FIFA’s World Cup yellow card rule is stupid but might strangely work in the U.S.’s favor

FIFA’s World Cup yellow card rule is stupid. There’s no other way to put it. We saw it a year ago when the men’s tournament was marred by players having to sit out with two yellow cards picked up in the first four or five matches, and we’re seeing it again this summer with the women. If this were any organization other than FIFA, we would question its sanity in keeping a rule we saw flounder. But this is FIFA. Bringing this rule back is just par for the course.

The rule is as follows: Players who receive two yellow cards before the semifinals will be suspended for a match. That’s two yellow cards any time between the first group stage match and the quarterfinals, because two yellow cards in five matches is apparently an abhorrent thing.

On Monday, the United States became the latest victim of FIFA’s idiotic rule as Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday were both shown yellow cards. Thanks to the players being shown cards in the first match of the tournament, a whole 14 days and four matches ago, the duo will be suspended for the team’s quarterfinal clash against China.

But as ridiculous as FIFA’s rule is, it’s not really too bad for the U.S. At least not in the way it all played out.

The U.S. would love to have Rapinoe and Holiday against China, but if they had to be suspended, this is the match the U.S. would want them to be out. China is a good team, but hardly a powerhouse. and it is the easiest opponent that the Americans will see the rest of the tournament.

The black cloud of potential suspension gets lifted, too. That’s huge. Ever since both were carded in the Americans’ first match, there has been a concern about when the second card would come. Had the two not picked up cards on Monday — and both were marginal calls that could have easily seen the referee keep the yellow in her pocket — the U.S. would go into the quarterfinals begging for neither to get carded, knowing that caution would mean a suspension against in the semifinals Germany or France.

Now, the U.S. knows it will have Rapinoe and Holiday in the semifinals. The two will miss a match, but a match the Americans shouldn’t need them for. They’ll even get a one-week break, something that will come in handy with an expanded tournament being played on turf.

Yes, FIFA’s rule is stupid. And yes, the U.S. will be short-handed because of it. But knowing the rule and knowing that Rapinoe and Holiday both picked up yellow cards in the first match of the World Cup, this is a decent way for it all to play out.

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