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American Mark Geiger to referee at World Cup

ZURICH (AP) — An American referee was picked to officiate at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.

Mark Geiger, a 39-year-old high school math teacher from Beachwood, N.J., was among 25 referees selected Tuesday by FIFA. Geiger has officiated Major League Soccer games since 2004, called matches during the 2012 Olympic men's soccer tournament and refereed during Brazil's 3-2 overtime win over Portugal in the final of the 2011 Under-20 World Cup. Last month he called Monterrey's victory over Egypt's Al-Ahly in the fifth-place match of the Club World Cup.

The last American referee at the World Cup was Brian Hall, who officiated Italy-Ecuador and England-Nigeria matches in 2002. Other U.S. referees at recent World Cups were Vincent Mauro (Belgium-South Korea in 1990), Arturo Angeles (Argentina-Greece in 1994) and Esse Baharmast (Spain-Nigeria and Brazil-Norway in 1998).

No American has refereed beyond the group stage. Like all the other World Cup refs, Geiger will be joined by his regular team of two assistants: His are American Sean Hurd and Canadian Joe Fletcher. Howard Webb was chosen by FIFA over fellow Englishman Mark Clattenburg. Webb issued 14 yellow cards and one red during Spain's win over the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final.

Webb is among five holdovers from the 2010 World Cup, joined by El Salvador's Joel Aguilar, Uzbekistan's Ravshan Irmatov, Japan's Yuichi Nishimura and New Zealand's Peter O'Leary. For the first time since 1974, there will be no French referee at the World Cup. Stephane Lannoy, who worked at the 2010 tournament, was on the original long list of candidates but was cut Wednesday.

Referees were picked "on their personality and their quality in football understanding by being able to read the game and the teams' tactical approaches towards each game," FIFA said. Europe provides nine of the 25 officiating teams, South America has five and Asia four. North and Central American and the Caribbean has three along with Africa, and Oceania has one.

A referee and his assistants can be dropped if they fail a fitness test before the tournament starts June 12.

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