The first matchday in FIFA Confederations Cup play saw MLS referees at the center of some key Video Assistant Referee (VAR) episodes, as video replay made its debut in the tournament.
The Video Assistant Referee is a fifth member of the officiating crew who is positioned in a booth and checks all plays during a match using available broadcast video. The VAR can alert head referees on the field to clear and obvious errors in four reviewable, game-changing scenarios – goals, penalty kicks, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity. The head referee can request a formal review and watch specific video angles via a field-level monitor before deciding whether to overturn a decision.
There have been a total of five formal reviews in the four Confederation Cup matches played thus far – all goal situations – and the first one saw MLS referee Jair Marrufo serve as the VAR in a decision to overturn a Portugal goal in the first half of their draw against Mexico.
Pepe appeared to give Portugal a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute, but Marrufo, in the role of Video Assistant Referee, alerted head referee Nestor Pitana to the fact that several Portuguese players were offside on the play. Pitana ultimately signaled for a review and disallowed the goal.
A day later another MLS official, Mark Geiger, was the head referee on the field when he motioned for video review of Australia's second goal in their 3-2 loss to Germany.
Australia’s Tom Rogic fired a shot on frame from the edge of the area that Germany goalkeeper Bernd Leno couldn’t hold, allowing Tomi Juric to collect the rebound for a simple finish. After video review Geiger confirmed the goal, determining that there was no handball by Juric on Rogic’s original shot.
MLS referees have been among the first in the world to experiment and train as VARs ahead of the introduction of video replay in MLS following August's All-Star Game, presented by Target.