Referee Salaries: How Much Do Soccer Referees Make?

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Referees for the 2014 World Cup are paid $50,000 a piece for the entire tournament. What’s more interesting is that there are only 25 of them (chosen from thousands worldwide), and they have no set schedule.  All they know is that they are guaranteed 1 game. If they do well, they may get another game. If they do poorly, they will almost surely be sent home on the next available flight.

FIFA doesn’t want referees to be the the center of discussion, so only the best referees will be given a chance to officiate more than one game. And only the very best officials will be given the opportunity to officiate the World Cup final.


American referee Mark Geiger will go to his first World Cup in his seventh year on FIFA's international list of officials approved for national team matches.

American referee Mark Geiger will go to his first World Cup in his seventh year on FIFA’s international list of officials approved for national team matches.

Refereeing soccer is a thankless job, where there are few benefits and the only time one is recognized is when they make a bad call. A referee should never be the focus of any game, so a good referee should be almost unnoticeable.

Referee Salaries

Referees in Europe make anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 ANNUALLY.  English Premier League referees receive around $2,000 per game they officiate, which equals $50k to $70k. Professional referees in the United States’ Major League Soccer earn a salary based on their level of experience.

  • Level four is the most experienced and earn a total of $875 per game, while assistant referees make $495 a game. 4th officials make $285 a game.
  • Level three referees are paid $775 per game, assistant referees earn $360, and 4th officials make $260 a game.
  • Level two referees earn $679, $310, and $230 per game.
  • Level one is paid $565, $255, and $205 per game.

Most MLS referees work full time as match officials, supplementing their MLS duties and income with other leagues and tournaments.

USA Referee Mark Geiger

MLS referee Mark Geiger was a full time math teacher and part-time referee until he went to work for Major League soccer.  At 39 years old, Geiger will go to his first World Cup in his seventh year on FIFA’s international list of officials approved for national team matches.

The mandatory retirement age for FIFA officials is 45.

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About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1978). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life - not just soccer."

3 Comments

  1. “All they know is that they are guaranteed 1 game. If they do well, they may get another game. If they do poorly, they will almost surely be sent home on the next available flight.”

    “FIFA doesn’t want referees to be the the center of discussion, so only the best referees will be given a chance to officiate more than one game. And only the very best officials will be given the opportunity to officiate the World Cup final.”

    Honestly I don’t think there is any better evidence contrary to this then the Croatia vs Brazil game…that pathetic excuse for a ref got many other games after. Jesus just remembering that match makes me slightly angry because of how disgraceful to soccer it was,

  2. Your contention that most MLS referees work full time as match officials is invpcorrect. I have been referee liaison for an MLS team for 18 years and I can tell you that there are only a small handful of PRO referees who are salaried. The rest have other careers — and is a terribly demanding career being an MLS referee, because of the need to balance career and family while Giving up about three days on most game week, plus having to devote the time to physical training, mandatory camps, tests and training sessions required to stay on top of the game and retain their qualifications. It takes an amazing amount of dedication, and I applaud these men and women for their dedication to a mostly thankless job.

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