There are 14 referee grades:
- Grade 16 – Emeritus State Referee
- Grade 15 – Emeritus State Referee
- Grade 14 – Emeritus National Referee
- Grade 13 – Emeritus Professional Referee
- Grade 12 – Assistant Referee
- Grade 9 – Recreational Referee
- Grade 8 – Referee
- Grade 7 – Referee
- Grade 6 – State Referee
- Grade 5 – State Referee
- Grade 4 – National Referee
- Grade 3 – Professional Referee
- Grade 2 – FIFA Assistant Referee
- Grade 1 – FIFA Referee
The U.S. Soccer Referee Department is charged with managing the National level officials and the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) is responsible for overseeing the Professional and FIFA level officials.
Diagonal System of Control
The diagonal system of control consists of one referee and two assistant referees. All competitions sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation require the use of this officiating system and certain competitions may require the use of a fourth official.
In order to comply with the Laws of the Game all games sanctioned directly or indirectly by member organizations of the U.S. Soccer Federation must employ the diagonal system of control and be assigned according to the following order or preference:
- One registered referee and two registered assistant referees
- One registered referee, one registered assistant referee and one unregistered club linesperson*
- One registered referee and two unregistered club linespersons*
- One registered referee only if no unregistered club linespersons are available or if one registered referee is appropriate for the level of competition
*Club linespersons are only allowed to signal for the ball in and out of play. The preference should always been given to unregistered club linespersons who have no affiliation to the participating teams.
Each official is expected to keep all assignments that they accept. However, there are certain occasions when an official has the opportunity to release a lower level appointment and accept a higher level assignment.
Therefore, the following games are listed by priority for assignment:
- International “A”
- U. S. National Team
- Division 1 Professional League
- Foreign Professional Team vs. Foreign Professional Team
- Division 2 and 3 Professional League
- U.S. Soccer Development Academy
- National Youth Championships and National Adult Cup Finals
- Regional Youth Championships and Regional Adult Cup Finals
- National Tournaments
- Interstate Adult National Cup Competitions
- National Adult Leagues
- Intrastate Adult National Cup Competitions
- State Cup Competitions
Please note that this policy does not apply:
- Within 72 hours of the scheduled game time unless an emergency situation exists
- When a substantial financial commitment has been made for the assignment (e.g., non-refundable airline tickets)
Responsibility of officials:
- Keep the lines of communication open about upcoming international and national and International appointments as far in advance as possible
- Communicate the receipt of a higher priority appointment to their assignor as soon as possible
- Report an assignor that refuses to release the official from a higher priority assignment to their State Referee Administrator and the U.S. Soccer Referee Department
Responsibility of assignors:
- Identify the highly experienced officials on your assignment roster who are likely to be assigned to a higher priority assignment and always be prepared to fill these slots on an emergency basis
- Cooperate with officials and other assignors on those rare occasions when the game priority policy is invoked
- Report any concerns regarding the to the State Referee Administrator
The completion and submission of reports is an important duty of an official. If required by the competition, the U.S. Soccer Referee Report can be used to submit standard game information.
If needed, and in addition to the U.S. Soccer Referee Report, the U.S. Soccer Supplemental Referee Report can be used for instances of referee assault, referee abuse, dismissal of team officials, sending-off offenses, serious injuries, game abandonment or other substantial occurrences.
Some competitions may provide individualized game, misconduct and supplemental reports.
In addition to the U.S. Soccer Federation Policy 531-9, officials should consider the following when submitting a U.S. Soccer Supplemental Referee Report related to instances of referee assault or referee abuse:
- Complete a U.S. Soccer Referee Report to record the basic game data
- Provide a clear, concise and factual account of what happened
- Include all relevant information to identify the persons involved
- Do not give opinions or recommendations
- Confirm the details in the report with all other officials
- File the report within 48 hours of the incident
- Retain a copy of all reports for future reference
- Multiple incidents may require the use of multiple supplemental reports
At a minimum, supplemental reports related to referee assault or referee abuse should be sent to the following:
- Competition authorities (e.g., local league, tournament director, cup coordinator, etc.)
- State President with jurisdiction for the competition
- State Referee Administrator
After submitting reports related to misconduct, assault or abuse, an official should acknowledge all correspondences related to the report and advise any authorized panel of availability to attend a disciplinary hearing if requested. If requested to participate in a disciplinary hearing, either in person or by phone, an official should cooperate fully throughout the proceedings.
Affiliated and Unaffiliated Competitions
Registered and certified officials have the responsibility to officiate games among youth, adult and professional teams which are affiliated with the U.S. Soccer Federation so that affiliated teams do not have a shortage of qualified officials for their competitions.
Unaffiliated competition refers to teams and leagues that meet any of the following criteria in relation to the U.S. Soccer Federation:
- Have never been affiliated with;
- Suspended by;
- In bad standing with; or
- Left voluntarily (while in good standing at the time of departure)
Conflict of Interest
In addition to the U.S. Soccer Federation Polices 531-1 and 531-6, officials should take steps to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest.
An active official may serve on the administrative committees or board of a competition or State Association (except as restricted by U.S. Soccer Federation Policy 531-1). An active official may officiate in a competition or State Association while also being a member but should adhere to the following:
- Disqualify themselves from participating in any disciplinary proceeding in which the subject is a team, player or other person where there is a vested interest
- Disqualify themselves from participating in any disciplinary proceeding involving a game where they served as a game official
- Not officiate in any match where there is a vested interest
“Vested interest” is defined as when the official or a member of the official's family (spouse, child or parent) or that person’s team may be affected by the outcome of the proceeding or match.
The use of vanishing spray is prohibited by officials unless approval for use during an affiliated competition is given by U.S. Soccer.
Requests should be made by the appropriate affiliated competition authorities and these will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis provided the following minimum requirements are met:
- The affiliated competition must provide the vanishing spray at no cost to the officials;
- The affiliated competition must provide the officials with training on how to use the vanishing spray and monitor its use throughout the competition;
- The affiliated competition (or associated league of Organization Member) must assume all liability associated with the use of the vanishing spray; and
- When approved, competitions should make best efforts to use the vanishing spray in all competitive matches and officials should make every reasonable effort to ensure the spray is used consistently during their match