The trailblazing trio who’ll officiate Auckland City’s FIFA Club World Cup tie

Three trailblazing referees will take charge of Wednesday’s match between Auckland City and Al-Ittihad at the FIFA Club World Cup.

The all-female officiating team, from the United States, have emerged as leading referees at FIFA tournaments, and they officiated at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in Sydney.

Here’s more about the third team for the match — the game officials …

Referee: Tori Penso

Match referee for the FIFA Club World Cup opening game will be Tori Penso, the first woman to become a full-time professional referee in the men’s Major Soccer League.

Penso, who refereed the Spain-England final at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, started refereeing at 14.

By 18, she had earned enough money from refereeing matches to buy her first car, and she entered into an Olympic Development Programme to improve her skills.

“There were no full-time female referees in the States, and so I didn’t really see it as a career. I did understand, though, that it was more than just a temporary job for me, and that maybe it would enable me to get to know my country a bit better, and maybe even the world,” she told

Main photo: Tori Penso … a trailblazer for female referees. Photo credit:

Penso (38) has since achieved a number of milestones:

  • in September 2020, she became the first woman to referee an MLS match in more than 20 years.
  • In 2021, she made history again, being the first woman to referee and lead an all-female officiating team in a CONCACAF-run men’s competition.
  • Then, she became the first woman to referee a FIFA Men’s World Cup qualifying match.
  • In 2022, Penso took charge of five FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup matches in Costa Rica, including one of the semi-finals.

“I’m proud — if you look around the world, it’s astounding what women are achieving,” she said humbly.

With these accomplishments to her name, it stands to reason that she is now an inspiration to others, particularly to her three daughters.

Penso acknowledges that she sometimes suffers from gameday nerves, and that she prefers to focus on “working on the finer points and improving by one per cent every day to arrive at the pitch in the best possible shape.”

When preparing for a big game, there’s one item that always goes into her kit bag.

“A photo of my family, who accompany me everywhere I go. If it weren’t for them, I would never have been able to make this work.”

Assistant referee: Brooke Mayo

A former Tennessee Tech star player, Brooke Mayo has reached a new level of achievement in her post-graduate career, one that has kept her on the pitch.

Mayo was an assistant referee at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.

Mayo made her World Cup debut in Australia and New Zealand this summer after earning a spot on the FIFA panel in 2018.

She worked her first world championship events at the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. In 2022, she ran the sideline at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship and the CONCAFAC Women’s U-20 Championship after also officiating the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.

Assistant referee: Kathryn Nesbitt

In 2020, Nesbitt became the first woman to referee a championship match in professional men’s sports in North America, taking the field for the MLS Cup between the Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders.

That year, she was also named the MLS Assistant Referee of the Year.

In 2022, she was an assistant referee at the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar.

She made her debut in Qatar off the field, serving as the offside VAR official for the game between Germany and Japan.

Meet the three referees

The following video caught up with the three referees ahead of the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup:


FIFA Club World Cup

Game to be played on Wednesday December 13 (NZT)

Al-Ittihad v Auckland City
King Abdulah Sports City Stadium, 7am (NZT)

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