World Class Soccer, meet Krista McCann

When she’s not wearing blue scrubs in her classes at URI, senior nursing major Krista McCann wears a uniform of a different type. She’s been a referee on the soccer field since she was 12, with no intention of stopping any time soon. In fact, her big idea is to one day become a referee for FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), soccer’s world-governing body. You could say, in a way, that nursing is her backup plan.

McCann recently cracked the Women’s Professional Soccer League-Elite, the top women’s league in the country, officiating a contest between the Boston Breakers and the Western New York Flash. “I was shocked to be selected as a referee for that match,” she said. In the match, she served as one of the two assistant referees who run the sidelines in support of the center (lead) referee.

Her love of the game began with the Cumberland Youth Soccer Association, where her first coach noticed she was always at the fields and asked if she wanted to be a referee. She worked three kids’ games a day on weekends and made $7 for each contest.

“Most people are afraid to be a referee because players and fans yell at them. But I liked being a leader, and I always had a thick skin. Plus, as a 12-year-old, I liked the money,” McCann said.

In high school, she called games in the Massachusetts Premier League and the Rhode Island Super Liga, worked the Olympic Development Program’s Ryder Cup in New Jersey, and was assigned the U.S. Youth Soccer Under 17 championships in West Virginia. After high school she was the youngest attendee and one of only six girls to attend the Pro Clinic as part of the U.S. Soccer Training Seminar, which opened the door to her first men’s Premier Development League game.

Last summer, she attended the U.S. Development Academy Showcase, the highest level of youth soccer in the country. While at URI, she’s officiating Rhode Island high school girls’ soccer and is assigned to the U.S.A. Men’s Amateur League in Rhode Island.

Right now, McCann is a Grade 6 referee, and FIFA requires Grade 1 status. If she reaches the top level, she would be eligible to referee top pro and international matches. But that’s an achievement nowhere past McCann’s fighting spirit.