. However, referee Ted Unkel did not award a penalty in real time, allowing play to continue.

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According to a statement released by PRO, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Younes Marrakchi, while checking the play, saw that the ball had made contact with Glad’s right hand, but concluded that the non-award of a penalty kick had not reached the threshold of a clear and obvious error, and therefore did not recommend a video review to the referee.

“The footage shows clear movement towards the ball by Glad’s right hand, in a way that can reasonably be interpreted as being consistent with a handball violation,” read PRO’s statement. “In PRO’s opinion, a video review should have been recommended and a penalty awarded. PRO considers the decision not to recommend a review to be a VAR error. « 

The decision not to award a penalty to Sporting KC would have significant ramifications for qualifying for the MLS playoffs. Real Salt Lake went on to win the game thanks to a stoppage goal from Damir Kreilach, allowing him to overtake LA Galaxy in the standings and advance to the playoffs at the expense of the Galaxy. A draw in the RSL game would have meant the Galaxy made the playoffs.

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