Soccer Referee Recertification: Is it Worth It?

The annual recertification requirements give referees a choice each year. Should they continue or not? Here’s what you should think about.

US Soccer Grassroots Referee Recertification

When most people are thinking about recertification clinics, they’re thinking about US Soccer. US Soccer is the main organization with an annual recertification process.

Most referees are considered grassroots referees. The grassroots referee recertification has the following requirements:

  • Online lessons
  • Online quiz
  • Background check
  • SafeSport training

Regional, national, and professional referees have additional fitness testing, assessment, and in-person training requirements.

US Soccer referee certifications technically run from July 1st to June 30th. You get a grace period through December 31st to complete the certification process.

Courses typically open in July or August. Once you’ve completed the course, you’re good until the end of the next calendar year.

Under state and federal laws, you may need to renew safety trainings or background checks every 365 days rather than when you recertify.

Does US Soccer require that all re-certifying referees to once more complete an in-person field session in the licensing process?

In-person field sessions are a local option or requirement. Check with your state referee administrator for details.

Why does US Soccer have an annual recertification requirement?

The US Soccer referee program has a mandatory annual recertification requirement for several reasons.

  • Review changes in the Laws of the Game
  • Give refresher training in other areas
  • Receive a new badge
  • Indoctrinate referees in the US Soccer philosophy
  • Fundraising

The fundraising component is an often overlooked but very important component of the recertification process. Important competitions like the youth regionals and nationals do not pay for referees to attend.

Your certification fees cover travel expenses, tournament stipends, and other expenses for selected referees. They also pay for the state referee administrator and committee to attend select clinics, tournaments, and postseason events. Without your support, these opportunities wouldn’t be available for advanced grassroots and regional referees.

What games does the US Soccer referee certification entitle you to do?

US Soccer referee certification covers games under:

US Soccer referee certification is not required for:

  • High school soccer
  • College soccer
  • Independent adult leagues (the majority of games in most areas)
  • Independent youth leagues

What are the pros and cons of recertifying as a US Soccer referee?

Referees are independent contractors, and there are hundreds of leagues and events throughout the country, so your experience will vary.

It can also depend on if you want to be a referee to make money, get exercise, be involved in the game, or try to advance to higher levels.

Overall, reviews of the referee courses have steadily declined over the years. Even before COVID, US Soccer substantially reduced training opportunities and eliminated the ranking structure for referees below the professional level.

Referees are also facing increasing problems both on the field and following them home. Verbal abuse and physical assaults (including deadly assaults) are steadily on the rise and frequently in the news. Youth soccer parents have also taken to attempting to cancel referees on social media when they’re unhappy about a game.

Do you have to be a certified referee to referee soccer?

The majority of games played are unsanctioned, and most referees are probably not certified.

Independent adult and youth games typically pay around $20 to $25 per hour. This is comparable to most sanctioned leagues without the required recertification fees or hours spent in training you may not find applicable to your games.

Insurance is often cited as one of the biggest risks of doing unsanctioned games. Most leagues carry their own insurance policies just like the sanctioned leagues. You can also purchase insurance through providers like NASO.

Another thing to note is that your local laws may not allow organizations to require that referees have a certification from a specific organization. This would fall under right to work and similar laws.

Can you make a living as a soccer referee?

With changes in the economy, many people are wondering if you can make being a soccer referee your main job or a large part of your income. The answer is probably no.

At the youth level, it’s possible to make $500+ per day at a tournament or on a busy league day. However, the number of days you can do this is limited. Tournaments are typically on holiday weekends, and most leagues have 8-12 game days in a season. Usually only about half of the league days are busy since the start and end dates for different levels are often staggered.

You’ll also have a lot of expenses in addition to course fees like referee shoes.

It can also be hard to continue as a referee when you need to have another job. Your main job may require you to work weekends, and if you’re never available to referee or have to drop games, assignors may stop using you.

Professional referee jobs are also limited. PRO adds less than five full-time officials per year out of hundreds of thousands of referees. They also don’t disclose their salaries, but they’re rumored to be around $50,000 to $70,000 per year.

What other jobs should you consider besides being a referee?

The rise of the gig economy has created many new alternatives to being a referee that weren’t available 10+ years ago. If you’re looking for a side job or extra income, you have many options available.

Apps like Instacart and Uber typically work out to $25/hr or more. You can work almost 24/7 365 and never have to commit to a schedule in advance. Many of these jobs also have much lower expenses than being a referee.

Freelance platforms like Upwork have also created new opportunities for side work. If you have skills for a job that can be done by computer, you can often find clients who offer at or above your hourly rate in your day job. You can negotiate your deadlines, so you can give yourself the scheduling flexibility to fit your extra work with your other obligations.

Of course, coaching or playing professionally may also be options.


Referees have many options available. If you’re happy with the games you’re getting as a certified referee, you might find value in the recertification, or you might just get it out of the way because you have to. If you want to continue refereeing without recertifying or want to find another way to make money, you have many options available.

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