LONDON -- Reactions from the CONCACAF Gold Cup game between Panama and Mexico have recently been brought to the attention of much of the world soccer community. Gold Cup and current MLS referee Mark Geiger has received much backlash due to his, let's call them questionable, calls during the game late Wednesday night.
Most outside of the CONCACAF countries didn't watch the game, but when it was over, word quickly spread. The game was taking place in the middle of the night over here in the U.K., but come morning, all the sports talk radio shows were discussing the controversy. The majority of the coverage was based on CONCACAF and how the Panama team was calling the governing body of the Americas "corrupt" and leveling allegations of match fixing. The conversations all quickly shifted to referee, Mark Geiger.
Knowing that Geiger was an American referee, the pundits on the radio discussed the quality of refereeing in the U.S. The Professional Referee Organization (PRO), backed Geiger, calling him a "very good referee (who has) proved that on numerous occasions." The English radio hosts naturally questioned American officials in general. The question that was asked over the airwaves was that If he was the best that the U.S. could offer, what does that say for their quality of refereeing .
The next day, I made my way to visit three football clubs here in London: West Ham, Millwall and Queens Park Rangers. At each club, I went into their club store and bought a souvenir. At each of these clubs, the attendants behind the desk, after hearing my American accent, made sure to ask me if I knew what had happened the night before. One knowledgeable guy from West Ham, who knew about MLS and mocked the All-Star selections of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, even asked me, "So, are all of your refs that shit?"
At QPR's grounds, one of the guys behind the desk talked to me for a good 10 minutes about how America will never have a good soccer league if the quality of play and refereeing don't improve. One thing I remember him saying to me as I left the store was, "You have a long way to go, mate."
As much as I was shocked that so many Brits actually knew enough about the controversy, I was mostly concerned about the consensus opinion on American soccer officiating. Over here in the U.K., the MLS already has the reputation of being a "retirement league." It doesn't need another issue to knock its reputation. With so many good things happening to the league, it only takes one instance for opinion to change and, at this point in the growth of the MLS brand, it really doesn't need that.
With the complaints that Orlando City has had with the refs and all of the sending offs that have happened in recent games, I would think that many of the Lions faithful probably have a similar opinion of the officiating. If they are correct in assuming that the refereeing in the U.S. is sub-par with that of other countries, this raises the question; what do we do to get better?