Ask some of today’s officials who they would like to model themselves as a referee, and on many occasions Brian Hall’s name will come up.
It should not come as a surprise based on his accolades and performance. Hall was the MLS Referee of the Year on four occasions (2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007). He was a FIFA World Cup referee as the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan. Hall also been working professional matches as a teenager. His accomplishments and referee development work today have naturally influenced some of this generation’s officials.
“I am really surprised that many mention my name as having a little bit of an influence in reaching their goal of becoming a professional referee,” Hall said. “Helping identify these individuals and train them and seeing their success is really a positive for me. It excites me working with up-and-coming referees who are taking the stepping stone toward being a national referee, or MLS, NASL, Open Cup or even potential FIFA World Cup referee. Helping train them gives me goose bumps, like when you walk on the field before you start a game.”
Hall was thrust into the officiating world as a teenager, helping referee an AYSO match at age 14 when a referee did not show up. By 19 years old, the California native was working in the North American Soccer League, particularly San Jose Earthquakes games.
Hall’s big international moment came at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where he was the head referee for two matches, including Italy’s 2-0 win against Ecuador on June 3.
“When I walked on the field, I felt like I was being carried on the shoulders of all 120,000 U.S. Soccer referees,” Hall said. “I felt a huge responsibility to represent these referees and show that American soccer and its referees are on par with officials throughout the world. Hopefully I did a little bit to contribute to the positive perception. It was a phenomenal experience.”
Professionally and internationally, Hall credits his longevity and success toward his top-level conditioning, both physically and mentally.
“We didn’t have the Nike Air shoes, heart-rate monitors or cross-training elements that you find in gyms these days,” Hall said. “We really had to persevere, and a lot had to come from your personal drive and hunger to want to be the best. That’s one thing that I prided myself on all the time. I always wanted to shoot to be the best – not necessarily be better than anyone else, but to be the best that I could be as a referee. I strove day in and day out to be in top physical and mental condition, to understand the laws of the game on a regular basis.”
After 27 years, Hall’s tenure as a referee came to a close, and his new path moved to U.S. Soccer.
“It was difficult to put the whistle and boots away,” Hall said. “But in another way it was a positive thing for me because I had the opportunity to give back to the program that gave me so much. It gave me the opportunity to referee in the World Cup and be a FIFA referee for 15 years.”
Hall was approached by U.S. Soccer as the department saw an opportunity to further its ability to develop and assess referees in the country.
“We revamped the entire assessment process and the coach-mentor process,” Hall said. “We assess referees game in and game out to provide feedback, and we restructured that piece of the puzzle in terms of referee development and training. We also started a process to educate and send out information, not just to referees, but to coaches and administrators who can read and review the laws of the game and why referees make certain decisions.”
Hall has served as a CONCACAF director of referee administration, working on referee training and development among the member associations. He has recently taken a post with the Professional Referee Organization as its match officials development manager.
“The career of a referee is very difficult, and I hope that as I pass along my experiences and the things that I got out of U.S. Soccer that they will reach hundreds of referees in a positive light,” Hall said. “It makes you feel a sense of accomplishment and that the program is working. They appreciate the time and effort you put in to help them reach their goals.”