US Youth Soccer provides excellent opportunities for motivated officials to get higher level experience with coaching from dozens of the best instructors, assessors, mentors, administrators, and assignors in the country. Many of whom are former or current international or professional referees.
With an identification process that starts on a state-wide level during State Cup and Presidents Cup events in the Spring, referees have the opportunity to secure a spot at their corresponding regional competition during the summer.
Referees that perform well at their respective regional competitions can then be selected to US Youth Soccer’s prized National Presidents Cup and National Championships events that culminate a summer full of top-tier matches. For those looking to further their careers on the field, these 10 competitions are some of the best and most storied youth soccer events in the country.
The Ins and Outs of Becoming a Referee
Your referee license/certification will be from US Soccer; however, new referees nearly always register/sign up in their state of residence through that states’ specific process. You can find step by step for each state by clicking here.
Referee registration is done annually, and you must be at least 13 years of age to sign up. If you want to be eligible to officiate continuously, you must register by June 30th each year.
While some states, leagues, and clubs, have started to offer their own early referee training, education, and paid on-field experience, the first full referee certification currently offered by US Soccer is called Grassroots Referee.
Requirements and costs can vary from state to state, but every sign up/registration process involves a combination of online/ classroom/on-field learning, risk management/safety and compliance components, and creating a personal profile for data management.
You will receive a current years’ referee badge to wear on your uniform and a 16-digit Identification Number from US Soccer that will remain the same over time. Separate licenses/certifications and training(s) are also available for officiating futsal and beach soccer.
For individuals looking to be a part of the referee community in an off-field leadership capacity, US Soccer offers licenses/certifications for the positions of assignor, assessor, referee mentor, and referee coach.
Nearly all policy/programming as previously described is overseen by the US Soccer Referee Department and the US Soccer National Referee Committee. More information/resources can be found on the main page of the Referee Section at www.usssoccer.com.
Every State has a State Referee Committee that oversees all aspects of the referee program in their state. This is including but not limited to registration, education, development, assessment, instruction, mentoring, recruitment, retention, assignment(s), administration, and any other US Soccer Referee Program Initiatives.
As a new referee, you will deal primarily with referee leadership at a more local level. This typically involves a local referee association, a club assignor, and or a league assignor. Tournaments will also have a designated assignor as well. Every state a local geography will operate at least slightly different from one another.
Information on how these different state and local organizations function can usually be found through the State Association Websites, State Referee Committee Websites, or Local Association, League, or Club Websites.
Apart from high school competition or collegiate competition which are currently separate entities from US Soccer, it is highly recommended that US Soccer officials only officiate US Soccer sanctioned/affiliated games from US Soccer registered assignors to avoid all conflicts of interest in performing any functions associated with the US Soccer Referee Program.
The official referee uniform of US Soccer is made by Official Sports and can be found here. Other companies make similar soccer referee uniforms that can also be worn, a quick internet search can generate multiple other options. Click here for U.S. Soccer’s official uniform standards.
Referees are primarily paid a per game amount for each game they officiate. These amounts can vary widely by club, league, state, region, or tournament. The variance is typically associated with the level of play and the length of the game. In some cases, officials can also be paid amounts for different expenses such as travel, hotels, meals, etc. but this is rare for most youth game assignments. Additionally, as most officials will fall into the category of “Independent Contractor,” proper financial documentation / paperwork can be required for an official to be compensated.
Referee Pathway from Grassroots to Professionals
After experience is gained at the grassroots level (small sided recreational youth games – full field competitive youth games), interested officials can attempt to upgrade to a regional referee certification. Advancement to the National Level or above is only by invitation. Information about the different requirements to move vertically through the above pathway can be found by contacting your States’ Referee Committee. Profiles of the different levels can be found here.
There are also eventual opportunities for promising referees in Amateur Play; however, there are far fewer affiliated amateur games. To be assigned amateur games, you will need to find an assignor in charge of those games.
Code of Ethics for the US Soccer Referee Program
All members of the Federation Referee Program are expected to…
1. Consider it a privilege to be part of the Federation Referee Program and use actions that will reflect credit upon that organization and its affiliates
2. Maintain the dignity of the position
3. Conduct themselves ethically and honorably
4. Treat themselves and others respectfully and honestly
5. Perform duties knowledgably and in accordance with the Laws of the Game
6. Adhere to all policies and requirements of the Federation Referee Program
7. Safeguard confidential registration and performance information
8. Give priority to all Federation affiliated assignments and programs
9. Honor all Federation affiliated assignments and obligations
10. Not discriminate against or take advantage of any individual or group on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
For more information and resources about officiating
• www.fifa.com – Federation Internationale de Football Association, World Governing Body of Soccer
• www.theifab.com – International Football Association Board, Laws of the Game
• www.concacaf.com – Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football
• www.ussoccer.com – National Federation recognized by FIFA Governing Soccer within the United States
• www.usadultsoccer.com – United States Adult Soccer Association (Amateur Soccer)
• www.proreferees.com – Professional Officiating in MLS, NWSL, and USL
• www.nisoa.com – National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association
• https://www.elitecollegesoccerreferees.com/ – Elite College Soccer Referees
• https://highschoolofficials.com/ – National Federation of High Schools
• https://www.naso.org/ – National Association of Sports Officials