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MLS Has an Officiating Problem, They Just Choose to Ignore It

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It's important to preface this post with the following statement. I am not blaming "referees" for the Dynamo loss in Kansas City last night, nor am I blaming them for the Dynamo's difficult season. So before anyone starts going off in the comments about how I'm trying to pass off the team's poor defensive performance on the "referees" make sure you understand, that is not the case.

With that out of the way, let us move on.

The standard of officiating in Major League Soccer is abysmal. Beyond abysmal. We're talking down low, in the deep, dark recesses of the Earth where only balrogs hang out. Yes, I just referenced a balrog.

The officiating problems are not isolated to one man or one crew, it's an epidemic of ineptitude that at best makes watching a match annoying and more often, makes a match damn near unwatchable. There is no consistency. There is no accountability. Does the league even recognize that the men assigned to control and officiate their matches are making a mockery of their product?

Yes, I've watched CONCACAF Champions League matches and I regularly watch matches from around the world, so I realize that poor officiating is not limited to MLS. However, in other leagues I see referees being held accountable for their poor decision making and being removed from working top level matches. Are US Soccer's (or whoever is in charge of the "referees") inspectors not paying attention at matches and completely ignoring the obvious farce occurring in front of them? I sure think so. After one recent match, I overheard an inspector making comments about a particularly poorly officiated match. Instead of identifying the inability of the "referee" to control the game, he commended the crew and blamed the players.

Were the players physical in the match? Sure, but only in the second half after the referee allowed hard foul after hard foul to go unpunished, to the point that a couple players got injured. The referee then proceeded to act surprised when teammates started retaliating. I'm sorry but that isn't the players fault, it's game mismanagement from the referee. What's worse? It happens week after week, match after match in MLS and NOTHING is done about it.

The same "referees" show up every week and show all the same trends of poor judgment. Is no one talking to these guys? Are the people in charge of these guys so blinded that they actually think nothing is wrong?

We get fluff interviews during the off season telling us that US Soccer is working hard to change how their referees are trained and evaluated, but nothing ever improves. The same hacks are sent out every week to screw up matches in basically all the same ways.

How many MLS matches have you watched where the two halves are officiated completely differently, despite no change in the style of play in the match?

How many MLS matches have you watched where a bone crunching tackle is allowed to go uncalled, only to see someone breath on another player minutes later and get a yellow card?

How many game tying or game winning goals have you seen that are obviously offsides and the linesman was completely out of position to make the call?

How many MLS matches have you watched where a referee gets a jersey from a player and proceeds to make a ridiculous game changing call that favors that player's team?

Let's call it how it is, the referees that work MLS matches are s**t. They do a s**t job every week and nothing is being done to change that. I'm tired of seeing linesman out of position. I'm tired of seeing misinterpretations of the basic rules of the game. I'm tired of Don Garber pretending like there isn't a problem, but why would he? He just got a massive raise, life is good for him.

Meanwhile fans are being asked to shell out money for 2011 season tickets, extra games excluded from the season ticket packages to try to make an extra buck, and fancy friendlies against big name European clubs that amount to cash grabs. You can only go so long before fans start to ask themselves, why am I paying all this money to watch "referees" make a mess of the games? 

No doubt some will tell me shut up because officiating is bad in all sports, but I'm always amazed by this acceptance of a low quality of product. I'll probably be called a eurosnob or some other creative insult that makes little to no sense on this topic, but I'm fine with that.

All I'm asking for is accountability. The players are held accountable for comments they make on Twitter and for their actions on the field (most of the time), yet the match officials are allowed to not do their job correctly match after match and suffer no apparent repercussions. If this problem was an occasional issue, I probably wouldn't be as upset, but you only need to watch MLS matches on a regular basis to see that it's a constant problem.

So I'm asking MLS and US Soccer to do something about it. Hold your "referees" accountable for once instead of sweeping their constant mistakes under the rug, hoping no one will notice. We all realize "referees" are human and mistakes happen, but there is a huge difference between the occasional mistake and a regular pattern of incompetence. The continued attempts to pretend their is nothing wrong is insulting to players, coaches, fans, sponsors, everyone involved with the league.

Just how long this lwil go on is hard to say, but I'm fairly confident that MLS and US Soccer will ignore the problem as long as they can while putting on a fake smile and reminding us to buy our season tickets.