World Cup 2022 refs: A record five Americans and first women selected

Five Americans — one center referee, three assistant referees, and one video match official (VMO) — are among the 129 officials selected by FIFA to work at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The sixth referee from the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) is Canadian VMO Drew Fischer, who's worked in MLS since 2012.

Four Americans were selected for the 2018 World Cup in three in 2014.

“We are delighted that the years of dedication and commitment these officials have invested to develop their skills and serve the game have been rewarded through selection to this prestigious event," said PRO General Manager Howard Webb.

Ismail Elfath of Austin, Texas, is among the 2022 World Cup's 36 center referees. The 2020 MLS Referee of the Year emigrated from Morocco at age 18, attended the University of Texas, and has worked in IT consulting and sales. He made his pro refereeing debuts in the NASL in 2009 and MLS in 2012. He has reffed at the 2021 Olympics, 2019 FIFA Club World Cup and 2019 U-20 men's World Cup.

The 2022 World Cup marks the first men's World Cup to include female officials, with three women center refs and three assistant refs. Among them is assistant refs is Kathryn Nesbitt of Philadelphia.

Nesbitt at the 2000 MLS Cup became the first woman to officiate a men’s championship game in a major men's professional sports league in North America. Nesbitt, who has a chemistry Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, reffed at the 2019 Women's World Cup, 2018 U-20 Women's World Cup, and 2016 U-17 Women's World Cup.

Also among the 69 assistant referees chosen are Americans Kyle Atkins of Kansas City and Corey Parker of Virginia.

Atkins, who has served the Heartland Soccer Association and made his pro reffing debut in MLS in 2014, ran the lines at the 2021 Olympics and 2019 FIFA Club World Cup.

Pennsylvania native Parker, who works in internal audit and cybersecurity for Washington, D.C., area firm Baker Tilly, made his pro debut in MLS in 2011 and worked the 2021 Olympics, 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, 2019 U-20 men's World Cup.

Armando Villarreal of San Antonio, Texas was selected as one of the 24 video match officials. He made his pro debut in MLS in 2012 and has worked at two Gold Cups and the 2016 Copa America Centenario. Villarreal became a FIFA VMO in 2021 but continues to ref on the field. Villarreal center-reffed the 2021 MLS Cup and the 2021 MLS All-Star Game.

List of appointed FIFA game officials 2022 World Cup

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U.S. refs at the men's World Cup

The 1950 World Cup in Brazil was the first to include a U.S. official and Prudencio Garcia ran the line in four games. Leo Goldstein served as assistant referee in two games at the 1962 World Cup.

At the 1970 tournament in Mexico, Henry Landauer of California became the first American to serve as a center referee at the World Cup when he took charge of Sweden-Uruguay in group play. David Socha was selected for the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, Vinnie Mauro in 1990, Arturo Angeles in 1994, Esse Baharmast in 1998 and Brian Hall in 2002.

After three (Greg Barkey, Kevin Stott and Chris Strickland) were selected, albeit as unused standbys, in 2006, no Americans were appointed for the 2010 World Cup.

In 2012, U.S. Soccer and MLS collaborated to launch PRO to manage refereeing for pro level in the USA and Canada.

Three were selected in 2014 (Eric Boria, Sean Hurd, Mark Geiger) and four (Geiger, Jair Marrufo, Frank Anderson, Corey Rockwell) for the 2018 World Cup.

3 comments about "World Cup 2022 refs: A record five Americans and first women selected".
  1. Michael Saunders, May 20, 2022 at 10:58 a.m.

    Fantastic ,,,,,,

    Let's not forget the formidable persepctive & obstacle that over the years hindered USA officials from being assigned to the WC as the world felt that they did not have experience for high level games...

    To that end, a tip of the hat to the many lwho forged the way to facilitate the future officials of today to break that glass ceiling, i.e Arturo Angeles, David Socha, Kari Seitz, Vinnie Mauuro, Henry Landauer, Sandra Hunt, Jennifer Bennett, Gino D'Ippolito, and of course this years inducted honoree to the Soccer Hall of Fame, Esse Baharmast ..... 




  2. R2 Dad, May 20, 2022 at 11:15 a.m.

    This is a big deal--well-done! Interesting to note that NO VAR officials from England made it to the WC pool this year. The Premier League obviously struggled trying to get it right, with many obvious failures in 2021-22. 

  3. Peter Bechtold replied, May 20, 2022 at 11:57 p.m.

    Correct, R2. The FA instructions to the EPL referees have made their on-field performances worse, not better. Ironic ,when one remembers the 1950s/60s when British referees seemed the best in the world and the FIFA Rules Committee had 4/5 members from UK.

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