The Generation adidas Cup is a world-renowned tournament for aiding the development of youth players, with teams from Spain, Japan and across the rest of globe coming to compete in the U18 event.
Held in Frisco, TX, in March of this year, Brazilian side Flamengo were crowned winners of the Champions division while Seattle Sounders took the Premier division title.
But while teams, including 10-time UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid, use the tournament to develop their next generation of players, it also presents a new challenge for up-and-coming referees coming through the ranks at PRO.
While they gain vital experience, the young officials are guided and analyzed by members of the PRO board, including Director of Development Match Officials Alex Prus, who watched on to evaluate the referees and assistant referees throughout the event.
“It’s our top tournament because it gives us the chance to see some people who are already members of the development group, and people to be considered in the future,” Prus explained.
“It was the first opportunity to spend some time with them – we’re there for 10 days so we see how they interact with people, how they perform on the field and how they take the feedback we give them.
“The schedule of the tournament allows us to have matches on one day followed by a day off. We then set them homework based on clips from their match, analyze it and then present a performance review in front of the group. It’s a very good exercise.
“We have a coach watching each match and they will step in [during analysis] if they think something may have been missed. They can’t hide, but the group have done very well with the self-analysis and there were very few instances that we had to raise something.”
At the forefront of PRO’s developmental department, Prus has overseen recent additions that will support the pathway for the officials of tomorrow to grow throughout their career, including professional mentors and new training groups.
Most recently, the retirement of PRO Assistant Referee Kermit Quisenberry led to him being appointed as an AR coach following a 22-year career in the MLS, fulfilling 271 assignments.
The Generation adidas Cup is just the beginning of the journey for some officials, while for others, it is just a new challenge from what they have previously experienced. Either way, it is important for a structured pathway to follow the tournament and that is what Prus has been working towards.
“What we have put together over the past two years with this group is brilliant, because now we have a clear path of how officials can reach the MLS,” he said.
“We have around seven people in the elite group who are closing the gap to the MLS officials – they’ve succeeded pretty quickly. Joseph Dickerson did his first match at the end of last season and looked the part, while Ramy Touchan and Victor Rivas has also been given assignments.
“In the past, nobody really knew how you got there, whereas now it’s a very clear route and, with one-on-one coaching, we’ve created a situation where referees can open up and speak privately with a coach, and that’s where the best learning takes place.
“The people we saw for the first time [at Generation adidas] are assured that they have a place in our new training tier, the first step of our development group. Others can get assignments from us, and we already use three or four of them in USL matches, where they have been doing well.”
Development camps, run by PRO twice per year, have also been adapted to make the most of the time spent with the young officials.
The group of 54 aspiring referees and assistant referees were invited to attend the preseason camp this year, where they were put through their paces by Prus and his team ahead of the new season.
“This year, the structure has changed a little bit. We’ve extended our preseason camp by one day, and that was pretty intense with a lot of fitness work and classroom exercises.
“That was the week before the opening round of USL matches, so they had good preparation and we set the tone for the season.
“We’re all learning as we go because it’s a new programme, so we will make mistakes from time to time and if something doesn’t work, we’ll adjust it. That’s what the officiating world is all about.”