What if MLS forgot to get referees? It seems possible, considering all the time the league has had to dedicate toward finding funding, coaches, players and sponsors -- not to mention debating goal size.
So I called Vincent Mauro -- the leader of American referees. He joked that the league almost forgot. But yes, his department at the U.S. Soccer Federation will be appointing the referees. They will earn a pittance but get plenty of TV exposure while having a huge influence on the future of soccer in the country.
Have you seen the way referees watch each other? The ones I know are fanatical about critiquing their colleagues work and about following the game in general. MLS refs will set a standard for the officiating of soccer in the U.S. These chosen referees must not tolerate any dissent from coaches during the game.
The linesmen must have the courage to leave the flags down when unsure of offside calls.
Most importantly, the referees must react strictly to violent play, and MLS must deliver long suspensions for players ejected by referees for dangerous fouls or violence.
The league should also allow the use of TV replays to punish violent acts by players unseen by referees.
Soccer's popularity will not increase in the United States if it is played roughly. Sports fans in this country whose tastes run that way are already afforded a long menu of violent entertainment. MLS should provide a refreshing alternative.
-- Mike Woitalla