Friday, August 28, 2015

What Soccer Referees Should Learn from #Deflategate - Part 5 of 5

For months now we have heard from the NFL and various pundits that the "integrity of the game" was violated in #deflategate as the closer you get to the field of play, the more serious an offense gets.

Let me please add my voice to the few have said this is complete and utter bull crap.

Integrity does not have a proximity setting, it does not bound itself by space or time, nor scenario. Situational integrity is an utter fantasy as well. "I had to in this case ... ." Bull crap. It was convenient.

Having integrity can be hard. Doing the right thing no matter what is a grueling exercise that at some point in ones life is bound to fail ... and that's okay ... because its how we learn. I've learned a bunch and am sure I will continue to.

J.C. Watts famously said, "Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught."

Look at the state of sport today ... not just the NFL, although that league is a particularly (bad) example (look here for the USA Today arrest database). Players, coaches, management, owners, referees all ... what a mess. You have HOF players giving advice to basically get a "fall guy" for the screw ups you are going to have.

Here's a novel idea ... DO THE RIGHT THING.

Yes, it's hard sometimes.

Yes, it's inconvenient sometimes.

Yes, you may lose out sometimes.

But, you will be better for it.

Now, some may say, well that's great Mr. Goodie Two Shoes, but everyone screws up.

Yes, I agree, and am in the front of the line in that department. In such a case you have to own it. Fully. Completely. Unconditionally. You also have to sincerely apologies for he screw up, not this "I'm sorry if I offended anyone" crap.

Anyone remember Jim Joyce? Here is a reminder, with his response to a screw up from him:

If you ever need an example of owning it and doing the right thing, here it is.

Integrity of the game is a myth ... it is the integrity of the individuals that are involved in the game that counts.

My #protip in this area is BEFORE you give a player a second caution, CHECK TWICE. To accidentally give a player a second caution when they did not earn it has tragic results. I know, because I have done it before. Check before you do, and if you screwed it up, take it back right there. Don't punish a player for something they did not do. Own it. Apologize. Move on.

You will earn the respect of all involved and maintain your integrity in the process.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What Soccer Referees Should Learn from #Deflategate - Part 4 of 5

In thinking about this post, I was recalling this scene from Red Planet, and how true it is.

In the particular scene, the Mars Explorer has crashed and they are an unknown distance from "Hab," their temporary habitat when on the surface of Mars. You have a small team of experts on the surface of Mars to solve this issue. There are others in orbit, and several back on Earth, but the team can't talk to them.

There is one obvious analog here with both #deflategate and our refereeing lives and it is a need to think laterally to solve a given problem and rely on your whole team to do so.

I commented yesterday that it was pretty clear to me the opposing sides on the #deflategate issue each has their own goal which do not overlap, with the exception "to win" for each individual. "Winning" however is in the eyes of the beholder.

As a referee you have to put faith in your team that they are doing their job and are there for the betterment of The Game, The Players, The Team, and themselves, in that order. I think both sides in #deflategate could have used changes to their roster as it also seems clear to me that not everyone is on the same page in what the best interests are and their relative priority. There are more than a couple of actors in that story that are all about "ME."

It can happen in refereeing too, and it is critical to keep a well honed team together for the duration of the match with a clear eye to what is critical ... The Game, The Players, The Team.

As a #protip a referee is empowered to dismiss a teammate under extreme circumstances. This is beyond the more regular practice of adjusting positions to avoid a possible conflict. A dismissal is a very difficult thing to do and requires courage and a clear set of reasoning why it must be done. I have had the unfortunate task of doing so only once in my career, and hope it never happens again. If you have to do this, make sure it is for all the right reasons, and be sure to make a report to the competition authority as to the why and the facts surrounding the dismissal. If at all possible though, work as a team to try to figure it out using every possible problem solving method and knowledge source you have.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Soccer Referees Should Learn from #Deflategate - Part 3 of 5

All too often this is a lesson folks forget about generally and referees, being human are subject to this as well.

Check your ego at the touchline.

#Deflategate is filled with BIG egos, and it is my opinion that if a few of these folks on both sides get over themselves, a compromise can be reached. Take a look here and here for two opposing examples. Same is true for referees both on and off the field.

In this vein it is critical to remember that The Game belongs to the players, and yes, some of them too have massive egos, but it is incumbent on the referees to see through that (much like the Honorable Richard M. Berman).

Consider the judges role in this contest ... he is sitting between two ego fueled parties, none of which has a common goal among them, except to win (all for different reasons). His Honor is trying nothing more than to get these folks to work with each other to come to a managed solution and do so without exerting his (substantial) power in the process.

Sound familiar?

Yes folks, that's refereeing. It is managing a match to a positive conclusion knowing one party will likely be the losing one.

Judge Berman recognizes that he is not the show. People are not lining up to hear him pontificate about the Natural Gas Law, or how long it takes a typical male to use a bathroom, or if a ball can be deflated in that time.

His Honor is there to broker an agreement between the parties if at all possible and if not, apply the law straight down the middle based on the facts. That's it. He is seasoned enough to check his ego at the robing room because to do otherwise is counterproductive to resolving the issues. Also, frankly it would be unprofessional and undignified ... just as it would for a referee.

Trust me, referees have egos, and there are rare times when they can come out and use it effectively as while the larger egos may not belong to the players, no one is coming to see the referee do their job. Ask Zlatan ... and everyone else watching this match shown below.

This leads me to my #protip for the day (I learned this one the hard way):
It's okay to show a little ego, just don't be a jackass about it because it will backfire.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Soccer Referees Should Learn from #Deflategate - Part 2 of 5

Yet another lessons that referees can take away from #deflategate is that consistency is king.

Recent headlines have come up regarding open admissions by Aaron Rodgers on how he prefers his footballs prepared, yet the league has choose to do nothing about it.

Take a look here, among other places for this information. In a nutshell the league is saying they are not going to investigate.

Well as you can imagine, Patriot and not Patriot fans alike reacted poorly to this as it was clear that, if the NFL thought the deflation of balls was akin to performance enhancing, then all instances of it should be investigated as it would seem serious.


Nope, per Troy Vincent.

Let me assure you folks, there is no faster way to kill a match than to be inconsistent about what you are going to decide. Now, does that mean you can't change your mind about what you are going to call given the emotions surrounding the game. No absolutely not and look below for a very practical use of that method.

What I am saying is that if a referee calls a foul a particular way (like a handling) outside the penalty area, you have to call it the same way inside the penalty area. I can assure you, the laws of physics do not change in that 7128 sqf area. There is no faster way to earn the ire of players than decide to change the course of a match by calling or not a foul in a way not consistent with another part of the field. A foul is a foul no matter where it happens.

Don't be fooled though, the temperature of a match can change, and usually does during a match and it is critical for a referee to take note and deal with it accordingly. Some referees call this "pacing" of a match where there are times more action is needed than not. A referee that is really in tune with a match will help manage the pace to allow players the ability to fully demonstrate their abilities and stop opportunities for the destruction of them. This concept is very advanced but the basics of knowing when a player, or team, or match, is reaching a fever pitch is critical to referee development.

Here is a #protip that I have used late in my refereeing career.
  • As a referee don't ever try to manufacture controversy by creating calls to get a higher score on an assessment or to make it competitive. (Yes folks, some referees have been known to do this.) Not only is it unethical to call fouls for a referees benefit, most assessors will catch on and come down on you for it. Heck, if it is an "easy" match ... just leave it that way!

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Soccer Referees Should Learn from #Deflategate - Part 1 of 5

As #deflategate presses on it got me thinking about practical lessons from it that we can learn in our soccer refereeing lives. Over this next week we will explore a few thoughts on #deflategate, how it has evolved, how the parties have acted, and what we can learn from it.

Along the way I will throw in a #protip for each day that can be used in your every day refereeing, all the way to the international level..

Lesson 1: Measure all the balls

The Laws Of The Game (LOTG) require balls to be inflated within a particular range. In fact there are several requirement for a ball to be used in a match, they are:

The ball is:

• spherical (note this is different from round)
• made of leather or other suitable material
• of a circumference of not more than 70 cm (28 ins) and not less than 68 cm (27 ins)
• not more than 450 g (16 oz) and not less than 410 g (14 oz) in weight at the start of the match 
• of a pressure equal to 0.6 – 1.1 atmosphere (600 – 1,100 g/cm2 ) at sea level (8.5 lbs/sq in – 15.6 lbs/sq in)

Additionally for any match connected to FIFA, a ball must additionally bear:

• the official “FIFA APPROVED” logo
• the official “FIFA INSPECTED” logo

There are a few noteworthy things in here:

  1. This describes a "size 5" ball used for U-14 and above play in the US. A smaller size ball, does not match these requirements.
  2. There is both a weight and a pressure requirement for the ball.
  3. Pressure variability is very large, while the weight variability is not.
  4. FIFA has a substantial program around this can can be found here.
Before each match, every single ball should be checked that will come into play. A gauge such as this one from Official Sports do nicely even for large amounts of balls. You can get far less expensive ones that will do the trick in a pinch too. With the very large variability of pressure, most balls will fall within the range will little or no adjustments.

Balls outside these ranges can substantially affect play given the range. A ball on the lower end will act and feel flat and on the upper end no one will want to strike as it is so hard.

Note that the "Charmin Test" of squeezing the ball does not work in all cases and can provide incorrect result, especially with balls that are made of a hard plastic or are overinflated.

Once you get the pressure dialed in, you should be set for the match.

Here are a couple of #protips that I have used late in my refereeing career.
  • Give both keepers the chance to handle the match ball before the match, best at the introductions so they won't go far. They will appreciate the touch before the match.
  • Remember a ball is SPHERICAL, not round as the distinction is huge. It has also made its way on to National Referee exams.
  • What Law 2 does not cover is the most important aspect of the ball ... that it be safe. If a ball hurts a player (from a loose panel or similar) or if there is a large consensus to change the ball, just change it. It is a small thing that can get you big points with players. Remember, its their game ... let them use the (legal) ball they want. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Is there a 3rd option?

As the FIFA scandal is heating up as we all know, their sponsors, like Coke and McDonalds among others have called them on the carpet to explain what FIFA will look like "under new management" so to speak.

In fact they may have seen this neat video from "Dark5":

Many of these who have been following this mess will likely not be shocked.

These guys did produce a few other videos however, regarding a couple of other FIFA sponsors:


and McDonalds:

and honestly after seeing these, I'm not sure who is worse, FIFA or their sponsors.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Moses, U2, and NFL Referees Have In Common

NFL to experiment with extra official on field, tablets for instant replay

During the second week of the NFL preseason, the league will be testing out two new procedures related to its use of officials: The NFL will have an extra official on the field and officials will use Microsoft Surface Tablets for instant replay purposes.

For 13 games this week, the NFL will use eight-person crews instead of seven-person crews, which has been the standard size since 1978. According to a statement released by the NFL, the eighth official is being brought on in an attempt to reduce "the number of times an official is responsible for multiple areas of the field that may not be in proximity to each other." ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of CBS Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: For those who read me often, you know I am no fan of tinkering with something that works, and frankly I think the NFL officiating works. I say this (please note without any experience in refereeing grid iron) there are an awful lot of officials inside the field of play during a game. In fact 24% of people inside the field are referees (22 players and 7 referees). That is a lot of officiating bodies in there. These folks seem to get it right an awful lot of the time.

Please know that while I feel that is a lot of referees, given the multiple "contact points" inside the field this large number may indeed be necessary. Then again, I thought the addition of end line officials in UEFA to assure if a goal had been scored was too much even in the face of recent events for The Game and the introduction of GLT.

Being handed a tablet however, I think is a bit gratuitous. I am sure part of this is a deal with Microsoft who will be supplying the tablet and service (and have ads all over the place) but the part about efficiency I am not seeing. In fact there was a bit of suspense in having the referee jog over to "the hood" and have a look. Broadcast would look at footage as well and folks would speculate. It was a great opportunity for everyone to play referee. 

With a tablet I don't think we save any time and frankly I think it will look weird when a tablet bearer (they have to be nicknamed "Moses") comes out to present it and we all watch a referee, watch a tablet on a split screen. It may be more fun if we get to see the very same feed the referee sees ... or there is a url we can hit to see the same feed the referee sees. Hmmmmmmm. I would love to see what @DeanBlandino is seeing on game day.

Either way, I think this is a silly and unnecessary change to something that works already in context of the game. I find it hard to believe other than an opportunity for more marketing revenue, this serves any legitimate game enhancing need.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Boo Hoo

Sepp Blatter claims Fifa portrayed as a mafia organisation by US investigation

Sepp Blatter has accused the US justice department of portraying Fifa like a mafia organisation while adding that he will reveal details of his abrupt decision to step down as president of world football’s governing body when he officially departs.

Blatter will leave Fifa after 40 years at the organisation following the presidential election at a special congress in February, having announced his departure just days after his re-election in June which coincided with the corruption scandal that engulfed the organisation and led to the arrest of 14 officials at a Zurich hotel.

Insisting that he would one day “tell exactly what happened” to prompt his resignation, Blatter labelled the investigation into Fifa as a “tsunami” and criticized the light in which the organisation was portrayed by the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: Every time I think Sepp is joking, he seems to be serious. News flash Sepp, FIFA is organized crime on a global scale and you are at the head of the snake. You think the US AG Loretta Lynch is the cause of this image? Really?

One telling sign should be art imitating life with the new exhibit at the "Maria Museum" in Las Vegas highlighting FIFA.  Are you going to blame the AG for this too?

Sepp, you got caught, finally, since the US took a stand and brought you down. Enjoy your fall from "grace" ... I know I will. Hey, just write a book on the way, it will be horribly one sided and you likely won't give a dime to The Game you have been robbing for years ... but it may be a fun read.

Friday, August 14, 2015

'Dos a Cero' (R)

U.S. Soccer is trying to trademark 'Dos a Cero'

A rallying cry forged by fans could soon be owned by U.S. soccer. A trademark filing from late June shows that "Dos a Cero" has been registered as a trademark, which could limit how much the phrase is used in the future. ...

See the whole story here courtesy of SB Nation.

Kicking Back Comments: I can see it now, US Soccer jerseys with "Dos a Cero" on them. While being mildly sarcastic I am glad to see US Soccer IP rights are worth protecting. A casual search of TESS shows quite a few US Soccer and Major League Soccer related marks.

While it may not be "sexy" it is certainly an indiction of a willingness to spend money to protect what some would see as a future revenue stream.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

U.S. National Team Ties Venezuela

TORONTO (Aug. 10, 2015) – The U.S. Paralympic National Team came back to tie Venezuela 1-1 at the Parapan Am Fields in Toronto at the 2015 Parapan American Games.

The U.S. went down in the 41st minute when Asdrubal Olivares Mora capitalized on a penalty kick.

"We went into this game firmly focused on getting a win and therefore a draw was far from the desired result," said U.S. PNT head coach Stuart Sharp. "The game had no rhythm to it with the Venezuela players constantly using delay and some unsavory tactics throughout the match. No excuses though, we once again could not finish the multiple chances we had to win the game and got drawn into a scrappy encounter that was below our standard of play. We are now faced with two very difficult games that will see goal difference come into play if we want to make it into the Bronze medal match later in the week." ...

See the whole story here, from US Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: I think we sometimes forget (sadly I know I do) we have three senior National Teams. USMNT, USWNT, and USPNT.  A few player interviews are below ... truly inspirational. Of particular note are the referees for these matches who are National or better and have substantial professional league experience.

You would expect nothing else for a senior National Team match.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I for one hope she stays ...

What's next for U.S. soccer superstar Abby Wambach

NEW YORK — After two Olympic gold medals and years of being the face of women's soccer, Abby Wambach is finally a World Cup champion.

At 36 years old, Wambach is still deciding if she will participate in next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. "In my mind, I have to believe that if I'm asked to be on the team, I don't know if I can say no," Wambach told media members before a Citi Kids event at Citi Field in New York last Thursday. "But I also know that a lot's got to happen between now and then." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Mashable.

Kicking Back Comments: I hope she stays through the Olympics frankly. She is a charismatic leader that is doing worlds for The Game (gender neutral) and The Womens' Game in particular. I also give her big props for her moves against FIFA for the nonsense they created by not allowing the WWC to be played on grass. While I would have liked to see the players continue their suit, I certainly understand why they ended it.

While I personally don't see her moving to the analyst chair for TV, I can only hope she finds herself involved with US Soccer in a coaching or advisory position.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Integrity Indeed

How 14 Indicted FIFA Officials Currently Stand

Updating the legal status of the 14 soccer and sports marketing officials charged in the FIFA corruption case.

Charged in the United States

Jeffrey Webb, President of Concacaf, one of the six regional confederations that compose FIFA, and a vice president of FIFA.

Webb, 50, pleaded not guilty on July 18 at an arraignment in United States District Court in Brooklyn to charges that he had solicited bribes to parcel out lucrative soccer media and marketing deals. Webb, who was arrested in Switzerland in May, was released on a $10 million bond secured by a mix of real estate holdings owned by him, his wife and other relatives; bank accounts; cars; and expensive watches and jewelry. He has been provisionally banned from all soccer-related activities by FIFA’s ethics committee. ...

See where the other 13 indicted folks are here, courtesy of The NY Times.

Kicking Back Comments: I'll save full comment about the topic regarding the "Integrity of The Game" later in the week as I expect the "Deflategate" scandal to come to a crescendo, but it is safe to say I am happy to see the wheels of justice starting to roll over these folks even understanding that it will take years to sort this all out ... and le grand fromage is still walking around Switzerland looking for his long lost Nobel Peace Prize.    

Friday, August 7, 2015

How would you like to referee this one?

Gaza, West Bank teams face off for first match in years

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) Divided politically and geographically, Palestinians made strides toward unity with the first football match between a West Bank club and a Gaza Strip team in 15 years on Thursday.

Gaza's Shijaiyah United played Hebron's Al-Ahly to raucous cheers in a packed stadium. The match ended 0-0.

Israel restricts the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the local league's teams were under the same limits, meaning teams from the Palestinian territories hadn't faced off for years. Israel approved Al-Ahly's entrance into Gaza following a request, according to Cogat, the Israeli defense body that handles civilian issues with the Palestinians. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: Can you imagine the pressure on this refereeing team? I've "played some tough houses" but when the venue is war torn and the number of riot police is a substantial percentage of the spectators, it give me pause ... great pause.

Kudos to this officiating team for seeing this historic match take place. Kudos also to the Israelis for allowing the movement through Gaza to make this happen. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

You are now free to have a ball.

Photo courtesy of Skift
Southwest Turns Discarded Leather Seats Into Soccer Balls

Remember those relatively cushy leather seats on Southwest Airlines’ 737-700 aircraft that gave way to slim-line seats, enabling the airline to pack an additional six seats into the cabin?

The new seats, which also can be found in some of Southwest’s 737-300 aircraft, are said to be lighter and made out of eco-friendly products. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Skift.

Kicking Back Comments: Good on Southwest Air for doing this. A very neat idea and a very worthy cause.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Support us or get left behind?

This is the title of a recent piece by Sporting News, Wambach to sponsors: Support us or get left behind. This article, while interesting, does not tell the whole story regarding the disparity between women and men soccer players in the US.

Let me start by being very clear, a disparity exists, and it's a big one.

Let me equally clear, this is not because US Soccer or FIFA does not like the women's game. They play an attractive brand of football as do the men. This disparity is caused by a fairly simple reality.

The modern women's game does not make the type of money to allow such pay.

I admire Wambach frankly. She is a tremendous footballer and represents her country with respect and pride and as I have witnessed personally, she is particularly great with young fans. She earns every penny of her salary (reported between $190K - $300K) and fees for speaking engagements ($30K - $60K for a 2 hour appearance) and is a vocal leader for the women's game today. 

It is just simply not enough.

By the numbers the German National Team won $35M for their 2014 victory as compared to $2M for the US for their 2015 win. About a 17.5% discrepancy.

Looking at the revenue for the 2014 World Cup, it took in an estimated $4.8B (with a B). By comparison the 2011 World Cup (the '15 numbers are not ready yet) took in an estimated $75M (with an M ... and I am rounding up). This is a 64% discrepancy.

Some may say that is not a fair comparison as the revenue for the 2010 World Cup is smaller ... It is, but at $3.7B (again with a B).

So to get apples to apples, lets assume the same growth in the WWC, making an estimated 2015 number about 25% higher. This puts us with some serious rounding at about $100M (with a M) or the Men's WC earning about 50x that of the WWC.

50x folks ... Just for Sepp, here is a 20 CHF note at 50x:

Check out this article for these and other numbers, such as the fact as a percentage the women make more than men do in recent World Cup play.

Now I don't go so far as to say this is because "... men invented sports ..." (even tongue in cheek as I hope this author did), nor do I think the US Women's team is not treated like humans as one "social justice activist" did embedded in this article. Give me a break. (Abby didn't help her case either by saying she had to fly commercial sometimes #firstworldproblems and Alex Morgan from US Soccer alone makes ~$250K (source) never mind her endorsement deals).

If the WWC made the money the WC did, you can bet sponsors would be clawing their way to support these teams. It is sadly that simple. It is not about gender, it is not about race, it is not about nationality.

It is about money, and women's football does not make enough of it to be truly relevant to big business.

So now what, that's it? Go home?

Not by a long shot.

In 1999 names like Hamm, Chastain, and Foudy to name a few, pioneered sport when they took the world by storm with what they did. A new professional league was born out of their success and while the WUSA folded after just (3) seasons (and losses of ~$100M) the seeds were sewn.

(Nota Bene the decade long gap with no women's professional league or WWC win)

Today we have the NWSL and a new crop of heroines to continue to fight for the sport we all love. Will the women's game "make it big" someday? Yeah, I think so and agree with Abby that sponsors should get on board before they do.

It's just not yet.

Take a look how long it took for the men's game to get where it is today. MLS is in year 20(!) and there are an awful lot of players with low salaries. Recall that years 1 - 10 most players were making on the order of $11K, many had part time jobs, and flew coach, just like the referees. I know because I had many a flight with an MLS team ... another story later but before the match is ok ... after is horrible.

Compare this to the NWSL which is in year 3. It ain't easy, there is no doubt, but it takes time to build, and requires effort and patience.

Not the message folks want to hear I know ... but is I am afraid, the sad economic fact.

Monday, August 3, 2015

"I Don't Give A F*** About FIFA"

Well then, that seems to be clear.

Just like me with "deflategate," Ronaldo may be tired of hearing about FIFA's issues as they have been going on for sooooooo long.

In his case however, I would think if he had an opinion he would want to share, as one of the potential future presidents of FIFA would see an (8) team increase of participants at the World Cup.

There are a few other proposals Mr. Platini would likely make too that will alter the fabric of the business of football. Check out this article from Forbes too see them all. Some of which I would think Ronaldo would certainly have some thoughts about ... beyond the singular thought he shared.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

WWE meets FIFA

This hilarious FIFA 15 glitch has given us an idea for an awesome new game

Somebody has really trolled the game's designers here - but it could be the start of something wonderful.

Image courtesy of EA Sports
There's no doubting that that the FIFA series has got more and more sophisticated over the years.

Shooting, crossing and passing have all become more realistic, while the game physics are more lifelike with every edition. No wonder, then, that each one feels like a more satisfying gaming experience than the last. ...

See the whole story (and video!) here, courtesy of Mirror.

Kicking Back Comments: Where was the referee in all of this? Also, that foul is so violent I think it turns into VC not SFP!! =)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Incredible article from SI on the early days ... with one exception ...

The Birth of a League

A 10-team organization with zero soccer-specific stadiums at the start, Major League Soccer now has 20 franchises, 13 of them playing in homes of their own, with payrolls that have tripled. As the league plays its 20th season, key figures recall the kickoff campaign

Reporting by Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
Compiled by Alexander Abnos

See the whole article here, courtesy of SI.

Kicking Back Comments: This is a spectacular article from many on the ground floor of MLS. It is a worthy read and in fact I may even put this one into "essential."

There is a critical aspect missing in it however ... the referees and the efforts it took to get a group of referees together for these matches. There are heroes that should have been heard from here like Dr. Joe Machnik and Dr. Herb Silva to name a couple. 

You think it was a wild time for the owners and players, I can assure you it was an even wilder ride for us referees in the early days. As one of the referees who worked in MLS from day 1 (I was truly lucky to be the 4th official on the home opener for NE), the above story is incomplete without that view.

Imagine the challenge of getting a group of referees together with experience ranging from FIFA (like Esse Baharmast) all the way through to backyard, barely State referee kids (like me) who were really just starting out. It is a series of experiences I will never forget ... and (in general) should be part of the fabric of the beginning of MLS, as believe me, we were involved ... at times more than we should have been.