Natalie Simon Has Become the First Black Woman to Referee an MLS Match

Paving the way for Black women in football.

September 18th 2023

Natalie Simon made history over the weekend, becoming the first Black woman to referee an MLS match.

Simon served as head official for the game between San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake. She has acted as a fourth official in multiple MLS matches this season, as well as the head official in NWSL and USL face-offs.

This is not Simon’s first time making football history. In 2022, she became one of four American women to earn a FIFA international refereeing badge, and the first Black American woman to receive the honour. Last year also saw her lead the charge for a USWNT match for the first time.

Simon is only in her early 30s, yet she has already become an inspiration and role model for other young, Black women looking to follow in her footsteps. Alyssa Nichols became the second Black American woman to receive a FIFA badge earlier this year, and stated Simon as one of the only people in the industry she could look to for support.

Women referees are incredibly underrepresented in men’s football, and Black women even more so. Simon’s historic journey creates visibility in the sport where there previously was none. Black girls can look at her and see a career path they never thought was possible. She is the definition of a trailblazer.