TAMPA, Fla. – USL Academy has partnered with Florida Soccer Referees (“FSR”) to identify and recruit the top Florida-based referees to officiate the USL Academy League Finals, which occur November 17-20th, 2022 in Tampa, FL. As the eight Division Champions within USL Academy League compete in the Playoff Bracket, eight referees will work in front of FSR directors and Professional Referee Organization (“PRO”) evaluators to earn a chance to advance to officiate professional matches.
Earlier this year, FSR created the Advanced Referee Initiative (“ARI”), which works to connect both Regional referees and select Grassroot referees who show promise and a desire to advance with FSR directors for guidance, mentorship, and evaluation. ARI Director and top division referee Ted Unkel leads a team of four Area Directors, which he said “allows for consistent messaging, touch points at a local level, and more personal identification.”
“The eight referees that will represent ARI at the USL Academy League Finals were selected based on performances at in-state and out-of-state events that have put this group on the edge of the professional game,” Unkel said. While working with USL Academy at the 2022 USL Academy Cup in March, Unkel acknowledged the high-quality play and is excited to offer the Playoff Bracket positions to referees who have displayed years of consistency, dedication, and self-awareness.
Part of the ARI program includes introducing Florida referees to Referee Coaches, who provide feedback after each match based on a list of considerations established by US Soccer. At USL Academy League Finals, Unkel and the selected referees will be joined by Alan Kelly, Manager of Senior Referees for PRO. The inclusion of Kelly “provides a direct connection to the professional game and appointments,” Unkel said, fulfilling USL Academy’s vision of advancing all stakeholders, including referees, towards their maximum potential.
“Having PRO representatives evaluating the referees will provide tremendous benefits for their development,” Drayden Farci, Operations and Compliance Coordinator for USL Pre-Professional Properties, said. “I look forward to seeing these officials deliver quality performances at this event, and hopefully in future USL League One and Championship matches.”
Alongside the on-field mentoring, referees will receive video training each night to review their games. Key moments, examples of proper positioning, and areas for further discussion will be highlighted by the team of Referee Coaches.
“It’s an unprecedented learning environment for an event like this,” Unkel said.
With the expectation of high-quality games in a pressured environment, Unkel believes that the referees will be ready for the task at hand. “Better football cultivates, and necessitates, better refereeing,” Unkel said. “Our group will deliver.”
You can find more information about USL Academy’s Referee Initiatives here