If soccer is your passion, but you don’t have many opportunities to play anymore, becoming a referee might be a good, fulfilling move for you to make. Make sure you get started off on the right foot by learning more about the process, and let ArbiterSports help you where we can on your journey.

Training Courses

Like any job, becoming a referee involves training. You’ll want to take courses to make sure that you learn the rules of the game from an official’s perspective. Your State Referee Association will be able to answer questions you have regarding training requirements and testing in your area, and there are resources readily available online for aspiring referees. There are no age restrictions on becoming a soccer referee except where labor laws are concerned.

At the beginning level, you’re probably going to start out with recreational or youth games. Referees are graded based on the games that they’re qualified to officiate. In July 2013, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) authorized two entry-level referee certifications that you’re most likely going to be looking into: Recreational Referee Grade 9 (which is slower-paced and geared toward small and recreational youth games) and Referee Grade 8 (which is the more common choice for referees and qualifies you for competitive youth games). Depending on your area, courses can be completed in person or online, and you must complete the Referee Course and Referee Test in your level to meet the minimum requirements for certification and recertification.


So you’ve completed your soccer referee training course, registered with USSF, and got your brand new badge. This doesn’t mean that you’re ready to step onto the field just yet: there’s some equipment that you need to get in order to do your job. While it might be a bit expensive upfront, know that with the number of games you’ll be officiating that it’s a great return on investment. Before you go looking for game assignments, pick up the appropriate referee gear:

  • A referee uniform. While gold is the standard color, black, blue, green, and red are also USSF-approved colors. It would be good to purchase one of each, depending on the team colors at the games you’re officiating.
  • Soccer referee flags. These come in checkered, diamond, or solid designs and colors, and which ones you pick up are a matter of personal taste.
  • Referee cards. You can get write-on cards, single replacement cards, and entire referee wallets with cards. Wallets typically come with a set and can come with pads for reporting and scoring as well as a holder for your flipping coin.
  • At least one, but ideally two, watches. Pick something with a timer and a stop/start function that can help you keep track of game, added, and wasted time. Keep two with you and keep accurate time on both of them in case one of them malfunctions.
  • A good-quality whistle. There are a number of brands to choose from and options like mouth cushions and different grips. Pick one that’s right for you.
  • Game-appropriate shoes.

Start Getting Assignments

Now that you have your equipment, it’s time to get some games under your belt. The game assignment process will look different between associations, but generally, because you’re an independent contractor, games will come from your local assigner, especially in younger leagues. The more experience you get, the better off you are: there’s a network of staff members that work on the selection and training of National Candidates and National Officials that go on to officiate competitive and even professional events. The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) keeps an eye out for promising candidates in the United States—you could be one of them.

Contact ArbiterSports

If you’ve worked hard and followed these steps, you’re on your way to becoming a great soccer referee. To make your refereeing experience run smoothly, look into the ArbiterSports suite of products for sports officials. We have something for everyone from beginners to pros and can help you with everything from your paychecks to soccer referee training. For more information or a demo of one of our products, call 800.576.2799 or email sales@arbitersports.com.