Refereeing has been a way of life for Christina Unkel since she was 10 years old. She became a certified US Soccer Referee in Cape Coral, in the fall of 1998 through the encouragement of her then soccer coach, Bob Harris. Her Coach Bob was a referee and also a referee assessor. One day he pulled young Christina aside and told her to stop yelling at the referees because she didn’t know the laws of the game. (Since then, a lot has changed) Young Christina explained she was yelling because the referees on her games did not try and it felt like they were just going through the “motions” on a U-10 girls’ game – it was “unfair!”
Bob told her if she wanted to continue to “communicate”, she had to take the referee class and if she didn’t, then she could not “communicate”. So, later on she took the class, and the rest has become an incredible history of her life. One small decision at age 10 set her life on a course most of us can only dream about.
In 2006 Christina became a grade 7 referee and attended the FYSA State Cup which was held in Palm Bay. At the tournament she was selected to attend the USYS Southern Regional in North Carolina with the Florida delegation. This was her first Southern Regional tournament and based on her exceptional game performances, Christina at age 19 was selected as an assistant referee to attend the 2006 USYS Youth National Championship Finals held in Des Moines, IA.
In 2007 she attended the Development Academy Inaugural Finals in Los Angeles, California. In 2008 & 2010 She returned to the Southern Regionals skipping 2009 as she was busy as a 21 your old Grade 5 referee in the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) which later became the current NWSL. Christina spent a total of 8 years refereeing in 1st Division Women’s professional soccer.
In 2011 , when she was promoted to National Referee, she received game assignments that included the US Adult Amateur Final known as the Hank Steinbrecher Cup, and her first full international game USA – Canada on ESPN PrimeTime September 22, 2011 in Portland, Oregon. Christina was still just 23.
At age 25, the youngest possible age, Christina Unkel received her FIFA badge in 2013, and she was on the US FIFA panel until 2019— a total of 8 years.
Her International assignments include: Concacaf U17 championships 2013, Concacaf U20 championships 2014, FIFA Youth Summer Olympics Gold medal game 2014, Concacaf Central American & Caribbean Game gold medal match 2014, Multiple Central American & Caribbean tournaments, and a total of more than 20 international friendlies.
Christina received certification at the inception of VAR in the MLS, and has been in the booth for 5 years. That possibly became a stepping stone for her recently new part-time job as a Laws of the Game Analyst for Fox Sports which began in 2018. Her big reward was in 2019 while still on the FIFA panel at age 32, she was hired by Fox Sports for the 2019 Women’s World Cup as a LOTG analyst and then became a Studio Analyst for the Concacaf Gold Cup tonight franchise later that summer. Christina covered 52 matches in 30 days.
Since 2019, Christina has also been LOTG analyst for CBS Sports Studio covering 2019/20 UEFA Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Women’s Champions League, and 2020/21 UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
A lot has been written about Christina’s past, but I am sure more will be written in the future regarding our relatively young FLSRC Hall of Fame inductee. She is an accomplished civil trial lawyer, a company CEO, a FIFA LOTG expert, a nurturing mother, and a wonderful wife to another great Florida native who is also a FIFA referee, her husband Ted Unkel.
Criteria #5 for eligibility into the FLSRC Hall of Fame is that Individuals who attain FIFA status whether as a Referee or Assistant Referee while registered in the State of Florida and meet the minimum ten (10) years criteria shall automatically be considered for the FLSRC Hall of Fame.
By virtue of her appointment to the FIFA Panel of Referees as a Florida registered referee, an appointment that lasted 8 years, Christina E. Unkel was automatically considered and unanimously approved to the FLSRC Hall of Fame for the induction year of 2021.