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World Cup ref Geiger aims for American record

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm •  Published: April 10, 2014

ZURICH (AP) — Mark Geiger and Jurgen Klinsmann share a goal as they prepare for the World Cup.

Both will lead United States teams in Brazil needing a good opening match if they want to progress to the knockout rounds.

Geiger aims to become the first American referee to advance from a World Cup group stage.

U.S. coach Klinsmann knows his first challenge is June 16 against Ghana in Natal. Their Group G is completed by Germany and Portugal, currently Nos. 2 and 3 in FIFA's world rankings.

Geiger's assignment — the first World Cup duty for an American official since 2002 — could be any match from the seven groups not involving the U.S. team. FIFA won't tell him until a few days before kickoff.

"If you don't do well there, the tournament is done," Geiger said Thursday after a training seminar at FIFA for World Cup referees and assistants. "We need to focus on that first game wholeheartedly, make sure we nail that and get it right."

If that test is passed, the former high school math teacher from New Jersey acknowledges his World Cup ambition.

"It's like any team, any player, any coach, you want to be in the final," Geiger said.

Aged 39, Geiger will go to his first World Cup in his seventh year on FIFA's international list of officials approved for national team matches.

FIFA has monitored Geiger on a candidates list for two years, and midway through the process he made refereeing in Major League Soccer his full-time job.

"Timing-wise, it couldn't have been more perfect," he said. "I've seen improvements in myself. I don't have that stress while I'm at the tournament worrying about what my students are doing back home."

Geiger's commitment chimes with FIFA President Sepp Blatter's long-held wish that all World Cup referees would be free of day-job distractions.

Four years ago in South Africa, World Cup final referee Howard Webb was one of few professionals, having left his career as a policeman in northern England. Not all the 25 doing duty in Brazil will be full-time referees.

Still, Geiger had admirers at FIFA even when he worked at Lacey Township High School in Lanoka Harbor.

In 2011, at the Under-20 World Cup played in Colombia, Geiger and his regular assistants Sean Hurd and Canadian Joe Fletcher were rewarded with the final.

"Up to this point it's the highlight of my career," Geiger said of Brazil's 3-2 extra-time win over Portugal, featuring three goals from playmaker Oscar, now starring for Chelsea.

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