Beyond the Box Score: Penalty Kicks and Red Cards on Record Pace Across MLS in 2014

In 39 MLS matches in 2013, Sporting Kansas City conceded a single penalty kick (March 9 at Toronto FC) and only once saw a player sent off (June 22 at FC Dallas). Fast forward to Saturday's 2-0 loss at New England and the reigning MLS Cup champions were whistled for the team's third penalty and second red card through the season's first seven matches.

Happenstance? Hardly, according to the numbers...

Through 71 games in the 2014 MLS regular season, referees have pointed to the penalty spot and given marching orders at a record pace.

PENALTY KICKS
With 30 penalties through the first eight weeks of the season, MLS is on pace to have 136 penalty kicks in 2014 -- shattering the previous record high of 84 set in 2011.

YEAR PK GP GP/PK PK/GP
1996 51 160 3.14 0.32
1997 54 160 2.96 0.34
1998 56 192 3.43 0.29
1999 41 192 4.68 0.21
2000 66 192 2.91 0.34
2001 52 158 3.04 0.33
2002 47 140 2.98 0.34
2003 58 150 2.59 0.39
2004 49 150 3.06 0.33
2005 59 192 3.25 0.31
2006 44 192 4.36 0.23
2007 57 195 3.42 0.29
2008 48 210 4.38 0.23
2009 63 225 3.57 0.28
2010 56 240 4.29 0.23
2011 84 306 3.64 0.27
2012 72 323 4.49 0.22
2013 81 323 3.99 0.25
2014 30 71 2.37 0.42
TOTAL 1,068 3,771 3.53 0.28

RED CARDS
With 24 ejections to date, MLS is on pace to have 109 red cards in 2014 -- also an all-time record amount, surpassing the mark of 87 set in 2011. Of particular note, 22 of the 24 red cards this year have come in the 55 games since PSRA referees returned to the field following a referee lockout in Weeks 1 & 2. Accounting for the increased rate, MLS is on pace to have 125 red cards in 323 regular season games in 2014.

YEAR RC GP GP/RC RC/GP
1996 32 160 5.00 0.20
1997 36 160 4.44 0.23
1998 61 192 3.15 0.32
1999 56 192 3.43 0.29
2000 55 192 3.49 0.29
2001 47 158 3.36 0.30
2002 44 140 3.18 0.31
2003 38 150 3.95 0.25
2004 35 150 4.29 0.23
2005 42 192 4.57 0.22
2006 44 192 4.36 0.23
2007 54 195 3.61 0.28
2008 60 210 3.50 0.29
2009 82 225 2.74 0.36
2010 54 240 4.44 0.23
2011 87 306 3.52 0.28
2012 60 323 5.38 0.19
2013 79 323 4.09 0.24
2014 24 71 2.96 0.34
TOTAL 990 3,771 3.81 0.26

The Professional Referee Organization (aka PRO) was formed prior to the 2012 season and is responsible for managing the referee program in professional soccer leagues in the United States and Canada. U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer govern and fund the organization, with ongoing collaborative support from the Canadian Soccer Association and other professional leagues.

Topics: