How to Become a Youth Soccer Referee (Step-by-Step Guide)

become a youth soccer referee

Being a youth soccer referee is a highly fulfilling role. You have the opportunity to be involved in an exciting sport and positively influence the upcoming generation of soccer players. If you’re looking for a clearly laid out guide showing you how to become a youth soccer referee, then this is the perfect article for you.

To become a youth soccer referee, you must complete U.S. Soccer’s First-Time Referees Grassroots Course. Then you must attend an in-person or virtual training class provided by your state’s soccer referee organization before receiving certification to work as a youth soccer referee.

Once you know the steps you need to take to become a referee, it’s simply a matter of following them until you have fulfilled the requirements. In this article, I’ll walk you through the process one step at a time to ensure you know exactly where you’re heading.

After that, we’ll also look at the benefits of being a youth soccer referee and how much you are likely to be paid for your services.

If you’re interested in becoming a youth soccer coach, check out my article – How to Coach Youth Soccer: My Top Tips.

Steps to Becoming a Youth Soccer Referee

To become a youth soccer referee, there are specific requirements that you must complete before you are permitted to officiate in a game. Let’s go through the pathway you need to follow now.

1. Contact and Register With Your State Referee Committee

The first step to becoming a soccer referee is to join your state referee committee. They are the organization that will provide you with certification to referee youth soccer games in your state.

I don’t have the room here to give you all the details for each state federation, but here is a list of the contact information of every state’s associations provided by the USSF. Email them to notify them of your interest in becoming a referee.

Each state throughout the US has the freedom to develop its own requirements and recruitment procedures that they require their referees to meet. However, the majority follow the pathway laid out in this article.

Make sure you check out your individual state requirements for referees and ensure you meet them.

2. Join the US Soccer First-Time Grassroots Referee Course

Next, you need to join U.S. Soccer’s Grassroots referee program.

To do this, you will need to create a profile on the U.S. Soccer Learning Center. This link will take you straight to the signup page.

Once you have logged in, you can enroll on the First-Time Referee Grassroots Course relevant to your state. You can find the main course page here, and a list of the specific courses available is available on this page.

U.S. Soccer estimates that it will take most people around 4.5 hours to complete this course. However, you don’t have to complete it all in one session. You can save your progress and come back again when you’re ready to continue.

I would encourage you to really learn as much as you can from this course as there is so much useful information that will help you as a soccer referee.

3. Complete Supplemental Learning

As well as completing the First-Time Grassroots Referee Course, there are some supplemental modules that you are required to take to receive your youth soccer referee license.

refereeing issuing red card
Referee with red card

Introduction to Safe and Healthy Playing Environments

The Introduction to Safe and Healthy Playing Environments course should take around 30 minutes to complete and helps referees prevent, recognize and respond to any emergency situation.


The SafeSport core course is only required if you are 18 years of age or older.  

This course is to educate referees about recognizing, preventing, and reporting any abuse within a sport setting.

Completion of this course is mandatory and should take around 90 minutes to complete. If you have previously completed this training, then you only need to undertake a refresher course.

First Time Grassroots Referee Quiz

After completing the First-Time Grassroots Referee Course, you must complete the First Time Grassroots Referee Quiz.

This quiz will test your understanding of the rules of soccer and the role of a referee. It should take about 45 minutes and provided you’ve paid attention to the previous learning you should pass with no problems!

4. Complete a Background Check if You Are Over 18 Years Old

The USSF permits anyone over the age of 13 to become a soccer referee.

However, if you are over the age of 18, then there is another step you need to take to ensure you meet the requirements to become a youth soccer referee.

You must complete a U.S. Soccer Federation Gold Standard NCSI Background Check. This is mandatory for every youth soccer referee over the age of 18.

You can access the background check here (you will need to log in to the U.S. Soccer’s learning center). It will cost $30 unless you have lived outside the United States for six months or longer over the past seven years.

5. Get the Necessary Referee’s Equipment

At this point, it’s time to get hold of the essential soccer refereeing equipment.

referee equipment
Referee Equipment

One day you may become a high-profile official and have a chance to be sponsored by various companies who will supply most of the equipment that you need. But right now, you’re just at the beginning of your journey and will almost always have to provide your own referee’s equipment.

There are some specific items that you should get hold of. I’ve listed the items here.

Soccer referee equipment list:

  • Whistle with lanyard
  • Stopwatch
  • Uniform jersey
  • Red and yellow cards
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Shorts
  • Notebook and pen/pencil

You will find most of this equipment on Amazon by following this link.

Be aware that the color of a referee’s shorts, shirt, shoes, and socks isn’t fixed. Your state may have specific rules regarding the colors you are permitted to wear that they will inform you about once you are registered with them. But it is important to wear colors that stand out from the teams you are officiating.

6. Attend an in-Person or Virtual Training Course

At this point, you have completed all the forms and online learning, and it’s time to attend an in-person referee training session. Occasionally these are held virtually, but the majority are face-to-face.

These sessions are a fantastic way to receive direct coaching and teaching from referees who have been around the game for many years. They allow you to ask questions and learn ways to perform at the standard required for youth soccer.

Each state runs these courses independently of others. You will need to contact your state’s referee committee to discover the schedule for where and when you can attend one of these in-person courses.

7. Receive Your Referee License, Certification, and Badge

You have now done everything you need to do to become a youth soccer referee.

You have your U.S. Soccer First-Time Referee Grassroots license, and you have your soccer referee certification and badge from your local referee association.

Your state referees association will provide you with games to referee. Ensure you are a signed-up member of the association as they will also offer you additional training and support.

You also must remember to re-register each year with U.S. Soccer. This can be done through your State Referee Administrator.

soccer referee holding ball
Soccer referee holding ball

If you’re also interested in how to be a professional referee, have a look at my article – How to Become a Soccer Referee (Grassroots and Pro).

How Much Does a Youth Soccer Referee Make?

A common question I often hear people ask is – “how much can I make as a youth soccer referee?”

A youth soccer referee makes between $16 and $48 per game. The exact amount a youth soccer referee is paid depends on the individual state responsible for paying the referee and the competitive level of the game they are officiating.

In general, a referee will be paid more for an important game than they will be paid for a game of less importance. If you are officiating a youth soccer final, you could expect to earn around $50 for that game. If you are officiating an u7 mid-season game, you may be paid nearer to $15.

You’ll need to contact your local federation for the exact figures in your area.

Benefits of Being a Youth Soccer Referee

Becoming a youth soccer official comes with many benefits for you and those around you.

Make a positive difference to the youth in your community

I would almost guarantee that hundreds if not thousands of youth in your local area are involved in youth soccer. As a referee, you have the opportunity to be involved in their lives in a small but significant way.

As a youth soccer referee, you provide a service that allows these kids to enjoy themselves in an encouraging and structured environment.

Get to know more likeminded people

Youth soccer is full of people with a similar passion to you – soccer!

Being a youth soccer referee is a great way to spend time with other soccer fans and enjoy being involved in a game at the same time.

Opportunity to make some extra money

As I’ve already mentioned, refereeing youth soccer provides some extra income for the officials.

The amounts might not be life-changing, but it is extra money that you may not have otherwise earned. And the amount can still be good, especially if you’re a 13-year-old referee!

It can provide a new challenge

We all face challenges in life, but sometimes you just want a different one to the other challenges you may already be facing.

Being a referee can be a unique challenge that pushes you to grow and develop in unexpected ways. From learning how to deal with conflict to improving at making quick decisions, being a referee will force you to improve in unexpected ways.

Chance to stay in shape

Staying fit isn’t always easy or exciting, but running around a soccer field while officiating a game is a perfect way to exercise.

The opportunity to spend a weekend day out in the sun, involved in a soccer game, will get even the least inclined of us out of the house. The more games you officiate, the fitter you will be.

If you are worried about your fitness levels, I would recommend checking out my 30-Day Soccer Fitness Program. I designed it for soccer players, but the daily workouts are also perfect for soccer referees looking to boost their fitness levels.

For information on being a High School Soccer Referee, check out my article – How to become a High School Referee.

For an update on the rules of soccer, have a look at my guide to the rules of soccer.

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

Recent Posts