Kathryn Nesbitt had spent a decade balancing parallel careers in analytical chemistry and soccer officiating when, in 2019, she put her scientific brain to work and synthesized a solution for the most pragmatic path forward.
Two weeks before Nesbitt left for France to serve as an assistant referee at the Women's World Cup, she stepped down from her assistant professor position at Towson University to focus on officiating full time. What data points informed that decision? She reached the pinnacle of women's soccer refereeing that summer, and had broken into top-flight men's soccer, as well, with dozens of MLS games under her belt. Knowing the 2026 men's World Cup would be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Nesbitt mapped out a plan that would culminate in her manning the sidelines of the sport's premier spectacle.