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Only 3 referees in soccer? Can that be justified?

Consider the NBA, professional basketball in the USA. They have three referees working a court of 50 feet by 94 feet. Are there disputed calls? Sure. But the referees are always very close to the action and it is pretty hard to get away with anything.

Now consider soccer (futbol). The playing pitch is a minimum of 300 feet by 330 feet, and they still have only three referees. In a World Cup match the center referee is expect to run about 12 miles, more than any single player, just to stay up with the action.

The soccer pitch is at least 21 times the area of the basketball court, and yet both sports use only three referees at the highest level of the sport. How can that be reasonable? The referees just cannot be close enough to all the action to get it right every time.

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