We provide referees for youth recreational and travel (club) soccer games for the Southwestern Youth Association (SYA), one of the largest youth sports organizations in Virginia. SYA operates in the Centreville/Clifton, Virginia, area about 25 miles west of Washington, DC. Our referees are certified through the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and are part of the Metro DC-Virginia State Referee Program.


Our Mission

To organize, train, and educate referees for SYA, developing leadership, professionalism, sportsmanship, and team-building skills applicable in all walks of life.

SYA registers thousands of soccer players each Spring and Fall season, and there is always a need for more referees. About half of our members are youth referees. As throughout Virginia, most of our officials are USSF Grade 8, but we do have a number of higher level referees, including National, Senior, and Emeritus Referees and Instructors who support the program in various capacities.

Many of our officials referee competitive youth games, including the Club Champions League (CCL), National Capital Soccer League (NCSL) and as well as amateur adult league matches. Our referees also officiate in numerous Virginia Youth Soccer Association (VYSA) sanctioned tournaments, and our best and brightest have been invited to participate in prestigious State Cup and Regional tournaments.

Each Spring and Fall, we hold a pre-season kick-off meeting to introduce new members of our officiating family, discuss updated FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and USSF guidance, review local rules, and reinforce SYA Soccer Points of Emphasis. We have a Development and Training Program to mentor our referees, help hone their abilities, and assist them as they progress toward higher referee grades, if desired. We conduct mid-season training sessions to further camaraderie and develop our referee skills. These sessions typically involve watching and discussing a competitive local high school or college soccer match, with senior referees and mentors in attendance.


Getting Started

We welcome both new and experienced referees to join our team! Refereeing is not for everyone, but the rewards ARE fulfilling. It takes hard work, a positive attitude, and commitment to excellence to be successful. In return, you can expect, at a minimum, to improve your knowledge of the game, self-confidence, fitness, and interpersonal skills. Moreover, you’ll become part of the family of thousands of referees across Virginia.

Please read the Q&A section below about Becoming A Soccer Referee. If you think you want to be a referee, or are already certified with a current USSF badge, please email Dave Kwieraga, SYA Soccer Referee Commissioner,


Becoming A Soccer Referee

Q. Is there a minimum age to become a referee?

A. No, although USSF recommends you be at least 15 years old. SYA will accept referees who are younger than 15, but you must have both the maturity and responsibility to handle the demands of being a referee.

In Virginia, Child Labor laws prohibit children under the age of 12 to be paid for refereeing. However, experience has shown that 12 or 13 years of age is simply too young to be a referee. Read why here.

In addition, most assignors require Center Referees for youth games to be at least two years older than the age group they referee. Most competitive leagues require Center Referees to be at least 16 years of age.


Q. How do I become a referee?

A. Prospective referees must attend and pass a USSF Certification Course taught by a USSF instructor. Each year, these courses are held throughout northern Virginia.

The USSF entry level referee grade is Grade 8 (NOT a school grade). All approved courses are listed on the Metro DC/Virginia State Referee Program website under Clinic Listing for “New Referee” courses. Note: there will be times during the year when no courses are available, typically once the Spring and Fall seasons are underway.

The desired entry level grade for the SYA Soccer Referee Program is Grade 8, although we do have a small number of Grade 9 referees. The Grade 8 course is an excellent place to begin, enabling you to referee all youth and adult league games commensurate with your age and experience level. More importantly, the entry level grade helps you decide whether refereeing really is for you.


Q. How do I register for the entry level course?

A. Registration instructions can be found at the Metro DC/Virginia State Referee Program link for Online Registration.

Once you pay the USSF registration fee, your information will be entered in the USSF referee database. You must then wait a minimum of 24 hours (not counting weekends) before you can complete the USSF Online Registration and enroll in a class. Select a class from the Clinic Listing, attend the course, and have fun!

New referee courses are typically offered beginning in late November of each year through mid-March of the subsequent year, for certification through December 31st of the subsequent year. For example, a referee who passes the course in December 2013 will receive a USSF badge valid through December 31, 2014. Additionally, courses are usually offered in August of each year for the current AND subsequent year’s certification (i.e., referees who pass the course in August 2013 are certified to work through December 31, 2014).

You do not have to attend a course offered through SYA to become a SYA referee. You can attend any course.


Q. How much does the course cost?

A. For 2013, the cost is $65.


Q. I registered and paid the $65 fee online, but now the clinic also has a fee of $0. What does that mean?

A. Some Advanced Referee clinics have an associated fee for registration. The entry level courses do not. The $65 fee you paid is to register as a referee AND attend the clinic, since the registration fee covers the cost of the course, instructor, and materials.


Q. How long is the course?

A. The Grade 8 course is approximately 18-20 hours, while the Grade 9 course is 9-10 hours. Every course will be structured differently, depending on instructor, facility, and field availability. For example, a Grade 8 course might meet on two consecutive Friday evenings and two full-day Saturday sessions. A Grade 9 course may meet for one long day; be split over two days on a Saturday/Sunday; or meet for three or four evening sessions during the week. Classroom availability is the primary factor when scheduling these courses. Look for the course offering and location that best suits your needs.


Q. Does everyone pass the course?

A. No. There is a multiple choice exam requiring at least 75% correct to pass either the Grade 8 or Grade 9 course. However, students who listen, pay attention, participate in class, study, and come prepared, by familiarizing themselves with the Laws of the Game and USSF Advice to Referees, generally will do well.


Q. Once I’m certified, can I referee as long as I want?

A. USSF requires referees to recertify each year. Recertification courses also cost $65, and require a 75% passing grade on the exam, but require fewer hours to complete.


Q. What’s the difference between a Grade 8, Grade 9, and Grade 12 referee?

A. Grade 8 referees are authorized to referee adult league matches, competitive travel league matches, and recreational (house) games. Grade 8 referees are certified to be both a Center Referee and Assistant Referee.

Grade 9 referees are authorized to referee only recreational games at the U14 (under 14) and below age groups. Grade 9 referees are certified to be both a Center Referee and Assistant Referee. Note: Some, though not all, assignors will assign Grade 9 referees as Assistant Referees for U14 and below travel games and competitive tournaments.

Grade 12 referees are authorized to serve only as an Assistant Referee. However, they are unrestricted as Assistant Referees and can work adult, travel, and recreational league games. The MINIMUM AGE to be a Grade 12 referee is 18 years old. In addition, both the NCSL and WAGS allow Grade 12 referees to serve as Special Team Assistant Referees (STARs) for U12 and U13 matches when neutral assistant referees are not assigned.


Q. If I become a Grade 9 referee, can I become a Grade 8 later?

A. Yes, you can “upgrade” to Grade 8. SYA recommends you have a minimum of 2 consecutive seasons working on a regular and consistent basis before deciding to upgrade. This enables you to work a variety of games to develop your basic skills, and puts you in a much better position to decide whether you want to continue refereeing. If you want to upgrade to Grade 8, you must successfully complete either the Upgrade Course (designed to advance Grade 9 referees to Grade 8), or take the New Referee Grade 8 course.


Q. When I pass the test and become a referee, how much more will it cost?

A. You must have the official USSF uniform and basic equipment package before being assigned to games. The basic uniform requirements for SYA include: gold and black short sleeve referee shirts, black t-shirt, black shorts, 3-striped black referee socks, black shoes, whistle, Assistant Referee flags (2), referee wallet with yellow/red cards and game score sheets, and black wrist watch with stopwatch features.

Referee “starter kits” available through numerous soccer supply retailers and online vendors are typically in the $50-$70 price range (gold referee shirt ONLY), and sometimes include an equipment bag to carry around your gear. Note: shoes are usually NOT included in these starter kits, nor is a second referee shirt (e.g., black), black t-shirt, or wristwatch. Buying these items will add another $50-$100 to your initial uniform package cost.

If you decide you love refereeing and want to continue, or you want to work more competitive (e.g., tournament) games, you’ll need to have additional referee shirts of other colors (e.g., red, blue, and/or green) as well as both short and long sleeve lengths. The cost for these additional items does not have to be incurred all at once!


Q. How do I get assigned to games?

A. Once you pass the course and receive your USSF badge, you’ll need to provide us some administrative information for our referee database, as well as complete the appropriate IRS tax form so you can get paid. Contact Dave Kwieraga, SYA Soccer Referee Commissioner,, who will put you in touch with our referee assignor, Alan Liotta.

If you choose to work for another club or league, you’ll need to contact that club or league directly. All assignors have administrative and assignment processes to follow, and they will work with you to give you appropriate skill level games based on your age, qualifications, and observed on-field performance.


Q. How much money will I make, and when will I get paid?

A. Pay rates vary for different associations and leagues. Center Referees typically make more than Assistant Referees, but some assignors have implemented an “equal pay” policy for all members of a referee crew assigned to a particular game. In general, higher level games pay more than lower level games, due to the higher level demands of the game and the experience required of the referee crew members.

SYA Soccer pay rates for recreational games are available on the SYA Soccer Referee web page. Note: SYA has a bonus incentive plan for referees who work a certain number of games per day and/or each season. SYA currently pays its referees twice during the Spring and Fall seasons, midway through the season and following the end-of-season recreational tournament.


Q. Will I be certified to referee high school matches?

A. No. High school games are not played under the FIFA Laws of the Game, but rather under rules written by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS). Interested referees should contact the Commonwealth Soccer Officials Association or DARK Associates for information about high school officiating in northern Virginia.


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Contact SYA
Office Location:
5950 Centreville Crest Lane
Centreville, VA 20121
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 471
Centreville, VA 20122
Phone: (703) 815-3362
Fax: (703) 815-2180