In April, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) voted to approve changes to the overtime rules for men’s and women’s soccer. The changes eliminate overtime from all regular season matches, instead opting for a draw after 90 minutes.
“No one comes out a winner most of the time,” Men’s soccer head coach Jared Lewis said. “It’s just a way to save legs.”
This rule change will fundamentally alter how teams manage the season. The women’s soccer team won their last five overtime matches dating back to 2017. Over that same period, the men’s soccer team has won six of their 10 overtime sessions.
Since the PROP’s changes, the men’s soccer team has had three draws; two at home against Anna Maria and Dean College, and one at Albertus Magnus. The women’s soccer team has yet to draw with an opponent, but the second-half go-ahead goals in losses to Union College and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth took on new meaning.
“There’s a lot more urgency. You’ve got to look at how you’re substituting; you might have to change the formation, go with a more attacking formation,” Women’s soccer head coach Vito La Francesca said. “Instead of trying to reserve some of your players, knowing you’re going to go into overtime, you probably play some players a little bit more.”
While the PROP eliminated overtime for the regular season, postseason overtime has also changed. Previously, the NCAA used a sudden-winner format in which the first goal was the match's conclusion. Now, teams will play two complete 10-minute overtime periods. A penalty-kick shootout will decide the game if the teams remain tied through two periods.
The elimination of overtime periods can save up to 20 minutes on a player’s body. The minutes can become particularly important when considering the demands of the schedule. Both teams routinely play two matches per week, one midweek and another on the weekend.
“The way our record is going, three times already, I do think it saves the legs in the long run for these guys,” Lewis said. “I know they probably would just rather play, but I'm on that side of airing caution and just not forcing it, not having the same tired legs running out there for 120 minutes as opposed to 90.”
Detractors claim that the change creates a mentality unconducive to player health. “I think the last 10 minutes are going to be very scrappy, and I think that players will get hurt eventually,” sophomore forward Priscilla Martinelli said. “Especially if it's already chippy, and then it will get more chippy towards the end of the game.”
With the move towards draws in the regular season, NCAA soccer moves another step closer to modeling the professional game. Every major professional league uses draws for their regular season, opting for overtime and penalty-kick shootouts only in knockout competitions.
When the PROP announced the change on April 20, it shocked longtime coaches who did not have a change like this on their radar. “This just came up this summer,” La Francesca said. “There was a vote, and that was it.”
The women’s team begins October with a 5-4 record as they continue Great Northeast Athletic Conference play. The men’s team sits 2-4-3. During their four October home matches, they look to get their first win at home since Oct 23, 2019.