CONMEBOL have made history by announcing that the 2024 Copa America would include female referees for the very first time. With this decision, soccer has reached a major turning point in its fight for gender parity.

The tournament, scheduled from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, will include a total of 101 match officials, of which eight will be women.

Brazilian Edina Alves and American Maria Victoria Penso are two of these pioneers who will be acting as referees. Video assistant referee Tatiana Guzman of Nicaragua will be there to help them out.

As for the assistant referees, the roster includes Brazilian Neuza Back, Colombian Mary Blanco, Venezuelan Migdalia Rodriguez, and Americans Kathryn Nesbitt and Brooke Mayo. All of them have already shown their credibility on a global scale.

For instance, in 2021, Alves became the first female referee to officiate a Men’s Club World Cup. Back and Nesbitt, meanwhile, were referees for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Copa America is breaking ground in 2024
Copa America is breaking ground in 2024

Copa America is breaking ground in 2024

What did CONMEBOL say?

This move further demonstrates the organization’s dedication to advancing women in soccer careers and achieving gender equality.

The organization made a point to emphasize its initiatives since 2016 to encourage women to pursue careers in sports and other fields of study in a statement.

“It is a high commitment taken by CONMEBOL since 2016, betting on the development and professionalization of more women on and off the field of play, promoting soccer with equality in different tournaments”, they stated.

In addition to the inclusion of female referees, the 2024 Copa America will also feature officials from UEFA, the governing body for European soccer. As part of an agreement between CONMEBOL and UEFA, this partnership will help increase the variety and caliber of the tournament’s referees.

On the sidelines, Copa America will have Italian official Maurizio Mariani, assistants Daniele Brindoni and Alberto Tegoni. VAR officials Marco Di Bello and Alejandro Di Paolo will also be present.

Another unique novelty

Incorporating female referees into the Copa America 2024 tournament is a huge step forward for women’s soccer. It does double duty by paving the way for future big tournaments and by promoting gender equality.

Copa America also offers another novelty. They have taken a bold step toward player safety by introducing a pink card for the 2024 Copa America. By outlining a specific procedure for concussion substitutes, this novel approach seeks to tackle the grave problem of head injuries in soccer.

In fact, in addition to the usual yellow and red cards, officials will also use pink cards. It means a player may have suffered a concussion or other head injury and another player has to replace him. To further emphasize the importance of player health and safety, CONMEBOL adopted this additional regulation before the event.

After a player is pink-carded for a suspected concussion, a sixth substitute may be used in games. In order to signal a substitute, the team’s coach must notify either the primary referee or the fourth official. They will thereafter display the pink card.

To keep things even, the other side will also get an extra replacement. This means that in the event of a player’s head injury, both teams might use an extra substitute. Under the pink card rule, a player can’t come back onto the pitch after being replaced.

Photo credit: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire