CHICAGO (February 21, 2007) – In a move designed to continue the growth and progress of soccer officiating in the United States, U.S. Soccer has established a program to employ full-time referees for the first time in the organization's 95-year history. Jair Marrufo, Ricardo Salazar, Baldomero Toledo and Terry Vaughn will become full-time referees, enabling them to focus all of their professional abilities on practical on-field applications, as well as on off-the-field training.
“This new program will give our best referees the opportunity to focus all of their energies on enhancing the performance of our elite officials on the field,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “The size and quality of U.S. Soccer’s referee program has garnered worldwide respect from the international soccer community over the years. With an increasing number of MLS and international matches being staged in the United States, there is no doubt that the opportunity to referee on a full-time basis will continue to advance our growth as a soccer nation.”
The new program is designed to enhance high-level performance, training and development opportunities for the sport's elite officials in the United States. The United States is now just one of only a handful of countries with full-time professional referees (a list that includes England, France, Holland, Italy and Spain).
"The implementation of this program and the hiring of these four professional referees is an important first step," added Gulati. "Moving forward, I expect this program to continue to grow alongside the rest of the sport in the United States."
American referees are playing an increasing role in CONCACAF and continue to get more and better appointments to work international matches worldwide. In 2006, U.S. Soccer referees worked 126 international matches in the United States alone, as well as officiating in numerous international tournaments outside of the country. Additionally, 23 U.S. Soccer referees also worked 182 games in Major League Soccer last year.
U.S. Soccer's Director of Advanced & International Referee Development Esse Baharmast, who refereed in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, will be heavily involved in the training aspects of the program and recently served as the lead Referee Instructor at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
"This is a wonderful progression for our referee program," said Baharmast. "We have made great strides as a soccer country through the years and a program like this will allow the elite professionals in this country to focus on the craft of being a referee.”
The four referees committed to the program are Jair Marrufo, Ricardo Salazar, Baldomero Toledo and Terry Vaughn. Marrufo currently resides in El Paso, Texas, and officiated the 2006 MLS Cup Final in Frisco, Texas, last year. He recently became a FIFA-certified official for the first time in 2007.
Salazar, who lives in Elgin, Ill., joined the ranks of U.S. Soccer referees certified by FIFA in 2005 and has called numerous games at the elite level through the years. Toledo became a FIFA referee in 2006 after registering with U.S. Soccer originally in 1989. He recently called the championship of the 2007 Interliga in Carson, Calif.
An official at the 2006 CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinal in Mexico, Vaughn is entering his fourth year as a FIFA-certified official in 2007. The Mount Vernon, Iowa, resident is slated to officiate at the Under-20 World Cup qualifiers in Mexico during the final week of February.
U.S. Soccer Federation’s Referee Membership has grown tremendously over the years and at the end of 2006 totaled more than 140,000 officials. The Federation originally began to comprehensively train and develop a large number of referees in the early 1970s, and courses are conducted by qualified state referee instructors in a consistent manner throughout the nation.
U.S. Soccer’s referee organization is one of the largest among the 207 nations belonging to FIFA, with officials calling games at every level of the sport, including youth, amateur and professional games, as well as sanctioned international competitions.