The referees can sometimes be the overlooked ones of the match. However, without them, soccer players would be left to argue over whether they deserve a penalty or not. Now, Tori Penso is hoping to keep her spot as the first female ref in 20 years.
Making her mark
If there’s one thing that most referees want to do, it’s avoid handing out a red card at their first match. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a choice when Tori Penso took to the field at her first MLS game between Nashville SC and D.C. United. Believe it or not, but Tori is the first woman to referee an MLS game since 2000. That didn’t stop her from sending off Russel Canouse in the first half.
Plenty of practice
It turns out that Tori has been working as a referee since she was 14 years old. At first, the youngster wanted to make a little extra money. It wasn’t long before Tori got the bug and wanted to learn everything she needed to know about getting into the role. Tori attended an Olympic Development Program camp where she learned all about the female refs who had paved the way before her. Suddenly, Tori Penso knew that she needed to help become a stepping stone for other women.
In the family
Chris Penso has been working as an MLS referee since 2009, so it might be no wonder he is there to support his wife every step of the way. He hopes that Tori can go all the way and become a permanent part of the MLS family to help open the doors for other women hoping to get into the role. Currently, Tori is in PRO 2, an organization in charge of assigning referees at various matches across North America.
Plans for the future
Although this was Tori Penso’s first MLS match, she hopes that it’s not her last. So far, Tori has been involved with four games in the USL Championship and five NWSL games. The ref has even been the fourth official at three different MLS games, but it’s not enough. Getting a taste at life in the fast lane means that Tori wants nothing more than to continue her work with the league. For now, she has to wait and hope that she is assigned another game.
Making a change
All of Tori’s work has helped her climb up the career ladder until she finally landed her dream role. However, Tori knows there’s still plenty of work left to do. The ref confessed there was a lot of extra weight on her shoulders when she stepped onto the pitch, but she has learned to shake that off and focus on the job that needs to be done. Seeing the first female ref in 20 years out on the pitch could be all it takes for other women to realize their potential within the game.
Tori Penso has taken the first steps in making a change. The question is: will she be able to keep up the momentum within soccer?