How Much Do College Soccer Referees Make?

The pay for college soccer referees can vary depending on factors like their experience, the level of the games they officiate, and the governing body they work for.

In the United States, college soccer referees normally earn fees for each game they officiate, which can range from around $100 to $400 per game for junior colleges and tops $1,000 for the major Division I conferences such as the ACC, SEC, Big 10, and Big East.

Referees who have experience and know more about the job often make more money. While those who are just starting out usually make less.

It’s important to know that college soccer refereeing is usually not a full-time job.

Many referees have other jobs during the week.

So the money they get is a mix of what they get paid for games, what they spend on travel, and any extra money the sports organizations give them.

Enough of the long talk, let’s dig deep into the earnings, expenses, and financial realities of college soccer referees.

From game fees to extra costs and considerations.

By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of what it takes to be a college soccer referee and the financial rewards it may or may not bring.

How Much Do College Soccer Referees Make?

Game Fees

One of the primary sources of income for college soccer referees is the game fee.

These fees can vary widely depending on factors such as the level of the game, location, and the specific conference or governing body they work for.

Normally, referees are paid on a per-game basis, which can range from around $100 to $400 per match.

However, it’s important to note that these rates can differ significantly based on the game’s significance and the organization’s budget.

Travel Expenses

While game fees may sound promising, they don’t tell the full story. College soccer referees often encounter substantial travel expenses.

Officiating assignments may require them to travel to various locations, which can include long distances.

As a result, referees need to cover expenses like transportation, accommodation, and meals. This financial commitment can significantly reduce the net earnings from game fees.

Certification and Assessment Costs

Becoming and remaining a certified college soccer referee comes with its own expenses.

Referees are expected to attend training and certification programs offered by the relevant soccer governing bodies.

These programs include classroom sessions, online courses, and on-field training.

Referees may need to pay for assessments and evaluations conducted by the governing bodies, usually at their own expense.

Uniform and Equipment Costs

A proper referee uniform is a necessity, which includes items like jerseys, shorts, socks, a whistle, and flags.

Referees must invest in these essential items, and the cost can add up, particularly for those officiating at the college level.

Maintaining and replacing these items when needed is an ongoing expense for referees.

Game Commitment

Officiating a college soccer match is not just a matter of showing up for 90 minutes. It often requires a full-day commitment.

This time commitment can have a ripple effect on referees’ lives, potentially limiting their availability for other opportunities.

Many assignors and organizations prefer that referees do not officiate other games on the same day, further impacting their income potential.

Income Tax Considerations

College soccer referees are normally classified as independent contractors, which means they are responsible for paying their own taxes.

This can result in additional financial planning and record-keeping requirements.

Financial Realities

When we consider all these factors together, the financial realities of college soccer refereeing become clearer.

While game fees may seem attractive on a per-match basis, the expenses related to travel, certification, equipment, and time commitment can significantly reduce the net income.

Referees often have to invest their money into their careers and may not see a substantial return.

In essence, most college soccer referees earn enough to cover their costs, breaking even or making a modest profit.

The financial rewards, in many cases, may not be a primary motivation for individuals pursuing this passion.

The love for soccer, the joy of being on the field, and the sense of contribution to the sport are often the driving factors.

Regional Variations

You should know that the financial incentives for college soccer referees can vary majorly by region.

Some areas, particularly in the northeast and California, may offer more opportunities and better pay for referees.

In these regions, qualified referees might consistently officiate multiple games during the week, making college soccer a substantial part of their income.

However, these opportunities are not evenly distributed, and many referees face different financial prospects.

Alternatives and Trade-Offs

One significant trade-off for college soccer referees is that the college season often coincides with the peak period for youth soccer tournaments.

These tournaments can offer referees higher daily rates, sometimes exceeding $300 per game. As a result, many referees have to choose between college soccer and these lucrative youth tournaments.

Also, some referees explore other side hustles to supplement their income. Officiating at lower levels, like amateur and youth matches, may provide a steadier income stream than college soccer.

What Are The Requirements To Be A College Soccer Referee?

How Much Do College Soccer Referees Make?

When it comes to college soccer refereeing, the focus is usually on experienced referees.

If you’re starting out, you’ll have to build your experience by officiating youth and amateur matches.

Major college referee organizations, such as Elite College Soccer Referees and the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association, are prominent players in the field.

Smaller conferences might work with local or regional groups or independent assignors.

The path to getting on NCAA soccer referee lists can vary widely.

Larger organizations often require you to attend camps and undergo evaluations by their assessors (with costs on your side).

Other groups might add you to their lists based on your performance in previous games they’ve seen you officiate.

However, to become a college soccer referee in the United States, you’d need to meet certain requirements and go through a certification process.

Here are the key requirements and steps to become a college soccer referee:

  1. Age and Fitness: You should be at least 18 years old and in decent physical shape since refereeing can be physically demanding.
  2. Understanding of the Game: You must have a solid grasp of soccer rules, often evaluated through written and practical exams.
  3. Training and Certification: Completion of training and certification programs is necessary. These are offered by soccer governing bodies like the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) or the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA). The programs include classroom learning, online courses, and on-field training.
  4. Game Experience: Gaining experience is crucial. Many referees begin by officiating youth or amateur matches before moving up to college soccer.
  5. Licensing: You’ll need the appropriate referee license or certification, typically issued by USSF or NISOA. The level of your license matches the level of games you can officiate.
  6. Background Check: Most organizations require a background check to ensure there are no disqualifying criminal issues.
  7. Annual Recertification: Referees typically need to recertify each year by passing exams and participating in mandatory training sessions.
  8. Equipment: You’ll need to invest in referee gear, including a uniform, whistle, flags, and a watch.
  9. Networking: Establishing connections and a positive reputation within the soccer community can help you secure assignments and advance in your referee career.

Is Being A College Soccer Referee Worth It?

Is Being A College Soccer Referee Worth It?

Whether being a college soccer referee is worth it depends on your personal interests, goals, and the level of commitment you are willing to make.

The pay for college referees may seem decent on a per-game basis, but the overall earnings don’t always add up favorably when you consider the hours and expenses involved.

College soccer referees are categorized as independent contractors, which means they may have to pay extra taxes.

Each game usually requires a full day, and even when not traveling, most assignors prefer that referees don’t officiate other games on the same day.

In the case of bigger conferences, the commitment can extend to 2-3 days, often involving travel. Also, there are major non-game commitments, including attending camps, meetings, and training sessions.

Another important consideration is the potential conflict with your primary job.

The entry costs for becoming a college referee can be quite high, with expenses like membership and clinic fees, payments to evaluators, and participation in youth showcases.

However, there are no guarantees of making substantial earnings in return.

At lower levels, referees need to cover membership dues and invest in one to three sets of college referee uniforms, which may include shirts, shorts, and socks.

Pay rates for these games are not significantly higher than those for amateur or college-level games, and a referee may only get around 10 games in a season.

For most soccer referees, the earnings are often just enough to cover their costs, and not much more than that.

You should know by now that college soccer season often coincides with the peak season for youth soccer tournaments, where referees can potentially earn more, sometimes exceeding $300 per day.

Benefits & Drawback Of Being A College Soccer Referee

Becoming a college soccer referee has its benefits and drawbacks, which can influence your decision to pursue this role.


  1. Stay Close to the Game: If you’re passionate about soccer, refereeing lets you stay closely connected to the sport you love.
  2. Extra Income: College soccer referees can earn additional income, particularly when officiating higher-level games.
  3. Physical Activity: Officiating matches keeps you physically active and in good shape.
  4. Rule Expertise: You develop an in-depth understanding of soccer rules, which can deepen your appreciation for the game.
  5. Decision-Making Skills: Refereeing hones your ability to make quick and fair decisions, a skill that can be valuable in various aspects of life.
  6. Networking Opportunities: You can build a network within the soccer community, which may lead to other opportunities in the sport.


  1. Time Commitment: Officiating games, attending meetings, and maintaining certification can be time-consuming and may impact other commitments.
  2. Stress and Pressure: Referees often face pressure from players, coaches, and fans, leading to emotional and mental stress.
  3. Financial Costs: Referees must invest in uniforms, equipment, and training, and may need to cover expenses related to assessments and evaluations.
  4. Travel Expenses: Officiating assignments can involve travel, and you’re usually responsible for travel costs.
  5. Conflict with Main Job: Refereeing games may conflict with your primary job or other obligations.
  6. Variable Income: Earnings can be inconsistent, and there’s no guarantee of substantial income.
  7. High Entry Costs: The initial costs, including membership fees, clinic fees, and uniform expenses, can be relatively high.
  8. Competitive Environment: The market for college referees can be competitive, and career advancement may be gradual.
  9. Seasonal Nature: College soccer season often overlaps with peak periods for youth soccer tournaments, where referees may earn more.