Alyssa Nichols officiating a USL Championship match
As the USL continues to celebrate Women’s History Month, we connected with Alyssa Nichols, Mississippi’s first FIFA Referee.
Nichols has been a certified referee for more than a decade and is one of two African American women to hold a FIFA badge. The Jackson native was added to the FIFA list this year, and recently was part of officiating crews at the 2023 SheBelieves Cup for games between the United States Women’s National Team and Japan on February 19, and the USWNT and Brazil on February 22.
She has also been a regular center and fourth official in the USL Championship as well as other professional leagues around the country. Last November, she also assisted as a referee mentor at the USL Academy League Playoffs in Tampa Bay.
We recently spoke with Nichols about her journey, Women’s History Month and her involvement in the USL.
USL HQ: You made history by becoming the first FIFA referee from the state of Mississippi. What does that accomplishment mean to you?
Alyssa Nichols: Becoming the first FIFA referee from the state of Mississippi has been a humbling and exciting experience. The accomplishment solidified the principle that “hard work and dedication pays off.” I hope that it inspires other referees to set big goals and know that they can achieve them.
USL HQ: In your position as the State Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access Program for Florida Soccer Referees, what kind of impact or influence do you strive to have within the referee community?
AN: As the State Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access for Florida Soccer Referees, I plan to assist in increasing the number of registered referees within the state of Florida while simultaneously increasing opportunities for minority groups and women through mentorship and programming.
USL HQ: You attended the 2022 USL Academy League Finals as a referee mentor. What was that experience like for you?
AN: Attending the 2022 USL Academy Finals as a referee mentor was extremely rewarding. I enjoyed helping young up and coming referees learn and grow from each game. It is always a wonderful experience to be able to mentor the next generation of elite referees and give back when the opportunity presents itself. It is very important to me to give back, because the mentorship and coaching I have received and continue to receive have played a pivotal role in my development.
USL HQ: What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had while refereeing USL matches? (Championship, League One, League Two, Academy, etc.)
Nichols at USL Academy Finals where she was a referee mentor
AN: My first assignment as a referee within the pre-professional level was a USL League Two match in Mississippi, making me the first woman to be assigned as a referee in the state at that level. USL matches have played and continue to play a major role in my development as a referee. Another, memorable experience during my time refereeing was being a part of an all-female referee crew on a USL Championship match in 2021.
USL HQ: What advice do you have for the young female referees that are following in your footsteps?
AN: I would encourage any young female referee to not set limits on themselves nor allow others to set limits on them. But instead, they should dream big and work hard to make those dreams a reality.
Nichols will open the USL Championship season as a part of the officiating crew when the Tampa Bay Rowdies host Indy Eleven at Al Lang Stadium this Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Nichols shakes hands with fan before officating a Tampa Bay Rowdies match