Late last week, MLS and the Professional Referee Organization announced that they'd be beginning live tests of their Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system during certain 2017 preseason matches. As it turns out, the Chicago Fire will have two of their upcoming friendlies serve as guinea pigs for the initiative later this month.
When the Fire take the field at IMG Stadium against Miami FC on Feb. 19 (5:30 p.m. CT) and against FC Cincinnati on Feb. 22 (3 p.m. CT) as part of the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic, there will be an additional off-field referee in place with access to every available camera angle of the broadcast feed at their finger tips. Their role will be to assist in the on-the-spot decision-making process regarding the types of calls that can alter match outcomes, such as goals, red cards, penalty kicks and, as FIFA.com describes them, cases of mistaken identity, in which a referee may discipline an incorrect player.
The 2017 MLS preseason is just the beginning of the league's steps toward a fuller VAR implementation. The league will additionally test the system each of its 22 stadiums -- albeit offline -- in matches leading up to August's MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field. The offline testing will serve as a basis to develop best practices ahead of an anticipated full roll out following the All-Star Game, and will not impact in-game decision-making during the trial period.
Leading up to the Fire's VAR-tested matches on the 19th and 22nd, the club will next take on the Philadelphia Union on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the IMG Academy and the Montreal Impact on Feb. 15 in St. Petersburg, Fla as part of their 2017 preseason schedule.