Major League Soccer referees will be easy to spot over the next two seasons after unveiling new uniforms this week.
On Tuesday, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) — which oversees referees in professional soccer leagues in the United States and Canada — launched their new uniforms for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, manufactured by Capelli Sport. Along with black, referees will have neon yellow, light blue and pink options to make sure they don’t clash with players on the pitch.
The black option has white trim on the collar and sleeve cuffs, while the other colors all have black trim. All options have subtle tonal pinstripes down the front. The PRO logo sits on the pocket on the left chest, while a FIFA referee or assistant referee badge sits on the right chest. The Capelli Sport logo appears just below the collar.
All four shirt options will be worn with black shorts and with socks that match the shirt.
Capelli Sport has been the official outfitter of PRO referees since 2021, and PRO manager of senior referees Alan Kelly was heavily involved in both design cycles.
“We started the process of developing the new kit in May last year,” Kelly told PRO’s website. “It was easier than the first cycle because we could see the designs in person at Capelli Sport’s New York office and showroom, rather than be restricted to video calls because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are some staple refereeing colors with black being the traditional one, but blue has come through over the last few years. … We have 29 clubs in MLS this year with varying degrees of colors between primary and alternate kits, so including black and blue was a starting point, and then we had to consider what colors we could add that would have limited clashes with other teams. That’s why we ended up with neon yellow, and hot pink.”
Over two months of online and in-person meetings, PRO and Capelli Sport hashed out the design and colors. Capelli Sport then provided samples to review over the next four to six weeks before the final versions were approved.
PRO officials were involved throughout the design process, making sure they were comfortable for all referees.
“The thought process was that the officials are going to be wearing it, so they should have direct involvement in what it looks and feels like,” Kelly said. “Capelli Sport was new to the referee apparel space [in 2021], so we guided them in the right direction. We felt hearing the views of a referee, an assistant referee and having a female perspective were all critical to the solution.
“The officials canvassed people in their respective groups — not just about color, but from a design and functionality point of view. Do they prefer a Velcro pocket, button pocket, or an overflap pocket, short sleeve or long sleeve, loose or elasticated cuffs?
“You’re never going to get 100 percent uniformity in terms of what people want, so you try to factor in as much detail as possible in terms of what benefits most of the group.”
In addition to MLS, PRO manages referees in the United Soccer League, the National Women’s Soccer League and the U.S. Open Cup.
Capelli Sport is based in New York and outfits men’s and women’s professional clubs around the world, including Germany, Denmark, England, Chile, Poland, Czechia, Luxembourg, Greece, Austria and the U.S. They also outfit the national teams of Barbados, Guyana and Lebanon.