Excessive Score Management
(and how to avoid an Excessive Scoring Game)
NVYSL has adopted an Excessive Scoring Policy starting this Fall 2021 season. A match with a goal differential of 7 more goals is considered Excessive (difference between goals scored by the winning team and losing team). Excessive scoring by a dominant opponent during a match can exert powerful negative consequences on both the superior and inferior Teams, and strikes at the heart of good sportsmanship in NVYSL. Below are some methods to manage the game score and avoid getting into a position of an excessive goal differential
While a 6 goal differential is the maximum allowed by policy without being considered excessive, it is important to note that NVYSL only considers a maximum goal differential of 4 when calculating divisional standings. If teams are tied based on points for wins and ties, the NVYSL P&P 2.6.01(c) tie breaking procedure for standings is:
1) Winner of head-to-head competition
2) Total goal differential (goals scored minus goals allowed) with a maximum differential of 4 goals per match
3) Least goals allowed
That is, there is no benefit to standings for a winning goal differential greater than 4. None. A 4-0 win counts the same as a 6-0 win. Therefore, when managing the score of a game, the objective should not be to get to the 6 goal differential maximum. Rather, a well managed game will be competitive right to the end, even if the dominate team wins by 4 or 5 goals.
NVYSL tries to fight teams in a division in which they will be competitive. However, placing youth soccer teams is not an exact science and games can end up lopsided with one team clearly stronger than the other. There are many methods and techniques to keep the score from getting out of hand.
How to Manage a Lopsided Game
- Be Proactive – even before the game, review the standings of the teams. If one team is near the top of the division and the other is near the bottom, the coaches should be on alert that the game may become lopsided. During the pre-game emails and communication, let the other coach know if the team has been dominate or struggling in the division. Managing the game before the first goal is scored is easier than after 4 goals have been scored. The dominate team coach should make a plan before the game and start the game with a score management strategy.
Use the game as a growth and development opportunity. For your players to grow, they need to experience new challenges before the result has been determined. The emotions and decisions which they encounter with a 0-0, 1-0 or 0-1 are much different than after 4-0.
- Use a different formation that you’ve been working on, but haven’t tried in a game
- Have defensive-minded players or players who haven’t scored this season start as strikers/forwards and the primary goal-scorers on the team start on defense or goalie.
- Have less experienced players start in key central positions (center forward, center midfield, center defense).
- Talk to the referee and other coach before the game. Let them know you think the game may become lopsided and, if necessary, you may need to take steps including playing a player-down. This may avoid a potentially embarrassing game stoppage later when the referee notices you’re a player short.
- After the game starts, evaluate the strength of both teams. Usually within the first 10 minutes you’ll be able to see if the teams are evenly matched. Is your team more comfortable on the ball than the opponent? Are your players faster or more skilled than your opponents? Is most of the game being played on your attacking half of the field? Once you’ve assessed your team is better and there is a potential for a blowout, be proactive, start to take steps early, before the score is 3-0 or 4-0 and your team has the momentum to score more. There are many more management strategies that can be used when you have a few goals to work with:
- Put weaker players in central positions
- Have players who haven’t scored this season play forward/striker.
- A player cannot score more than 1 goal during the game, instead, challenge them to deliver assists to their teammates.
- Goals can only be scored from crosses from the wings rather than a long ball down the middle or a player dribbling to goal.
- Players can only shoot with the left (or non-dominate) foot.
- Players must make 5 consecutive passes before shooting.
- Each midfield and forward player must touch the ball before the team is allowed to shoot
- Identify a player as the designated goal scorer (usually a weaker player or someone who hasn’t scored yet this season) and everyone else needs to help that specific player score.
- If the score starts to get out of hand (4 goal differential or more with lots of time left in the game), then greater intervention is needed and scoring needs to be actively curtailed.
- Work with the other coach, let them know you recognized the issue and are trying to pull the players back.
- Tactfully remove a player and play short-handed. This is most effectively done during a substitution by calling off 1 more player than you substitute in. You have already informed the referee you may play a player-down, so it won’t be a surprise.
- Instruct the players to stop shooting or shoot well wide of the net.
- Instruct the players to play in their defensive half of the field. That is, if you win the ball, just boot it down the field toward the opponent’s defenders or goalie and don’t support an attack into the opponent’s half.
- What to do if the game becomes significantly lopsided? Hopefully this will never happen if the above score management techniques are employed, but if the score is 4-0 or more by halftime, then the teams are clearly mismatched and extreme measures are needed to finish out worthwhile game. No one wants the game to turn into keep-away passing for 30 minutes, your team is not growing and the it’s disrespectful to the losing team.
- Inform your players aware of the excessive scoring policy and have the players be actively involved in managing the score. You’d be amazed what they can come up with to avoid scoring.
- Switch to a more defensive formation with only 1 striker.
- Play down 2 players
- Work with the other coach. Perhaps consider the game a forfeit and trade some players between teams to try to achieve a competitive balance.
What NOT to do.
- Don’t wait to the score is 4-0 or more before taking steps. Good game management begins before the game and is constantly monitored during the game. Have a plan and don’t wait to implement it.
- Don’t disrespect the losing team by shouting to your players on the field to “stop scoring” or “we can’t score any more”. The players should already be aware of the situation through your other score management efforts and shouting loud enough for every player and parent to hear is not good sportsmanship.
- Don’t run up the score quickly to 6-0 and then instruct the players to pass around the rest of the time. Your game management plan should consider the full game and, ideally, allow the players the opportunity to score throughout the entire game.
- Don’t try to keep the goal differential at exactly 6. There is no benefit to a 6 goal differential win over a 4 goal or 5 goal differential win. So if your team is winning by 5 or 6 goals and the other team scores one late in the game, don’t worry, there is no need to make changes to try to score another goal. Strengthen the defense rather than re-invigorate the offense.
Hopefully, with careful game management and cooperation by both coaches, the game can stay competitive longer and provide a growth opportunity for both teams. Even with a large score differential, both teams can take away positives if the game is well coached.
For more on managing lopsided games, see the essay How Can You Manage a Lopsided Game by Tommy Geis, Mass Youth Soccer Asst Technical Director.