The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) is the organization responsible for managing the referee and assistant referee program in professional soccer leagues in the United States and Canada, working alongside the U.S. Soccer Federation, Major League Soccer, Canadian Soccer Association, the North American Soccer League, the United Soccer League, the National Women’s Soccer League and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The Organization’s targets are to increase the quality of officiating in U.S. and Canadian professional leagues, develop more professional-quality officials at a younger age, and produce officials who will represent the United States and Canada in FIFA competitions.
“We have 19 teams in Major League Soccer at the moment, my team is going to be the 20th team.”
Peter Walton, PRO General Manager (2012)
General Manager of PRO, former English Premier League referee Peter Walton, commented to ussoccer.com: “The formation of PRO by U.S. Soccer and MLS provides a great opportunity to increase the development of referees and improve the overall quality of refereeing in the US professional leagues.”
He followed that, in an interview with Major League Soccer, by saying: “I see the referees running parallel to that of a team in terms of making them professional, in terms of meeting them on a regular weekly/bi-weekly basis to impart education and training into them, and so we can look at the consistency levels of our referees.
“My aim is to make sure all my referees perform at a certain standard and therefore look at the consistency level across the board.”
The PRO model allows for more funding towards the referee program, the hiring of more experienced technical staff, increased training opportunities for officials, additional identification and training opportunities for officials with the potential of reaching the highest caliber, and an increased investment in sports science.
To help with improvements, quantitative analysis and videos are used to evaluate referees in real time at the newly-constructed command center in New York City. In addition, former players and coaches serve as in-stadium professional match evaluators, providing a more complete review of a referee.