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MLS Shows Inconsistencies in Awarding Yellow Cards for Unsporting Behavior

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MLS has shown inconsistencies in unsporting behavior following goals. What are the inconsistencies, and why do they exist?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone's seen it: A player scores a fantastic goal followed by a celebration where he pulls his shirt over his head. As he puts his shirt back on, the player calmly walks back toward the center circle, where the referee is waiting to issue him a yellow card. But why is he given a yellow card and are the rules consistent?

Under Law 12 in FIFA's Laws of the Game, there are three offences for which a player can be issued a yellow card.

1. Is guilty of unsporting behavior

2. Shows dissent by word or action

3. Delays the restart of play

The law goes on to state that a yellow card will be issued "If a player removes his jersey or shirt over his head or covers his head with his jersey or shirt when celebrating a goal. If, in the opinion of the referee, a player makes gestures which are provocative, derisory or inflammatory when celebrating a goal. If a player climbs on to a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal being scored."

While the removal of a shirt is now regularly accepted as an automatic yellow card and is usually given, the other two seem to be ignored. In last weekend's game between Orlando City and Columbus Crew, both Kei Kamara and Kaká should have been cautioned following their goals.

In the 17th minute of Saturday night's game, Kaká equalized with a penalty. Following the goal, the star midfielder climbed a cap stand near the supporters section and celebrated with the crowd. In order to climb that stand, Kaká left the field of play and climbed over an advertising board. Clearly this would be the same as "climbs on to a perimeter fence."

Another instance where a yellow card should have been issued for a goal scoring celebration was in the 61st minute when Columbus' Kei Kamara scored putting the Crew up 2-1. Following the goal, Kamara cupped his hands around his ears to the supporters section as to say "I can't hear you anymore." He then proceeded to do his signature exploding heart celebration toward the section. Clearly this celebration would be deemed provocative, derisory, and inflammatory.

Just a week prior to this game, Kaká was issued a yellow card for putting on a Kevin Molino jersey to honor his teammate, who recently suffered a torn ACL. That display earned him a yellow card. So why was he given a yellow card in that instance but neither he nor Kamara were on Saturday?

Considering that all three of the celebrations are cautionable offenses and all three are placed together in FIFA's Laws of the Game, it would seem reasonable that they would be treated the same way. However, it seems that only the removal of the shirt is cautioned. Why is that?

Is it possible that the removal of the shirt is deemed to be more serious because that act covers up the shirt sponsor? After all, to all clubs and leagues it is imperative to keep their sponsors happy. It certainly can't be for delaying the game because Kaká took much longer to come out of the stands than he did putting on Molino's jersey.

So what do you think? Are goal celebration rules too strict or too lenient? Should there be unquestionable rules or should there be room for interpretation? Give us your thoughts in the comment section!