Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Sounders Loss Highlights Need For Referee Transparency In MLS


The Seattle Sounders lost to the Columbus Crew on Saturday in a dramatic stoppage time win. Much of the conversation in the post game was in regards to the the referee in the match. The Crew were granted a corner kick in the final minute of stoppage time. The, referee Allen Chapman, appeared to be talking to Sounders players and then started backpedaling. While he was talking, the Crew quickly took the corner and were able to convert. The confusion was shared by Sounders players and coaches alike. The controversial finish highlights an overall lack of transparency for officials in MLS.



A large part of the frustration is the lack of transparency and difficulty in getting an explanation on a call during the run of the game. MLS media guidelines states:

Referee Pool Reporter: Per the MLS Game Operations department each team, prior to the season, shall identify a main pool reporter and two alternates. The names shall be submitted to MLS Communications by March 1, 2011. The names of the pool reporters

As you can see, the lack of even updating the time-frame for submitting pool players has not been updated in 3 years points to the lack of sincerity MLS exhibits towards growing a quality product.

More specific rules are held for the listed pool reporter. The pool reporter decides what questions they want answered, often-time assisted by other reporters in the pressbox. The reporter may submit up to three questions,with one follow-up question, in writing and  it must signed by the primary pool reporter. The host team must then post the questions inside the officials’ dressing room within five minutes of the final whistle. The referee has 15 minutes to review them before the pool reporter gets to ask the questions and record the interview. In Century Link Field the referees lockerroom is on the other side of the stadium from the press contingent further adding to the difficulty in posting questions in a timely manner. If the pool reporter wants to ask questions, they must essentially leave the game 10 minutes early in Seattle, in order to meet the deadline. Saturday’s finish highlights the need for a little more time in this area as the controversial play happened at the start of that 5 minute clock.

In 2013 however, it seemed there were additional rules added which are not officially posted in media guideline. The name of the reporter had to be posted in the referee’s locker room prior to the game. During one game last year, the listed pool reporter approached the referees after the game and was told they would not answer “because we didn’t see the name posted in the room.”

It appeared there might have been a cleaning crew which had possibly taken them down, which was suggested to the reporter. This is not an unfamiliar story. It seems this same excuse is permeating the league when it comes to referees. In 2012 there was a controversial outing made by a MLS referee after one of the most heated rivalries in the league in Portland.

Usually a referee positions himself outside the 18 when a corner kick is taken. I rarely see referees positioned almost inside the six-yard box. So it looked to me from the outside like he was talking to our players, and if you’re talking to our players, why do you let the ball get played? Then he’s backpedaling. If the ball had been swung in, he was in no position to make a call in the melee. He had done that earlier in the game, as well, where he talked to one of our players and let them play a quick free-kick. You can’t do that.

~Head Coach Sigi Schmid on the final goal~

Keith Hackett, is thought of as one of the top 100 referees of all time shows proper positioning of a referee during a corner kick.


You will see that I am suggesting a position on the edge of the penalty area. This is your starting point. This position enables you to have your Assistant Referee in view and good overall vision of the majority of players involved in the action ~Keith Hacket:

As you can see from the picture in the tweet above and the actual proper positing suggested, Saturday’s referee Allen Chapman, was out of position, and contributing to the success of a Columbus goal. While Seattle had many chances to add to their goal total, having a controversial finish like this continues to hamper the credibility of the league.

What good does having the best stars in the world playing the game, if a simple and fair process of explanation regarding a crucial call in the field to explain a very questionable call, or lack there of.


Tags: Mls Mls Referees Seattle Sounders

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