The Cal South Referee Spotlight is a feature, highlighting elite officials through the Cal South system. 

The joy that comes from jumping onto the soccer field is like no other. For players, coaches, referees and parents, there’s a period of a roller coaster of emotions, before, during and after each game. For Jose Luis Lopez, watching his dad play made his love for soccer flourish. At six years old, he decided to join recreational soccer teams and play.

The excitement to get on the pitch was endless. Lopez would fall asleep on Saturday nights with his shin guards and socks on just to make sure he wouldn’t be late to his Sunday morning match. Lopez continued playing soccer competitively, and eventually went on to play semi-professional soccer, participating in Second and Third Division competitions, as well as training with professional soccer teams.

But then, an injury cut short his dream of pursuing a career as a professional soccer player. Initially, Lopez did not want to become a referee, but seeing as his dad became a referee in his post-player career, and having several referee friends, he decided to give officiating a try. Starting off with unaffiliated youth, Lopez moved his way up to officiating adult soccer, but the experience was not was he expected. The verbal abuse he received lead him to put a pause on his career as a referee, while he worked on obtaining his license in sports therapy.

In 2014, Lopez decided to return to refereeing, and through his friends’ advice, he joined the Cal South family in an effort to officiate better games and have better development, and since then, he has not looked back.

“[Cal South has provided me] with mentorship to help my growth and development as a referee,” Lopez said. “I would like to thank my local association, mentors, assignors for helping me reach the level I am currently in, and my coaches/assessors for helping me correct my mistakes to help me grow as a referee.”

Since joining, Lopez has officiated in as many youth tournaments that one can possible think of. From the Cal South State Cup and National Cup, to US Youth Soccer Far West Regionals to National League to the ODP Regionals. Eventually, all of his experience would take him to officiate in USL, US Open Cup, as well as international club friendlies.

Although Lopez says all of the games he has officiated in are significant to him, the one that stands out is a match between Argentina’s River Plate and USL 2’s Ventura County Fusion, an international club friendly hosted in the U.S.

“It was an emotional experience cause River Plate had just won the Copa Libertadores and entire first team was going to participate in this friendly,” Lopez recalls with joy. “It was a great opportunity for me, and I knew I had to enjoy the moment, but at the same the time, I had the responsibility to protect and control the players in match.”

While Lopez will continue to enjoy every match he officiates, behind the scenes, he will continue his development as a referee and aim to earn his National Badge, as well as someday, join the Professional Referee Organization (PRO).

To learn more about the Cal South Referee Program, click here.