SAN MATEO -- San Mateo's Kari Seitz, the most decorated international referee in American soccer history, is retiring, U.S. Soccer Federation announced Tuesday.
Seitz, 42, is the only referee, man or woman, to officiate in four World Cup tournaments. She worked the Women's World Cup in 1999, 2003, '07 and '11. She also officiated in three consecutive Olympics, including the 2012 London Games where her crew handled the opening event.
The London Games was Seitz' final major tournament because her sport has a mandatory retirement age of 45 for referees who work international matches. She will turn 45 the same year as the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada.
Over a 28-year career Seitz has refereed games in Major League Soccer and the three U.S. women's pro leagues.
"I've had opportunities that I never could have imagined as an official starting out at just 14 years of age," Seitz said in a statement. "My life experiences as a referee have shaped me into the person I am today."
Seitz, a manager at San Francisco advertising agency, plans to help develop the next generation of refs. Her final match is scheduled for Oct. 20 when the top-ranked U.S. women play Australia in San Antonio, Texas. The Americans also will play New Zealand on Oct. 27 at Candlestick Park.
Seitz has handled more than 200 professional matches, more than 1,000 college matches and has refereed the U.S. women's national team more than 50 times. She is the only referee to officiate in three different regional championships -- confederation tournaments in CONCACAF, Europe and Asia.
"I can step aside with a tremendous sense of pride from helping advance the game in the United States," Seitz said. "I look forward to working with young referees in the future so they can have similar experiences."
She grew up in Michigan playing on a boys' team, dreaming of making soccer a career.
"I was a goalkeeper," Seitz once told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm 5-foot-4. So that wasn't going to last forever."
She started to focus on refereeing after watching officials work at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
"I didn't know how you got there," she told the Times. "I never thought about it being man-woman. Who cares? I just went for it. And luckily I had a lot of people in my career who helped me out because you can't get there on your own."
Seitz became a member of the FIFA International Panel of Referees in 1999 after beginning her professional career the year before as an assistant and center referee in MLS.
"Kari has played a key role in the growth of women's soccer in the United States over the past 15 years, and her dedication to her craft has always been admirable," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "She will always be a role model for young referees."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.