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Premier Referee Academy Held In Conjunction With U.S. Soccer / Nike Friendlies in Florida

CHICAGO (Tuesday, December 10, 2002) - Continuing to provide promising referees with more opportunities for improvement and advancement, U.S. Soccer hosted a Premier Referee Academy this past weekend in conjunction with the U.S. Soccer / Nike Friendlies at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.  Fifteen of the most promising referees in the country worked two Friendly games a day – one as a referee and one as an assistant referee – and had their work evaluated each night by members of U.S. Soccer’s national instructional staff.

“This Academy was extremely valuable for the referees as well as the evaluators, as we got to observe some of this country’s most talented referees in high-level matches and provide constant feedback,” said Esse Baharmast U.S. Soccer’s Director of Advanced and International Referee Development. “The referees thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful event.  It was a great experience for the referees to be here, where they enjoyed the first-class competition as well as first-class venues.”

The Premier Referee Academy is a chance for referees to be evaluated and to learn what it takes to advance and to work at the game’s highest levels.  A select number of the referees who worked at the U.S. Soccer / Nike Friendlies will be asked to work the MLS combine and from there a select group may be invited to referee MLS pre-season games and possibly even league matches during the 2003 season.

Last year, 10 referees worked at the Referee Academy in Bradenton, Fla. during the U.S. Soccer / Nike Friendlies, and of those 10, six were asked to work at the MLS combine.  From there three referees - Jair Marrufo, Jasen Anno and Jesse Johnson – were chosen to work Major League Soccer games in 2002, where they combined to referee 12 matches.

The 15 referees in last weekend’s Academy worked primarily A-League, D-3 Pro and PDL matches in 2002.  In addition to the 15 referees participating in the Academy, a handful of local referees were brought in to make sure all 50 scheduled games would be covered.

The referees were complimented throughout the weekend by the participating club coaches, who appreciated the professional aspect the referees brought to the games.

“We were able to use this event as a Referee Academy last year, and the coaches and teams felt it was some of the best officiating and one of the best environments they have played in,” said U.S. Under-17 MNT head coach and the organizer of the U.S. Soccer / Nike Friendlies John Ellinger. “I think it is a win-win situation for everyone involved when we can give these referees experience, and at the same time all the teams here are benefiting from the outstanding officials.”

The referees were evaluated during this Academy by Alfred Kleinaitis, U.S. Soccer’s Manager of Referee Education; Joe Machnik, Major Soccer League’s Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner for On-Field Competition; Paul Tamberino, a member of the national instructor staff; and Baharmast.

Future referee academies are scheduled for the Armed Forces Tournament and the Disney Soccer Showcase in Orlando, Fla.  In all, ten academies were held in 2002 - two more than in 2001 - and 14 academies are currently scheduled for 2003.

The 15 referees who participated in this year’s Premier Referee Academy were: Cien Asoera (Indiana), Shane Butler (Missouri), Ryan Cigich (Oklahoma), Brian D’amato (Georgia), Jeff Feulner (Florida), Adam Garner (Texas-N), Brent Hall (Oklahoma), Sean Hurd (Florida), Brian Poeschel (Florida), Anthony Russo (Pennsylvania), Afshin Shokoohi (Florida), David Simon (Washington), Dinesh Singh (California - N), Brent Sorg (Michigan), Michael Stutt (Virginia).