Becoming a Soccer Referee

This post refers to some specifics to the New River Valley and the Roanoke Valley, but I’m writing it because I found the process very confusing and figure this might help someone. My understanding is that the issues are broader than this locality though.

Many of the web sites you encounter feel like they were designed in the 90’s and there are a lot of different systems to log in to with minimal or very weird integration between them. They really are so, so, very bad.

It is worth going through the somewhat tortuous process. The pay is solid. You get to move around. And it’s fun.

If, like I was last year, you are a complete beginner, here is what you need to do:

Get Certified

In Virginia, training is organized through the Metro DC-VA State Referee Program.  The short version is:

  1. Sign up for a local in-person clinic
  2. Complete the online instruction
  3. Attend the in-person session

When you pass the test at the in person session, you’ll get your badge.

A heads-up that during the online training you have to sign up at a different web site (the US Soccer Digital Learning Center), create a profile, log out, and then log back in via the Metro DC-VA site. Yes, seriously, that is really what you have to do. Read the rest of the instructions carefully…yes, it really does tell you to clear an error code and wait 20 seconds. You are not nuts. The design and technology is really just awful.

Buy Gear

I bought most of my gear on Amazon including my starter kit with flags, whistle, etc. There’s an official site where everything is a little bit more expensive if you want to do that. You absolutely need the yellow shirt, and at least one other color. For a beginner, it’s probably overkill to get all the colors. You have to have black shoes. You need black socks with three stripes. 

Sign up on the assignment web site

The Roanoke Valley Soccer Officials Association uses Arbitersports for almost everything, including regular communications. It’s functional, but, like others you’ll have to use, feels like it was designed by a DOS programmer. I do recommend getting the mobile app. I use it for match reports and just having key game information right on hand.

What you use ArbiterSports for:

  1. Indicate you’re ready to be assigned games on your profile
  2. Games are assigned to you and you have to accept or reject them. The sooner you do this, the better.
  3. Block your schedule so that you don’t get assigned games and have to reject them, annoying the assigner.
  4. You get paid through Arbitersports/Arbiterpay.


You will have to recertify yearly. It’s the same awful web sites from before, but you will receive email communications about this from the Roanoke Valley organization. This year I recertified by attending a Law Change meeting and doing the online instruction.

USSF vs VHSL vs FIFA Rules and Laws

Wait, what? The rules are the laws of the game, aren’t they? …oh, you have so much to learn!

You’re a beginner, so you probably don’t have to worry about this too much yet.

There are different rules for different games and different rules for different organizations. I have no idea why. Very broadly, I think USSF follows FIFA, and VHSL follows NHSL rules which decides not to follow the laws of the game. There is no good reason for this that I’m aware of.  College Soccer is its own thing and has yet another set of rules

There are however different badges and certifications, so you have to train and certify separately for VHSL if you want to referee those games. Again there is an online component (the VHSL Whistle web site) and an in person component. 

Unfortunately, you will not learn much at the web site for the Roanoke Valley Soccer Officials Association. They are good people, but the web site is not. It’s not updated. It’s mostly a red herring. The best thing you can do is get the email address of the primary assigner who will help you if you have questions.