Kelly Murphy

Kelly Murphy

Director, Referee Operations
U.S. Soccer Federation

Sport Development



Please share a bit of background about yourself.

I’m from Kansas, where I attended undergrad at the University of Kansas. I moved to Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago. Outside of work, most of my time is spent hiking, reading, playing tennis with friends, or visiting friends and family back home.

All pathways are different; how did you get to where you are?

I arrived at US Soccer by being open to change. I was never certain about where I wanted to be or what type of industry; I’ve always been interested in many varying areas that I originally didn’t think had overlap. Some choices are made because of necessity - such as needing a job, needing experience - but each opportunity was a chance to learn about what I wanted, about what I was good at, about what I could work on. As time has passed, I can see the connection of how skills I developed at earlier experiences help me get to where I am today.

How would you describe your job?

My job is all about communication and understanding; there are a lot of emails and phone calls. Our decisions impact a wide array of individuals and organizations, so we rarely make decisions based purely on our own impressions. Besides answering general questions about the referee registration process or USOPC/USCSS requirements, we’re also regularly discussing where to improve, how to provide more support, and how our choices will impact different regions or people, organizations or the development of the sport itself.

What do you love about your current job?

My team. The aspects that make my job enjoyable and allow me to feel supported are the people I work with. Each person has a special niche of knowledge about the referee program and is always happy to share their experience or jump in and help out if another person needs some back up.

What skills do you use every day?

Customer service, writing skills, and general fore-planning.

What advice would you give to women seeking a position in the sports industry?

Seek out opportunities and don’t question if it’s the right fit or perfect job before you even apply. Get your chance first, then make a decision as to if it makes sense for you and the organization.

What is one piece of advice you wished someone had told you before starting this career path?

Worry less about expectations versus reality. I’m not someone who immediately sought sport development when I first started or finished school, so I didn’t expect to be here 10 years ago. I think sometimes you just have to trust that eventually it’ll sort itself out and there is no benefit in becoming anxious about when you’re going to reach a particular goal or dream as long as you still feel like you're growing and working towards something.

Who or what inspires you the most, and why?

Reading. I’m always learning from the books I’ve read about different techniques or ways to approach or view a situation. From Malcolm Gladwell to Sergey & Marina Dyachenko to Octavia Butler, their style of writing, way of breaking down a problem and looking to solutions or changes are all very different, but very real examples of how different people or different types of jobs approach a problem, and they’re also just fun to read.