Van Basten’s Controversial Changes

The Dutchman proposes a more dynamic game

To speak of Van Basten is to speak of a soccer legend, a skillful striker that left his mark on European soccer. Now, as FIFA’s technical development director, has proposed a series of measures to modernize soccer, although they have not been received by many as good ideas.

His Idea:
Former Netherlands striker, a very close man to FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, proposes to make soccer a more dynamic and interesting game. Van Basten plans to revolutionize soccer around the planet with these new ideas. Here are some of them, revealed during an interview with the German paper Sport Bild.

1. “One-on-one style” instead of penalties
Word Cup 2026, with 48 national teams distributed in 16 groups, would cause great conflict, especially during its last round. According to Van Basten, the dark cloud of match rigging would be eliminated with a 5 shoot-out playoff; in other words, a one-on-one, during which the striker will have 25 meters and 8 seconds to score. This system was used three decades ago by the MLS.

2. Goodbye offside
“Soccer is increasingly resembling handball, with very defensive teams setting a wall in their area”, says the three-time winner of the Golden Ball. “In field hockey, the offside has been abolished, and there are no problems. Without this rule, there would be more opportunities for strikers and more goals in each game.”

3. Time penalty replaces the yellow card
The resemblance with handball resurges in Van Basten’s plans, which favor applying time penalties “of five or ten minutes” to infringers. “If it is complicated to play 10 against 11, imagine what would happen if it were 8 against 11”, foresees the former striker.

4. Expulsion after a number of fouls
Red cards, which are unusual in modern soccer, could evolve. The idea is that a team could lose a player if he commits a certain number of fouls. This way, repetitive fouls would stop.

5. Last 10 minutes with a stopped clock
Van Basten proposes to stop the clock during substitutions, treatment to injured players, or any other situation where the ball is not rolling; all of this in order to avoid wasting time, favoring some and affecting others. Van Basten assures that the ball must roll every second.

6. A looser calendar
“We need to focus on the quality instead of quantity”, says Van Basten. We should reduce the number of official games from 80 to a maximum of 50. It’s not a money problem. This is about removing dates that are suffocating soccer stars and affecting the clubs’ plans.

7. Only the captain can speak
“Only the captain should speak with the referee”, sustains Van Basten, using rugby as the best example of courtesy of the players towards the referee. This would avoid protests, which sometimes end up in physical violence.

8. More substitutions, more dynamism
The moments of substitutions cause too much controversy. On one side, Van Basten thinks substitutions can be made while the ball is in play, even if this makes the referee’s job harder. Besides, the introduction of new players would give the decisive part of the qualifying rounds more spectacle. “We talk about one or two additional substitutions in the extension.”