Jan 16, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT
For the first time since 2002 an American referee has been picked to officiate at the World Cup.
The honors go to New Jersey’s Mark Geiger, a 39-year-old Major League Soccer official and high school math teacher from the town of Beachwood. Joining Geiger in Brazil will be his regular team of two assistants: fellow American Sean Hurd and Canadian Joe Fletcher.
Geiger was one of only 25 referees selected by FIFA on Tuesday to officiate this summer’s games in Brazil. In addition to his duties with MLS duties (since 2004), Geiger’s experience calling big tournaments runs deep – having refereed the 2012 Olympic men’s soccer tournament, the 2011 Under-20 World Cup and, most recently, Monterrey’s victory over Egypt’s Al-Ahly in the fifth-place match of the Club World Cup.
The last American to referee a World Cup match was Brian Hall, who officiated Italy-Ecuador and England-Nigeria in 2002. Before then Esse Baharmast officiated Spain-Nigeria and Brazil-Norway in France 1998, Arturo Angeles called Argentina-Greece in US 1994 and Vincent Mauro referred Belgium-South Korea in Italy 1990.
No American has refereed beyond the group stage.
The other 24 referees chosen to officiate at Brazil 2014 include Howard Webb, the Englishman who saw over the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa where he issued 14 yellow cards and one red during Spain’s 1-0 win over the Netherlands.
Joining Webb from the 2010 World Cup are El Salvador’s Joel Aguilar, Uzbekistan’s Ravshan Irmatov, Japan’s Yuichi Nishimura and New Zealand’s Peter O’Leary. The other 20 referrees will all be making their first appearance on soccer’s biggest stage.
FIFA’s breakdown for World Cup officials is as follows: Europe provides nine officiating teams, South America has five, Asia four, CONCACAF and Africa provide three and Oceania has one.
In addition to Geiger’s team, CONCACAF is also represented by a support duo of American referee, Eric Boria, alongside Mexico’s Roberto Moreno-Salazar, a Salvadoran trio, a Mexican trio and a Central American support duo of Walter Alexander López Castellanos (Guatemala) and Leonel Leal Bermúdez (Costa Rica).
“This is fantastic news for our four officials,” Peter Walton, general manager of the Professional Referee Organization, said. “PRO’s support team are delighted for Mark, Sean, Joe and Eric, but also for all of our officials, too, as this reflects the very high standard of officiating we have within our ranks.”
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