I want to referee… but this is CONFUSING!

We understand. There are a few different things you need to know, and we’ll cover them here. If you have a question at any point in the process, send us a message at the bottom of this page and we’ll be happy to help you out!

When we go to watch a soccer game, it all looks just about the same. However, when we want to referee, there are quite a few differences. There are three major types of soccer around our area, and they’re run by three different organization. Those three organizations are:

1. United States Soccer Federation (USSF)

USSF is in charge of a lot of soccer. Everything from recreational games on a Saturday morning to US National Team games falls under their umbrella, and so most referees get qualified to work these games. If you’re interested in working youth matches around the area, you’ll want to become a USSF Certified Referee.    

2. Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) 

MSHSAA is the state-wide body that governs High School soccer matches. It is a member of the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS), and follows a lot of their rules. However, you register to work High School games in each state, so getting registered with MSHSAA only lets you work games in Missouri. If you’re interested in working Varsity, Junior Varsity, or C Team High School matches IN MISSOURI, you’ll want to become a MSHSAA Certified Referee.   

3. National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA)

NISOA is a referee organization, that connects you to assignors (don’t worry, we’ll cover exactly what an assignor is in a little bit) who place referees on Collegiate matches. They assign matches for everyone from the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) to all divisions of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). If you’re interested in working any sort of Intercollegiate match in the United States, you’ll want to become a NISOA Registered Referee.


How to get certified depends on what kind of games we want to referee. So, like we did in Step One, we’ll divide this section into step by step instructions. Note: if you are reading this and aren’t in the Central Missouri area, visit this USSF resource  to find your local State Referee Administrator (SRA) to see if anything in your area is different.

1. United States Soccer Federation (USSF)

To become a USSF Referee, you’ll have to attend a 16-Hour “Entry Level Clinic”. These are held a couple of different ways, but here in Central Missouri we hold them over a Saturday and Sunday. The clinic will go over everything in the Laws of the Game, and a few more referee specific things. At the end, you’ll take a 100 question Multiple-Choice exam, and if you pass you’ll receive a badge and will be able to begin working games immediately. (Note: the exam is written to about a 7th grade reading level, and the Instructors will always work with you to make sure you can be successful). To find when Entry Level Clinics are being held in Missouri, we’ll head over to the Missouri Referee Development Program (MRDP)’s website. You can head towww.mrdp.org and click “Clinics”, or you can follow this link directly to find clinics in the Central District (that’s us!). You are required to pre-register for any clinic you attend, and will have to pay in advance online. That money covers all of the associated costs for registration and the clinic, but does not cover the cost of things like uniforms.   

2. Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA)

To become a MSHSAA Referee, you’ll first need to take an online test. To get signed up for this test, you’ll need to go to MSHSAA.org, click the Official’s tab, and submit an application (or just click this link directly). After you pay your registration fee, they’ll send you a rulebook, and you’ll have to take the test. It is open note, so take your time and read through everything. After you pass your test, they’ll mail you a badge, and you’ll be ready to start working games! For the first three years of being a MSHSAA Referee, you’ll have to attend both a Mechanics Clinic and a Rules Meeting, but those are only offered in the fall. If you start in the spring, you can referee, but you’ll have to start meeting these requirements in the following season.   

3. National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA)

To become a NISOA Referee and start working college games, you’ll need to become a member of a local NISOA Chapter. In the Central Missouri area, that chapter is called Central Missouri Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (CMISOA), and is run by a separate board of people from CMSRA (the owner’s of this website). To even apply to become a NISOA Referee, you have to have some previous experience. The qualifications include:

  • obtaining a minimum score of 75% on the written qualification examination.
  • 3 years of game experience at the High School level or higher and a total of at least 25 games at this level.
  • 2 field performance assessments at an acceptable level.  The referee training camp assessments may satisfy this requirement.
  • Score at least a 1.5 average on the physical fitness test.
  • Provide a physician’s statement of health.
  • Provide 3 letters of recommendation (2 from NISOA members, 1 from a college coach, or NISOA assessor / clinician).
  • Submit all dues and fees.
  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • All applicants must apply through a local chapter.

So, if you feel like you meet most of these requirements and are ready to get your assessments, then get a hold of the current CMISOA President, Mike McCrary, by sending him an email here. He’ll guide to to the right people, and get you started on the process.



To get any game, regardless of organization or level, you’ll need to contact the Referee Assignor. A Referee Assignor is a person that works with whatever league or tournament has games, and finds Referees to work them. This person has added qualifications that give them the ability to assign referees, and they typically have a contract with the league or organization to assure they’re on the same page, and the games can get covered. This process is fairly similar, but let’s still break it up between the three governing bodies.

1. United States Soccer Federation (USSF)

If you decide you want to referee soccer, you’ll quickly become familiar with the USSF assignors in the area. In Central Missouri, we’ve got anywhere between 5 and 10 active assignors who can assign games (although not all of them do). To start working matches, you’ll first need figure out who’s assigning that particular event. There a couple ways to double check:

A) When looking atMissouri Youth Soccer Association (MYSA)’s website, every tournament and event will have a “Referee Assignor” listed, so that you can contact that person.

B) You can find a list of all active assignors in Missouri on Missouri Referee Development Program (MRDP)’s website, or by clicking this direct link. Find one in your area, and they can let you know exactly what’s going on.

C) If you’re registering for games in GotSoccer, the Assignor will be automatically added to the event, and you can communicate with them through the system. (We’ll talk about what GotSoccer is in just a second!)

D) Sign up for the CMSRA Mailing List by following the instructions at this link. All of the local assignors use this system to send out notifications for games, so you will be notified of things happening even if you don’t have a personal relationship with all of the particular assignors.

Most Assignors will use some sort of a program to help them with the scheduling of games, and communicating with Referees. The most popular system in our area is called GotSoccer (you’re probably familiar with this if you’re a player, parent, or coach). There’s quite a bit to learn about GotSoccer, so we typically have a training session every season, and also have a nice resources of FAQ’s and traning on our website. Whew. That was a lot. We know it’s confusing, so just pick one of the options above, and you’ll be just fine.   

2. Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA)

In the Central Missouri area, all High School soccer games are assigned through the same source. They use a program calledThe Arbiter, which can be found at www.ArbiterSports.com. There’s quite a bit to know about The Arbiter, so we’ve got a good resources here on the site. But, we’ll cover the basics below. In Arbiter, you’ll become a member of a bunch of different “Groups”. There are learning hubs, and big organizations (like the NFHS or NCAA) have sections as well. But, most importantly, you’ll want to become a member of your local assignor’s group. Then, you can set your schedule, and will receive games based on your availability. To join the local Arbiter Group, send an email to our Chief of Referees (who’s information is on this page), and let them know you’re ready to start work. Then, they’ll verify that you’ve completed all of you requirements, and get you started.

3. National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA)

NISOA, across the country, uses The Arbiter as well. The key difference is that all assignor’s have their own Group, so you’ll need to be a member of all of their groups to get games. Other than that, getting games as a NISOA Referee is very similar to getting games as a MSHAA Referee, so refer to the section above.

Now that you know how to get registered and get games as a referee, you should be interested in places you can go to learn more, improve, and ask questions.You can always check out the FAQ page here on CMSRA.org, where we try to have information on any of the questions we get asked a lot. Other than that, feel free to browse any of the resources below, and search for all the information you can! 

As always, if you have a question that you can’t seem to find elsewhere, send us a message and we’ll be happy to help!

Equipment and Links

  • Official Sports | Official Sports International (OSI) are the official equipment suppliers of both USSF and NISOA. They make only referee gear, so they have just about everything you could imagine. For beginner referees, their “Economy” line of uniforms are both cost effective, and high quality.

1. United States Soccer Federation (USSF)

  • Advice to New Referees | This is a great video about getting started, and will give you good information on exactly how to get going.
  • US Soccer Referee Home | This is where USSF posts any of its official information, such as changes to the Laws of the Game, new Memos, or new Videos explaining concepts.
  • MRDP.org | This is the website of the Missouri Referee Development Program, which has a great database of Memos, and other resources that referees in Missouri need.
  • CDSoccer.org | This is the website of the Central District here in Missouri. They will have more step-by-step instructions for things like Re-Registration, and also ways to contact our local Administrators.

2. Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA)

  • MSHSAA Officials Home | This is the place to go to find about any clinics that are scheduled, and also login to edit your account information.
  • NFHS Soccer | This is the place to go for specific rule changes, educational videos, and other resources directly from the NFHS.

3. National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA)

  • NISOA.com | This is the place for any official info from NISOA, including messages from the President, and find out about national events and programs.
  • NCAA Rules | Here is a link to the NCAA Rules of the Game, which are used for any division.