Copyright 2018 The Florida Times-Union
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)
The FHSAA board of directors revised its high school soccer procedures at its meeting in Gainesville Tuesday, adding a sixth classification and adjusting its overtime rules to eliminate sudden death.
The overtime rules, which apply only to the state series, will take effect this season, while the sixth classification will begin for the 2019-20 season.
The classification change is the first one since 2003-04, when the FHSAA first expanded soccer to five classes.
It's not yet clear where the cutoffs for the new classifications will fall, but in a soccer landscape where districts have remained largely stable in recent years, the change will likely push more than a few teams into districts with less-than-familiar opponents.
"Our districts have been pretty condensed for a long time, compared to a lot of the other sports," Mandarin boys coach Jason Cooley said. "It'll be interesting to see what happens it they spread things out a little."
In Cooley's case, the switch could break up a district with a demanding travel schedule. Mandarin's District 1-5A foes include two schools in Ocala and one in Gainesville.
For some teams, the move may open up a more manageable path to the postseason. That's particularly true in stacked districts like the current 4-4A, so loaded with talent that teams like Fleming Island's boys — ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of last season — and Nease's state-ranked girls missed out on the playoffs.
Still, Nease girls coach Jay Shepherd isn't enthusiastic about the expansion.
"I think it can water down competition," Shepherd said.
Instead, he favors of introducing a qualification scheme more similar to football's recently-introduced points system, in which playoff teams would be selected across entire regions based on overall season-long performances rather than district tournaments.
Shepherd is happier with the FHSAA's overtime change, which brings the organization into harmony with the policy of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Instead of the so-called golden goal to decide overtime playoff games, teams will play the full pair of 10-minute halves.
"That's the best thing they've done as far as rules for a long time," Shepherd said.
Area teams have found themselves on both sides of golden goals of late. Most recently, Fletcher saw its Class 4A boys final end abruptly when Sebastian Joffre of Naples Gulf Coast scored midway through the first overtime. Under the revised rule, the Senators would have had nearly 15 minutes left to try to score a goal of their own.
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