As the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup rolls on, United States official Lance VanHaitsma has been selected as a referee throughout the tournament, which runs until Oct. 1 in Colombia.
VanHaitsma has already officiated five matches in the tournament, including Argentina vs. Solomon Islands, where he served as the first official in a crew of four. He has been retained for the Round of 16 knockout stage.
“It's truly a special honor to be the first American selected for the FIFA Futsal World Cup since 2008,” said VanHaitsma. “Futsal in the United States has grown exponentially within the last five years and the world has taken notice. Our Futsal referee program has grown significantly in that time span, and my selection is the culmination of the hard work from the entire U.S. Soccer staff, allowing myself this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
FIFA named 40 officials for the tournament, scheduled from Sept. 10 to Oct. 1, including six CONCACAF referees. Throughout the tournament, both FIFA and CONCACAF continuously monitor all referees with multiple fitness tests, body composition measurements, video quizzes, written tests, and analysis of match performances. U.S. Soccer also has Ed Marco selected for the tournament as a Technical Instructor.
Although he’s been refereeing at a high level since 2005, this is VanHaitsma’s first year as a FIFA official and he is one of just two Americans recognized by FIFA as a futsal referee. He got started as a futsal referee thanks to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Futsal Showcase, where he found that his specialized skillset translated perfectly into the much faster pace and quick decision making of futsal.
Both VanHaitsma and Marco have dedicated time to mentoring other referees, ranging from Development Academy futsal events to local referee associations.
“I take great pride in mentoring. It allows me the opportunity to pay it forward,” said VanHaitsma. “Being on the FIFA list, it is my responsibility to pass on my knowledge and experiences to the next generation of referees so the referee program can be better tomorrow than it is today.”