How Much Do Soccer Referees Get Paid? Worthy Wage

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Soccer referees sometimes get a hard time on the field with 22 testosterone-fueled players. Other times their job seems quite simple and enjoyable, although you do need to keep level-headed during the heated moments. Players, managers, and fans rarely give plaudits to the referee, is it worth it?

How Much Do Soccer Referees Get Paid?

The salary for a referee ranges from $27 to $50 per youth game. The MLS pays $900 per game and the highest-paid referees are in Spain, they get $6,354 per game!

During the financial year ended March 2018, United States Soccer generated just under three million dollars in referee registration and affiliation fees alone. The only sector which generated greater revenues for registration and affiliation was youth football in the United States.

That figure did not change from the 2017 financial year and is to be in the same region when the latest financial statements are published online.

Now that we know how many referees contribute to United States Soccer, in monetary terms, it might be prudent to establish what they get. United States Soccer spends about 4.5 million dollars on its referee program, which pales compared to the money which it spends on the management and the national team players. 

Major League Soccer Referees Pay

MLS referee

United States Soccer spends about 21 million dollars on management and about 71 million dollars on the national teams. There has been a considerable amount of debate around equality between the men’s and women’s games in the United States.

Perhaps the more pertinent discussion needs to center on the compensation of referees operating in the United States – and elsewhere in the world. As of 2019, United States Soccer has 15 refereeing grades.

We say because we are excluding the beach and indoor referee grades. Of particular interest to those of you reading this article are the top four levels. So, we have already established that United States Soccer has a restricted budget for its referee program but we will now also learn just how thankless a job it can be, even for those operating at the top level.

Referee Pay

Soccer Mom reports that the most qualified referees in the MLS only earn near $900 per game. It is also revealed that the most qualified assistant referees earn near $500 per game. It reports fourth officials operating at the top level to only make about $300 per game.

These figures are confirmed by Sapling which highlights that the rates for soccer referees experience a meaningful increase during the play-off stages of the MLS. It is also worth noting that the better performing referees are the ones most likely to get additional earning opportunities during that phase of the MLS season. 

Referee Salary MLS
GameReferee Salary
MLS League$900
MLS Playoffs$1000
MLS Playoffs – 2 phase$1200
MLS Final$1500

Play-offs Pay

The figure for play-off referees is near $1,000 per game. That would apply for the first two phases of the play-off campaign. That figures increases to 1,200 dollars for the later stages of the play-off campaign.

The figure is increased once again for the MLS Cup game, which pays referees about $1,500. In the MLS season, soccer referees are also subjected to intense scrutiny and get rated on their performances. The top five performing referees in the MLS earn near 1, 500 dollars each. 

Those figures get lower, the lower the referee levels are. Another important consideration to make here is that many of the soccer referees operating in the United States are not on salaries or retainers.

Pay as you Ref

They only get compensated for the matches that they officiate. That is not at all unique to United States soccer though. Most of the referees operating in Europe’s big leagues – which are more lucrative than United States soccer for the moment – put their referees through the same level of uncertainty.

When you then consider the level of scrutiny that they subject referees too, both at the stadium and on the television set, it then forces one to question whether the trouble is worth it for the best soccer referees out there.

The jury is also out on the impact this will have on the integrity of the game in both the short and long term, in poorer leagues were a few extra bucks for two dodgy decisions will guarantee food on the table for your family.

Referee Salary in Europe

yellow-card-soccer referee
European Referee Salary at a glance
LeagueSalary per game
La Liga – Spain$6,354
Bundesliga – Germany$3,851
Seria A – Italy$3,667
Ligue 1 – France$2.934
NOS – Portugal$1,222
Premier League – England$1,833
Champions League – Europe$855-$6,724

Soccer referees officiating in Spain are more valued than they are in other parts of the world from the salary stats from Goal.com.

Soccer Referee Pay FAQ

How Much Do La Liga Referees Get Paid?

Those who secure the opportunity to officiate in Spanish soccer earn about $6,354 per game. We are not claiming that this is the reason for the higher rate in Spain but for anybody who has followed Spanish soccer, the referee role of “protecting players” is a little more valued than elsewhere in Europe.

How Much Do Bundesliga Referees Get Paid?

Soccer referees operating in Germany earn about $3,851 per game. 

How Much Do Serie A Referees Get Paid?

Soccer referees operating in Italy earn in the region of $3,667.

How Much Do Ligue 1 Referees Get Paid? 

Soccer referees operating in France earn about $2,934 dollars per game.

How Much Premier League Referees Get Paid?

This might come as somewhat of a surprise to some but referees operating out of England do not earn a considerable amount per game and rank low by European standards.

However, there is a caveat here. The soccer referees in England get a yearly retainer. That is something quite unique to England. Soccer referees operating in England get paid $1,833 per game.

How Much Do Liga NOS Referees Get Paid?

Soccer referees operating out of Portugal earn near just $1,222 per game. That is without a yearly retainer either, which is low, for a league with quite some stature in Europe.

How Much Do Champions League Referees Get Paid?

Not that much more than the big leagues in Europe. The top Champions League soccer referees earn about $6,724. There are three tiers of referees operating on European soccer nights.

The rate per game we mentioned above is reserved for those operating within the elite group of European soccer referees.

The tier below them gets paid $4,645 per game. The soccer referees operating on the lowest Champions League tier earn about $855 per game, which is MLS referee salary territory.

Youth Referee Salary

AgeReferee SalaryAssistant Salary
under 19$50$32
Under 16$50$32
Under 14$38$20
Under 12$32$16
Under 10$27$14
Under 8$27n/a

The figures from Bry Soccer could be different in your region, but it is a good guide to get an idea.

Pay & Referee’s Performance

Soccer referee with two players

Now that we have established how little most professional soccer referees earn, it would be prudent for authorities to test the impact this has on overall performance. When you consider the level of scrutiny that the top professional referees are subjected to, whether that be in broadcast studios or on the armchair in your lounge.

Few people interrogate this matter at length but a study at Citeseerx carried out some great research; On average a professional soccer league season lasts about ten months. Sometimes longer when continental competitions are taken into account.

As soccer referees get paid per game that they officiate, some secure short-term contracts, depending on the status and the region they come from. We also, know that soccer referees always seem to dominate the discourse, regardless of the impact that they have had on the game. It is a universal disease!

One can only wonder if the improvement of referee’s employment terms would improve the standard of the officiating or do most soccer referees do this for the love of the game anyway?

Soccer Refereeing Facts: 1997-2009

  1. There were 11,184 soccer matches officiated by referees in England’s top two soccer tiers during that period.
  2. Most of the matches officiated were in the second tier of English soccer. There are more teams in that league.
  3. Most of the top soccer referees in England introduced to salaried contracts (yearly retainers) in 2001. That trend continues for the entire period under review.
  4. Some salaried soccer referees expected to officiate in the second tier of English soccer during the period under review.
  5. Of the 168 referees on the roster during the period under review, 45 expect to officiate soccer matches in both the top two tiers of English soccer.

Referees Salaries – The Verdict

There is compelling evidence to suggest that the standard of refereeing in the top tier of English soccer improved, after introducing salaried contracts for soccer referees in that country. Any structured salary and pay increase get better output from the workers.

It is satisfying and rewarding to get more than you expected. Whether it is for the love of the game or the rate of salary paid to referees, it is encouraging to see what a referee gets paid. One or two days a week of actual refereeing does not sound too bad! For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

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Soccer Rules for Kids + Useful Lists

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We want kids to enjoy soccer, but with many rules, it can be confusing. Teach them the basics with the useful list, so they can enjoy the game.

What are the soccer rules for kids/youths? When the whistle is blown, the game is stopped or started. Yellow cards are a warning, for an offense and a red card means the player is sent off, for committing a serious foul. Corners are given when the ball goes behind the goal. Throw-ins are given when the ball goes out of play on the sideline.

What is a foul? When do we have a corner kick? Just a couple of the many questions kids have when they are starting out. I will take you through the basics and on to more advanced rules in a soccer game, which is easy for a kid to understand and for someone to tell them.

Soccer field infographic

The Basics Soccer Rules

The length of a match varies, depending on how old you are. The younger you are, the match is shorter, plus there are fewer players on the pitch. The length of a game for each age is at the end of the article.

  • The match is 90 minutes for adults
  • 45 minutes for the first half
  • 15 minutes for a break
  • 45 minutes for the second half
  • Extra time is added by the referee for each half, because of stoppages

How many players are there and what do they do? Let’s look at the adults as an example.

  • 11 players per side
  • 1 referee on the pitch
  • 2 assistant referees at either side of the pitch

What are the roles of each of the players? We will use the standard 4-4-2 formation in this example, to give an idea of what they do.

442 Soccer Match
  • 1. Goalkeeper – stops the shots at goal – can use his hands in their penalty box
  • 2. Fullback – Defender on the right side of the pitch
  • 3. Fullback – Defender on the left side of the pitch
  • 4. Center Back – Defender in the center to one side of the penalty box
  • 5. Center Back – Defender in the center to one side of the penalty box
  • 6. Center Midfield – Protect the center backs from an attack + start attacks
  • 7. Right Midfield – Play in front of the right fullback – defend + attack on the wing
  • 8. Center Midfield – Partner with N.6 and defend and attack
  • 9. Striker – Play in and around the opponent’s penalty box – aim to score and assist
  • 10. Striker – Partner with N.9 and attack and create chances together
  • 11. Left Midfield – Like N.7 but on the left side

These positions are as a guide, so they will vary from team to team.

Starting a Soccer Match

Before the game, a coin is tossed to see which way each team attacks for the first half. The teams will swap ends after the half time break.

Both teams will be in their own half – whoever won the coin toss, will kick off first. The ball is placed in the center of the pitch and the player will kick it back to one of their teammates.

The aim of the game is to score more than the opponent. If the scores are equal after the final whistle, the game is a tie/draw. In a normal league match, each team will get a point for a tie/draw. If the game is a cup match, the teams may need to play on to decide the winner – either with extra time and penalties or just penalties.

Ball in Play

The ball is in play when the soccer ball is within the pitch. So in the rectangle, marked outlines. If the ball goes over the boundary line, a team will be awarded a throw-in or a corner kick. At any time the referee can stop the game with their whistle, for foul of another offense.

The Referee

The decision of the referee is final if a player is showing disrespect, the player can be shown a yellow card. When the whistle is blown by the referee, the game is stopped. The referee will point to the direction of the reason and then towards the attacking end, for the team the decision has been made. The referee will blow the whistle for the match to be continued.

Goals

A goal is given when the ball crosses the over the line, inside the goalposts. All of the balls need to be over the line for it to be counted. If any foul is committed during the build-up, the referee can call back the play and decline the goal.

Restarting the game after a goal is the same as a kick-off when the game is first started. All the players go into their own half and the team which conceded the goal will take the restart from the center circle.

Throw Ins

Along the long side of the field is where a throw-in is taken. This will mainly involve the fullbacks and wingers. When the ball goes over the line, whichever team who caused the ball to go out, it will be awarded against and the opponents take a throw-in.

Taking a Throw-in

From the position of where the ball went out, normally a fullback will take the throw-in. The ball is thrown with two hands from behind the head – the ball must be released when the ball is over the players head. The player taking the throw must stand off the pitch until the ball is back in play.

Corners Kicks

Corner kick soccer match

If the ball goes over the line behind the goals, a corner is awarded to the opponent. This is only given when a team kicks it out behind the back of their own goal. If the ball is kicked out when you shoot at your opponent’s goal, the other team is awarded a goal kick.

Taking a corner

The ball is placed in corner of the pitch, to the side of the goal to which the ball went out. If it went over the goal, the referee will say which side the corner should be taken from. Opponents must stand 10 yards away from the corner till the kick is taken.

Goal Kicks

When the attacking team kicks the ball behind the goal, a goal kick is awarded. The goalkeeper normally takes the kick, but another player can take it also. The ball is placed on the corner of the 6-yard box which is around the goal. When the referee is ready, the kick is taken and the ball is back in play. The opponents must stay out of the penalty box until the kick is taken.

Free Kicks

A free-kick can be awarded for a foul on an opponent. The reason for a foul could be;

  • Bad tackle
  • Pulling a player’s shirt
  • Obstructing an opponent
  • Offside

The referee will blow the whistle for the foul play and instruct the teams of the decision. When the kick is being taken, the opponents need to stand 10 yards away from the ball.

Penalty Kick

penalty kick soccer

A penalty kick is awarded when a foul is made inside the penalty box. The referee will blow the whistle and will point to the spot. An attacking player will take the penalty and all of the players except the opposition goalkeeper will remain.

The goalkeeper needs to stay on the line of the goal, if not the referee could ask for the penalty to be taken again.

Substitutions

Changes to the players can be made during the game. The ball needs to be out of play for this to happen and the referee will signal to the sideline. For the adults, there are 7 substitutes on the bench and 3 changes can be made during a game. The players that are taken off, cannot enter the field to play again in that match.

For youth soccer, the laws are looser and players that are substituted can play again. The number of substitutes will vary for each club, generally, only 3 substitutes are needed. Your local league will have its own rules.

Offsides

This rule applies for the older age groups of players, currently from the age of 10 and up in U.S.A – check your local rules.

An offside is awarded when an attacking player is standing behind the last defender (towards the keeper) when the ball is played behind that last defender. For an attacker, you must say inline with the last defender, until the ball is played through, then they can run past the defender.

A free-kick is awarded to the defending team when there is an offside. The freekick is taken from the position where the attacking player was offside.

Yellow Cards

A yellow card is given caution to a player. It can be given for one of the following reasons.

Soccer foul
  • A number of tackles resulting in a foul
  • A bad tackle – where a player kicks an opponent before connecting with the ball
  • Stopping a break – when a foul is made and a team has a chance to attack the goal
  • Shirt pulling – touching is okay but don’t grab
  • Disrespect to the referee or opponent – shouting or bad language – unsporting behavior
  • Tackles around the box – This can halt the opponent
  • Fouls causing a penalty – a bad tackle or foul in your box
  • Handball – when the offense is deliberate
  • Celebrating with fans – players should not be in contact with fans
  • Taking off a shirt – players face this normally after scoring as a celebration
  • Showing a yellow card – imitating a referee to show a card to an opponent

For the younger players, the referee will take into account if a mistimed tackle is made on an opponent – due to inexperience. Normally for the younger players, the referee is more lenient.

Red Cards

A red card shown to a player means the player has to leave the field of play. They will not take part in the rest of the match (there is no sin-bin). Some of the main offenses for a red card being shown are;

referee red card
  • Dangerous tackle – too strong a tackle where a player in danger
  • Two yellow cards – If a player is shown two yellow cards it results in a red card being shown
  • Disrespect – If a referee deems a player to have used abusive language
  • Two footed tackle – A player lunges into an opponent with studs hitting the player
  • Tackle from behind – this could result in an injury
  • Violence – Aggressive play such a striking someone, especially near the face
  • Telling the referee – if a player tells a referee what decision they should make
  • High foot – endangering another player
  • Spitting – if this is done at or towards a person

How long is a soccer match for each age? Sports Rec;

  • Under 6: 10 minutes per half – 10-minute break
  • Under 8: 20 minutes per half – 5 to 10-minute break
  • Under 10: 25 minutes per half – 5 to 10-minute break
  • Under 12: 30 minutes per half – 5 to 10-minute break
  • Under 14: 35 minutes per half – 5 to 10-minute break
  • Under 16: 40 minutes per half – 15-minute break
  • Above 16: 45 minutes per half – 15-minute break

What are the pitch sizes for youth teams and adults?

AgePitch Size – Yards
Adults65 – 70 x 109 to 114
Under 1460 x 100
Under 1250 x 80
Under 1040 x 70
Under 825 x 50
Under 615 x 30

Pitch sizes from UEFA and Kids Play Soccer

When is the soccer season?

Professionals – MLS: From March to October – winter break.

What are the soccer positions for kids?

Defenders, midfielders and attackers. Teams will have more defenders. Each team varies depending on the formation.

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