Who are the referees?

All volunteers, they are us. Many referees start when their children are young and move up with them. Referee training is provided for all age groups and levels.

Why does AYSO need volunteer referees?

AYSO is 100 percent volunteer organization; we all do it for the kids. Each season we need as many referees as coaches if not more; refereeing is easier and less of a time commitment. AYSO is about playing Fun, Fair and Safe. Our referee training is what makes it possible. If there is no official to referee a game the kids don’t get to play.

How do I become an AYSO referee?

You must first complete an AYSO volunteer application form and be approved as an AYSO volunteer by your local AYSO Region. Once you are approved as a volunteer, the training to become an AYSO referee is provided to you for free. You should contact your AYSO Region’s Referee Administrator to get more information about the training schedule for referees in your Region. If you don’t know who that is, contact the AYSO National Support and Training Center in Hawthorne, Calif. at (800) 872-2976. They’ll get you the contact information you need.

Where do I buy my uniform? Does my Region pay for this?

Referee uniforms are available from a variety of sources. We recommend supporting our National Sponsors like SCORE and The AYSO Store. It is the practice of almost all AYSO Regions to provide a free uniform to the volunteers who become certified referees in their Region.

Can I referee my own child’s games?

There is no national rule prohibiting a referee from refereeing their own child’s game.  It can be a challenge to recruit referees, and regions vary greatly in their ability to cover officiating needs without using referees who are affiliated with the teams.  In some situations when there is a shortage of referees, having a parent officiate their own child’s game may be the only option.  Since no simple rule can cover all the scheduling complexities that regions across the country face, AYSO leaves referee scheduling policies to the regions and areas.

What is Safe Haven™?

AYSO makes a commitment to provide a safe place for children to play and compete. The referee has a responsibility to help make the environment safe, as well as fun. To ensure the safety of both children and volunteers, each volunteer is required to take a short in-person or online training session called Safe Haven™. It focuses on safety and appropriate behavior with children as well as first aid and other on-field issues. Agreeing to a background check is also required for each volunteer.

Learn More about Safe Haven™

Safe Haven™ is a unique program that all AYSO volunteers are required and how we can all participate in making the AYSO experience a positive one for our kids. In addition, there is an online class. Safe Haven™ certification is mandatory for all AYSO coaches and referees on a nation-wide basis, and can be obtained by attending a clinic where Safe Haven™ training is offered. A referee who has been Safe Haven™ certified will be entitled to legal protection for work as a referee under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997.

Is prior soccer experience required to officiate?

No, but some familiarity with soccer is certainly a plus. Coaches, parents, players and other volunteers have all proved to be excellent referees even if they have never played soccer. Youth referees are welcome!

I am a soccer player and understand the game very well; can I just take the certification test and avoid some or all of the beginning course?

Currently this is not an option. However, an online Basic Referee Training course is currently under development. It will take less time to complete for those already familiar with the game or for those who would prefer to take their time and learn at their own pace in the comfort of their own home. Many of those who have played the game and think they know the Laws of the Game are surprised to find out how much there is to learn when they actually start studying to become a referee. Attending a face to face training course with an experienced instructor is a valuable learning experience.

What are the certification levels?

There are the six certification levels for AYSO referees. Here is a brief description of the requirements for each. Contact your Regional Referee Administrator (RRA) for more details:

U-8 Official
(minimum age 10)
Complete the U-8 Official Course and pass the U-8 Official Exam.

Assistant Referee
(minimum age 12)
Complete the Assistant Referee Course and pass the Assistant Referee Exam.

Regional Referee
(minimum age 12)
Complete the Basic Referee Course and pass the Regional Referee Exam.

Intermediate Referee
(minimum age 14)
Complete 25 games as referee with at least five in U-12 games, complete the Intermediate Referee Course, pass the Intermediate Referee Exam and be (observed) mentored in a U-12 game.

Advanced Referee
(minimum age 16)
Complete 50 games as referee with at least 10 in U-14 and five as an assistant referee (in U-14), complete the Advanced Referee Course, pass the Advanced Referee Exam, pass one assessment as referee and one as assistant referee in a U-14 match, pass the AYSO Physical Fitness Test and do a minimum of five service units (contact your RRA for details).

National Referee
(minimum age 18)
Complete 100 games as referee with at least 30 in U-16 and U-19 games and 25 as Assistant Referee with at least 10 in U-19, complete the National Referee Course, pass the National Referee Exam, pass two assessments as referee in U-16 or U-19 matches and one as assistant referee in a U-19 match, complete the AYSO Physical Fitness Test and do an additional five service units (contact your RRA for details).

Who is the Referee Administrator? What do they do?

The Referee Administrator is the person responsible for implementing the AYSO National Referee Program in specific parts of the country (Region, Area, Section or National). Contact the AYSO National Support & Training Center for the contact information of the Referee Administrators in your part of the country.

Do I have to ref little kids before I can ref the older kids?

There is no requirement to referee younger players before refereeing older players. You may request referee assignments at whatever age level you feel comfortable. Refereeing at the various age levels requires different skills and just because the players are young doesn’t necessarily mean the games are easier – they are different! Managing six or seven year olds (and their parents) and managing 14 or 15 year olds requires different skills.

What do I do if I have a problem at a game with a coach or a spectator?

Report to the Referee Coordinator for the appropriate age group all incidents in which a coach or a spectator behaves in a way that makes a game something other than a safe, positive, enjoyable growth experience for the children.

Is it safe for a teenage player or sibling to referee?

Teenagers who already like soccer have no trouble adapting at all – they know the game and what it takes to keep it safe, fair and fun. The training and time refereeing games can also earn them community service points as AYSO is a non-profit, volunteer, community organization.

Official USSF Referee Uniform?

Gold jersey with black stripes, black collar, black cuffs (long sleeve) or no cuff (short sleeve); black shorts; black socks with three stripe white top; black shoes.

Official Alternate USSF Referee Jerseys?

Black jersey with white stripes, black collar, black cuffs (long sleeve) or no cuffs (short sleeve).

Red jersey with black stripes, black collar, black cuffs (long sleeve) or no cuffs (short sleeve).

Blue jersey with black stripes, black collar, black cuffs (long sleeve) or no cuffs (short sleeve).

Green jersey with black stripes, black collar, black cuffs (long sleeve) or no cuffs (short sleeve).

The blue or green jersey may be worn when the gold, black or red jerseys will not provide a clear contrast to either team’s shirt colors.

Uniformity on the part of officials establishes initial credibility for them as a team. The referee and ARs should wear shirts of similar color and style. If the referee wears an alternate jersey of a color that the ARs do not have, the ARs’ jerseys, whenever possible, should match each other.

What is the appropriate referee badge for AYSO referees?

The only badge appropriate for referees to wear during AYSO games is the current AYSO referee certification level badge earned by the referee. Exceptions: An International Referee may wear his or her FIFA badge; and, if provided, special referee tournament badges may be worn by referees during that tournament’s games.

Are referees permitted to wear a cast or splint while refereeing?

The AYSO National Rules and Regulations prohibit players from participating in practices or games while wearing a cast or splint (even with a doctor’s permission). However, there is no such prohibition for referees to officiate while wearing a cast or splint even if they are youth referees. The likelihood of an injury to players occurring from contact with the referee’s cast or splint is very remote. Some padding on the cast may add a measure of protection.

May referees wear hats or sunglasses?

Soccer referees have not historically needed to wear hats or sunglasses and AYSO referees are discouraged from doing so. Hats, in some cases, may be desired for sun-protection health reasons. Use of hats on cloudy days should be avoided. Hats should not be worn for night games.

Hats, if worn, should be solid black or predominately black with white trim, or solid white or predominately white with black trim. Hats should bear no logos or slogans other than AYSO logos (traditional, promotional, Regional or tournament) and AYSO national sponsor logos.

Sunglasses are likewise discouraged for referees as this restricts communication through eye contact with players and are generally considered unnecessary adornment.

Who is responsible for the players’ Medical Release Forms?

It is the coach’s responsibility to be in possession of the Medical Release Forms at all practices and games. Referees are not required, nor recommended, to ask coaches to prove that they have players’ Medical Release Forms in their possession at games. Referees should not require coaches to produce the forms at matches as this would, in effect, put the referee in the position of assuming a responsibility that properly belongs with the coach.

Are referees required to see a “Participation Release Form” before allowing a player to participate in games following a known serious injury or sickness which required professional medical attention?

No, this is not the referee’s responsibility. It is the coach’s responsibility to see and provide the Region Safety Director and/or Regional Commissioner with a copy of the form.