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Soccer referees must be in excellent physical condition.
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When a soccer player is tired, he can go to the bench for a rest, then re-enter the game when he's recovered. The game's referees don't have that option. Soccer referees run about 12 miles during a game, while the typical player only runs about 2.5 miles, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation. For this reason, most soccer referees must pass an annual fitness test to keep their certifications, or to upgrade their credentials.
Referee Grades 8, 9 and 12
In the United States, full soccer referees are certified in grades 1 through 9, plus grade 12. Grade 1 referees, also known as international referees, may officiate any soccer game, including World Cup matches, if they qualify. Grade 9, or recreational referees, may officiate recreational games for players 14 years old and younger. Grade 12 officials are assistant referees. There is no national fitness requirement for grades 8, 9 and 12.
Grades 5 through 7
Referees in grades 5 through 7 must pass a basic fitness test annually. The test begins with an endurance run that must be completed within 12 minutes, although the distance varies according to the referee's age and grade. If you're less than 38 years old you must run 2,200 meters within 12 minutes to be a grade 7 referee or 2,400 meters for grades 5 and 6. If you're between 38 and 45 years old the distance requirement drops to 2,000 meters for grade 7 and 2,200 for grades 5 and 6. For anyone older than 45, the required distances are 1,800 meters for grade 7 and 2,000 meters for grades 5 and 6. Additionally, you must run a 50-meter dash within nine seconds for grades 5 and 6. The grade 7 test also requires you to run 50 meters within nine seconds if you're 45 or younger, or 9.5 seconds if you're older than 45. Finally, referees in all three grades must run a 200-meter dash within 40 seconds. Officials must pass all elements of the test in the same session, with "reasonable" rest times between events, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation.
To become a grade 4 referee -- also known as a national referee -- you must complete a series of 150-meter runs and 50-meter walks. The test contains 10 to 14 laps, each of which consists of a 150-meter run, followed by a 50-meter walk, then a second 150-meter run, with another 50-meter walk to complete the lap. The referee must complete every 150-meter segment in 35 seconds or less and each 50-meter walk within 40 seconds. The exact number of required laps can change yearly. The 2012 requirement was 12 laps. Referees must also run six 40-meter sprints within 6.6 seconds each. They receive 90 seconds of rest after each sprint. You begin running 1.5 meters ahead of the starting line, giving you time to build some speed before timing begins. If you fail one of the six sprints, you receive one additional attempt.
Grades 1 through 3
To achieve the highest levels of refereeing you take the same test that's administered to grade 4 applicants, although the requirements vary. To referee professional women's games, for example, you must meet the grade 4 requirements. To become a grade 1, international referee you must finish each 150-meter run in 30 seconds or less, walk the 50-meter segments within 35 seconds and run the 40-meter sprints in no more than 6.2 seconds. To be a FIFA assistant referee, you can walk the 50-meter portions within 40 seconds, but you must finish the 40-meter sprints in no more than six seconds. The 150-meter time remains at 30 seconds.