How to Mitigate the Amount of Soccer Games Going to Penalty Kicks?


The US Women’s Soccer National Team recently suspended Hope Solo for 6 months after her disparaging remarks she made after USA’s loss to Sweden at the Rio Olympics. After the game and certainly frustrated at the loss and the tactics of Sweden, Hope referred to the Swedish play as “cowards” for how conservative and risk averse they were during most of the game.

Just to clarify, I’m not a Hope Solo apologist. I don’t agree with her losing her cool after the game. She’s 35 years old and should have been more composed after the loss. However, I’m interested in delving into some of the details behind her frustration and indeed if she has a case to make.


Was she wrong for calling them cowards? Most USA and non-USA fans feel it’s poor sportsmanship and think it’s a very harsh description of the Swedes. Could she have merely said the Swedes played ultra conservative, and withheld using the ‘C’ word, especially after an unexpected defeat. Many soccer experts felt if she had toned down her rhetoric, she would have avoided the suspension.

In retrospect, I wonder if Hope would have done things differently and save the insults for the locker room away from the press. I was not born playing soccer but over the last 15 years, but I enjoy the game as a spectator, especially watching elite soccer. This includes MLS, Bundesliga, English Premier League and La Liga. Having said that, as much as I enjoy the game as a spectator, the one part of the game that makes me shake my head is penalty kicks.


Many regular season soccer (or as Europeans say, football) games are played to a draw which means these games would not go into extra time. Extra time means penalty kicks would not apply.

During the knock out stage, games are played differently. That means after 90 minutes and stoppage time, you typically play two 15-minute quarters to decide the outcome. No golden goal so both teams will play the extra 30 minutes and at the end, the team with the most goals wins. If the game is still tied after 90 minutes plus two 15-minute periods, penalty kicks are used to decide the victor.

Why bring up knock out games? Because during the single elimination games, the European Championship, Champions League, or the World Cup, knock out games or single elimination come into play.


Photo by Michael Barera

Photo by Michael Barera

I get the reason why soccer has instituted PKs during the single elimination tournament. After these players have run up and down the pitch for 120 minutes, some of whom have run 7-8 miles, it’s time for the game to be decided in another manner. Each team kicks the ball from the penalty spot trying to score a goal to help decide the outcome. The team’s alternate five players, if tied after five rounds, you have new rounds and if one team has more goals than the other after each round, they achieve the victory.

If teams are evenly matched, I have no issue with penalty kicks (if it indeed comes down to this). On the other hand, when there are inferior teams that play a defensive style, their strategy is not offensively minded, and their ultimate game plan is to stop their opponents from scoring. Their strategy may include bringing the game to penalty kicks where they may have a 50% chance if not greater to gain a victory.

Look, there are frequent examples where the best team does not win in soccer. For example, in the Sweden vs. USA game, Sweden had two shots on goal the USA had 25. Of course, you can’t decide a game on shots on goal but it clearly shows that sometimes, an inferior team can employ a defensive strategy and not give up a goal and hope for the best during PKs. of course, that strategy is not always successful, but is successful enough where teams that are inferior feel there only chance of securing a victory. If that’s the case, the game is less exciting and the takeaway fans may have is the best team did not win.


If teams are evenly matched and the game goes to PKs, I have no complaint. My complaint is where the two teams are not evenly matched and it goes to PKs.

Could we experiment with increasing the size of the goals? To increase scoring and reduce the chances of a game resulting in penalty kicks, the goal area could be widened by a few week and perhaps add another foot to the height. This could be done for a year or so at the college level, MLS or another level — a pilot to see the results. Look, goalies are better athletes now, many are taller with a larger wingspan with better coaching and training, why not the experimentation?

If the results show an increase in scoring and games are less likely to go to PKs, isn’t this a good thing that the game is decided on the pitch 11 vs. 11? Having more scoring may help to determine that the better team won. Yes, penalty kicks will not go away during the knock out stage, but wouldn’t reduce the amount of penalty kicks would be a good thing for soccer? If more goals are scored because of the width and or height of the goal, fewer games will end in a tie and fewer games will result in penalty kicks. In my mind, that’s a good thing for soccer.

Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.