The familiar faces of Major League Soccer players return to the field this weekend, but the men in the center will be unknown to most U.S. soccer fans and players.
The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) announced Friday that it will lock out match officials and the league will begin the season with replacement officials after negotiations with the Professional Soccer Referees Associations for a new collective bargaining agreement failed.
“We have made a substantial proposal to the Professional Soccer Referees Association and believe it is very fair and reasonable,” said PRO General Manager Peter Walton in a news release. “Our proposal represents a significant increase above current compensation for referees and places them above the average for officials around the world. We are disappointed it has been rejected.”
A mix of former FIFA officials from other countries who currently reside in the United States, lower-division officials and former MLS officials will oversee the weekend's opening fixtures.
PRO was created 18 months ago and has brought the number of full-time officials in the country from two to nine and part-time officials from none to 11, according to a PRO news release.
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