The Washington PostThe Washington Post

In Qatar, one of the World Cup's first female refs will live an 'impossible dream'

By Thomas Floyd

14 Nov 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

“I had no idea if they’d ever let women officiate." The Washington Post speaks to Kathryn Nesbitt about her inspiring journey to become one of the World Cup’s first female refs.

Kathryn Nesbitt had spent a decade balancing parallel careers in analytical chemistry and soccer officiating when, in 2019, she put her scientific brain to work and synthesized a solution for the most pragmatic path forward.

Two weeks before Nesbitt left for France to serve as an assistant referee at the Women's World Cup, she stepped down from her assistant professor position at Towson University to focus on officiating full time. What data points informed that decision? She reached the pinnacle of women's soccer refereeing that summer, and had broken into top-flight men's soccer, as well, with dozens of MLS games under her belt. Knowing the 2026 men's World Cup would be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Nesbitt mapped out a plan that would culminate in her manning the sidelines of the sport's premier spectacle.

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