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How to Become a Soccer Referee in California (Info & No-Fee Alternatives)


    If you’re thinking about becoming a soccer referee, you have many options available. There are referee jobs that don’t require you to pay course fees as well as related jobs that might be a better match for you.

    Options to Become a Soccer Referee in California

    Taking the grassroots referee course through the California North Referee Administration or Cal South Referee Program is only one way to become a referee. Other options include the California Interscholastic Federation, National Intercollegiate Soccer Official Association, Elite College Soccer Referees, and many independent leagues.

    There is no need to pay for a referee certification process with the current referee shortage. In fact, the organizations that have been trying to create a monopoly over supplying officials have faced a number of lawsuits for things like unpaid wages and improperly classifying the work status of officials. Paid referee organizations also lobbied against officials receiving the AB5 protections California passed for gig workers.

    If you want to become a soccer referee, there are many jobs you can get just like any other: Apply online, go to an interview, and start working without paying any fees to work.

    Adult Referee Jobs in California

    If you’re an adult, there are many soccer referee jobs open throughout California. Your best bet is to go with the independent leagues. These leagues typically pay $20-$25 per hour, don’t charge you any fees to be a referee and have seasons throughout the year.

    The majority of referee jobs do not require certifications and hire directly. You can use sites like ZipRecruiter to easily find jobs as a soccer referee, soccer coach, etc.

    Here are just some of the local leagues you might want to check out:

    • Los Angeles: Directkix, Los Angeles Co-Ed Soccer, Evolve Soccer LA, Playa Champions
    • San Diego: VAVi Sport & Social Club, Small Goal Soccer, NCSP, Sportsplex USA
    • San Jose: Beyond the Game, ZogSports, The Plex, SportsHouse
    • San Francisco: KICKIT365, Volo Sports, I Play for SF, ZogSports

    Keep in mind that if you become a referee, you’ll need to commit to games ahead of time, and dropping games can be a big problem since it means the games might be canceled for not having a referee. If you’re looking for a truly flexible job that pays the same or better, you may want to check out gig jobs like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and Shipt.

    Youth Soccer Referee Jobs in California

    Minors who want to be referees are usually limited to the paid USSF grassroots referee course. Most independent leagues, even those for youth players, won’t hire minor referees.

    Like any paid job training, parents and referees should carefully consider the costs and benefits. Leagues and paid referee programs have a financial interest in having as many people as possible take the referee course. There are several things you should consider to decide if being a referee is right for you.

    Financial Return

    • Scheduling. Often, a player pays for the course but always has overlapping league and tournament games. When their season is done, no one else is playing, either.
    • Available jobs. Many places have no available jobs for younger referees. Referees age 10-14 used to be hired as assistant referees, but leagues have done away with ARs on many younger age games since those games now have smaller numbers of players and no offsides.
    • Net profit. 2-3 games as an AR making $15 to $25 over 8-10 weeks (if always available) doesn’t add up to much compared to $200+ for USSF courses and uniforms.

    Safe Working Environments

    Other Available Jobs

    Just as the landscape of youth sports has changed over the last 10+ years, parents should also think about the recent changes in retail positions. Many retail positions are now offering:

    • Hourly wages of $15+ per hour with no fees to pay
    • Longer shifts and more consistent work throughout the year
    • College tuition assistance
    • Promotion tracks to store management positions and various corporate roles

    For the right person in the right place, being a referee can still be a good first job. However, you should treat it just like any potential job and compare options and ask pointed questions about potential issues.

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