FIFA Soccer

Frequently Asked Questions About Referees

How many referees are there in the US?

As of 2011, there are over 150,000 USSF soccer referees.

Who decides which referees show up at games?

All leagues have what are known as Referee Assignors.  Except for some recreational leagues, all Ref Assignors must first be licensed referees and also hold a Referee Assignor License.  These Ref Assignors create pre-qualified rankings of referees for the various leagues they assign games to. 

Recreational Referees are usually licensed like everyone else; however, some city leagues without being under an umbrella organization like USYSA or AYSO have the freedom to assign games to just about anyone they feel like.  Obviously, this is not for the benefit of the players they serve.

High School referees are assigned games by the Ref Assignor from the conference they belong to.  In Broward County that is the BCAA-Soccer Officials Association, with the 2007-08 Ref Assignor being Mr. Zoom Stemple: (954) 925-2383.  The FHSAA certifies high school referees.  In addition, most high school referees also hold a minimum Grade 8 level certification for travel games as well. FHSAA referees conform to the double dual system where all referees on the field use a whistle and call fouls. 

Travel soccer referees are assigned games by the Ref Assignor retained by particular clubs.  Ref Assignors must hold a USSF Referee certification as well. Florida State Referees (FSR) certifies all travel soccer referees in the State of Florida. Grade 8 certification is the minimum to be a Center Referee and Grade 9 to be an Assistant Referee (Line Referee). 

Ref Assignors for travel games will look to place the most experienced and qualified referees in the more difficult age brackets, mainly older age groups U15-19; as well as in national tournaments.  There is no specified Grade required other than a minimum of Grade 8. 

NCCA College Referees must hold a NCAA certification.

What is the history behind yellow and red cards?

It all came about due to events of the 1962 FIFA World Cup in Chile. Ken Aston, a longtime British referee, officiated the opening match of the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile. In a subsequent game between Chile and Italy in Santiago, he replaced the scheduled referee because of building tension. Claims that Italian journalists had written disparaging remarks about Chilean women riled tempers in Chile.  The match was marred by such rough play that armed police officers entered the field to help Aston keep control. The emotionally-charged game had now become a matter of honor, and the football itself was only a secondary issue in the now infamous "Battle of Santiago".

In 1966, retired referee Ken Aston was appointed to the FIFA Referees' Committee. A particularly difficult game followed with the 1966 World Cup Finals between England and Argentina refereed by a referee who spoke only German, and it was quite a rough game. The following morning the two famous Charlton brothers, Jack and Bobby, were in bed, breakfasting in bed looking at the Sunday newspapers reporting the game. Suddenly Jack says to Bobby, “It says I was cautioned yesterday. I didn’t know I was cautioned.” “Neither did I,” said Bobby. “It says that you were cautioned, too, Bobby.” “Me? Never!” said Bobby. So they rang the (tournament manager) and he said, “I didn’t know you were cautioned. I’ll ring FIFA.” The record keeper confirmed that both had been, in fact, cautioned. 

Aston got in his little MG sports car to go home that day. Driving up the little side street to the main drag, the traffic light was green. He accelerated to get the green light, and it suddenly went yellow and went red, and because of the fact that it was a little side road, he had to wait really a long time before it did go green. He got into the main drag, and immediately there were three sets of traffic lights about 50 yards apart, all green. Did the same thing, accelerated. Same thing, yellow, red. Yellow, take it easy. Red, finished. He thought, well, this is the way to overcome the language problem in international matches. And so I sat on this until 1970 and launched the red and yellow cards in the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico. Within the next several weeks, the cards were implemented worldwide as part of Law 12 - FIFA Laws of the Game. Every nation and their soccer affiliates wholeheartedly embraced the change.

These rules can be divided into these basic groups:

Serious Foul Play – when a player cynically challenges another player with malice
Deliberate Hand Ball – If a field player deliberately handles the ball they must be dismissed, this is also true of goalkeepers outside of their area.
Foul and Abusive Language – If a player uses language not appropriate or deeply offensive towards a player, official or the crowd will be dismissed.
Spitting - at anyone
Raising the Arms to Another Player or Violent Conduct– This could be a punch, a slap or even a heavy push, all are punishable by dismissal.
Professional Foul – Denying a player a clear goal scoring opportunity by committing a foul.
Other Punishable Offences

A player may also receive a red card if they are issued two yellow cards during the match. The yellow card is used as a caution but if the player should continue to flaunt the rules then a second yellow may be issued resulting in instant dismissal. While managers and coaches are not shown cards, they can and will be dismissed from games as they are bound to the rules of the game.


What are the various certification levels in youth soccer?

USSF Level 8 Certification

The first step in officiating youth travel soccer, high school or college play is to become certified as a USSF Referee.  The Level 8 class certification is a weekend long class aimed at new referees.  Upon  completion of the class, and passing the written test, USSF will issue a Referee Badge good for the current calendar year.  This is a requirement for officiating in local and national youth travel leagues (US Club, Florida Youth Soccer Association, FLUGSA and Super Y-League) as well as the adult amateur and Professional Development League (PDL).  Level 9 Certification is permitted for younger referees only officiating the line in U14 travel games.   They are not permitted to officiate in the center in travel games.


USSF Level 7 Upgrades

Once you have officiated 100 USSF games (any age or level, but 75 Centers are required) you may apply to upgrade to Level 7, which will also require an assessment and physical test.  Level 7 Referees are certified to do any youth (U19 or younger) games, and generally State Cup and Super Y-League games are only assigned to Level 7 and higher officials.  Level 7 is also the stepping stone to becoming a State Referee (Levels 6 and 5).


If you are interested in upgrading contact FSR-INC.COM All upgrade requests usually must be submitted by March in any given year.



County Soccer Officials Organization Type  
Broward BCAA-Soccer Officials Association HS  
Statewide FSR Youth  
Orange HSSOCF    


Kari Seitz is one of two American soccer officials at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Seitz has been part of the FIFA International Panel of Referees since 1999, and previously officiated in the 1999 and 2003 Women’s World Cups and the 2004 CONCACAF Women’s U-19 World Championship.




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