- About PRO
August 1, 2014
PRO's Mark Geiger hopes he and his crew of Sean Hurd and Joe Fletcher have opened the world's eyes to North American refereeing after their performances at the FIFA World Cup.
Alongside Hurd and Fletcher, Geiger became the first American referee to be center official for a game in the knockout stages of a World Cup when he took charge of France versus Nigeria in the Round of 16.
That came after the trio worked two group games; Colombia against Greece in Belo Horizonte and Spain versus Chile in Rio de Janeiro.
But having already made history, the New Jersey native's tournament didn't end after the ground-breaking Round of 16 assignment. His composed performances meant he was kept on until the semifinals, being assigned as fourth official to Germany's breathtaking 7-1 triumph against hosts Brazil, making him one of only 16 officials to work one of the final four matches at soccer’s showpiece event.
“We wanted to set a standard and officiate in the knockout stages but that depended on how we did in our first game, and then in our second game. We knew if we did well in those games our chances would go up,” Geiger reflected to proreferees.com after returning to training with PRO in the U.S.
“One of the other goals we had, not only for ourselves, was to open up everyone’s eyes to North American soccer and North American refereeing.
“With the performances of people like Esse Baharmast and Brian Hall in the past, and what we did in Brazil, for the next referee that comes through in 2018 or 2022 – whenever it is – hopefully things are easier.
“People should have more respect for the North American referee. There's a lot of instant respect for English referees and a lot of the European and South American referees because there's a pedigree there.
“We’re hoping that what we did will open up the doors for the upcoming referees from North America.”
Geiger caught up with his PRO colleagues at a recent training camp in Denver, Colorado, and shared his experiences from Brazil (below image). He then made his return to the field in the States.
First up was an international friendly between DC United and Fulham, from the EPL, at EverBank Field on July 26, then it was over to MLS and a center official assignment to Real Salt Lake versus New York Red Bulls on July 30.
The game at the Rio Tinto Stadium between RSL and the Red Bulls ended level at 1-1 and Geiger gave 13 fouls during the 90 minutes, handing out one yellow card.
MLS is where the 39-year-old's attentions now lie but he knows what is required of him and his crew to be considered for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
“I was really looking forward to the Denver camp and coming back to see the guys. There’s a big camaraderie here with the referees – that’s something Peter Walton [PRO General Manager] has developed.
“We’re back to the full-time job now and preparing for MLS. We need to perform well in our league games and all of our energy is on upcoming games.
“The 2018 World Cup is a long way away but we already know nothing will be handed to us. We will have to earn our spot. If we don’t perform well then we’ll be watching the tournament on TV.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted. We will work hard, keep doing what we’re doing and look to improve and learn, then hopefully we get another opportunity.”