Information on Referee Grades and Upgrading

USSF Referee Grades Explained

All referees affiliated with FIFA and the USSF have a designated referee grade. The grade indicates the qualification of the referee to officiate at various levels of Local, National and International Soccer Competition.

Grade 1 Referees - Referees who officiate at the highest levels in World Cup and other International Matches are designated Grade 1.

Grade 2 Referees - The Assistant Referees to Grade 1 Referees are designated Grade 2.

Grade 3 & 4 Referees - In the United States, competition at the National Level (including Professional Soccer, MLS and NWSL) requires Grade 3 or 4. Grade 3 indicates referee readiness to be considered for International service.

Grade 5 & 6 Referees - The highest level of competition within a State (Amateur Leagues beyond Youth) requires a Grade 5 or 6 where Grade 5 indicates referee readiness to be considered for National service.

Grade 7A & 7B Referees - Grade 7A is an experienced referee in the State qualified to officiate all but the highest levels of Amateur Soccer. In Iowa, Grade 7 has been split into 2 sub-grades: 7B (Recreational) and 7A (Competitive). Grade 8 Referees who successfully complete the Grade 7 Course and pass the Grade 7 specific test will be designated 7B. Referees who additionally demonstrate that they have officiated an ample number of appropriate matches as a Grade 8 or 7B and pass a Fitness Test and an assessment, will be designated 7A.

Grade 8 Referees - Most referees begin their careers as Grade 8 having taken the Entry-Level Referee Training Course.

Grade 9 Referees - Very young aspirants to refereeing may take an abbreviated training course and be registered as Grade 9 which qualifies them only for very young "small-sided" matches (usually seven and eight year-old players in less than eleven per team matches).

As referees advance to higher grades, i.e., upgrade, they are required to demonstrate their continued qualification for their grade through "maintenance" assessments and sustained high-level competition experience. Each referee at Grade 7A or higher is also required to successfully pass a physical fitness field examination which may include distance, agility and speed tests. The results of this testing are recorded to fulfill part of the annual Recertification and Registration requirements. In rare circumstances, referees who fail to maintain their qualifications are "down-graded" and this is reflected during the next registration cycle.

NOTE: If you are interested in upgrading, contact the State Director of Instruction (SDI), R. C. (Chip) Walaska, at for answers to any questions you may have.