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U.S. Soccer to Pioneer Experiment with Two-Referee System at Select Matches in 2000

CHICAGO (Wednesday, February 16, 2000) - The U.S. Soccer Federation, in conjunction with Major League Soccer and United Soccer Leagues, has unveiled plans to pioneer experiments with a two-referee system that is currently being tested around the world by FIFA.

The two-referee system will be tested in the United States in two phases. The first phase will see the system used exclusively at official exhibition matches between Major League Soccer and A-League clubs, and at all A-League U.S. Open Cup qualifying matches. The first phase of testing will be completed by June 3, at which time an analysis of the landmark experiment will take place before a decision is made to proceed with the second phase of testing, which will see the two-referee system employed throughout the 2000 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The two-referee trial in the United States is being organized by Esse Baharmast, U.S. Soccer's Director of Officials; Alfred Kleinaitis, U.S. Soccer's Manager of Referee Education; and Joe Machnik, Major League Soccer's Vice President of Game Operations. Initial testing of the system was employed over the weekend at five organized matches between Major League Soccer clubs and U.S. Youth National Teams.

"The initial reaction from the referees, players and coaches from the matches over the weekend has been positive," said Baharmast. "There are questions about the implementation of this system that can only be answered through practical testing. Some of the important issues that will be addressed in these tests include how the two referees will communicate, how they will maintain the flow of the match and how they will position themselves on the field throughout a game.

"We will eventually compare statistics from these tests with those of the traditional 'one-referee, diagonal system,' to see if we have any significant increases or decreases in goals, fouls and injuries, as well as cautions and ejections. We will also be monitoring actual playing time to see how the extra official affects time wasting."

U.S. Soccer is hoping to provide FIFA with data collected from over 75 matches in 2000.

FIFA authorized trials of the two-referee system around the globe earlier this year. The system, which features two referees working the pitch and two referee assistants running the lines, has already been implemented in the leagues of Brazil and Malaysia. The system is also being used during the prestigious Coppa Italia, a tournament similar to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.