by Pete Richmire

When the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup kicks off on September 12 in Lithuania, the MASL will be well represented. Officials Shane Butler and Josh Wilkens will take their spot on the world stage as officials, once again demonstrating the elite level of officiating among the roster of MASL referees. Earlier this year, Chris Penso and Kyle Atkins represented the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Japan.

MASL Head of Officials, Ryan Cigich said this about the appointment of Penso, Wilkins, Atkins, and Butler, “The appointment of Chris, Josh, Kyle, and Shane to represent the United States at these two prestigious international tournaments is a testament to their level of excellence. The MASL is honored to have them as part of our officiating staff.”

Referees are arriving in Lithuania 10 days before the tournament to begin preparing with daily seminars, fitness testing and by officiating a mini-tournament to train on the new video support system.

“It’s not too different from a coach bringing in a team before a competition. Get everyone together and on the same page before the high-pressure situations begin,” Wilkins said.

Asked about the similarities between futsal and the indoor game played at the MASL level he added “The speed of Futsal and the MASL are what drew me into officiating it. In outdoor you can go for stretches where you don’t have any significant action or decisions to make. On an indoor field or a court, it is constant. For referees, you train your brain to see the games in slow motion, decide quickly, act, and then recover and move to the next decision. In a 30 second span you can have four or five key match incidents, all while there is a crew of fans banging a drum two feet behind you on the boards. Those atmospheres and sequences make futsal and the MASL unique.”

For anyone looking to advance to his level of officiating, Wilkins offers the following advice. “My advice to refs looking to get into this stuff is to watch as many games as possible. Get used to tactics, rules, players, flow, and then watch the refs. After that, the best advice I can give is to just get out there and ref. “

Wilkins, a Seattle native and MASL referee since 2015, is the United States’ referee representative, one of just six from the region and 39 in the world. Butler also keeps elite company as he is one of five members of the FIFA expert panel for this World Cup Butler said “I am part of the instructors/referee assessment staff as a representative of CONCACAF and not refereeing this event personally. To be part of the staff selected by FIFA and my region is a big honor, and I am looking forward to making this group of referees the best they can be during the entire event” when asked about his role in Lithuania.

It’s not his first time in this role having been on the FIFA Futsal Referee Panel from 2005-2018 and going to many events worldwide as part of his time on the panel. Butler went to the FIFA instructor panel shortly after that, in December 2018.

Officiating in a World Cup is not run of the mill for Butler. “To me, it's not just another day at the office. The level of preparation for an event like this, both physically and mentally, is beyond just another day. The stakes are high for all participants and the pressure not to make mistakes is just as important for the referee. A mistake can send the referee home, and their event is over” he explained.


The Major Arena Soccer League represents the highest level of professional indoor soccer in the world. The MASL features teams across North America, with teams playing coast-to-coast in the United States and Mexico, and players from over 15 countries. The MASL is currently incorporated as a 501(c)6 not for profit corporation formed to promote the business and sport of indoor soccer