Sandy Hunt, who was the first woman MLS referee and still works with FIFA as an instructor, paid Jeff Hosking the ultimate referee compliment.
“His decisions are correct, so he usually doesn’t stand out,” Hunt said. “Great assistant referees are largely anonymous to the general public, and they prefer to keep it that way.”
Hosking, a Seattle resident and University of Washington graduate, has been an assistant referee for MLS since 2009. He’s in a select club – only 65 others are currently at that level.
Seven referees have made it to MLS from Washington since the league’s inaugural season in 1996. Mike Rottersman, a native of Tacoma and University of Puget Sound employee, was the most recent addition when he refereed his first MLS match earlier this season.
Hosking, who is a National Grade 3 referee, said he wants to continue to improve and advance. Referees are graded on a 1 to 8 scale, with Grade 1 being a referee capable of being a center referee for a FIFA international match and Grade 8 referees generally being entry level.
“I’m only in my third year in the league, so in the short term, I just want to do well on my next game and keep getting assignments,” Hosking said. “I would like to establish myself as a dependable referee amongst my peers.
“Long term, I would like to be invited to the (FIFA) International Panel as an assistant referee.”
Herb Silva, the director of professional referees for the United States Soccer Federation, said Hosking is on track to be considered for nomination to become a FIFA assistant referee. Nomination decisions will take place in early fall, Silva said.
Just like the players, it takes referees time and effort just to reach the MLS level. Hosking said gaining experience isn’t necessarily the most difficult part.
“The hardest part of getting to MLS is managing all the various parts of life in addition to soccer,” said Hosking, 32. “Coming up, a referee needs to have a flexible schedule so he or she can take the last-minute assignment, because you never know when your shot is going to come.
“Managing family, friends, work and other parts of your life in conjunction with this can be difficult …”
Besides his personal life – Hosking and his wife, Nicole have been married for six years – Hosking is working on his Master of Business Administration at Washington, which he plans to complete late next year, and works for Holland America Line as a financial analyst.
Hosking continues to put an enormous amount of time into his craft. He trains five days a week, reviews game film, has conferences with the league and then travels to and from games all over the country.
And then there’s the MLS fitness test. Before each season, referees must show they are capable of running 150 meters in 30 seconds, and walking 50 meters in 35 seconds a whopping 24 times. And then they have to do six consecutive 40-meter sprints.
“Fitness is very important in MLS because these are professional soccer players in the physical prime of their athletic lives, so we have to be as fit as possible to keep up with them and be in the best position possible to make our judgments,” Hosking said.
Hosking began his career as a referee in 1989, at the age of 10, when he centered his first game – a 7-and-under soccer game – for Shorelake Soccer Club in Lake Forest Park. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a high school referee at 14 and then a college referee at 16.
Initially, refereeing was a more interesting way than mowing lawns to earn money, but soon his passion for it matched his appetite for playing. Hosking credits Linda Velie, a state of Washington referee assessor, for helping him get started.
“It makes me cry every time I see him walk out of the tunnel at (CenturyLink Field),” Velie said. “He has matured into a wonderful son, brother, friend and husband to Nicole. One amazing guy. I admire who he has become.”