MAINEVILLE, OH (Mar 4, 2022) – As the opening whistle of the new Major League Soccer (MLS) season sounded over the weekend of Feb. 26-27, you would have found Ohio native Cory Richardson sitting behind the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) desk as Assistant VAR, eyes glued to the screen, reviewing every play and referee call for accuracy during the Austin FC/FC Cincinnati match. On any given matchday, you’re just as likely to see him running up and down the sidelines during an MLS weekend, flag in hand.
That’s because Cory is a professional soccer referee. Just like all professional referees, he had to start somewhere. And that start came on a field in Mason, OH in 2006.
Cory received his first USSF Grade 8 (“grassroots”) badge through the Ohio South State Referee Committee (OSSRC) in 2006, and began his refereeing journey with youth games at his local park in Mason. He then slowly began his long development and upgrade process; from OSSRC’s first Referee Academy in 2007, to the Ohio South State Cup, to other youth and amateur regional competitions, the Tournament of Champions, and semi-pro/professional assignments in various leagues.
He would eventually earn his National [Referee] badge in 2013. After successfully refereeing in U.S. Soccer’s prestigious Dallas Cup and Nike International Friendlies, he was invited into PRO’s (Professional Referee Organization) inaugural Development Group (now called PRO2) in 2016, where he was regularly assigned matches in NASL, USL PRO, and NWSL.
He received his first trialist match in MLS on May 19, 2018 (Philadelphia Union vs Real Salt Lake as an assistant referee), and having performed well was promoted to the Senior Roster of Assistant Referees with PRO at beginning of 2019 season.
The 2021 season was a breakout year for Cory. He was assigned to both the MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup referee crews. He was also named MLS Assistant Referee of the Year and nominated by U.S. Soccer to the FIFA Panel, the highest level of certification a referee can achieve. When Cory receives his FIFA badge, he will be able to officiate in international caliber matches, including those at the FIFA World Cup (if selected).
Stats (MLS games only – from proreferees.com)
- Assistant Referee (2021) | Matches: 26
- Assistant Referee (2020) | Matches: 19
- Assistant Referee (2019) | Matches: 23
- Assistant Referee (2018) | Matches: 2
- Assistant VAR (2021) | Matches: 3
- Assistant VAR (2020) | Matches: 7
- Assistant VAR (2019) | Matches: 9
- Assistant VAR (2018) | Matches: 1
So the next time you sit down to watch an MLS match, maybe you’ll see Cory running up and down the sidelines, flag in hand and know… that guy came from Ohio and started as a grassroots referee!
If you’d like to start refereeing local games, or know someone who does, please click here to get started or visit your local State Referee Committee (SRC) website. In Ohio there are two SRC’s, and where you live will determine which SRC you need to contact; Ohio North or Ohio South.