At the youth level, the soccer referee's job is to keep players safe, see the players have fun and learn about the game, enforce the rules and ensure fair play. The younger the players, the more the referee is a coach than an official.
Prior to the match, referees must inspect the play area, including playing conditions, check each team has the appropriate number of eligible players, and that they are ready to play, with proper gear and equipment, and must conduct the coin toss to determine which team starts the play. After the match, the referee is supposed to provide a match report to the appropriate authorities, including detailed documentation of incidents during the match, goals and disciplinary action taken on players and/or team officials before and during the match.
Division of Labor (Center Refs, ARs, Fourth Officials and Reserve Assistant Refs)
In professional soccer matches, where there are ample resources, there is a division of labor: the center referee, who is head of the team of officials charged with making the calls on the field, works in conjunction with two assistant referees, who are in charge of watching the lines and providing input to the center ref, especially on incidents they may see during the match that the center referee may not. The center referee, however, ultimately makes all the calls, and if he/she does not agree with a recommended call by an assistant referee, will waive it off. Professional matches, and even high-level State Cup games, will also include a fourth official, who operates from the technical area and assists with any administrative duties before, during and after the match as required by the center referee, including assisting with substitution procedures. In some cases, a reserve assistant referee may also be appointed, whose only duty is to replace an assistant referee unable to continue or to replace the fourth official, as required.
In recreational youth soccer, at the younger ages where there are possibly fewer team members,a smaller field size and slower speed of play, there will usually be a single center referee. For older players and in more competitive youth soccer matches, there are usually a center referee and two assistant referees.
It's Harder Than It Looks
While the calls look perfectly clear from the comfort of the sideline, being a referee is not easy. With so many decisions being made each minute, and a limited field of view across the entire pitch, referees are going to miss calls. It is a given. Remember, too, they have a different angle on the play and will not see the same thing you do. Referees try their best to make their calls consistently for both teams.
Referees are there to ensure the kids are safe, have fun and play fairly. They may call more or fewer fouls as a match progresses to help control the game.The referee has some discretion on how physically a game is played: a game with older, more skilled players may be more physical than a U8 recreational match, for example.
If the referee is not making the same call you would, take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders, and move on. Realize even if you have played soccer all your life, until you put on yellow and step onto the field at the business end of a whistle, you have no idea what it is like. It is much harder than it looks.
Above all, respect your ref. If the coach has a real concern, he/she can address it respectfully with the referee as appropriate at half-time or after the game, or can provide feedback online. Parents can take their concerns to their child's coach if necessary, or provide CONSTRUCTIVE feedback online.