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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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MLS Has a Referee Problem, and There’s No End in Sight

  • MLS is using replacement officials due to a labor dispute.
  • One ref had to be replaced after he was seen wearing an Inter Miami jersey.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS regular season will pick back up Saturday for the third week under the foresight of replacement match officials as the referee lockout continues. 

Through two weeks of matches with replacement refs, MLS has endured some unfavorable headlines. Most notably, an official that was scheduled to work last Saturday’s Inter Miami–Orlando City game had to be replaced after pictures surfaced on social media of that ref wearing an Inter Miami jersey. The Professional Referee Organization, which assigns match officials, cited a “potential conflict” in removing Guilherme Ceretta, the ref in question.

Additionally, MLS made an apparent effort to quiet talk of the replacement refs among TV and radio broadcasters before last weekend’s matches, according to a memo obtained by The Athletic. The note read, in part: “Fans tune in to watch and listen to the game. They aren’t focused on the officials; therefore, we don’t believe it is necessary to belabor the point during the match. It is best to mention the situation in the pregame and move on.”

Although MLS executives have reportedly told the league’s board of governors that they are pleased with the performance of the replacement officials so far, also per The Athletic, the situation is no doubt casting an unfortunate shadow early on in Lionel Messi’s first full season with Inter Miami and MLS. 

There has been no indication when the dispute between PRO and the Professional Soccer Referees Association—the union for MLS refs—will end. While PSRA is also the union for NWSL and USL refs, those leagues, which both start this month, have separate deals and won’t be impacted by the ref lockout.

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