MLS removes referee from Inter Miami, Lionel Messi match after jersey photo gets unearthed

Inter Miami has captivated the MLS audience since securing Lionel Messi last season, but in the early stages of the 2024 campaign, its jersey emerged at the center of a referee controversy.

Guilherme Ceretta, originally the center referee for Inter Miami’s game against Orlando City on Saturday, was removed and replaced by Jaime Herrera after photos surfaced on social media that depicted Ceretta wearing an Inter Miami jersey.

“Referee Guilherme Ceretta was removed from the game due to a potential conflict,” the Professional Referee Organization told The Athletic in a statement.

Guilherme Ceretta (r.) was removed from Inter Miami’s match Saturday after a photo surfaced with him wearing the team’s jersey. Screengrab via X/@MLSRefStats

Multiple photos surfaced of Guilherme Ceretta, pictured second from the left, wearing an Inter Miami jersey. Screengrab via X/@MLSRefStats

Ceretta was one of four people in two of the photos posted — and one of two in the other pair — but the only one wearing the black Inter Miami jersey with pink lettering.

It’s unclear when the photos were taken or whether there was a number or name on the back of the jersey.

The Athletic reported that everything unfolded across three hours, from the time when the referee assignments were initially announced at 9 a.m. and when they were changed by 11:45 a.m.

And this all went down as a lockout involving the MLS’ regular officials, resulting in replacement referees — including both Ceretta and Herrera — getting scheduled for games by the PRO.

It has been negotiating with the Professional Soccer Referees Association in an attempt to settle on a new collective bargaining agreement, according to ESPN.

Lionel Messi, pictured Saturday, has recorded two points across Inter Miami’s first two games. AFP via Getty Images

“As long as the focus stays on fighting organized labor rather than utilizing the most well-trained, experienced officials in the league, you will continue to stray from promoting the very best of the game,” PSRA president Peter Manikowski told the outlet in a statement Saturday. “Sporting integrity provisions are in our CBA and we take them very seriously. 

“But when the league perceives these professional officials are asking for too much, the first thing to go is the sporting integrity backstops like rigorous fitness testing, medical checks, background checking and anti-doping. The sport will ultimately suffer.”

Inter Miami won its first match of 2024, 2-0, against Real Salt Lake before earning a draw with the LA Galaxy four days later.

Lionel Messi dribbles the ball during the second half against the LA Galaxy on Feb. 25, 2024. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Messi has recorded one goal and one assist on a team-high 13 shots — including six on target — through those games. 

“I think the eyes of the world are on Inter Miami, and I’m hoping that they’re able to deliver on that and whatever expectations people have,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said at Inter Miami’s opener, according to the Associated Press.

“Mostly, I’d just like his experience to be good, the experience of the team to be successful, how they’re positioned both here in the league but also around the world. That’s the story that I think is most important to us.”

Leave a Comment