Brian Hall was voted by fans as the best referee ever to patrol the field in Major League Soccer in a 10th season celebratory poll on MLSnet.com. The California native received 31 percent of the overall votes cast, more than twice as many as his nearest competitor.
Hall is one of the most widely regarded American referees both domestically and internationally. He led the officiating crew for MLS Cup 2003 and earned the Referee of the Year award that same season. With more than 25 years of refereeing experience under his belt, Hall has come to be recognized as the cream of the crop in this country, and at the 2002 FIFA World Cup he advanced further than any other referee at the international level when he was selected to referee in the knockout stages of the competition.
With 15 percent of the vote, Esse Baharmast snagged second prize. He was the 1997 MLS Referee of the Year and was selected by FIFA to officiate in the 1998 World Cup in France.
The winner of the Referee of the Year award in 2002, Kevin Terry, earned third place by receiving 10 percent of the total vote. The fourth-place referee was somewhat of a surprise, as the league's most decorated referee with four Referee of the Year awards accounted for only nine percent of the total votes cast. Paul Tamberino was recognized for his excellence each season between 1998 and 2001, making him the only referee to ever win back-to-back titles and the overall leader with four. Abbey Okulaja, the 2004 recipient of the Referee of the Year award, rounded out the top five.
Other referees who received votes were: Ricardo Valenzuela (seven percent), Kevin Stott (seven percent), Michael Kennedy (five percent), Alex Prus (four percent) and Noel Kenny (three percent).
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.