Major League Soccer and the US Soccer Federation announced on Tuesday that they have formed a new group aimed at improving the quality of football officiating in Canada and the United States.
The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) will manage the referee program US and Canadian pro leagues. English referee Peter Walton, a veteran official in England's Premier League, has been named the organization's general manager.
All US Soccer pro referee staff spots will be transferred to PRO and report to Walton, who begins work April 2 in New York. Walton, 52, has refereed almost 200 English Premier League matches.
"PRO provides a great opportunity to increase the development of referees and improve the overall quality of refereeing in the US professional leagues," Walton said. "It's a worthy challenge and I'm excited to get started."
PRO will attempt to develop talented officials at a younger age and for FIFA competitions. PRO will be funded by MLS and US Soccer with support from the Canadian Soccer Association.
"The development of referees is an important aspect to the growth of the game in the United States," US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. "PRO is another step towards the improvement and professionalization of our top referees."
PRO offers more money, technical staff, training and sports science programs for referees, more of whom will be able to see refereeing as a full-time job rather than something to juggle alongside other occupations.
"The creation of the PRO is the logical next stage of development," said MLS commissioner Don Garber.