Professional Referee Organization Taps First Black Woman to Referee MLS Match

by Xara Aziz
Pro Soccer Wire

It’s official.

The Professional Referee Organization has just announced that it has tapped its first Black woman to referee a MLS match and will begin in her new role this Saturday during a matchup between the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake.

Natalie Simon will be the lead official for the match when broadcasting its week 32 MLS assignments, according to a report in Pro Soccer Wire.

Simon served as the fourth official for multiple MLS games this season, and was the head official for NWSL and USL Championship matches.

“The MLS assignment will be only the latest bit of history Simon has made in her refereeing career,” according to the report. “In 2022, Simon became one of four American women to hold a FIFA international refereeing badge, the highest honor for a referee, and the first Black American woman to do so.”

Just last year, Simon led her first U.S. women’s national team.

“I spent a lot of time wondering if I belonged,” Simon told the Los Angeles Times. “I spent most of my career questioning if I was good enough. I think a lot of Black people, especially Black women, can relate to that.”

Up until recently, Simon was the first and only Black woman to receive a FIFA badge, but Alyssa Nichols soon joined the ranks to make for a more diverse sport.

According to College Student Educators International, “more inclusive changes have been implemented in this new era. More women around the world are being appointed as referees for a variety of sporting events. Over the course of the past two decades, female refereeing has seen a dramatic increase in everyday sports.”

The report continues: “The first account of female referees in a professional setting was in 1991 where three female referees worked in a tournament organized by the International Federation of Association Football, otherwise known as FIFA. Although they were employed by the organization for this tournament, they were not actually accredited by the FIFA organization.”

Congratulations, Natalie!

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