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How to Get Started as a New Soccer Referee


2021 New Grassroots Referee course registration is now available in the US Soccer Learning Center.

For the remainder of 2020, the on-field in-person training will be replaced by a 2-hour virtual training hosted on Zoom and led live by Grassroots and Regional Referee Instructors. 

Getting Started as a New Referee

Every year the demand for soccer referees grows. While it's great to bolster our numbers with more youth referees, as more and more kids play deeper into their high school and college years, and then go on to play amateur soccer, the need for adult referees is greater than ever.
The minimum age to become a referee is 13 years. This is set by the United States Soccer Federation and cannot be waived or modified by the State Referee Committee or any club or league. The US Soccer learning center will not allow anyone under the age of 13 to create a referee profile.



The New Grassroots Referee course is split into two main parts:

1) Online Course

2) In-Person Field Training Session (Virtual sessions for Fall 2020)


On the available CLASSES page, you can find a list of Field Training Sessions currently open for registration. Find the date and/or location that fits your schedule and click on the link to create your Learning Center profile and register for that In-Person session. 

Each referee profile must use a unique email address. Siblings, parents and/or their children may not use the same primary email address to set up their Learning Center profile. The Learning Center does allow everyone to add a secondary email address, so if parents can add their email address there to receive the same email updates going to the account's primary email address.


VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to find and sign up for a First-time Referee Course




START EARLY! US Soccer requires all referees and referee candidates who are 18 years and older to complete an NCSI background screening. Once submitted, the background screening can take up to 10 days to complete. The US Soccer Learning Center will not allow you to enroll in any referee course until the background screening has cleared. You will not be allowed to attend an In-Person Field Training Course until your NCSI background check has been approved at US Soccer. 
The background screening costs $30 (plus a $1-$2 processing fee) and is valid for two years from the date it is completed.
SAFESPORT - While your US Soccer background screening is processing, you can complete the mandatory SafeSport training in the US Soccer Learning Center. SafeSport is Federal Law passed by the US Congress.
In the Learning Center, under Courses, go to Available Courses and then SafeSport
SafeSport online training takes 1-2 hours to complete.




Now that you've created your Learning Center profile (and NCSI background screening if 18+) you can enroll in the Grassroots Online Course and In-Person Field Training Session you want to attend. If you are not automatically directed to the In-Person schedule you want, in the Learning Center click on Courses then Go to Course List and select your course from that menu.

Once enrolled, you must complete all the sections under the Assignments tab to complete the online portion of the Grassroots Referee Certification:


  • Grassroots Online Course (4-6 hours)
  • 2020 Intro to Safe & healthy Playing Environments (30 min - 1 hour)
  • 2020 Grassroots Certification Quiz (25 questions, multiple choice)
  • SafeSport Training (if 18+ years)


  • The final step in your new Grassroots Referee certification process is to attend the three-hour In-Person Field Session Training. You can find the address, schedule and contact information in the on the Course Information page in the Learning Center. Please arrive at least 15 minutes early for check-in.

  • In the Field Session Training, you will be participating by acting as both a player and referee. Please check the weather forecast and dress appropriately for the conditions and outside running. Some locations may not have water available, so please bring your own water or sports drink for hydration.

  • Everyone must bring their own whistle to the Field Training Sessions. If you already have flags and red/yellow cards, bring those as well. If you don't have these items yet, there will be some available to share.

If you have completed all steps and assignments, you will be given your 2020 Referee badge at the conclusion of the Field Training Session.

If you are 18 or older, you will not be allowed to attend the Field Training Session if your NCSI Background Screening has not yet been approved by US Soccer. You must also be enrolled online in the New Grassroots Course to attend an In-Person Field Training Session. 

If you are 13-17 years old, or 18+ and your background screening has cleared, you can attend the In-Person Field Session even if you have not completed all of the online training, as long as you are enrolled in the New Grassroots Course, however you will not be approved to referee or receive your badge until all New Grassroots Certification requirements are met.


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