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The 2024 Copa América tournament is underway, and it is the first edition of the South American men’s soccer championship — known as the oldest continental football competition — to have female referees on the pitch. 

Eight women were among the 101 referees summoned for the tournament, which began June 20 and runs until July 14. The U.S. is hosting the 2024 tournament, which occurs every four years.

Edina Alves of Brazil and Maria Victoria ‘Tori’ Penso of the United States are referees in the tournament. Tatiana Guzmán of Nicaragua was designated as video assistant referee. Mary Blanco of Colombia, Migdalía Rodriguez of Venezuela, Neuza Back of Brazil, and Americans Brooke Mayo and Kathryn Nesbitt are assistant referees.

“This is a significant commitment undertaken by CONMEBOL since 2016, aiming at the development and professionalization of more women on and off the field, promoting gender equality in various tournaments,” said CONMEBOL, the governing body of soccer in South America, in a statement

CONMEBOL president Alejandro Domínguez on Friday, June 21, shared a photo on X and Instagram of him shaking hands with Alves and Back, with a caption congratulating them for their historic roles in the Peru versus Chile match by becoming the first women to officiate in the history of CONMEBOL at Copa América.

“Let’s keep on dreaming big!” Domínguez said in Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

In an Instagram story leading up to the match, Alves shared a photo of herself with Rodriguez and Blanco flexing their muscles, with the caption: “The dream became reality, we are here at the Copa América.” 

“For us, it is something very big, something inexplicable, the emotion and the feeling of experiencing all this here,” Alves said in a Copa América news statement.

This isn’t the first time Alves makes history. Alves — supported by assistants Back and Mariana De Almeida — became the first woman in 2021 to take charge of a match at a senior men’s FIFA tournament, according to FIFA

To Penso, of Tampa, Florida, this is an opportunity to increase the visibility of female referees as well as the sport of soccer in the U.S. 

“There’s not a lot of us female referees out there, especially on the men’s pitch. It’s really about proving that we belong and that we can be an asset to the game, and we’re lucky enough to be out there,” said Penso in a video posted by Macron Football.

“Football, or we call it ‘soccer,’ is growing exponentially — and looking ahead to 2026 and the opportunity that we have in the United States to make soccer the number one sport — it is just an exciting journey to be a part of,” added Penso, who was the referee for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 final between Spain and England in Sydney.