Canadian crew to referee MLS match

As part of a referee exchange program between U.S. Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association, a trio of match officials from north of the border will oversee Saturday night's match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Columbus Crew at The Home Depot Center.

Running the show in the center of the park is Mauricio Navarro, who is widely considered the top Canadian referee. He will be joined by assistant referee Amato DeLuca and fourth official Silviu Petrescu. The final participant in the referee exchange is Stephen DePiero, who will not be a part of Saturday's crew but will be used later in the season.

Saturday's contest is the first of an eight-game series of MLS matches this season to be officiated by the Canadians as part of the program.

The four Canadian officials, who were recommended by the Canadian Soccer Association, took part in the U.S. referee training camp recently in Charleston, S.C. They received some MLS experience by calling games at the 2006 Carolina Challenge Cup, which included games featuring D.C. United, Houston Dynamo and the New York Red Bulls.

"We look forward to working with Canada with expansion to Toronto on the horizon," said Joe Machnik, assistant to the deputy commissioner for on-field competition for Major League Soccer. "We think the referee exchange we've started will ensure that there will be a smooth transition when MLS begins play in Canada next season."

Major League Soccer will expand to Canada for the first time ever in 2007 with a team in Toronto, which will be the league's 13th franchise. U.S. referees will travel to Toronto next season to complete the exchange, where they will be part of the refereeing teams in eight MLS matches there.

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.