Major League Soccer

MLS to start season with replacement refs

Mark Geiger

Photo by ISIPhotos.com


The 2014 MLS season will kick off without the presence of its usual officials after the organization that manages professional referees in the U.S. and Canada officially announced a lockout effective today.

The Professional Referee Association (PRO) announced this morning that, after months of negotiations, it would be locking out its match officials after the Professional Soccer Referees Associations (PSRA) rejected a no strike/no lockout agreement. The lockout comes after months of negotiations between the two sides over their first collective bargaining agreement.

“We had suggested a no strike/no lockout agreement for a reasonable period in an effort to keep the negotiations going but that was rejected by the PSRA”, said PRO general manager Peter Walton according to the organization’s website.  “Since they will not give us a guarantee they will not go on strike immediately prior to our matches, we are left in a position where we must use replacement officials to ensure that the MLS games are played as scheduled this weekend.”

With the lockout, PRO will look to a group of international referees, former MLS officials, and officials from other domestic leagues to step in as replacements. In anticipation of the lockout, the replacement officials participated in a preseason training camp last week.

“We have high confidence in the qualifications of our replacement officials and can ensure our fans, clubs and players that all games will be officiated at a professional standard that protects the integrity of our matches and the safety of our players,” said Walton.

Here is a list of the officials that will be working this weekend as MLS begins its 2014 season, according to MLS:

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC, Saturday, 3 pm ET

Alan Kelly, former FIFA Ireland. Currently lives in the United States.

Dimitar Chadarav – MLS Reserve, NWSL

Kyle Longville – MLS Preseason

D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew, Saturday, 7 pm ET

Andres Pfefferkorn – NASL Referee, MLS Preseason

Yevgeniy Mednikov – USL PRO

Stefan McHardy – MLS Preseason

FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact, Saturday, 7 pm ET

Jorge Luna – Former MLS official (4th)

Luis Guardia – Open Cup

Pedro Trejo – International, NASL

Vancouver Whitecaps vs New York Red Bulls, Saturday, 7:30 pm ET

Abbey Okulaja – Former MLS Referee

Brandon Major – MLS Preseason, MLS Reserve, Open Cup

Eric Weisbrod – USL PRO

Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution, Saturday, 8:30 pm ET

Ramon Hernandez – Former MLS Referee

Isreal Fernandez – MLS Preseason

Marcos de Oliveira – MLS Preseason, NASL

Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union, Saturday, 10:30 pm ET

Ioannis Stavridis – Former FIFA Greece. Currently lives in the United States.

Caleb Mendez – MLS Preseason, NASL

Andrew Bigelow – NASL, Open Cup

LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, Saturday, 10:30 pm ET

Javier Santos – Current FIFA Puerto Rico

Jairo Morales – Current FIFA Puerto Rico

Jose Da Silva – MLS Preseason, NASL

Chivas USA vs. Chicago Fire, Sunday, 3 pm ET

William Anderson – Current FIFA Puerto Rico

Jair Morales – Current FIFA Puerto Rico

Jose da Silva – MLS Preseason, NASL


What do you think of this news? How worried are you about the use of replacement officials? Will it have any effect on this weekend’s games?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Monarch Bay Beachbum

    ..and no one will notice any drop in the quality of the reffing.


    • Joamiq

      Yeah, I doubt the state of MLS refereeing can get much worse than it already is…


      • Rory Miller

        How funny would it be if the replacement refs turned out to be better? I mean, we have a few refs who always come up with some bizarre decisions. I guess the only real noticeable dropoff would be if they stunk at calling offside.


    • Horsewhistle

      You don’t know what you’re talking about.

      There’s going to be no US/Canada Fifa refs, just a couple of overseas retirees. The rest off the scabs only have half the experience and twice the waistline. Who knows if the even worked together as crews. MLS isn’t willing to pay for quality and is fine with the fan blaming the ref, not the league. It’s a farse and you bought it.


  • Petrov

    Yee Haw! Let the butchery begin. Just when the games may have become watchable due to increased quality players, MLS decides to get them all injured.

    Yet there was cash to buy out Chivas USA.



  • Yo-Joe

    Poor business on both sides. Negotiations should never have gotten to this stage.


    • Horsewhistle

      PRO was formed 2 years ago to leverage against the refs. They refs had no choice but to form PSRA to protect their livelihood because of the size of the league and growth of lesser qualified refs. MLS Made the first shot and is using PR to put this on the refs. They’re a small group with families, they can’t afford endless lawyers and spin doctors.

      They’ll also try to get you to believe that they invented the Cacadia Cup and edible pannies. Only the latter is true.


      • Horsewhistle

        We need to start expecting better but also protecting what we have. We can’t continue to let MLS/PRO dictate the status quo.

        If we want to elevate the league we have to demand better pay for all players, refs and less Beckham contracts that squeeze out the blue collars that can actually raise the league as a whole community.


      • Eric

        I think so. Especially considering how bad scab officiating has been in other sports (think NFL in 2013, minor league baseball in 2006, etc), you’d think they’d not let it get to this stage yet again in another sport.


  • Cuban__B

    wait, the CURRENT MLS refs had the audacity to HOLD OUT?! they were TERRIBLE last year (and the year before that and the year before that….)

    Currently, they are the number 1 reason the MLS is unwatchable. the players stopped being the problem 3-4 years ago.

    The EPL is a pretty physical league compared the rest of Europe’s top leagues and the MLS is 10x more dangerous than the EPL. you CONSTANTLY get late/bad challenges that are not called. forget not giving a card, THEY ARE NOT CALLED.

    it was GLARINGLY obvious there was a problem in 2011 when Steve Zakuani and David Ferreira BOTH went down from EXTREMELY reckless challenges.

    I used to think the problem was having players making 30k and 2M per season on the same pitch but the real problem comes down to the refs doing an awful job of policing the game. the MLS would be better off trying to poach refs from other leagues.

    I’m not saying all MLS refs are terrible but the vast majority allow the game to get TOO physical and dangerous


  • Joe+G

    Should be some interesting problems that crop up around labor laws, especially in Canada. Replacements around a strike is a tricky business, especially if you try to use people on a work visa.


    • Eric B

      Well, it’s a lockout by PRO, not a strike, so that might make things a little different.


      • Joe+G

        It does, but not 100%. You’ll notice all the refs are US-based.


      • Joe+G

        Actually, a lockout is worse from a labor law perspective … because it’s the employers taking the action. To immediately hire “foreigners” is looked at as getting around the rules.


    • slowleftarm

      I’m sure MLS hired competent Canadian labor lawyers, they’ll be fine.


      • Joe+G

        They always think they have, but then someone challenges it in court. Canada’s tougher because the provinces have their own laws. As often as someone thinks they have it covered, they do something that trips them up.


  • Ian Woodville

    I yield to no one with my disdain for the current MLS refs. They are terrible, but I think they are doing what they are told to do by league management. And, arguing about a derisory amount of money, allegedly $1 million in total, reveals just what a bush league outfit MLS (USSF) is. If you want better refs, (and who doesn’t) boosting pay has got to be part of the program. (And much the same could be said about the players, but that fight will come at the end of the season.)


    • Horsewhistle

      Exactly, better pay = more competition for the referees = higher quality. So North American FIFA officials won’t need to work international friendlies or Liga MX or youth tournaments. They should be reffing MLS league every week. Refs like Geiger, who is going to the WC should be on MLS TV games every weekend. But the league had never seen it like that. I am amazed how many put the level of quality in the refs and not the league. And it’s not Major League.


  • SBI TroII

    NFL officiating was at an all time low this year with the “normal” officials. I was clamoring for the replacements by years end. While NFL rules are definitely judgment calls at times I believe the MLS replacements have more experience officiating in other leagues. Hopefully the Don stands his ground and doesn’t give in.


      • Yo-Joe

        The refs had the chance to agree to a temporary no strike/no lockout agreement, but they opted not to. PRO/MLS has every right to run its business. It’s not like the refs are working in sweatshops for nickels.


      • Horsewhistle

        PRO didnt meet any of their negotiating terms. Why would they yield to a PRO agreement.

        If you accept lower quality, you can’t complain about it.


      • Gerard D.


        That doesn’t even make sense. This isn’t a strike. There’s no scabs.

        Ownership is locking out the officials. The officials aren’t going on strike.


      • Horsewhistle

        PSRA voted at end of season that they would consider a strike prior to negotiations. They had been attempting to negotiate with PRO/MLS but since MLS knee they were going to agree to any terms ahead of time, called in replacements last week and announced they were locking out PSRA today/yesterday.


      • Gerard D.

        I think we may be in agreeance based on your comment above, but I want to clarify.

        PRSA voted last season to allow its management to strike if it needed to as the union members must authorize as I think you know. It never did.


    • Brian Hall

      I hope the fans and players give the scabs hell. If you believe in your ability and craft you join a union or guild you don’t help break it. Hope these scabs are eventually blacklisted and never allowed to step on another soccer field again.


  • JB

    I see some folks think the replacements can’t be any worse. I can only assume that these people haven’t been following the league long enough to remember back when Abbey Okulaja was a regular official. The dude was appalling, everyone knew it, he was a running joke on bigsoccer for YEARS. He was fat, slow, and had the eyesight of mole. I can’t imagine he’s improved during his retirement. If the league is desperate enough to bring him back I can only assume that they’ve resigned themselves to the opening weekend as farce.


    • Portland Don

      MLS owners are sending a message to the players that we will break anyone who stands in our way. Today the refs, tomorrow the players. Get ready for “replacement players”. As a season ticket holder, I will be boycotting the use of scabs.


      • Joe+G

        “Replacement players” will be almost impossible. The NHL looked at it during their lockout season and the league was so dependent on foreign talent that it wouldn’t work. You can’t sponsor new visas when you have a work stoppage (generally) as bringing in “foreign workers” to break a union is frowned upon.


    • beachbum

      saw him reffing a high school game a couple of years ago south of San Francisco


  • Frank

    Not sure where these refs get off holding out for more. Their performance has been garbage over the past years. The league needs alll the cash it has to spend on players and growing the fan base. If they do that then the refs will have better games to officiate, get better at their trade, and command more money in the market (and get called into international duty, world cups, etc). Everyone needs to be playing the long term game here. An extra fee bucks in the short term isn’t worth it for the refs.


    • Dustin

      Congrats, you must be an expert who is well versed in this situation and isn’t assuming or making anything up at all.


  • Chris

    Pardon my ignorance, but, does this have anything to MLS or are these separate entities fighting?


  • MLS_Soccer_Talker

    No worry guys. There are tons of refs in the Super Allocation Weighted Lottery Draft this year


  • MIKE R

    Oh nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!! whose going to ignore all the hacking and dirty play now? Whos going to bungle offsides now?

    Hire some Ayso refs and MLS won miss a beat. The 15 yr olds who do club games are just as good.

    If they are getting more than 100$ per game its too much


  • Gerard D.

    Seriously, does nobody know the difference between a strike and a lockout? For f**** sake the language training is incredible. Must be the terrible union, right? Right?!


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