Ismail Elfath is the lone American among 36 referees selected by FIFA on Thursday for this year’s World Cup.
The 40-year-old was born in Morocco, moved to Austin, Texas, at age 18 in 2001 to attend at the University of Texas and refereed his first Major League Soccer match in 2012. Elfath worked a semifinal of the 2019 Club World Cup, three games at last year’s Olympics and at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
In August 2016, he was the referee for the first on-field test of the Video Assistant Referee during a game between New York Red Bulls II and Orlando City B in the third tier USL League Championship.
David Socha was the first American to referee a World Cup match, whistling one game in 1982 and 1986. Vincent Mauro worked in 1990 and Arturo Angeles followed in 1994.
Esse Baharmast became the first awarded two games at one tournament, in 1998, and Brian Hall was in charge of two matches in 2002. There were no American referees on the field during the 2006 and 2010 tournaments.
Mark Geiger worked the 2014 World Cup and became the first American to referee a knockout stage match, France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria. Geiger and Jair Marrufo worked the 2018 tournament,
Other Americans selected as match officials for this year’s World Cup were: Kyle Atkins of Kansas City, Missouri, Katy Nesbitt of Philadelpha, and Corey Parker of Edinboro, Pennsylvania, as assistant referees; and Armando Villarreal of San Antonio, Texas, as a video assistant referee.
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