USL Academy is proud to announce the Referees of the Tournament at the 2023 USL Academy Cup.
Four referees were given the honor after an excellent weekend of matches that put them to the test at the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay. Chosen by the team of national referee coaches, those four referees are Andrew Claridge, Erasmo Tejeda, Alexandria Earle, and Ethan O’Hearn.
“USL Academy is pleased to recognize each of the award recipients for Referee of the Tournament,” Drayden Farci, USL Referee Operations and Competition Manager, said. “Throughout the 2023 USL Academy Cup, these referees consistently stood out to the referee coaches, players, technical staffs, and spectators due to their strong performances and professionalism.”
These four referees were selected based on arrival times at the complex, teamwork, knowledge of the laws, on field performance, fitness, completing end of game paperwork in a timely and professional manner and attending both field exercises and video education on the 3 allocated days, according to national referee coach Brendan Barry, who coached referees between games during the four-day event.
The four officials came to the tournament with very different levels of experience, but all displayed the poise and understanding to be great officials over the weekend.
“As I mentioned to all referees on the morning of the first day, each of them is at a different point in their journey as a referee,” Pedro Trejo, Manager of Referee Development at US Soccer, said.
Claridge is the youngest of the group, only 16 years old and just 14 months into his refereeing career.
“Refereeing is a part of my life. It is a part of me,” Claridge said. “I have grown to love it, and it’s becoming a career path. Refereeing for me is about the experiences and the joy I have while learning and working with other referees. The camaraderie and family formed in the referee community are like no other.”
He was described as a “student sponge” by the referee coaches, eager to learn and grow as much as he could over the weekend.
Every other official selected has been on USL assignment before – but none more than Tejeda. He was an official at the 2022 USL Academy Cup, has officiated in several Super Y League Finals and has refereed several league games across USL Academy, USL League Two, and USL W League since he started in 2013. He acted as a mentor to other officials over the weekend and continued to challenge himself to grow over the course of the event. National referee coach Kara Honthumb specifically noted that Tejeda “makes any team better with his steady, positive attitude and strong peer leadership skills.”
Alexandria Earle also brought a wealth of experience to the event, having been a referee for over a decade, since she was 14 years old. Earle recalls, “There was a referee who used to do my games that I admired and I decided to be a referee just like him. I was also encouraged by a female referee when I was 14 years old.” She also brought the experience of having been an assistant referee at the 2022 USL W League quarterfinal between FC Miami City and eventual champions Tormenta FC.
O’Hearn recently got his 2023 Regional Referee Badge, and was extremely professional and accurate throughout the weekend.
“I love refereeing, as it keeps me around the sport I love,” O’Hearn said. “Being a referee requires me to be the best version of myself. It requires me to maintain my fitness level and teaches me to manage difficult situations professionally as I continue improving my skills as a referee.”
“All four of these officials, each from different levels of experience in the game, showed that with lots of hard work and willingness to keep working on their continuous learning they can become top referees in the near future,” Barry said.