Mark Geiger has been refereeing in Major League Soccer (MLS) since 2004, taking charge of over 150 games – including Play-Offs – in that period. He’s also officiated in numerous major tournaments, including the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
When Mark Clattenburg takes his place at Wembley and stands alongside his crew for all the pomp and ceremony prior to this year’s FA Cup Final, he can be sure of at least one avid watcher on the other side of the Atlantic.
Of course, I will be watching on TV a week later when he resumes duties for the Champions League Final in Milan, Italy, too.
As a colleague and admirer as much as a watcher, my thoughts will no doubt go back to 2011, when he was my fourth official in Colombia for a Brazil versus Austria under-20s encounter. And again in 2012, when I had the privilege of getting to know ‘Clatts’ even better at the Olympic Games.
Even though I was with my long-standing assistants, Sean Hurd and Joe Fletcher, we were still new to officiating at international level in Colombia and the way he helped each of us relax was very much appreciated.
Working with him up close, what strikes you is his perfect balance between being so laid-back with the players while taking the game itself deadly seriously.
He also brings that personality to the locker room, believe me, and his calming influence combined with his professional attitude rubs off on those around him.
I saw more of that personality when we were able to socialise as a group during that incredible summer of London 2012, and he was great company on his way to refereeing the Olympic final between Brazil and winners Mexico.
To momentarily turn to my own domestic season, it has been punctuated by a series of courses and seminars related to the Copa America, which will be hosted by the USA next month.
Although the USA has been invited to participate in the Copa America in the past and we have also sent referees down there, never before has the tournament been hosted here and that is one exciting prospect.
Of course, interruptions to a refereeing schedule are nothing new. Clattenburg himself was away preparing for Euro 2016, which kept him from Premier League duty back in April. It can be seen as an indication of how adaptable you need to be should you gain selection for the bigger tournaments.
In the summer of 2011, for me it was that FIFA under-20 World Cup, then the Olympics in 2012; there were the Gold Cups of 2013 and 2015, and obviously the 2014 FIFA World Cup in between.
Sure, it’s a challenge to switch to the approach required to manage games between teams from different leagues and federations, but like I said, it shows you must be doing something right. As routines go, mine’s been more than welcome!
For Mark himself the next few weeks will mean doing the same kind of thing: one week taking the Premier League, then consecutive finals between English and Spanish clubs respectively, before heading to France to control the very best players in Europe.
He really is a fantastic referee and, at the relatively young age of 41, he has certainly earned these opportunities.
Photo credit: Matt Eagles