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Christina Unkel gets first FIFA assignment

July 8, 2014

Referee Christina Unkel has been assigned to the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, which will be her first fully-fledged FIFA event.

The 27-year-old has been chosen as CONCACAF's center official for the Women's tournament, alongside five referees from other confederations.

The two CONCACAF ARs assigned with Unkel are Jamaica's Princess Brown and Wendy Fisher from the Cayman Islands.

The Youth Olympics are being staged in Nanjing, China, from August 16 to 28, and Unkel – in only her second year on the FIFA panel – is looking forward to taking the next step in her career.

“I'm excited. It's a chance to get my feet wet on an international level,” she told

“You never think you're going to the tournaments. You always hope that the assignment will come but you never know for sure. 

“It's a huge honor when you're selected to do any tournament, particularly when it's only your second year on the panel and there are plenty of other qualified officials available.

“Call-ups to tournaments give me confidence in the sense that the assignors have faith in me and it gives me the opportunity to show that I have the skills and the ability to do games at this level.

“You climb a ladder as a referee, whether that's internationally or domestically. There are stepping stones and they are achieved with invitations to matches and tournaments like these.”

PRO Women's Referee Coach and NWSL and USWNT assignor Sandra Serafini said: “This appointment is a wonderful opportunity for Christina, both for herself and for her to represent U.S. Soccer, PRO, and CONCACAF.

“We’ve been steadily building her experience at the domestic professional level and in international friendlies, and with the recent CONCACAF events she has had a taste of both the excitement and pressures that come with officiating at this level.  

“It’s fantastic that she can experience a full FIFA event this early in her career. It will go a long way to help set the bar for what’s expected at these competitions and give the U.S. another strong foot forward along with our women who were selected for the U20 Women’s World Cup this summer and hopefully the senior Women’s World Cup next year.”

Unkel, who lives in Sarasota, Florida, has been working primarily in the NWSL this season, although due to her international commitments she hasn't been able to oversee as many domestic matches as hoped.

In her most recent assignment, Unkel was the center referee for the USWNT's 1-0 victory against France on June 14 - her highest international assignment to date - and in the past she has visited the CONCACAF U17 and U20 finals.

Her focus is now on the Youth Olympics and she is well into her preparations.

“You have to be smart with your training,” Unkel added.

“Something you learn as you start going to big events and tournaments is how to taper your training. I look at the day I leave for the tournament and plan my training schedule by working backwards.

“There's a lot of physical and mental training but there's also a lot of focus on video analysis. FIFA provide us with videos and allow us to comment on them via the FIFA website. 

“I know the two CONCACAF ARs that are going with me and we’re going to meet up over the phone and use a few examples and talk about them. That will build up our understanding prior to the tournament and ensure we are ready as a crew.”

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