PIAA discussing eliminating overtime in regular-season soccer games

Sunday, January 21, 2024 | 7:34 PM

The PIAA might decide this week to eliminate overtime from regular-season high school soccer, taking a nod from NCAA rules and international norms. If approved, regular-season games tied after regulation would finish as a draw.

Under current PIAA rules, teams play up to two 10-minute overtime periods trying to break the tie with a golden goal. But the PIAA soccer steering committee wants to eliminate in-season overtime in hopes of finishing games earlier on school nights, said Joe Maize, who represents the WPIAL on the committee.

The PIAA board can consider the idea Wednesday when it meets in Mechanicsburg.

“For the last couple of years, we’ve informally discussed it,” said Maize, a former athletic director at Peters Township. “We were looking at the amount of time after regulation that kids spend on school nights. By the time they have overtime and have their handshake and they get on the bus, these kids weren’t getting home until close to 11 o’clock.”

If the PIAA limits overtime use to postseason play, it would follow the lead of other organizations.

The NCAA eliminated regular-season OT before the 2022 season. That move mirrored many other levels of soccer, where overtime is limited to tournament play, said Moon athletic director Alan Alcalde, a member of the WPIAL soccer committee.

Alcalde, a certified soccer official and former player, is a proponent of the change.

“If you really look at soccer across other levels — whether it’s youth, intercollegiate or even professional — games in the regular season do not carry overtime,” he said. “It’s interesting that at the high school level we’ve continued with that.”

Other state high school athletic associations have taken varied approaches. Ohio, for example, has no overtime for regular-season soccer, and New York uses two sudden death periods, like the PIAA.

Along with late finishes on school nights, Alcalde said he holds concerns about the health and safety of young athletes who are playing an extra 20 minutes when many of the overtime games result in ties nonetheless.

“When you consider the 10 weeks that kids are playing, possibly two, three or even four games a week, that’s a lot of soccer,” Alcalde said, “especially if those games are going into overtime.”

Alcalde provided information to his colleagues on the WPIAL soccer committee earlier this school year in support of removing regular-season overtime. The idea later was reviewed by the PIAA committee, which met Jan. 10 and voted 13-0 to recommend the move.

Maize said veteran official Stan Latta also presented information to the PIAA soccer committee in favor of eliminating overtime. Maize noted that many officials work sub-varsity contests on the same day, so eliminating overtime would benefit their workload at a time when the PIAA is trying to recruit more officials.

However, Maize emphasized that the primary concern of the soccer committee was that students were kept out later than needed on school nights. Maize said he witnessed that first-hand in August when the Peters Township girls played Canon-McMillan to a 0-0 tie in two overtimes.

“By the time they brought both teams together, they played the two 10-minute overtimes plus the break and the handshake, we didn’t get out of there until 10:15 or 10:25,” Maize said of a Monday night game.

Those schools are only about 15 minutes apart, but Maize said the issue is magnified when teams have a longer drive home.

“Educationally, it’s just not sound for the student athletes,” Alcalde said. “On the intercollegiate level, they got rid of it a few years ago. Now, you’re starting to see that conversation come around to the high school side of things. I think it’s a logical progression.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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