U.S. Soccer

U.S. Soccer, MLS create new referee program


Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com

The quality of officiating in MLS has consistently come into the limelight over the years, and the league and U.S. Soccer are taking a step to try and rectify that issue.

The two organizations have teamed to create and fund the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which will begin its operations next month. PRO's mission is to improve the quality of refereeing in the professional leagues in the United States and Canada along with developing new referees at a higher standard. Inside Minnesota Soccer first reported the creation of PRO last week.

Peter Walton, an English referee, has been chosen to spearhead the program as its general manager. According to a U.S. Soccer release, PRO's resources will allow for more to be devoted toward training opporunities and the hiring of more full-time referees and technical staffers. PRO will have referees in MLS, MLS reserve games, U.S. Open Cup, NASL and USL Pro under its umbrella.

"We’ve always understood that the development of referees is an important aspect to the growth of the game in the United States," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a release. "PRO is another step toward the improvement and professionalization of our top referees. With the additional resources and funding provided by the formation of PRO, we will continue to build upon the progress we’ve already made."

What do you think of this development?

Share your thoughts below.

  • L

    As always, the proof will be in the pudding so to speak, but this is an awesome first step. That said I hope that Peter Walton is better than the other English referees out there…


  • Casey

    I have no problem with this. I am glad. I was a USSF official for ten years starting when I was 14. I finally gave up due to all the bureaucracy involved. None of the young officials were given a chance to move up the ranks. I was doing college games by 22 but never moved below a level 8 official.


  • Neruda


    MLS has improved but the officiating hasn’t. Long long overdue move.


  • Hendrix

    They should hire former players as refs… Those guys who weren’t stars in MLS so still need a good paycheck. They understand the game and have played at this level so they understand it and can follow the play. Gotta be a few former players around 28-32 who could be groomed.


  • Andrew

    Taylor Graham would actually be able to see the play. He’s about twice as tall as Michael Kennedy.


  • JD in FL

    I would love to see some trickle down to the Amateur ranks. We see some very poor officiating in competitive youth matches here in FL.


  • soccerroo

    not sure you could find players who would take the pay cut. Also not sure that they could transition their playing abilities into decision making that is required of a referee.


  • Cairo

    Personally, I find the criticism of MLS referees a bit silly. One can watch the biggest leagues in the world (EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A) and find multiple inconsistent calls in every game. I actually don’t believe the MLS refereeing is much (if at all) below the level in those leagues.

    Until you use technology or increase the number of eyes reffing a game, the level can only improve so far. I love the beautiful game, but the officiating in the sport is ridiculous, even in the biggest leagues….


  • go usa

    Video review did wonders for the NFL and Grand Slam Tennis. I think there is enough stoppage in soccer to allow 30 sec. review of critical calls.

    Have a full-time “video” ref. who contacts the on-field ref. when video evidence is crystal clear.


  • BFT

    This is a good first step, but there will still be a long way to go. I also totally agree that the officiating can only improve so much without the addition of extra eyes and/or technology, but the standard in MLS is still pretty poor as it stands.

    Speaking of bad refereeing, the ref in that Arsenal/Milan match had a shocker, no?

    And speaking of extra eyes, the experimental official behind the goal was the one who gave Arsenal’s clear penalty in the first half. Imagine if he hadn’t been there? Didn’t look like the ref was going to make the call until he got word. Looks like the added official actually helped get a crucial call right, which is promising.


  • LiquidYogi

    The MLS has had a program of recruiting players to become referees where they would be fast tracked and given special instruction and training. Not ONE MLS player has chosen to do it, they just don’t want to.


  • abc

    The problem isn’t with the quality of MLS referees, people around the world complain about bad referees, even in England and Germany.

    The problem is FIFA needs to make reforms.
    Two referees should be added, one to either end line, that would provide an extra set of eyes in the most important areas of the field, near goal.
    Goal line technology for goals.
    Replay *after the game* to review cards, potential dives, and the rest. Fines, rescinded or added cards, etc. would change behavior during the game.


  • Warren

    It’s bad in MLS; now that tthey admit it you are saying there is no proble,???

    Yes other leagues have their own problems; and yes many of the current refs should be put to pasture in all USF leagues and more clueful refs who understand the game should get their chance.


  • Johnny Ramone

    MLS has improved over the years, but the refs are a step or two worse than the guys I see in the NPSL when I watch the Brooklyn Italian play. Great move.


  • Sasha

    The CSA (Canadian Soccer ASsociation) is also involved, thanks for miss dude.


  • Juan from L.A.

    I applaud the message and motive. I think MLS and US refs are not improving like the players, teams and league is. I just don’t think this English guy is the answer though. He is not renown and barely had any FIFA games under his belt. If anything they could had gotten a Mexican ref. Mexican refs are really good and professional. Names such Archundia, Chiquimarco, and Ramos Rizo to name a few.


  • fischy

    Y’all are missing the driving piece here — the real story. Sure, it would be nice if we end up with better referees, but that’s not hwat is driving this move. It’s MLS expansion. There are not enough referees certified for the professional ranks. They are strained to handle the expansion to 19 teams. A 20th team would mean another 34 MLS games (maybe even as many as 38, if they go to a balanced schedule), plus USOC and international friendlies. Expanding to 22 teams would add about 70 games, give or take, depending on how many games MLS plays, and if the league went to 24 teams, it would mean trying to cover more than 150 games more than they do now…perhaps close to 200 more games each year when we add in friendlies, USOC, and even preseason matches.

    PRO will have to churn out a bunch of new referees to handle the load. That’s why this is happening. It would be tough enough to do without a fall-off in quality. If they can manage to crank out more referees and improve the training for these guys, it would be almost miraculous.


  • JD in FL

    The comment wasn’t meant to disparage those who currently officiate amateur matches. It is a thankless job. I have had three kids play competitive soccer over more than 10 years and good officials outnumber the bad. The level of coaching, play and overall organization have shown great improvement. However, we need more oversight to remove poor officials. A few severe injuries due to uncontrolled rough play have colored my view. I’ll leave it that…


  • Ezra

    I thought about trying to become a ref, but then everyone talked about how long it takes to move up at all. Like before the time I might even make it up to the ranks of MLS, I’d be too old and have to retire (I was around 25 at the time).

    It seems crazy that you should spend 10 years just to get up to college level games. They should do more to actively monitor refs to find quality ones to promote quickly through the ranks.


  • DC Josh

    This is 16 years late if you ask me. MLS should have done this when they started the league. Every league has its own officials: EPL, NBA, MLB, etc. Now MLS will have more control over the organization of its officiating. Using FIFA officials was a disaster, we got the worst of the bunch in the North American region.


  • GJJ

    Agreed. I think Italian refs are some of the best, if not the best. The Italian game involves a lot more gamesmanship than occurs in most leagues and the refs have to be really good to sort out the wheat from the chaff. There are television shows in Italy solely dedicated to critiquing the performances of the refs in Seria A. You have to be very good or you’ll get eaten alive.


  • mcm

    English ref’s talk to the players too much. He Paul Scholes I know you have been making horrible tackles for 20 years, but I am sure you didn’t mean that one. I am going to do a hand gesture that means I you do that to an English player I am going to call it a foul and give you a card.


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